And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The first thing we must say is that Christ is our life and this is Christ made available to us in practical ways through the sayings of His Word. This is important, as it is so easy to be Christians in general but not in specifics. The Word of God (rhema) is what makes life in Christ manageable, but as a whole it is more than we can handle…so it must be broken down in manageable pieces. In Colossians 3:16 we read – “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” This teaches us that the authority of Jesus and the authority of Scripture are one in the same – you cannot separate the two, they are indivisible. We know Christ through the Bible and we understand the Bible through the knowledge of Christ…that is why Paul calls it the ‘the word of Christ’
There are two words used in Scripture for ‘the word of God.’ The most familiar is LOGOS…as in John 1:1, which refers to the total utterance of God – the complete revelation of what God has said. The less familiar word, RHEMA…is what we have here. Rhema refers to a specific saying of God, a passage or verse which has special application to an immediate situation we are facing. It is the application of the written word to specific need of the moment. To use a modern term, it is the Word of God used existentially – ‘applied to our experience or our existence.’ Logos is the always – objective Word of God. Rhema is the now – subjective Word of God. This is the greatest weapon placed in the hands of a believer. Haven’t you read Scriptures when the words suddenly seem to come alive – take on flesh and bones – and leap off the page at you?! Perhaps it was in a moment of temptation or doubt when the flaming missiles of the evil one were flying! Then immediately a passage of Scripture comes to mind, which we had not been thinking about at all at the time, but the Spirit supplied the answer we needed. This is the sword of the Spirit, the rhema.
The “sword” refers to the short (30-35 centimeter) straight sword used in close combat. Satan not only launches fiery missiles from afar, he also moves in close for hand-to-band combat! The sword was the only offensive weapon a Roman soldier carried! The point of the armour was to prepare a soldier for fighting in battle, in whatever form that battle might be. The sword is useful for both defense and offence. By the way, this is the only piece of armour that is designed for an offensive. It both defends and protects, but it also pierces other hearts and destroys the lies of the devil in others besides ourselves. This is its great effect, for it is the only proper defense we have. We are to proclaim truth – we do not need to defend it. Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”It gets below reason and pierces the armour that has been erected against it and come home to the heart. The sword of the Spirit has power in itself and it is this offensive quality which explains why the Bible is so continuously under attack.
Prayer is the power behind the armour. Listen to these classic words by William Cowper: “Restraining prayer we cease to fight; prayer keeps the Christian’s armour bright; and Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon his knees.” The word of God is a living and active weapon. When the hand of prayer reaches out to pick it up, it is not dead weight in the hand. It sends its own impulses up the arm of prayer. Prayer is the power that wields the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God. By the word of God we do battle against sin and unbelief in our own lives and in the world. The power of prayer was not given to the church to win comforts but to wield a weapon. The reason for praying this way is highly strategic. 1Tim.2:3-4 say, “This [praying for peace] is good, and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God aims to save people from every tribe and people and tongue and nation, but one of the great obstacles to victory is when people are swept up into political and militaristic conflicts that draw away their attention and their creativity and their strength from the real battle of the universe. Satan’s aim is that no one be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. One of his key strategies is to start battles in the world which draw our attention away from the real battle for the salvation of the lost and the perseverance of the saints. He knows that the real battle, as Paul says, “is not against flesh and blood.” So the more wars and conflicts and revolutions of flesh and blood he can start the better, as far as he is concerned.
In Luke 21:34-35, Jesus warns his disciples that times of great distress and opposition were coming. Then he said, “But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.” In other words, following Jesus will inevitably lead us into severe conflict with evil. It will surround us and attack us and threaten to destroy our faith. Except on rare occasions, God will not intervene to give you daily victory unless you ask Him to. If Paul believed that God would give him strength, clarity and courage to preach apart from the intercessory prayers of the Ephesian church, he would never have penned vv. 18-20! Contrary to what some have said, prayer is not the seventh piece of spiritual armour, nor is it the way we wield the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God). Grammatically, both “praying” and “keeping alert” (v. 18) are connected with the verb “stand” (v. 14). In other words, prayer is that which characterizes and permeates the whole of the Christian soldier’s activity: “Take your stand, praying…put on the belt of truth, praying…put on the breastplate of righteousness, as you pray…”
Remember, this cosmic conflict is continuous – even when you’re not aware of it!
So put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for your flesh – as you are in an epic battle in which the victory has already been won!