At this point in the passage, we have a real shift. Up until now Paul has been engaged in describing defensive armor for the Christian. You might say the shield could be used in an offensive way through a shield bash which could be devastating. However, the way Romans used their shields was mostly to defend the group and to allow the Roman soldier to bring to bear his most offensive weapon which was his sword. The Roman sword is probably the epitome of Roman efficiency. Unlike many of their opponent’s swords it was short, straight and designed to do stab through armor. It was a thrusting weapon although it could be used to slash but was primarily designed to stab an opponent. It required a great deal of training and discipline to use. It could be used to block and attack but its primary purpose was to do damage to the enemy.
This is not the only place the word of God is likened to a sword. Hebrews 4:12 describes it as a sharp two-edged sword. Christ in Revelation is described as having a sword coming out of his mouth which destroys his enemies. The point is that God’s Word is described as something powerful sharp and dangerous and it is the dangerous part that people need to remember most. I think sometimes people do not remember this aspect of the Word of God, that it requires care in handling so it does not a) hurt you and b) hurt others. It is very much something that requires some understanding.
The first thing that must be understood is that the Word is not designed to be used to fight your fellow human beings or Christians. It is designed to be used on the enemy which is listed earlier in the passage. I go back to a preacher I heard once who said the unfortunate thing about the Armor of God was that Christians had the annoying habit of either shining it or suing it on one another. This is true about the Word of God. As our sword I think we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to slay our fellow Christian’s doctrines instead of trying to defeat the forces of darkness. We also have tendency to show off our biblical knowledge without concern of whether we have actually used that knowledge against the enemy.
The second thing that must be understood is the necessity of knowledge in the Word of God. It requires skill to be an effective swordsman and this is equally true with God’s Word. I am not one to ascribe to the notion that anyone can know the Word of God and use it well. I think in general people can know the Word but to use it with skill requires study and effort. It is kind of like a person can know about a gun but until you fire it and use it you will not know how to truly use it. You can understand what the Word can do but until you use it and work with it you will never know how to use it effectively. The Word requires understanding and use to get good with it in the right way.
If there is anything to be understood about this Word of God as sword concept is that the Word is something that is dangerous that could be used for great good or great evil. We need to remember that even the Devil quoted scripture to Jesus. Jesus countered his quotes with his own but used rightly instead of wrongly. It is a lesson the shows both the need to understand how dangerous the Word can be and the necessity of needing knowledge to use it effectively. The question is will you take the time to both learn and work to get that understanding and knowledge?