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We are at war whether we want to be or not. We can call ourselves passivists, anti-war, but open war is upon us whether we like it or not. As for myself, I hate war and want nothing to do with it. Nevertheless, I and you and all of us are involved in a very real, spiritual war that is raging all around us. Ultimately, the war is won. Jesus won it at the cross. But, there are still daily battles in which the enemy tirelessly engages us.
But we are not to be on the battlefield without armor on. That is why God has fully fitted us with the perfect armor in order that we might win the battles in our daily lives. He has given us a very ornate, impenetrable helmet of Salvation. First of all, this means that Jesus saved us and set us apart for holy service in His Kingdom. But the salvation does not end there. It is a minute by minute salvation for our minds as well. When we eagerly put on our helmets, our thinking is protected and becomes more and more Christ-like as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds by the Word of God.
Furthermore, we are equipped with the sparkling belt of truth. And this we found out is no ordinary belt, but rather, is the defining feature of a soldier. Whether on the battlefield or off, the Roman soldier was recognized because of this distinct belt. This belt even made the soldier walk differently, stand differently, and act differently. No one else walked or stood like a soldier, and no one else wore such a belt. This for the Christian is the belt of truth, for the truth makes us walk differently, talk differently, act differently. The truth is what sets us free. The truth is what distinguishes Christianity from all other religions of the world. Not only this, but the belt of truth is that upon which much of the armor is connected in some form or fashion including the breastplate of righteousness and the sword.
So, let us continue learning about other pieces of this elaborate, protective, and ornate armor. Today we’re going to discover the Sword.
In Ephesians 6:17-18 we read,
“Also take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…”
In the time of Jesus, Rome was all about achieving power and keeping power. Thus, having an army ready for battle and in top notch condition was vital for attaining this goal. War was a way of life. Battles were the norm. To be apart of the Roman machine was a mark of distinction. To be a Roman soldier was a thing of pride. And to know the art of war was beyond imperative.
“Because the Roman army was so committed to warfare, Roman soldiers continually practiced the arts of warfare. One daily exercise was sword practice, which they undertook both in the morning and the afternoon. Every soldier practiced sword fighting by striking a six-foot-high wooden post that was firmly fixed in the ground. This post became the soldier’s “enemy” during practice. Just as he would if he were fighting a real enemy, the soldier would advance upon his target, strike hard with his sword, and then retreat” (Sword Power! By Rick Renner, https://renner.org/sword-power/)
The ancient Roman writer Vegetius described Roman sword-fighting tactics in his book Concerning Military Matters, saying, “They were likewise taught not to cut, but to thrust with their swords…a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is generally fatal” (“Sword Power!” By Rick Renner).
The Machaira and the Belt:
There were different types of offensive weapons that the Roman soldier could utilize. A dagger called a pugio was on the left side of the belt; arrows would be attached on the belt, as well as the shield when not in use; and then there was the sword. Other weapons of war included a long sword (a spatha) and a short sword (a gladius); there was also a javelin (pilum) for throwing.
The specific type of sword mentioned in Ephesians 6:17 is the (#3162) machaira meaning, “A knife, a slaughter-knife, a sword for cutting.” It can be a generic term for sword, but throughout history it is said to have had a curve at the tip, was often sharp only on one side, was made for cutting, and was made to kill.
Interestingly enough, “Legally, the wearing of arms – especially a sword – at all times in public deﬁned the soldier” (“The Roman Military Belt,” by Stefanie Hoss, http://www.academia.edu/212354/The_Roman_Military_Belt pg 29). It “separated soldiers from civilians by the right to wear arms – especially a sword – at all times in public” (“A Theoretical Approach to Roman Military Belts,” Stefanie Hoss, idea from Brunt 1975, pg 318). Therefore, the sword never left the Roman soldier’s side. Never. Not only was it legal for them to wear the sword at all times, but it was imperative, for the sheath of the sword was permanently attached to the belt. Other things could be removed from the belt such as the dagger and its sheath, but the sword’s sheath could not be removed. And a sheath without a sword would look very odd. According to Stephanie Hoss, “…the sword’s sheath was connected to the belt in a manner that probably took some time to take off. If one wanted to take off the sword, one usually took off the sword-belt with the sword in its sheath” (“A Theoretical Approach to Roman Military Belts,” Stefanie Hoss, http://www.academia.edu/4849015/A_Theoretical_Approach_to_Roman_Military_Belts, pg. 321). Thus, the Roman soldier went nowhere without his belt or his sword inseparably linked.
The Truth and the Word
Just as the belt and the sword were inseparable, the Truth and the Word of God are also inseparable. Time after time in Scripture the Word of God is equated with Truth from 2 Timothy 2:15 to Ephesians 1:13 to Colossians 1:5 to 1 Thessalonians 2:13 in the New Testament; to Psalm 119:43 and Psalm 119:151 in the Old Testament. Numbers 23:19 states, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Furthermore, Jesus in John 17:17 when praying to the Father asks that the Father “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth.” Not only this, but Jesus said that He Himself is “The Way, the Truth and the Life.” As we can see, God does not lie, God is truth, and therefore what He says is truth. His word and His truth are inseparable.
Rhema vs Logos
The sword to the Roman soldier was serious business, and was a matter of life and death. The one who treated it as such would live longer than a soldier who did not. For the enemy was out to kill them. It was kill or be killed. It was conquer or be conquered.
In Ephesians 6:17 it states that the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. The Greek word used for “word” in this instance is not the usual term of Logos referring to the written word (like the term used for Jesus when it says that He was the Word/Logos made flesh), but instead is the term Rhema. The Greek word Rhema (Strong’s #4487) means “to speak” particular sayings rather than complete sayings. It is from Rheo (#4483) meaning, “To say, speak, utter definite words”. Basically it has to do with being specific. In other words, it’s the exact Word of God needed for a specific situation.
“This is so powerful — and I want to tell you why! Had Paul used the word logos in this verse, he would have implied a “sweeping stroke” against the enemy, and this would never do. You see, the logos — although broad, heavy, wonderful, and full of general direction for our lives — is not sufficient to deal the enemy a fatal blow. We need to stab the enemy! This will require a rhema — a specific, quickened word from the Scriptures, placed into our hearts and hands by the Holy Spirit. With a rhema from God placed in our hearts and hands, we have real sword power to use against the enemy!” (Rick Renner, “Be Sure to Go to Sword Practice,” https://renner.org/be-sure-to-go-to-sword-practice/)
Important to Note
Thus, we see that the Word of God is a specific word of God, called a Rhema word. The Sword of the Spirit is meant to be used and made to kill. Sword practice is imperative. And even when not in a battle the Sword is never to be detached from the Belt of Truth, and the Belt is never to be taken off.
Example of How to Use the Sword
And excellent example of using a Rhema word, ie a specific, Spirit-inspired word, is found in Matthew 4:1-11.
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.”
Yet Another Way to Use the Sword
But, there is one more important thing to take note of, and that is this. The Sword of the Spirit is used through prayer. Though most if not all translations of the Bible do not capture this connection, in the Greek the connection is inseparable.
A more literal translation of Ephesians 6:17 ties it in with verse 18 and reads as follows,
“Also take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God through all prayer and petition, praying at every [all] time in the Spirit, and watching to this same thing with all perseverance and petition concerning the saints” (A Literal Translation of the Bible, by Jay Greene, Sr. 1985)
“Through All Prayer and Petition”
We are to take hold of the sword of God’s specific Rehma words for specific situations and continuously use it by means of earnest prayers and wishes made aloud and beseeching petition for particular needs. You see, the word for “prayer” literally means “to wish or pray or vow” aloud and with great earnestness. The word for “petition” means “to make one’s particular needs known” to someone superior to the one requesting. It carries with it the feeling of great need, even neediness, and of being reduced to want.
Through: #1223, dia means literally through or throughout, but has the implied meaning in this case of “by means of”. It also carries with it a sense of time and implies ongoing time, continuous time.
So, in reference to prayer in this passage it could read: “continuously use (God’s word) by means of prayer”.
All: #3956, Pas which literally means all and “includes the idea of oneness, a totality, or the whole” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament,” Edited by Spiros Zodhiates Th.D., page 1125).
Prayer: #4335, prosueche “offer prayer” in general from the verb, proseuchomai, “to wish to, to pray to” and is composed of two words: pros = to (4314) and euchomai = to wish, pray (2172)
#2172 euchomai literally means “to pray or vow” aloud, to speak out loud, “to desire earnestly.”
Petition: #1162, deesis meaning “to make known one’s particular need,” beseech as an inferior to a superior. From #1189 implies “To be reduced to want,” or can mean “to lack for oneself, to need”. So, a “prayer for a particular need, supplication.”
God wants us to come to Him with our great need, our earnest desires, our incredible wishes, to speak them out loud and often. But, He doesn’t just want us coming to Him with our own words. He wants us coming to Him with His own words. He wants us to be reading and memorizing and meditating upon His Logos (that is the whole Bible) so that in moments of distress the Holy Spirit can bring to our minds and quicken us with His Rehma Word (a specific passage from Scripture) for our individual situation, our specific necessity (John 14:26; I John 2:20).
Though the shield of faith can be viewed as an offensive weapon (as described in the article listed below), it is not offensive in and of itself, for it must be used in tandem with the sword. The Sword of the Spirit could be said to be our only truly offensive weapon in our God-given arsenal. We don’t have grenades that we can lob from a distance. We don’t have cannons with cannon balls that can blow our enemy away before they even reach us. We don’t have airplanes with bombs on board to send cascading down on the enemy’s military forces behind enemy lines. We don’t even have a handgun for protection. God instead has given us a Sword for wrestling in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy that is near enough to wrestle with, his rancid, sulfurous breath breathing in our faces.
And like the Roman soldier always wore his belt, even so we are to keep on our belt of Truth which is the Logos word of God (the whole Bible), upon which is the inseparable sword of the Spirit that is the Rhema word of God. This Sword of the Spirit is to be worn proudly every day in every situation and is never to be removed at any time. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are to “pray without ceasing.” In both Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9 Jesus encourages His followers to ask, seek and knock. In the Greek these words do not mean that we only ask once, but rather, the tense strongly implies that we are to continually ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. We are to be persistent like the widow with the unjust judge, for our God is not unjust (Luke 18). The sword of the Spirit which is the word of God is to be used in prayer and petition continually. And it is extremely effective and deadly to the enemy when we live a lifestyle of rightly dividing God’s Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15-16), when we live a lifestyle of prayer, and when we combine both the Word of God and prayer via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
It is not called “the art of war” for no reason. It is an art. It is an art form in that we must practice. Remember the saying “practice makes perfect”? But it is also an art in that we must allow for inspiration, specifically, Holy Spirit-Inspiration. After all, it is the Holy Spirit’s sword. Thus, we must carefully listen for His still small voice in order to let Him direct us regarding what scriptures to use in prayer. Without His inspiration, the Sword will remain inactive at our side. God must teach our hands to war, even as He did for King David in Psalm 144.
“Also take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God through all prayer and petition, praying at every [all] time in the Spirit, and watching to this same thing with all perseverance and petition concerning the saints” (A Literal Translation of the Bible, by Jay Greene, Sr. 1985).
The enemy without ceasing, night and day, tirelessly wrestles against us. So, let’s diligently keep on praying the Spirit-inspired rhema word of God over each others’ lives, keeping in mind always that Jesus is praying for us (Romans 8:34) and that we are therefore “more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
Knowing this, let us take up the Sword of the Spirit and persevere!
Here is a list of other teachings from this series, “We Are At War”:
Rick Renner, https://renner.org
“Weapons,” http://www.primaryhomeworkhelp.co.uk/romans/weapons.html, by Mandy Barrow on website Primary Homework Help.
“Roman Military Equipment: Weapons – Gladius, Spatha, Pugio,” http://www.romancoins.info/MilitaryEquipment-pugio.html
“Roman Military Equipment: The Sword (Gladius and Spatha),” http://www.romancoins.info/MilitaryEquipment-Attack.html
“Roman Weapons,” http://ancientmilitary.com/roman-weapons.htm
“Sword History,” http://www.swordhistory.info/?p=120