April 18, 2020

One Sword to Rule Them All (The Armor, part 16)

I’ve been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for nearly as long as I can remember. I was introduced to the Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit back in the late 1970s, and I was instantly hooked. One of my favorite scenes is when Gandalf rescues Bilbo and the dwarves from the Goblin King. The sword Gandalf wields, Glamdring (a.k.a. The Foe Hammer), is featured prominently in this scene. The mere appearance of Glamdring was enough to send the Goblin King into a panic, and Gandalf quickly dispatches the brute and leads the party to safety. This scene left quite an impression on the seven-year-old me, and I’ve been fascinated with swords ever since.

Tolkien’s Glamdring, King Arthur’s Excalibur, and Charlemagne’s Joyeuse are just a few of the iconic swords which have played prominent roles in fiction and/or history.  Once the pinnacle of battlefield armaments, swords continue to symbolize power and authority even to this day. In Ephesians 6:17, the Apostle Paul states that the Sword of the Spirit is the “word of God.” As such, this final piece of the Whole Armor of God would be the ultimate symbol of power and authority.

The use of sword imagery and symbolism in the Bible can get a little strange. The first mention of a sword in the Bible is the flaming sword which “turned every way” to guard the entrance of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24). If a (possibly) levitating sword of fire isn’t odd enough, imagine having a sword coming out of your mouth!

from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword…

This bizarre passage is not alone in the “swords for lips” category. A sword is symbolically linked to the mouth numerous times in scripture! If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that words are powerful; none more so than the very word of God.

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For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
~Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

This idea of the Word of God being alive shares a direct link to another passage of scripture which reveals the identity of the Word to be none other than Jesus Christ himself.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
~John 1:1 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
~John 1:14 (ESV)

It is beyond the scope of this article to explore all of the implications of Jesus as referenced in John 1:1-14. Let it suffice to say that these verses firmly establish Jesus as the Word of God, and as such, He holds the full authority of God. As we saw in Hebrews 4:12, the Word is able to discern our thoughts and intentions. It is impossible to hide our true motivations from Christ, and that fact places Him in the perfect position to be the one and only final arbiter of justice and judgment.

For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son…
~John 5:22 (ESV)

…and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.
~John 5:27 (ESV)

In one sense, the Sword of the Spirit is about the authority to render judgment, but we must be careful when we put on the sword that we do not assume that we ourselves are worthy to judge others. In fact, we should be fully aware of the words of the Judge himself…

If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.
~John 12:47 (ESV)

The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
~John 12:48 (ESV)

When the appointed “last day” comes, judgment will follow.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

During the current era, we are the representatives of Christ in this world. One day, He will return to judge, but until then, our purpose must be a continuation of Christ’s atonement on the cross. We must let people know that Jesus is both Lord and Savior: the one who can condemn and the one who can rescue. He is the one who holds all power and authority.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It is worth nothing at this point that the Sword of the Spirit holds a curious position in the Whole Armor of God. Throughout the course of this study, we have observed how the various pieces of the Armor of God overlap. The Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, holds the final place on the list because it overlaps every other piece of the armor.

The Belt of Truth tells us that Jesus is Lord and Savior. The Sword of the Spirit represents Christ himself, the one who gives us the strength to bear the weight of the armor.

The Breastplate of Righteousness teaches us that the wages of sin is death. Christ alone, as the Word and the one who wields ultimate authority, is fit to condemn sin in the final judgment.

The Boots of Preparation instruct us to study the Word of God so that we can spread the gospel of peace. We are to literally carry Christ with us everywhere we go as we spread the good news.

The Shield of Faith teaches us who we should trust and why we should trust Him. The Lord alone is worthy of our faith.

The Helmet of Salvation brings our minds closer to the mind of Christ. It is also interesting to note that one aspect of the helmet is to filter our speech. This control over one’s own tongue is a stark contrast to the ultimate power spoken by the sword which represents the tongue (or words) of Jesus.

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