The Shield of Faith
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand in the evil day. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of this darkened world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Therefore, take up whole armor of God that you may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all to stand, stand therefore having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. – Ephesians 6:10-18
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves Him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? –I John 5:1-5
If a Christian experiences any failure or defeat in his Christian life it is not because of a failure of his armor. Our Captain, Christ Jesus, has provided all that we need for every situation in our battle with Satan and his demons. And that provision is described for us in the two passages of scripture with which we begin this study.
As we read through that description we see that certain parts of the armor are to be worn by the soldier: the girdle (or “belt”) the breastplate, the shoes and the helmet. But there are two “moveable” or “external” parts of the armor – the sword and the shield. And Ephesians 6:16 describes the shield as it relates to our spiritual battles. And as we think about the shield we will so from three standpoints: First, the portrayal of the shield, then the purpose of the shield, and third, the protection by the shield.
So let’s think first about the portrayal of the shield – what it represents in the armor of the Christian. Several different kinds of shields were used by the different branches of the Roman army. The gladiator’s shield, for example, was a small, round one, which he kept strapped to his left arm to protect him from the dagger thrusts of the enemy, while at the same time keeping his right arm free to stab with his own dagger. But the shield referred to in this passage was at the opposite end of the spectrum. It was referred to as a “door shield” because of its size. It was approximately 30 inches wide and 48 inches high, large enough for the soldier to crouch behind. Obviously it was designed to give protection without much thought to mobility. Sometimes a Roman phalanx would overlap those shields and advance against the enemy. In this way they formed a solid wall behind which they could stand against the enemy – a sort of “portable fort.”
Now it was this large, protective “door shield” which Paul had in mind when he told his readers to “take the shield of faith.” And at this point we might wonder, “What is the purpose of such a bulky shield?” Well, first it was important from the standpoint of placement. In using this particular word, Paul is actually saying that we have double protection – not only the armor, but the “door shield” out in front protecting the armor. The words “above all” might give us the idea that this is the most important piece of the armor. But actually the sense is “over all.” The pieces of armor he has described thus far cover all of the vital parts of the body. So the door shield is not being singled out as more important than the other pieces of the armor, but rather, that it is the piece that goes our in front of, and protects all the other pieces of equipment.
So when the Christian puts the door-shield of faith in front of his armor, the armor can’t be trounced, let alone his body. In John 10:28 and 29 Jesus spoke of this same kind of double protection: Using the illustration of sheep once again, He said,
And I give them (His believers) eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one can pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
The sheep are in His hand – verse 28, but they are also in the Father’s hand – verse 29. And although it is not the primary message of this passage, this principle is another illustration of the doctrine of eternal security. Peter said something similar to this in His first letter. He speaks in chapter one, verse 4 of our salvation as an “inheritance.” And he says that that inheritance is “reserved in heaven for us” but in the next verse he also says that we are “kept” for the inheritance.”
But the shield was also important from another standpoint. The words “fiery darts of the wicked” indicate that it was important from the standpoint of prevention too. The “fiery dart” was a large torch that would be dipped in tar, ignited and thrown or shot at the enemy. When it struck a soldier it would stick to his breastplate or other metal armor, and he would be burned before he could knock it off. But with the large door shield, the fiery darts couldn’t get through to the soldier or his armor. And Paul says here that as we hide behind the “door shield” of faith, the same thing is true for believers.
Now having understood the picture presented by the shield, and the purpose of it, let’s think more specifically about the protection offered by the shield. To be able to understand this as fully as possible, we need to be able to understand the definition of the protective principle. There are two distinct uses of in the scripture of the term “the faith.” Sometimes it refers to the whole body of spiritual truth.
For instance, I Timothy 4:1 says that “in the latter times some shall depart from “the faith.” The term “the faith” there refers to the entire body of God’s revealed truth all the way from the Old Testament Prophets, and the New Testament Apostles and prophets. And it is easy to see that we must be in the last days because there seem to be so many who have departed from the faith in our day. The most basic aspect of judging any religious system or theological position is its attitude toward the Word of God. And while it is true that no successful combat with the enemy without holding to the truths of scripture, that is not what Paul is referring to here in Ephesians 6.
The other use of the term “the faith” is what we might call “the faith principle.” What is faith? It is an attitude toward God in which we fully believe that God is a faithful God who really will perform what He has promised. It is a true belief that, as Philippians 1:6 says, He who has begun a good work in you will continue to perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” And this “faith principle” is what serves as a shield to whatever Satan may throw at us.
Now, with that definition in mind, let’s look at some of the demonstrations of the protective principle (some of Satan’s fiery darts.) In Colossians chapter 2 Paul wrote to people who were in danger of being enticed away from the truth. And in verses 4 and 5, he said:
And this I say, lest any man should entice you with flattering words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
Notice that he didn’t say, “I rejoice that you continue to hold sound doctrine in spite of false teaching.” But he said, “I rejoice that I see the steadfastness of your faith. And then in verse 6, he gives them a charge in light of the fact that they are demonstrating a continuing faith in Christ:
As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.
There are two important things to notice about this statement of verse 6: First, he affirms the faith “faith principle” by which they were saved – they “received Christ Jesus the Lord.” They had not been saved good works, joining a church, being baptized, or keeping the law, but by faith. They accepted God’s promise that He would accept a person who came to Him by faith in Jesus Christ, and they were born again as a result. Now the second thing important observation about verse 6 is in that little word “so.” Just as they had received Christ by faith, they were to walk day by day in faith – believing that God would keep His promises about temptation (and forgiveness.) A Christian does not live the Christian life by attending church regularly, keeping the Ten Commandments, or any other “formula,” but by believing and obeying God step by step. And anyone who lives by any other principle is not using the “door shield” of faith with which he will be able to quench the fiery darts! God only has one operating principle: the faith principle. People are saved by faith, a Christian walks by faith, and the Christian life is a life of faith, step by step. It is important for us at this point to think carefully about what is involved in walking. Most people have never thought about what is involved in it unless they have been injured to an extent that they have had to learn how to walk all over again. But here is what is involved: first we pick up one of our feet, then we throw ourselves off balance and swing that foot downward until it is in place beside the other foot. Then we pick up the other foot, swing it forward and back down beside the other foot. Then we repeat the process, one foot at a time.
Although it may not seem necessary, I think it would be worthwhile to elaborate on this concept in a little more detail. John chapter 14, verses 16 through 27 tells us that When Jesus was getting ready to return to heaven at the end of His earthly life, He said that He would send the Holy Spirit to take His place. Among other things that He said the Holy Spirit would do, was to “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said unto you.” After Christ went back to heaven, He kept that promise. Fifty days after his resurrection, on the Day of Pentecost, He sent the Holy Spirit to live within all of those original Christians. After that, every time a person believes in Christ and receives salvation, he also receives the Holy Spirit to live within him or her. This is a teaching that somehow has been very largely overlooked in the body of Christ, it seems to me. Think about what a priceless treasure this is. One of the blessings of our day is the ability to look things up on the internet almost instantaneously. But that is nothing compared with what God has given us with this promise of John 14:26. Think about it! Any time you sit down to read your Bible, or listen to a sermon, you have the privilege of praying, “Holy Spirit, please help me understand what I am reading; show me what you want me to see here.” And Christ’s promise is He will do it! Another part of that promise is that not only will the Holy Spirit teach you what the scripture means, He will also remind you of that scripture when you have a need for it.
Let’s think about a hypothetical situation of spiritual walking. Let’s say that you find yourself in a situation where it seems that the easiest solution would be to lie your way out of it. But as you are thinking about telling that lie the Holy Spirit reminds you that the Bible says in many places that as believers we are to be truthful. However, the Bible also says that Satan is “on the prowl” for believers that he can trap into sinning. Now while the Holy Spirit is reminding you that we are to be truthful in all of our ways, Satan will also be reminding you how easy it would be to tell a lie and be done with it. If you as a believer decide to do what the Bible says and you do it, CONGRATULATIONS! You have taken a step at the direction of the Holy Spirit. And to walk in the Spirit is simply to go through that process of listening to the Holy Spirit and obeying Him over and over again, just as in physical walking.
God has given us all of the armor that we need to for protection against Satan’s attacks. But that armor itself must be protected by the door-shield of faith. Faith is not natural, it is supernatural. And as we exercise it step by step, decision by decision, we can be victorious over our enemy, Satan.