“…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:”
The juxtaposition of this piece of the whole Armor to the helmet of salvation is important, because it is the direct object of the verb, “take” or “receive.” This object is given to a soldier for use at his discretion. Paul goes so far as to clarify that this sword IS the word of God by way of the Spirit of God.
Scripture always defines itself and backs itself up, and if you have been familiar with the Word for some time, or been involved in church for a while now, you have heard the verse: “The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper tan any two-edged sword. Piercing even to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
In a way, folklore had it right when describing the sword in the stone that the legendary King Arthur would pull to claim his throne. Many men of valor and strength had attempted this seemingly easy feat, only to find the sword unmoved. One day, a young lad pulls the sword with ease from its resting place, not because he was strong, but because he was righteous. The sword discerned him.
Many Christians will spend their days attempting to discern the word of God. Seeking to pull it apart and claim prideful power. But, as these verses indicate, it is not your job to discern the word. The word was given to discern you. It pierces through all outward protection, and discovers the heart’s deepest thoughts and intents.
This sword is no ordinary sword, and should be used with extreme caution. It reveals secrets as it cuts deep into the heart. It’s power cannot be faked, and its strength cannot be compared. There are those who attempt to wield this sword for their own benefit and pleasure, but the anointing power of the Spirit will always be evident and unmistakable in the lives of those who hold the Word of God dear. I learned as a child that a weapon should be equally appreciated and feared. Take comfort in knowing that the sword you carry knows your heart. Take caution; Maintain a righteous fear of the fact that the sword you carry….knows your heart.
“And take the helmet of salvation…”
One word jumped out at me in this piece of armor. I have probably read this passage at least one hundred times, but today I saw something I’ve never seen before. “Take.”
Twice in the verses preceding, the word “take” or “taking” has been used. That word, “analambano” means “to raise up, carry, or use.” That makes perfect sense considering the application of the former pieces. Each of the other pieces of armor are optional. We choose each day to put them on, take them up, and put them to use. But salvation does not work that way on a practical daily basis.
The word “take” here baffled me! So I pulled out my concordance only to realize it is an entirely different word! “Take the helmet of salvation…” Take, or “dechomai” means "to receive and take hold of.” BAM! There it is! I have received the helmet of salvation! I have taken hold of this gift, and no one can remove it from me!
My salvation rests atop my head. It shields the command center for my body in an assurance that dispels fear of injury. The helmet is the only piece of armor that provides 360 degrees of protection. Attack me from the front, push me from the side, or sneak up on me from behind, I don’t care! The enemy cannot control my thinking, unless I let them in my head.
There have been times where my faith has been weak. My unrighteousness has allowed sins darts to pierce my heart. I have run to hinder peace, and my movement hindered by untruth. In many ways, I have allowed the enemy access into different areas of my life. Those pieces of armor are personally developed, and daily strengthened. But this one…this one is different because it was a gift of the King. I do not own it. I did not make it. I cannot hide it. But I can trust it.
An effective communicator may detail a plan of action or list various issues, but at the end of their talk, it is their intention that the listener walk away with one “main idea.” I can remember two pastors (Regier & Phelps) who poured into a teenage boy and helped develop my communication skills as a preacher. They both insisted that I sum up and entire message in one sentence. When the congregation gets up and walks away, what did they glean from your 20 to 40 minutes of communication.
Paul, one of history’s greatest communicators, delivers this list of armor with one caveat, “ ABOVE ALL, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” In other words, “right in the middle of this list I’m giving you, if you remember nothing else, take the shield of faith!”
I love the irony that not only is the shield of faith “above all” in importance, this piece of armor literally stands above all the others. A shield in this day was no “Captain America” circular disk. Rather they were large and heavy, often standing near five feet tall. The shield of faith does not have to be maneuvered with skill, it is a full-length protection we can hide behind. Faith shields our security in salvation right down to the peace we seek to hold.
In a military advance against the enemy, they often seem to have the high ground. From their distant perch overlooking our lives they fire down fiery darts. I’m reminded of the James 3 passage, “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth. You see, the most dangerous darts are not often literal ones, but the little ones that search for holes in our faith. If you have ever given ear to gossip, you know that it does not have to be true to dilute your perception. It only takes a little fire...
While advancing against spiritual wickedness in high places, armies would rally and use their shields to form a complete overhead covering. These shields that were often lined with tough leather had been dipped in water and treated with fat, so that when a dart touched them, it was immediately extinguished. Once again, the symbolism is so great! Daily you must choose to dip your faith in the water of life, so that it is able to extinguish those darts. A shield of faith that is not treated can begin to crack, putting your life in danger, and the lives of your fellow soldiers.
What, or rather, WHO is your faith in? Not just your hopes and dreams…what is your heart so deeply rooted in that you find safety beneath its shadow. Each day you must choose to guard your heart behind faith in Jesus Christ. Then, rally near soldiers who will lift their shield above your life. There is nothing more scary than being a lone soldier advancing toward fiery darts. But what a privilege to know that my fellow soldiers, the ones I love with all my heart, are standing beside me. No arrow can pierce me, or fire consume me, because I know beyond doubt that they stand beside me. My faith is more than my trust. It is my trust coupled with advancing action.