I love football. Every fall I attend the New England Patriot’s training camp and see the players tuning up for the season. It is really a highlight of my year and something that I enjoy immensely. For those of you who are familiar with the Patriots, you know we have had one of the best offenses consistently over the last decade, but our Achilles heel has been our defense. It has not been able to hold its own resulting in a lack of recent championships. Our offense is incredible, yet our defense lets the fans down.
When studying the armor of God (Ephesians 6:1-18), it struck me that all of the Christian’s armor is defensive, yes even the sword. The belt holds the armor/clothing together and carries the sword. The breastplate protects the vitals. The shoes give good footing. The shield holds off hurtful blows. The helmet protects the brain. The sword, however, was the gladius, a 24-inch long weapon. It was only used at close range. The javelin (pilum), not mentioned in Ephesians 6, was the primary offensive weapon for the Romans. A soldier would only engage the sword once the javelin was deployed. It has even been documented that Roman legions had carts filled with javelins follow them into battle so they could restock and attack again.
So a Roman soldier was armed with one to two javelins, a short sword, and a dagger as his weapons. The sword was secondary. In Ephesians 6:17, the Holy Spirit chose to use the sword (machaira – a small sword), a secondary weapon to a soldier. If the enemy was only 24 inches away, intense combat ensued.
I am sure many applications can be made, but let me make just two. First of all, Christians do not proudly fight Satan and rush into battle with a javelin! Our armor is defensive. I think this shows a humility that is necessary for the Christian soldier. Our King is the one who conquers, and we take no credit for the victories in battle. We never arrogantly stand and shake our fists at Satan or our enemies. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:13, “…and having done all, to stand.” In recent studies I have come to believe that this is a reference to the marching orders of a Roman legion. Once the march was completed for the day and the camp was set up, a legion dug a ditch and rampart around their camp every night (research the history of the entrenching tool by Julius Caesar). Javelins would line the ditches facing outwards, protecting the camp from siege. If an enemy attacked, the soldiers would enter the ditch and dig their heels in to brace for the impact of the enemy with a javelin or sword! Friend, do not be weary in spiritual warfare. Dig your heels in and stand firm under the power of God.
Second, to use a short sword, you must know how to swing it. I am not trained or handy with a sword. In battle, I would not know the first thing about proper fighting etiquette, but the Christian has no excuse for not knowing all about the sword, the Word of God. It is more available now than any point in time in history, yet I am afraid that Christians are more lazy and apathetic than any point in time in history. We all must have a passion to master the wielding of the sword.
I believe the best offense is a good defense. Are you ready to do battle today?