We are well equipped in Christ for our battle with evil powers. Paul has told us how we can be protected. But now, we are given God’s word—as a sword (Ephesians 6:17).
Our situation changes when we take up an instrument of attack. We’re going on the offensive and our opponent takes notice. Remember, it’s not a human weapon. We’ve been warned about using force against our enemies (John 18:10-11). But still, it’s a potent weapon.
Let’s see how this works—in this book of Ephesians and several other places.
First, God’s word is announcing a victory.
We don’t need a sword because we are victims, or in danger. We are already in a strong position. God has raised Jesus from the dead—for us (1:19-20). We are alive and in God’s presence.
Can you imagine what a loss this is to the prince of this world? He had us thinking God was irrelevant or imaginary. Now we know this is a lie. Satan wanted us for himself. Now, we’ve left his domain. As Paul says elsewhere, we’ve been transferred to the kingdom of God’s Son (Colossians 1:13).
Then, God has made Jesus head over everything (1:16-23). This is what Jesus says before he ascends to heaven: ‘All authority is given to me’. His authority is being worked out through us. That’s why this passage is all about us being strong in the Lord Jesus.
This doesn’t mean we are better than others. It means that we are equipped to stand against Satan’s strategies and able to tell the world about the grace we have discovered.
Then, God has given us a seat, next to Christ, in his presence—in the ‘heavenly places’ (2:6). So, we can be confident, even bold, when we go to God (3:12). It doesn’t make sense for someone to be bold in coming to God and fearful because of spiritual opposition. We are dealing with an enemy who has already been defeated.
This word of God is given to us but it is not our weapon. It is the Spirit’s sword. In other words, it will be the Holy Spirit who makes it effective (John 15:26-27). I’ll talk more about this later.
Second, the word we’ve been given speaks to us—the church.
Jesus shows us how to tackle Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). He is the Son of God but doesn’t use his own strength. He quotes the word given to Israel. Like him, we need to love God’s word. We need to encourage each other with it (Colossians 3:16). Then we are ready to counter Satan’s approaches in the way Jesus did.
Paul shows us how to use the word of God in a church setting. He comes to his fellow Christians with humility and gentleness. But he’s still waging war! His describes his service to the church, and to the world, as pulling down structures erected by Satan in people’s minds—everything that stops people knowing God. He wants everyone to be obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).
The writer of Hebrews tells us the word of God is powerful, and sharper than a sword, and can distinguish motives hidden in our hearts. In particular, the word of God can pick out if we really want to be free or if we are just playing with God (Hebrews 4:11-13).
Jesus sends messengers to seven churches in Revelation. One of them is flirting with immorality and idolatry. If they won’t repent of this, Jesus will come with ‘the sword of his mouth’ (Revelation 2:16-17). So, we must all hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. It is the way Christ keeps his church overcoming the schemes of the devil.
Third, the word we’ve been given speaks to everyone.
The world is happily blind to anything it can’t explain or control. So, it’s impossible for us to convince people that God will judge them. We certainly can’t convince them that they are sinners. And we can’t convince them that God decides what is right and wrong.
But Jesus says the Spirit will do all these things (John 16:7-15). So, as we bear witness, so does the Holy Spirit (John 15:26-27).
This is why we need to be full of the Spirit (Acts 6:3). We could say God clothes himself with us. He enables us to tell what God has done in Christ. The Holy Spirit leads his people to the places and situations where his word will be heard. And it is the word of God that grows and increases (Acts 6:7; 12:24).
We have no way of telling how the word we hold in our hand can be powerful. Often, it feels very much otherwise. But in fact, Christ himself, by his word, breaks the power of nations through the testimony of his church (Revelation 1:16; 19:13-16). It’s happening around the world as we read these words.
Christians know that Satan has been denied his position as accuser, and so they overcome him by the word they speak. They are so bold in this that they are ready to die for its truth. This is the way God’s kingdom comes in its fullness (Revelation 12:10).
Paul tells us not to be ashamed of the word that announces Jesus being crucified and rising again (1 Corinthians 1:18). It is God’s power to save everyone who believes. The only damage we do by having God’s word is to the devil’s kingdom. What we do when we go to the world—bearing the Spirit’s sword—is to announce the best news it could ever possibly hear. So, don’t be shy of receiving the word God gives. And don’t be afraid.