By Alex Florez
Swords were carried on the right side of a soldier, hanging either from his belt or a specially designed strap. The only offensive weapon of this armor, the sword also served as a warning to the enemy when waved in the air. This piece of armor is the Word of God, and in order to be most effective, it must be used through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When our three children were really little, my wife and I would sit by and chuckle as they rolled around on the floor, wrestling each other like puppies. It was adorable. Even their most vicious attempts to subdue each other were so benign that no one was ever in any real danger. Our son is the youngest, so he was especially harmless in those early days.
But over time, he has increased in strength, and we have begun to see him gaining on his sisters. It has become clear that he doesn’t really know his own strength, which makes him a threat. Not too long from now, he will be strong enough to do some real damage, so he must learn how to engage in these minor scuffles properly.
As a toddler, his tactics were harmless; now, when getting waylaid by his sisters, innocent play devolves into a grudge match. If he doesn’t learn how to control the power he possesses, the precedent will exist in his mind that hitting, tackling, shoving, and kicking anyone who raises his ire would be an acceptable response. Therefore, we have begun instructing him in no uncertain terms that using his physical prowess to hurt someone out of anger or frustration will not be tolerated.
God’s Word in the hands of someone with little self-control, someone who feels justified in seeking revenge against an adversary, is similar to dominant physical strength in the hands of a young boy who does not understand his capacity to inflict real pain. God’s Word used as an apparatus to exercise authority as a means of justifying one’s own rightness is an abuse of a precious gift. God’s Word used as a weapon is dangerous and harmful.
“The sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) is the one piece of the armor of God that is primarily a weapon; everything else in Paul’s inventory is chiefly a mechanism of self-defense. As such, we must not use the Word of God to harm other people. Rather, we must be clear about who the real enemy is. It is in terms of the spiritual realm that we are to use God’s Word as a means of cutting down the forces of evil waging war against our souls.
Hebrews 4:12 asserts that “the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword,” which, to use a common phrase, suggests that Scripture “cuts both ways.” When swung in the wrong direction—for the purpose of selfish ambition or a lust for power—something designed to be life-giving, edifying, instructive, and beautiful becomes an instrument of darkness. If God indeed is our strength and His Word is our sword against the spiritual forces of evil that stand against us, we must know our own strength and wield it with great care.