“Is the ‘sword of the Spirit’ mentioned in the ‘armor of God’ passage a reference to the Bible or could it be something else?”—Ben
In this familiar passage (Eph. 6:10-17), the “sword of the Spirit” is followed by the phrase “which is the word of God.” We have been taught that this “word of God” is indeed referring to the Bible . . . and why not? “The Word of God” is a commonly used appellation for the Bible, at least in our day. Support of this usage is found in Jesus’ refutation of Satan with Scripture, declaring that man should live “on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:1-11).
Interestingly and importantly, the use of “word” in the New Testament denotes several things besides the written word: Jesus seems to indicate that the Old Testament command is the “word of God” (Mt. 15:6); the congregational proclamation of Christ is the “word” (Col 3:16); Jesus is God’s word of personal revelation (Jn. 1:1, 14); “the living and enduring word” is the good news which saves, “the word which was preached to you” (I Pet. 1:23, 25). The “word of God” is living and active, piercing the soul and judging thoughts (Heb. 4:12). None of these passages either demands or denies that “word” must always stand as a reference to the Bible as we know it.
Since you raised the question, perhaps we could consider another interpretation of “the word of God” in Eph. 6:17. Perhaps it is a reference to prayer! This makes sense contextually: the next two verses mention prayer and petition (“in the Spirit”) five times. It makes sense theologically: prayer is a powerful weapon in spiritual warfare. It makes practical sense: boldness for witnessing comes through prayer. It’s worth thinking about!