The Sword for the Soldier
What it is
How it is used
The Sword for the Christian
What it is
How it is used
Taking Up the Sword
The final piece of spiritual armor which we have as Christians is the sword. And just as before, we will be looking at three main things. First, what the sword was and the way it was used by Roman soldiers in Paul’s day. Second, what the sword is and the way we can use the sword in spiritual warfare. And third, how we can take up the sword for our use.
The Sword for the Soldier
To understand what the sword was and how it was used by soldiers in Paul’s day, let us begin with a few pictures again.
In this first picture, we have some actual swords. I can’t tell from the picture if they are modern versions of what the Roman soldiers used to wear or if these are just top quality artifacts from some archeological dig.
But either way, this is what the swords looked like which the soldiers wore in Paul’s day. They were typically made of iron, and were double-edged so you could cut both ways.
They also had that big metal knob at the base of the hilt. This not only gave the soldier a better grip, but could also be used to bash an enemy in the head or face with a back swing.
On the upper right, you see the artist’s rendition of soldiers in their full armor. You can see the swords hanging at their side.
You can see that they are really not that long of swords. I think sometimes, when we think of a sword, we picture the three and four foot swords of medieval times. But these swords here are only about 18 inches to two feet long.
This is not because they didn’t have any other swords. In fact, they had at least two different kinds of swords, one which was actually quite a bit longer. It was called a rhomphaia. It would be very similar to what we think of as a broadsword. It was six to eight feet long and was used to hack off the limbs and heads of enemy soldiers.
But because of it’s size and weight, it had to be used with two hands, which didn’t allow the soldier to hold a shield. And since they didn’t have the full metal suits like the knights had in the medieval times, a soldier without a shield left himself exposed to arrows and spears.
Furthermore, if you had just a rhomphaia and no shield, and you went up against a soldier who had a short sword and a shield, the one with the short sword would almost always win.
Think about it. You’ve got this eight foot long sword, and it takes everything you can to swing it in a great, slicing sweeps, and once you get it swinging, it takes even more energy to stop it. So all the soldier with the short sword has to do is dodge one swing from your sword, and then step in with his short sword and stab you.
And because you were not wearing full plate armor like they did in medieval times, you would end up getting injured or killed. So for these reasons, they didn’t really use the rhomphaia—the long sword—very much.
Instead, they used the machaira—the short sword. It was light and so could be maneuvered quickly and with ease. It also only took one hand to use it, which allowed the soldier to also carry a shield. And it is this second kind of sword, the machaira, that Paul mentions here. The Latin term, by the way, is gladius, from which we get our word, gladiator.
In training with this short sword, the soldier was taught to stab and thrust instead of cut or slash. The reason is because the cut, even delivered with force, frequently does not kill. It only wounds because of the protective armor and bone. But a stab nearly always penetrates into the body and the probability of hitting a vital organ is much greater. In fact, on this third picture, you can see that this wounded soldier suffers from a stab rather than a cut. Very likely, this stab went in through his ribs and damaged his right lung.
Up until now, we have seen that all the armor has been purely defensive. And Roman soldiers in Paul’s day had weapons which were purely offensive—like the bow and arrow, or the spear. But the sword was a good mixture of both. It could be used to defend the soldier against the attacks of the enemy, and could be used for a quick offensive thrust or jab at an exposed or unprotected part of the enemy’s body.
As such, the sword was a vital piece of the soldier’s armor. Even if you had none of the other pieces, if you had your sword, there was still some hope, because it was both defensive and offensive. With the sword you could both ward off and deflect some of the attacks of the enemy, and with the sword you could also try to wound your enemy.
Although you could defend yourself adequately with your shield and breastplate and helmet, without a sword, there is no hope of wounding your foe, and so the most you could do is run away from him. Yes, you could stand there, and get wailed upon, but eventually, the enemy would wear you down too much, and you would end up getting injured or killed.
So the sword was a vital piece of the armor because it was both defensive and offensive. 
With all of this in mind, let’s turn to talk about the Sword for the Christian.
The Sword of the Spirit for the Christian
First of all, we need to remember, that like all the other pieces of armor, this piece too belongs to God and comes from God.
Isaiah 27:1 speaks of God destroying his enemy with a sword. And by the way, if you go and look at Isaiah 27, the enemy mentioned there is Leviathan, which many believe to be a symbol or picture of Satan. So God has defeated Satan with His sword, and now he has given us this very same sword to us for our battles against Satan’s forces.
And then in the New Testament, in the book of Revelation, we read that out of the mouth of Christ comes a sharp, double edged sword (Rev. 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21).
So what is this sword that comes from God, and comes out of the mouth of Jesus Christ? Well, Paul tells us what it is in verse 17. We read there that the Sword is the Word of God.
Despite what some people think and what some churches teach, the Sword is not the Spirit. Some people read this verse and think it says that the Sword is the Spirit. A better translation might be “The Sword from the Spirit is the Word of God.” Or “The Spiritual Sword which is the Word of God.”
This sword is not the Spirit, it is the Word of God. This sword is a spiritual sword—not a physical sword, and it comes from the Spirit, but it is the Word of God. It comes from the Spirit because the Spirit is the one who inspired the writers of Scripture to write what they did and to keep the Bible free from all errors. We read in this 2 Pet. 1:21 and 2 Tim. 3:16.
So this final piece of armor is the Bible as it was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
But let me clarify further. You don’t have the sword simply by having or owning a Bible. It’s not—“Well, I’ve got my Bible, so I’ve got my sword.” Why not? Because of what the Greek says. When Biblical authors wanted to refer to the whole Bible, all of it’s parts and all of it’s books and all of it’s chapters and verses—all the teachings written down and recorded in the Bible—they used the Greek word logos.
Logos means “word” but when used of Scripture, it refers to all of the written Word of God, all of the Bible, in it’s entirety, as it is written down with pen and ink on the pages of Scripture. That is the logos.
But logos is not the Greek word Paul uses here. Instead, he uses the word rhema. Rhema, as used here, and in Ephesians 5:26, and elsewhere in Scripture, does not refer to the entire Bible in its written form. Instead, it refers to speaking individual verses and passages from the Bible.
Logos is the entire written Word. Rhema is when individual verses or passages from the Bible are spoken.
Maybe the verses have been memorized so you can recite them when needed, or maybe you know where the passages are so you can find them when needed. That is rhema. So with that in mind, it is as Harry Ironside has said: “The Bible is not the sword of the Spirit, it is the armory. There are thousands of swords in [the Bible] and every one of them is powerful and two-edged.” 
If Paul meant that the Sword of the Spirit was the Bible—he would have used the word logos. But he didn’t. He used the word rhema, which shows us that the Sword of the Spirit is the individual verses and phrases and passages of the Bible which we can wield quickly in battle—which we can thrust and stab with force into a weak spot of the enemy.
So every time you memorize a verse or learn where it can be found in the Bible, you have added another sword to your arsenal. Every time you learn something new about a verse, you have sharpened the blades on that sword. Every time you learn a new way to apply a verse, you have become quicker and more deadly in using that sword. That is why so much practice is needed in correctly handling the Word of Truth.
Did any of you ever do sword drills when you were younger? I attended a Christian school and we did them all the time. And I remember up at a Bible camp I used to go to as a kid, every chapel was spent in doing some Sword drills. Were they teaching us innocent children how to use swords? No, not real swords made of steel. But a sword much more powerful and effective than that—the Sword of the Word of God.
A sword drill goes like this. The speaker—or drill sergeant, if you could call him that—would say “Bible’s high.” And we would all have to raise our Bibles, with the spines in our hand so that we couldn’t cheat by sticking our fingers into the pages.
Then the speaker would say a Scripture reference—like John 3:16. And we would all answer back, “John 3:16.” Then…after a pause…he would say, “Charge!” and we would all pull our Bibles out of the air, and frantically look through our Bibles for John 3:16.
The first person to find it would stand up and read it. And if they were right, they would get some points for their team or a prize or something.
Now those were the types of sword drills we did as children. But as we got older, we stopped doing them. But I think we should have kept on doing them, and made them more challenging. As adults, we still need to do sword drills.
We need to be Bible experts. We need to know the Word of God backward and forward. We need to be able to recite the books of the Bible in order. We need to be able to know roughly what is in each book and what each book is about. We need to know key verses and key chapters in each book. We need to know key verses and key chapters in the Bible. We need to know key verses and key chapters to help us confront false teachings and false ideas.
So I think that as adults, we should still have sword drills of sorts. We need to sit around and drill each other. We won’t do this today, but what if we sat around and I said, “Bibles high…OK, a Jehovah’s Witness has just knocked on your door, and he is telling you that Jesus Christ was just a god, He was not actually God himself. Where would you turn in Scripture?…Charge!” Where would you go? (Answer: John 1; Mark 2; Luke 18)
Or, “A coworker has gone through some troubling times in her life, and she walks up to you some day, and says, ‘You’re a Christian right? What must I do to get to heaven?’” What would you tell her? What verses would you show her? Do you know? (Answer: John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47; 1 John 5:11-13)
What if you are talking to your neighbor some day and he says, “Hey, I’m a pretty good person. I haven’t done too many bad things. God will let me into heaven.” What would you tell him? Can you think of a few verses that would show him the truth? (Answer: Matt 5; Jas 2:10)
What if you sin—as we all still do, and—as we talked about previously—Satan comes in and starts to whisper in you ear that you aren’t saved, or that God doesn’t love you any more? Do you remember some of the verses to go to? (Answer: Rom 8; John 5:24; 6:47; 10:27-29)
These are sword drills for the Christian. Do you know the Bible well enough so that you are ready for any challenge that comes your way? Are you prepared to given an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 3:15).
Now I know that probably I have just overwhelmed you. But let me give you some encouragement. Remember that this Sword—the rhema of God is the Spirit’s sword. What does that mean in light of what I have just said?
Well, in John 16:13-15, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will help us to remember the things we have learned and heard. And in 1 Corinthians 2, we learn that the Holy Spirit enlightens our mind so that we can understand the Bible. This means, that when you study and learn the various books and passages and verses of the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps you understand and retain what you study and helps you remember and recall it when you need it.
A lot of people seem to think that they don’t have to study the Bible and don’t have to listen to sermons and don’t have to have daily devotions because the Holy Spirit can just pop the verse into their minds when they need it. And while the Holy Spirit could do this, He most often doesn’t.
John 16 tells us that he helps us to remember what we have learned. He can’t have you remember something you’ve never learned. So our responsibility is to learn the Word, and only then will he help us remember it and help us use the Word correctly in the right situations and in the right ways.
And when we do this, the Word of God becomes powerful and effective. It can do many things for us. What sorts of things does it do? How is it to be used?
Well, first of all, it can destroy Satan’s Arguments. The best illustration of this is when Jesus uses the Word of God in the wilderness against the temptations of Satan (Matt 4:1-11). Satan came to Jesus to try to get Jesus to sin. But in response, Jesus was able to fend of Satan’s attacks by quoting Scripture. Three times, with three verses from the book of Deuteronomy, Jesus destroyed Satan’s argument. Jesus used a rhema, a quick and powerful thrust of a particular verse out of the Bible to fend off Satan’s attacks.
And we can do the same thing. In fact, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, that the Word of God helps us tear down enemy strongholds and the false and deceptive teachings spread by Satan. So you need to know the Word of God to defeat the enemy.
The Word of God can also pierce men’s hearts and show them the truth about their own sin and the only way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. (Jer 23:29; Acts 2:37; Heb 4:12; Rom 10:17). When we share the Gospel with people, we need to use Scripture. Witnessing without the use of the Word is like trying to win a battle without a sword. The Spirit uses the Word of God to convict sinners and convince them of their need of Jesus Christ (John 16:7-11).
But the Word of God is not just effective at warding off the attacks of Satan and helping sinners see their need of salvation. The Word of God also helps train and correct and change us as Christians (Mark 4:20; 1 Thess 2:13; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-4:4; 1 Pet 1:23-2:2). It is like a scalpel, carefully cutting away all the dead flesh and scar tissue that is left behind from our old way of life.
It is a knife that cuts the bonds of sin that trip us up and drag us down. The Word of God does all of these things and more for the Christian who knows how to use it. And since it does all of these things—keeping the enemy at bay, helping us bring light to sinners, showing us how to become more Christlike, the Word of God should be our constant companion. Like a sword – always at our side.
Do you remember in the book of Nehemiah when the Israelites return from captivity and attempt to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem? The land of Israel had become a land full of enemies. So each person, while he was working on the wall, kept his sword close by so that if the enemies appeared, he could drop whatever he was doing, and engage the enemy in battle.
No matter what we do in life, we need to make sure that our sword is always nearby. So in closing today, let me give a few brief ideas on how this can be done in the Christian’s life. How we can take up the Sword.
Taking up the Sword of the Spirit
The only way to take up the Sword is to immerse ourselves in the Word of God. There are no short cuts or fast tracks. The only way to take up the Sword of the Spirit is to spend as much time as you possibly can in the Word of God. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Talk about it. Meditate upon it. Pray through it. Think about it. Attend a church—such as ours—where the Word of God is faithfully and systematically taught—verse by verse, book by book so that, over time, you receive the whole counsel of God.
But beyond this, you can listen to Christian sermons or the Bible on cassette while you drive around. There are many “Free Tape Ministries” around the country that will send you free tapes to listen to. There is no charge to you. Get some of these tapes and listen to them. Or, if you don’t want to get tapes, just tune your radio to a station with lots of biblical preaching on it, especially if the most of the sermons are verse by verse teaching of the Word of God. Get involved in a Bible study where you are encouraged to read the Word of God and then come and discuss it with other people.
In summary, if you want to have your sword with you in spiritual battle, you need to know the Word. And the only way to know the Word is to spend as much time in the Word as possible.
Roman soldiers knew that their skill with the sword was their lifeline in battle. The better you were with your sword, the greater your chances were of survival. And so that is why the best soldiers spent almost all of their free time practicing with the Sword.
The same is true for the Christian. We need to spend as much time in the Bible as we can.
 Offensive – Spurgeon, MacLaren, Dwight Edwards; Defensive – Ice and Dean, Both – Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur
 Ironside, 325.