The final piece of a Roman soldier’s armour was the sword. (In Latin it is the Gladius). There were different swords available to Roman soldiers, but the one that the foot soldiers used was the Gladius because it was designed for close quarter hand-to-hand combat where a soldier would often only have the space to thrust the sword ahead of him against the enemy.
Of all the pieces of the armour of God, this is the only offensive weapon that we are to use against Satan. Satan doesn’t go for long range attacks. He is always intent on close quarter fighting and that’s why we need this sword to defeat him. Paul makes it clear exactly what this weapon is. It is the word of God. The writer to the Hebrews makes it clear just how powerful this weapon is, ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12).
How do we know it is effective against the enemy? Because Jesus Himself used it. When He was tempted in the desert by Satan, He countered the attack with the truth of Scripture at close quarters with the enemy to defeat him. Satan’s tactics haven’t changed, so the sword of the Spirit, the Bible, is still our best defence. As American sports fans would say, “the best defence is a good offence!” We need to commit to our memory and our heart the word of God, and we do so by reading the Bible daily and memorising verses.
Usually teaching on the various parts of the armour of God finishes at this point, but it seems to me that, before we can fully put on the ‘sword of the Spirit’, we need to put down our own swords that we rely on for protection. Often, we fail to recognise that the attacks we find ourselves coming under are not just from individuals, but from Satan. Therefore, we can react and attack the person with our own swords of harsh words, bitterness, and bad attitudes.
Those ‘swords’ won’t work against the enemy of our souls. The other swords we might use are ‘thinking positive thoughts’ – not a bad thing, but those thoughts need to be focussed on Christ to be really effective. We need to identify who it is we are really battling against, so often it is Satan, and we can’t defeat him with nasty words/actions or positive thinking. If Jesus found using Scripture against him to be effective, then we will too!
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