The last implement of war for fighting Satan described by the apostle Paul is the sword. Adam Clarke, in describing this weapon states that it is “…sometimes a knife; it was a short sword, used more frequently by gladiators, or in single combat.”
This is the only offensive implement on Paul’s list. All the other items are defensive in nature.
Paul informs us that our one offensive weapon is the Word of God. Here Paul is not referring to the Word of God as the means of winning people to Christ, which it is. But in this context he is specifically addressing its use in our combat with Satan.
He lists this offensive weapon last because it will do us no good if all the defensive pieces are not in place. If we have bought into a lie (don’t have the belt of truth securely fastened) Satan will use that lie to destroy us. Likewise if the breastplate of righteousness is not firmly in place, whatever unrighteousness we are entertaining will make us vulnerable to defeat. If our feet are not shod with the firm footing of peace, Satan will use the turmoil in our hearts to make us fearful. If we are not wielding the shield of faith, dealing with Satan’s arrows from the perspective of the realm of faith, the Kingdom of God, Satan will use this earthly orientation to inflict great pain. If we have not put on the helmet of salvation, if we are not viewing every situation regardless of how daunting with the confidence that ultimately we win, life will become overwhelming. Under these circumstances we will be incapable of wielding the sword, and even if we do, it will not protect us in areas where we have left ourselves vulnerable.
It is important to note that this is the sword of the Spirit. Whatever situations you are facing, remember that you are ultimately in a spiritual battle. We tend to lose sight of that. When someone breaks in your car and steals your iPhone, or when your lawnmower breaks down when the lawn is half mowed, or when you and your spouse get into a squabble over nothing (the source of most marital conflict), you can be assured that ultimately these events are assaults by Satan seeking to frustrate or discourage you. Though a repairman may need to fix your lawnmower, dealing with your heart attitude comprises a spiritual battle that must be fought with the sword of the Spirit.
As noted, this sword is short, perhaps being more like a dagger, or in today’s Army a bayonet. This fact has two implications.
First, we are dealing with close combat. This is not like an arrow designed to hit an enemy located at a distance. It is not even like a long-sword used on an enemy a few feet away. Our enemy, Satan, is right in our face. Therefore, we must always be on the alert, never let down our guard, because he is so close that he will see his opportunity and land a punishing blow.
A second implication of this short sword is that our responses to Satan’s attacks need to be short. Don’t get into a conversation with Satan. He will stab you while you are still talking. Eve tried the conversation approach, and it did not end well. Instead, quickly run him through with the sword of the Spirit.
Jesus modeled well this strategy for close combat in His battle with Satan in the wilderness. “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”
Our response to Satan’s assaults must be that simple. “Here is what God says about it. End of discussion.” When Satan assaults us so as to elicit an ungodly response we should counter attack with a terse truth from Scripture: “Therefore, putting away all lying…,” “For the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God,” “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,” “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…” “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us,” “Love is patient and kind,” etc.
Of course, Satan’s response will be, “yeah but…,” to which you reply with the same sword thrust from the Word of God.
Remember, Satan has no defense against the sword of the Spirit. If you always use it, you will always win.