Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wielding the Sword of the Spirit

By Nick Daniels

One pastor I know used to ask his congregation, "Did you bring your sword today?" referring to the Bible. This was of course an allusion to Ephesians 6:17, that says that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.

From that Scripture, one could easily assume that the leather-bounded book with Jesus’ words in red, is actually a lethal weapon. Is that what Paul meant when he wrote to the Ephesians about the armor of God? Probably not.

If you think about it, first century Christians did not have a personal pocket-size Bible or otherwise. They usually listened to the rabbis in the synagogues read the word of God—the Torah, the prophets. Although the long rolls the rabbis read from resemble a sword even more than our modern Bibles, this was not Paul’s idea of the sword of the Spirit.

But isn’t the Bible the Word of God? Yes! Why then am I saying that the Bible is not the sword of the Spirit? Because just as a sword is harmless in its sheath, the written words in the Bible do not have any power until spoken.

Have you noticed that in Genesis 1, when the earth was still formless and void, nothing happened even though the "Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" (Gen. 1:2)? It wasn’t until God spoke that things began to change. He said, "Let there be light," and there was light. That’s how he created the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them.

When the apostle John said, "In the beginning was the Word," he used the Greek logos for "word." But in Ephesians 6:17, the word used is rhema, which means breath, or spoken word. The sword of the Spirit is the rhema of God.

Of the returning Christ (the logos himself), the apostle John also wrote, "Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations." (Rev. 19:15) Some people believe that an actual sword will come out of Christ’s mouth, but in the context of the Bible, it makes more sense to think that he will strike his enemies with the same power that created the universe—his spoken word.

In fact, Jesus gave us example as to how to use his Word like Sword. After fasting 40 days in the wilderness, the devil came to tempt Jesus. How did he defeat the devil? By speaking the word. "It is written," he said at each temptation. And the devil had to flee from him. Interestingly, one of Jesus’ answers attest to our understanding of the sword of the Spirit. "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word (rhema) that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Mat. 4:4)

Did you notice that it says "every word that comes from the mouth of God?" It is not just any word that comes out of our mind—no matter how clever, positive, or well intentioned. It is the Holy Spirit-inspired word coming out of your mouth that will have any power. If you speak words that God has not spoken first, you can’t expect to win your spiritual battles. You must speak the words God puts in your mouth:

"As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD. (Is. 59:21)

Once you understand that God has made your mouth like a sharpened sword (Is. 49:2), you will not just read your Bible—you will study, memorize, and declare the Word of God in faith.

Nick Daniels is a suspense novelist, a daydreamer, a soccer fan, a cool dad, and a youth leader. Check out his new podcast at


  1. Just think what a great world this would be, and friendships not lost, if we all spoke with the words God gave us instead of speaking without thought. Enjoyed the post.

  2. Ever since our church flashes the sermon's verses on the big screen I've begun to forget to bring my SWORD. In fact, this happened Wednesday at the early morning prayer meeting.

    Stephen Tremp

  3. I enjoyed your words very much. I am going to try and stop here every day. Thank you.

  4. Study, memorize and declare. I like that.
    Thanks, Nick!

  5. Wonderful, thought-provoking post. Thanks, Nick!