The Sword of the Spirit

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Spiritual Warfare/Armor of God 

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The Apostle Paul assures us that the Christian life is ultimately a victorious one.  In his first letter to the church at Corinth he wrote,


“Thanks be to God,

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

1 Corinthians 15:57

He also warns us, however, that the victory will not come to us without cost or struggle. In His last teaching to His disciples, Jesus also predicted that they, and by extension believers of all ages, would face hostility and persecution in the world because they confessed His name.  History testifies to the accuracy of this prediction, and persecution of Christians by those of “this world” continues into our present day.  Many believers who dwell under totalitarian regimes that are determined to stop the spread of the Gospel by any means often face persecution leading to imprisonment and even death.  Others, while not facing “official” persecution, may live in areas where they are confronted by threats and violence from bloodthirsty mobs viciously opposed to Christ and His followers.  Even if we never experience such open hostility, we all face people and situations that come against us and challenge our faith and our walk.  While we are all aware of the human agencies involved in our struggles, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reveals to us the true nature of our adversaries. 

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,


against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness,

against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:12

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Clearly then, if the offense is spiritual, our defense must be likewise! 

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In order to win a war, it is essential that we engage the enemy!  We will not do that, however, unless we realize we have an enemy who is attacking us and who that enemy is.  We are in this war whether we “sign up” to be or not.  If we are “in Christ”, Satan and all his wicked hosts are our enemy, and knowing they have lost our souls to God, they will try anything to undermine our faith, neutralize our witness, and generally make our earthly lives as miserable and unfruitful as they possibly can.  We are in many ways like the United States on December 7, 1941.  Americans could no longer avoid the war but were thrust into it by the Japanese attack.  Our “Pearl Harbor” comes, whether we realize it or not, immediately after we become citizens of the Kingdom of God.  Unlike

the U. S. in 1941, however, we have been warned of this attack as noted above.  We therefore need to be prepared for battle, so we don’t become casualties. 

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How can we do this?

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The answer to this is provided by several Biblical authors writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  These portions of Scripture give us great instruction as to how we can successfully engage in spiritual warfare with the enemy. 

In the Old Testament, two great warriors stand out.  The first is Joshua, who succeeded Moses as leader of the Children of Israel.  Joshua was charged with the conquest of the Promised Land, and only provided an “army” of rag tag nomads who had been wandering for forty years in the wilderness! 

But the LORD was with him. 

“Have I not commanded you? 

Be strong and courageous!

Do not tremble or be dismayed,

for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

This message from God echoed what He had spoken through Moses to the Israelites previously. 

“When you go out to battle against your enemies


see horses and chariots and people

more numerous than you,

do not be afraid of them;

for the LORD your God,

who brought you up from the land of Egypt,

is with you.

When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people.  

“He shall say to them,

‘Hear, O Israel,

you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. 

Do not be fainthearted. 

Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them,

 for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you,

to fight for you against your enemies,

to save you.’”

Deuteronomy 20: 1-4


Believing this, Joshua conquered, and the Israelites crossed the Jordan and possessed the land.  The people, however, were not always so faithful or trusting in God, and allowed several people groups to remain in the land to trouble Israel in later years.

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The second of these great Old Testament warriors is David.  He was such a great warrior that his exploits caused King Saul to become jealous of him, to the point where on several occasions he sought to kill David.  Furthermore, because he was a man of war, the LORD would not allow him to build the Temple, but bestowed that privilege on his son Solomon. 

David said to Solomon,

“My son,

I had intended to build a house to the name of the LORD my God.

But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 

‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars;

 you shall not build a house to My name,


you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me.’”

1 Chronicles 22:7-8


This was not a harsh rebuke, for the LORD loved David, but simply an acknowledgement that David had often out of necessity shed blood.  While David and Joshua were earthly warriors and their recorded battles physical ones, there was definitely a spiritual component to their struggles.  David expressed that beautifully in a song to the LORD recorded in 2 Samuel 22  And David spoke the words of this song to the LORD in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.

He said,

 “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield and the horn of my salvation,

my stronghold and my refuge.” 

Verses 1-3

“God is my strong fortress;


He sets the blameless in His way. 

He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me on my high places. 

He trains my hands for battle,

so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. 

You have also given me the shield

of your salvation,

and Your help makes me great.”

Verses 33-36


We can learn from both these Old Testament saints that when we meet the enemy, we must look to God and trust Him to deliver us, but we must still engage the enemy in battle!

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The New Testament builds on the earthly exploits of these Old Testament warriors and gives greater spiritual application to such battles.  Even Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gave clear warnings to His followers that struggles would ensue if they confessed His name.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; 

I did not come to bring peace,


a sword. 

For I came to set a man against his father,


a daughter against her mother,


a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;


a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

Matthew 10:34-36


In this teaching Jesus is expanding on a passage from the prophet Micah in which he warns that the godly will face resistance from ungodly persons even in their own households.  Furthermore, Jesus is identifying those who believe in Him and follow Him as the “godly”, who will definitely face opposition from the “ungodly”, who may surprisingly be those closest to them.  In light of this, we need to be prepared, and that is why our Lord, the Prince of Peace, advises us to arm ourselves with a sword!  “


And He said to them,

“But now,

whoever has a money belt is to take it along,

likewise also a bag,


whoever has no sword is to sell his coat


     buy one.””

Luke 22:36


All this might seem strange to us and inconsistent with what we know and believe about Jesus and how He would have us follow Him.  The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, helps us out here greatly.  In his letter to the Ephesians (which many believe was actually sent to several churches beside the one at Ephesus) Paul gives much instruction on how Jesus expects us to live the “Christian life”.

In the sixth chapter, we read these words

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,


against the rulers, against the powers,

against the world forces of this darkness,

against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:12


So when we encounter opposition such as Jesus predicted, even from those closest to us, we can be assured that we they are not our real enemy, but that it is the evil spiritual forces that are influencing them that we are actually battling.  This entire teaching follows Paul’s instructions on various human relationships and how the Christ follower should relate to others in his or her life.  Paul transitions to this teaching on spiritual warfare with these statements


be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

Put on the full armor of God,

so that you will be able to stand firm

against the schemes of the devil.”

Ephesians 6:10-11


This should remind us of God’s charge to Joshua, quoted above, as He prepared him for leading the Children of Israel into Canaan.  It is interesting here that Paul does not instruct us to flee from Satan, but to stand firm against him.  This is in contrast to several admonitions of Paul to flee such things as


1 Corinthians 6:18



1 Corinthians 10:14


the love of money

1 Timothy 6:10-12


youthful lusts

2 Timothy 2:22


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In our struggles with Satan,


we are to arm ourselves and fight!

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When we fight, however, we must be protected by the

“full armor of God”

Paul was very familiar with the Roman soldiers of his day and how they were armed and protected.  He takes every piece of essential Roman military gear and gives it a spiritual application. 

He first tells us to

“gird our loins with truth”.

This is a strange instruction to us today, but was very clear to those living in Paul’s day.   For the Roman soldier, to gird his loins meant for him to draw-up and tie his lower garment to prevent it from causing him to stumble and fall as he moved around swiftly in battle.  Due to this action, the mobility and agility of the soldier was enhanced, thus helping him survive and prevail in battle.  For the believer, the way we “gird up our loins” is by holding to the truth. 

Jesus declared that

He WAS the truth and that

“the truth would set us free”.

In battle, this freedom allows us to fight unencumbered, and to ultimately prevail.  So if we “hold on” to Jesus and His Word, we have “girded up our loins”.

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The next piece of equipment Paul lists is a totally defensive one,

“the breastplate of righteousness”.

The breastplate was an incredibly important component of the Roman soldier’s attire.  It protected the torso, and thereby the heart, lungs and other critical organs.  Without the breastplate, a soldier would have been incredibly vulnerable and his chances of survival in battle would be slim to none.  So we too need a breastplate – a spiritual one.  Our breastplate is to be that of righteousness. 

Scripture speaks of the ability of righteousness to be our deliverance.

“Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,

but righteousness delivers from death.”

Proverbs 11:4

Scripture also teaches us that in ourselves there is no true righteousness. 

The prophet Isaiah pronounced

“For all of us have become like one who is unclean,


all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”

Isaiah 64:6

And the Apostle Paul, quoting the Psalms, declares

“There is none righteous, not even one!”

Romans 3:10

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So how and where are we to get this righteousness

that will serve us as a spiritual breastplate?

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Well Paul tells us we must

“put it on”.

In his second letter to the Corinthians he makes it clear that the righteousness we need is that of Christ.  

“He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin

to be sin on our behalf,

so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

2 Corinthians 5:21


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Shielded by the righteousness of Christ, we are protected indeed. 

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A Roman soldier depended on his shoes to allow him to walk over rough terrain and also to be swift of foot.  The Roman sandals were made with nails that gripped the ground firmly even when it was sloping or slippery.

Paul teaches that we should have our feet

“shod with the preparation of the

Gospel of Peace”.

Here again we may see an apparent inconsistency.

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How does the

“Gospel of Peace”

relate to spiritual warfare? 

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 After His resurrection, Jesus instructed His disciples to

“Go therefore


make disciples of all the nations,

baptizing them in the name of

the Father


the Son


the Holy Spirit,

teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;

and lo,

I am with you always,

even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20

Two verbs stand out here,

to go and to teach. 

Our spiritual sandals allow us to go even into rough places, but our reason for going is to spread the teachings of Jesus, which can be summed up as the

“Gospel of Peace”.

Not unlike what are called today “peacekeeping forces”, we go to do battle not to destroy those under Satan’s dominion, but to liberate them from it. 

In the words of the prophet Isaiah

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him

who brings good news,

who announces peace


brings good news of happiness,

who announces salvation,

and says to Zion,

“Your God reigns!

Isaiah 52:7

As lovely and encouraging the words of Isaiah are we must not expect we will face no opposition from the devil and his hoards. 

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We must be prepared to shield ourselves from his attacks.

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Here Paul admonishes us to

“take up the shield of faith”

so that we

“will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”


Flaming arrows?

These would definitely require a solid defense.  What is remarkable, however, is that this shield is not only able to deflect the arrows, but extinguish them, and thereby render them incapable to destroy.  Scripture says much about faith. 

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that

“without faith it is impossible to please Him (God)”,

and goes on to present us with many examples of faith from the Old Testament saints. (Hebrews Chapter 11

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But what is “faith” and how do we get it? 

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A simple answer to the first question was given once by a poor woman who, when asked

“What is faith?”,


“I’m ignorant,

and I cannot answer well,


I think it is taking God at His Word.”

A truly insightful answer! 

Paul answers the second question in his epistle to the Romans

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Romans 10:17

It is important to note here that Paul tells us to

“take up”

the shield of faith. 

This requires action on our part.  A shield lying on the ground is useless until the soldier “takes it up”.  Likewise, our faith will not help us if we don’t exercise it! 

A final note,

faith itself is not what protects us, it is the One we place our faith in!  Many people have put their faith in things that proved to be unreliable at best and useless at worst.

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The head can also be a particularly vulnerable part of the body, and Paul tells us to protect this with the

“helmet of salvation”.

We know that the center of our thinking is in our heads, and Scripture has much to say about protecting our thoughts from the influences of the evil one. 

The writer of the Proverbs tells us

“as he thinks within himself, so he is”.

Proverbs 23:7


In his epistles Paul often refers to the mind and its influence on the whole person.  He tells us that Satan has blinded the eyes of the unbelieving (2 Corinthians 4:4) but also warns that believers can also be subject to his influence on their minds. 

To the “saints at Corinth” he wrote

“I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness,

your minds will be led astray from the simplicity


purity of devotion to Christ.” 

2 Corinthians 11:3

So we too need a “helmet” to protect our heads and minds.  Paul helps us here again. 

He instructed the Colossians to

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

Colossians 3:2

and told the Philippians that

“the peace of God,

which surpasses all comprehension,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

Philippians 4:7

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Finally we come to the only truly offensive weapon Paul lists. 

This is, of course,

“the sword of the Spirit”

which Paul identifies as the

“word of God”.

The Roman sword was a mighty and fearful weapon of its day.  It was two-edged, which allowed the soldier to strike both back and forth.  The writer to the Hebrews tells us that the word of God is actually more potent than that! 

“For the word of God is

living and active


sharper than any two-edged sword.”

Hebrews 4:12

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Just how effective the word is at defeating the devil was exemplified

in Jesus’ encounter with Satan in the wilderness. 

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Each time the devil tried to tempt Him, Jesus answered by quoting the word.  Each reply to Satan began with

“It is written”.

Matthew Chapter 4


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If even the Son of God used Scripture to confound the devil,

we can certainly expect that we should do the same.

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This is why knowing the word is so important. 

The psalmist wrote

“Your word I have treasured in my heart

that I may not sin against You.”

Psalm 119:11


“Your word is a lamp to my feet


a light to my path.”

Psalm 119:105


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In summary, 

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we must be aware that we are fighting a spiritual battle, and must be prepared for that.  We must arm ourselves with the word of God and the Gospel of Peace and defend ourselves with truth, righteousness, faith, and our salvation.  As stated earlier in this teaching, we are told to flee many things.  In the animal world, when a creature is faced with danger it must resort to

“flight or fight”.

The wise beast uses discretion to decide which would be the appropriate response in each situation.  We are given specific instructions from the apostles in many situations to choose


but when we encounter the devil we are not instructed to take that course of action.  We are actually told to choose


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 and that the devil will then flee from us! 

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The epistle of James admonishes us to,

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

Good instruction, but we must never forget the clause which precedes it

“Submit therefore to God”.

James 4:7

On our own, we are no match for Satan and his demons,


in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer

through Him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

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