Continuing our series on Spiritual Warfare, today we consider another piece of armour used for offence: the Sword of the Spirit.
Previously we have spent some time unpacking defensive aspects of Spiritual Warfare. Because to successfully defend ourselves we need to learn the enemy’s tactics.
We have looked at how Satan uses Shame, Guilt, Suffering and Pride to separate us from God. And we have unpacked how God has equipped us with His armour: His Son—Jesus Christ. The gift of Christ’s Righteousness, Truth, Peace and Salvation are more than enough to defend us against Satan’s attack in the battle.
Sword of the Spirit
But what about our offensive weapons? Last time we looked at the Shield of Faith. And today we look at the Sword of the Spirit. In Ephesians 6:17 we read “… the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.
The best example of the Sword of the Spirit in action is in Matthew 4:1-11 Where Jesus—The Living Word of God, uses Scripture—the written Word of God, to defeat the enemy.
So, when it comes to Spiritual Warfare Jesus is the King. Be like Jesus.
But is it really that simple?
Yes: We are filled with the power of the Spirit, encased in the Son and protected by the love of the Father.
No: Life is not black and white, we are human, and fallible.
In an attempt to understand more fully and be better equipped in offensive warfare, I have been sitting in the Letter to the Ephesians for the last two months focusing on the Sword of the Spirit and its role in Spiritual Warfare. I’ve also been reflecting the enemy’s goal and motivation: What is it he is trying to achieve and why?
Enemy’s Goals and Motivation
In Genesis we read how Satan successfully tempted humanity to disobey God i.e., sin and, consequently, were cast out from God’s presence as we had created an impenetrable barrier between us.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.Isaiah 59:2
Satan’s goal is to separate us from God. And he uses sin to great effect to steal, dim and tarnish God’s gory. And yet, even though Jesus has defeated Satan, we know we still wage war against sin, temptation and the world, every day.
God’s Goals and Motivation
The Sword of the Spirit is not a New Testament invention. On the contrary, our Warrior God has been wielding His sword from the beginning of time. But for the purposes of this topic, I focused on those times God used it specifically against the barrier of sin.
- In Gen 17, we read circumcision became a sign of the Abrahamic covenant. However, God had already made his pledge with Abram in Gen 15 promising relationship, heirs and land. But Abram and Sarai lost patience with God decided to take matters into their own hands. After that debacle, God instigated this painful, reminder that it was by His power and design alone that Abram’s seed would continue. This strike of the blade broke the barrier of pride.
- Later we read God’s warrior priests—the Levites—were called to wield the blade daily. Shedding the blood of millions of innocent animals to remind God’s people that sin was real, abundant and costly. Temple Sacrifice was a practical lesson in the cost and reality of sin: the impenetrable barrier between us and God.
- When this symbolic act lost its impact on God’s people: becoming a mindless ritual, costing them nothing and having no effect. God revealed, rather than sacrifice, he desired circumcised hearts. The barrier of pride wrapped around calloused, hardened hearts needed to be cut away.
- And finally, to break through the impenetrable barrier between the Father and His children once and for all, The Father sent His Son into battle. He was scourged, sliced, stabbed, and crucified. His innocent blood was shed so that we could return to Him. The barrier of sin finally destroyed once and for all.
In each one of these circumstances, God cut away the barrier which kept His people at a distance. But in the end, God the Son—the weapon of God—in the power of the Spirit, was wielded to defeat Satan, death and the consequences of our sin. Sin: that which separates us from God.
Humanity is created in the image of God. And we are created for community. Not only with God, but with each other, within ourselves and all of creation. God’s goal for unity, community… for communion, is all encompassing.
But sin kept us apart.
Our Lord—the Sword of the Spirit—has won reconciliation, reunion and communion between us and God. We now have access to God’s inner community.
The only way this was possible was through the sacrifice of Christ and the Power of the Spirit. Jesus lay down everything so He could pick up His cross. This was the offensive genius of God, wielding the Sword of Spirit in the final blow smashing the barrier that kept us apart.
But we must acknowledge there is only one way to step into this blessing and that is to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Humbly choosing to lay down all things that keep us separate from the father, so that we too can pick up our cross.
Consequences for us?
Throughout the letter of Ephesians, we can see how and what God’s unity, brought about by the Sword of the Spirit, looks like
- 1:7 —through his blood for the forgiveness of sins
- 1:9 — by making himself known to us
- 1:13 — by opening our ears so that the truth heard
- So that:
- 1:18 — in our hearts we know the hope to which we have been called
- 1:21-23 – Christ unifies: There is only one who is above all, in all, head of all
- We are no longer:
- 2:1-5 – dead, we have been made alive
- 2:3-6 – in the world, but now we are in him
- 2:13 – far off, but now we are near
- 2:15 – under the law, but now we are under grace
- 2:15-16 – separated, enemies—of God and each other—but now we are one.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.Ephesians 2:14- 22
The rest of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul shares insight on how to live in the freedom of unity the Sword of the Spirit has won for us:
- Live in ourselves: new self over old Eph 4:1-14
- Demonstrate unity with God whilst living in the world Eph 4:17-33
- Within the community of believers Eph 5:1-20
- Husbands and wives Eph 5:22-33
- Parents and children Eph 6:1-4
- Masters and slaves Eph 6:5-9
There are times in battle we find ourselves floundering on the back foot madly trying to defend ourselves against attack that’s come out of left field. We can better prepare ourselves for these times by understanding Satan’s tactics and being ready for this.
But we don’t have to sit in wait. We can go on the offensive, under our shield of Faith, we can step out and engage. Because we know specifically what we are looking for we can fight against it. We are fighting the barriers, division, and hostility toward God: In the world, the body and within ourselves.
How do we do this? With the Sword of the Spirit: By standing in the living Word of God, on His promises, pledged by His blood, in power of His Spirit, declaring the written Word of God—Scripture—to pull down the barriers erected by the enemy in his attempt to keep us separated from the love of God, the fellowship of the body, and peace that passes all understanding filling our lives. So that, ultimately, the glory of God is revealed.