To be a Christian is to be a warrior. The good soldier of Jesus Christ must not expect to find ease in this world: it is a battle-field. Neither must he reckon upon the friendship of the world; for that would be enmity against God. His occupation is war. As he puts on piece by piece of the panoply provided for him, he may wisely say to himself, “This warns me of danger; this prepares me for warfare; this prophesies opposition.”
It is clear from our text that our defence and our conquest must be obtained by sheer fighting. Many try compromise; but if you are a true Christian, you can never do this business well. The language of deceit fits not a holy tongue. The adversary is the father of lies, and those that are with him understand the art of equivocation; but saints abhor it. We have no order from our Captain to patch up a truce, and get as good terms as we can. We are not sent out to offer concessions. It is said that if we yield a little, perhaps the world will yield a little also, and good may come of it. If we are not too strict and narrow, perhaps sin will kindly consent to be more decent. No such thing. Assuredly this is not the order which our Captain has issued. We have no orders to be quiet, and take matters easily. No; we are to pray always, and watch constantly.
The Captain’s voice is clear as a trumpet — Take the sword! He must teach us how to grip this sword by faith, and how to hold it by watchfulness, so as to parry the adversary’s thrust, and carry the war into the foeman’s territory. He is well taught who can swing this great two-handed sword to and fro, and mow a lane through the midst of his opponents, and come out a conqueror at the end. It may take a long time to learn this art; but we have a right skilful Teacher. Those of us who have been in this warfare thirty or forty years feel that we have not yet reached the full use of this sword; nay, I know for one, that I need daily to be taught how to use this mysterious weapon, which is capable of so much more than I have yet supposed. It is the sword of the Spirit, adapted for the use of an Almighty arm, and therefore equal to the doing of far more than we think. Holy Spirit, teach us new feats of arms by this Thy sword!
It is noteworthy that there is only one weapon of offence provided, although there are several pieces of armour. The Roman soldier usually carried a spear as well as a sword. We have seen frequent representations of the legionary standing upon guard as sentry, and he almost always stands with a spear in his right hand, while his sword hangs at his side. But Paul, for excellent reasons, concentrates our offensive weapon in one, because it answers for all. We are to use the sword, and that only. Therefore, if you are going to this fight, see well to your only weapon. If you are to have no other, take care that you have this always in your hand.
The Word is the sword of the Spirit because it is of His own making. He will not use a weapon of human workmanship, lest the sword boast itself against the hand that wields it. The Holy Ghost revealed the mind of God to the minds of holy men; He spake the word into their hearts, and thus He made them think as He would have them think, and to write what He willed them to write: so that what they spoke and wrote was spoken and written as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Blessed be the Holy Spirit for deigning to use so many writers, and yet Himself to remain the veritable Author of this collection of holy books. We are grateful for Moses, for David, for Isaiah, for Paul, for Peter, for John, but most of all for that superintending Editor, that innermost Author of the whole sacred volume— even the Holy Ghost.
The sheep of Christ know the Shepherd’s voice in the Word, and a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers. God’s own people have discernment to discover and relish God’s own Word. They will not be misled by the cunning craftiness of human devices. Saints know the Scriptures by inward instinct. The holy life, which God has infused into believers by his Spirit, loves the Scriptures, and learns how to use them for holy purposes.
Dear brethren, is it not a very high honour put upon you, as soldiers of the cross, that you should be allowed, nay, commanded to take the sword of the Spirit? Though it is the sword of the Spirit, yet our feebler hand may grasp it; yea, and find in the grasping that somewhat of the Divine power comes unto our arm. Does the timid heart enquire, “Wherewithal, my Master, shall I meet my adversaries”? “Here,” saith the Holy Ghost, “take this! This is my own sword; I have done great marvels with it; take it, and nothing shall stand against you.” Wherefore, see to it, that you use from this day forth no other weapon than the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
IT IS ALSO TO BE OUR SWORD. We shall need a sword. Our warfare is not child’s play: we mean business. We have to deal with fierce foes. You may be of a very quiet spirit, but your adversaries are not so. If you attempt to play at Christian warfare, they will not. To meet the powers of darkness is no sham battle. They mean mischief. In this combat you will have to use a sword such as even evil spirits can feel, capable of dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow. If you are to live through this fight, and come off victorious, no form of conflict will suffice less sharp and cutting than sword-work. Depend upon it that in this struggle you will be forced to come to close quarters. The foe aims at your heart, and pushes home. A spear will not do, nor bow and arrow; the enemy is too near for anything but hand-to-hand fighting. No sling and stone will avail us here, but we must take the sword. You have to slay your foe, or your foe will slay you.
The use of the sword is needful for attack. I have reminded you several times already that it will not suffice for the Christian to guard against sin, and ward off temptation from himself; he has to assail the powers of evil. In our case, the best method of defence is an attack. If we had fought the devil more in the world, he might never have been able to invade the church so terribly as he has done. Attack with the sword, for it is your calling, and thus will you best defend yourself.
We need this sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. We say with David, “There is none like that; give it me.” No other will match the enemy’s weapon. This sword suits every hand. Youth or age may alike use this weapon. Whatever others may say, it is sufficient for us that this is the regulation sword. A soldier is not left to choose his own equipment; he must carry such arms as his Sovereign appoints. This is the regulation sword in Christ’s army.
Note that we are not told that we may lay it down: the demand to take the sword is continuous, and there is no hint of its being suspended. The standing-orders are to take the sword of the Spirit, and no new regulation has ever been issued by the great Captain of salvation. From the days of Paul till now, the word stands, “Take the sword of the Spirit.”
Defeat awaits that man who forsakes the Word of the Lord. You can bear trial, and bear it patiently, if you use this weapon to kill anxiety. You will “stand fast in the evil day”, and having done all, you will still stand, if this sword be in your hand.
Excerpted from the sermon titled “The Sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17) by CH Spurgeon dated 19 April 1891. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon from https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-sword-of-the-spirit/#flipbook/