And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Eph 6:17
To really understand the references Paul used in describing the Spiritual Armor in his letter to the Ephesians you need to put it in the context of what the people would think about or see in their day-to-day lives. In order to find an example to use in describing the armor Paul need look no further than the Roman soldiers that were everywhere.
As the sword was their primary offensive weapon, the Roman soldiers exercised and were trained in the use of several swords, and they were trained in a specific use of the swords, that being to thrust with a sword rather than to cut with it. They even made a point of making fun of those who chose to cut rather than thrust. This is explained by Roman strategist Flavius Vegetius Renatus in The Military Institutions of the Romans:
For the Romans not only made a jest of those who fought with the edge of that weapon, but always found them an easy conquest. A stroke with the edges, though made with ever so much force, seldom kills, as the vital parts of the body are defended by both the bones and armor. On the contrary, a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is generally fatal…
The soldiers were deadly with any of their swords but there was one in particular Paul was referring to when talking about the sword of the Spirit. Paul chose the machaira sword. This was a particularly nasty sword, sharpened on both sides and pointed at the tip (similar to the pictured below). And the Roman soldiers were so effective with it that they could use it to disembowel an enemy on the battlefield.
Why would Paul use the machaira to describe the sword of the Spirit? Because in doing so he declares that God has given us a weapon can be used with brutal efficiency against our enemy. Paul wanted to compare and contrast the difference between grazing evil and dealing it a death blow with a deep penetration of the Word into the heart.
In Ephesians Paul tells us “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (6:17) That means we have this weapon at our disposal in our fight. We even have an example to follow. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded to the temptations with the Word of God. (see Luke 4) And after that the devil “…departed from Him…” (Luke 4:13)
Paul is not the only one to compare a sword to the Word of God. The author of Hebrews also does this: “The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)
So what do we do? We need to study God’s Word, tuck it away in our heart. This doesn’t mean we need to have the entire bible memorized in order to use the sword of the spirit. But we do need to study it so we can be immersed in the truth captured there. Two things happen when we are immersed in truth.
First, it is easier to spot the lie when you know the truth. Satan will try confusing us by manipulating and twisting the scripture. Knowledge, as they say, is power. Knowledge of the Word of God will give you the power you need to keep you from falling for the lie and to fight back.
Second, by keeping the seeds of truth in our hearts, when we desperately need a Word to counter an attack, the Holy Spirit can provide that Word in our heart. This will release a mighty force of divine power with which we can thrust our sword effectively.
Always use of the sword of the Spirit in conjunction with the rest of the Spiritual Armor whenever you are facing the temptations and lies of the enemy. Parry the darts sent your way and remember…