As Paul was listing some of the trials he faced in the ministry, he wrote, “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; . . . in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left” (2 Corinthians 6:4, 7). In the spiritual battle, it’s nice to have weapons of righteousness.
All people are born into a world war of good against evil. The good side’s battle plan, God’s Word, reveals that, while this war is fought in many arenas, our fight is ultimately “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Normal, physical weapons are of no avail in such a battle. We need weapons of righteousness.
Christians, by God’s grace, have the privilege of fighting on the winning side (Revelation 20:7–14). As we know, “it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47). We are trained and equipped by God to complete our assigned missions in that battle (Psalm 144:1; Ephesians 6:10). Paul refers to the instruments God equips us with as “weapons of righteousness.”
In what way are the weapons linked to “righteousness”? God told the Israelites that their power to defeat the evil nations in Canaan was not due to their own righteousness (Deuteronomy 9:4–6), and in a similar way we Christians are issued our spiritual weapons due entirely to Christ’s righteousness, not our own (Philippians 3:9). “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). To enter a battle without God’s righteousness assures defeat (see Numbers 14:42).
There is no “neutral” side in the spiritual war. All people must choose to join one side or the other, for “no one can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13). Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50), but He also declared, “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters” (Luke 11:23). Those statements leave no middle ground—you’re either on one side or the other. So Paul commands, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:14–16).
Second Corinthians 6:3–10 provides the context of Paul’s reference to weapons of righteousness. Here Paul describes the tough life of a devoted warrior for Christ. The hardships he faces are of every kind—spiritual, emotional, and physical—and they are continuous. That’s why he must always carry his “weapons of righteousness” in both hands—right and left are equally occupied.
God has equipped us for the battles we face. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3–5).
Any gift from God that has power to destroy evil can be described as a “weapon of righteousness.” Here are a few things that can be called a weapon of righteousness:
The Bible. All God’s words are true and righteous (Psalm 119:160, 172) and useful for “training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). That makes the Bible an effective weapon for Christians. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Jesus used God’s Word to defeat Satan’s temptations (Matthew 4:1–11). The word of the Lord is pictured as a sword coming out of His mouth, having power to strike down the nations (Revelation 19:15, 21). God’s Word is one of the “weapons of righteousness” against the forces of hell.
Faith. The Old Testament tells of heroes “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (Hebrews 11:33–34). This should not surprise us, since Jesus revealed that even a small amount of faith has enough power to move mountains (Matthew 17:20). “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
Prayer. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Scripture is full of examples of the power of prayer. Summarizing the time of the judges, Nehemiah 9:27 says, “When they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.” By prayer the drought was begun and ended during Elijah’s day (James 5:17–18). By prayer the enemies of Elisha were struck blind (2 Kings 6:18). By prayer Samson achieved victory over the Philistines (Judges 16:28–30).
Goodness. Goodness is another weapon of righteousness. We are instructed to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Sometimes it seems that evil is more powerful, or at least more prevalent, but it is only temporary. One believer, taking a stand on the side of goodness, can turn back much evil. It is important that we “add to our faith goodness,” which empowers us to defeat the evil of the world and the evil within our own sin nature (2 Peter 1:4–5).
Love. All our other weapons of righteousness are worthless without this one, the greatest commandment (Mark 12:30–31); it is even greater than faith (1 Corinthians 13:1–3). It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Love empowers Christians by uniting us, giving us understanding, encouragement, and joy (Colossians 2:2–3; Philemon 1:4–7). We are to trust in God’s love, and it will protect us from evil (Psalm 17:7; 52:8; 61:7) just as surely as it cleansed us from sin and defeated Satan’s plans against us (Psalm 103:10–12; John 3:16; Revelation 12:10).
In addition to the weapons of righteousness, Christians are supplied with the “full armor of God” to empower us mere humans to stand against Satan himself and all the forces of hell (Ephesians 6:10–17). Our protective gear includes the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, and the shield of faith, plus one offensive weapon, our sword, the Word of God (verse 17). We, the church, are to be on the offense, God’s army against whom the gates of hell cannot prevail (Matthew 16:18).
War is marked by death. Our Savior conquered death, then gave to us that same power over death and all other threats. Therefore, we “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37–39).