Armor of God Series, Part 3

The Shield of Faith

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” —Ephesians 6:10-17

A SHIELD GENERALLY is a portable protector which a warrior moves around to safeguard different parts of his body. (Eph. 6:16) We are quite familiar with this sort of shield. In science fiction, we hear of shields of electrical force that can be set up completely around vehicles, buildings, or even whole cities, also as a means of protection to the occupants. The earth has a shield around it which we call the atmosphere. It protects earth and its inhabitants from harmful rays, and the direct heat from the sun.

In the Scriptures two kinds of shields are mentioned. One is similar to the shield we mentioned first—a small, maneuverable, hand-held object, which can be used to deflect missiles, spears and arrows, swords or knives, etc., which have been aimed at the soldier by his enemy. But there is also a large type of shield that can be planted at an area to be defended, directly in front of the warriors, to serve the same purpose as the smaller shield. According to some authorities, it was sometimes over four feet tall, rectangular in shape, and made of very solid and impenetrable material, such as wood, metal, or rocks. It became a wall to stand behind, but low enough that the defenders could return fire at their attackers. This is the kind of shield the Apostle Paul says that the Lord’s people should use as Christian soldiers. In Psalm 5:12 we read: “Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous: with favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield.”

Our theme scripture—Ephesians 6:16—brings this shield to our attention with these words: “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Even though the words ‘above all’ have been used in the King James Translation when mentioning the shield, we do not think that the Apostle Paul meant to imply that the shield was the most important piece of the Christian soldier’s armor. The breastplate of righteousness is very important; and the sandals of peace have an important job to do; and there were two other pieces of equipment—the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which we have still to consider. Other translations, such as the Revised Standard Version, clarify the thought. It says, “besides all these.” And the New International Version reads: “in addition to these.” From these translations we conclude that every piece of armor is equally important.

The shield is not a protection for one particular part of the body in the same way that the helmet is used only on the head, or the breastplate is to protect the upper portion of the body, or the sandals the feet. The shield is protection for the whole body of a Christian soldier. It can be thought of as a double defense, or a backup, to be used in conjunction with the other pieces of armor.

We are talking about the shield ‘of faith’. Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott says “the shield of the faith.” In the technical sense, it is “the faith”—our system of beliefs or doctrines—that is our shield. Primarily, however, most scriptures we will consider in this study refer to our own personal faith in the plan of God, and the Christian’s fight of faith.

This faith—the shield—is a supplement to all the other parts of the Christian’s armor. Without faith, the helmet of salvation, protecting the head (representing our knowledge of the truth) could be broken in pieces. Without faith, the breastplate of righteousness, protecting our heart and other vital organs (representing our desires to live righteously before God) would avail us nothing.

Before we examine some scriptures concerning the protection this shield will offer, let us see if we can discover what missiles are being hurled at us by our enemies. We quoted earlier from our theme text, that as we advantage ourselves of the shield of faith, we are able to ‘quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one’. The ‘wicked one’ is obviously the Adversary and his cohorts, who hurl these fiery darts at us, bent upon our destruction.

These darts and arrows of the Adversary are described as ‘fiery’ darts. Back in history, darts were sometimes equipped with combustible material which had been placed upon their point of impact. This would be lighted before the darts were hurled, and as they struck their targets, they would burst into flames. This is a more lethal missile than one that would simply puncture. It had the power of wounding and burning at the same time. If they were aimed at structures, or grassy fields, the resulting fires added another deadly dimension to the battle. These fiery darts were among the most formidable weapons of Paul’s day.

Paul tells us that we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12) Satan uses many different means, plans, and schemes, which he has in his control to endeavor to deceive, trap, and enslave the Lord’s people. But Paul assures us, in II Corinthians 10:4, that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” If we remain securely covered with our armor from the Lord, and remain behind our shield of faith, walking in our sandals of peace, there is no way in which the Adversary can harm us.

Peter agreed with Paul, saying, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” (I Pet. 4:12) This apostle spoke of fiery trials, which are very similar to the fiery darts which Paul mentioned. The fiery trials are permitted to test us, and are designated as ‘fiery’ because they have to do with refining metals, such as gold. Despite the fact that the fiery trials, as well as the fiery darts, come from Satan, and his object is to destroy our faith, nevertheless they are permitted by our Heavenly Father with a much different object in mind. The Father’s goal is to test and prove our love for, and faith in him.

We should not become discouraged though these trials and testings come to us from time to time. They are not pleasant to endure, but, as we withstand the temptations of the Adversary, our faith will grow stronger. As with the tree that becomes more rugged from withstanding the blowing of the wind, so also our trials develop strength in us. If we are rightly exercised by them, they will bring out in us the peaceable fruits of righteousness. Paul ‘suggests that faith is mightier than any of the mightiest assaults that can be hurled against us. God has promised us that all the fiery darts of the Adversary shall be quenched, if we put our trust in our Father.

Some of the fiery darts used by Satan are aimed at our fleshly weaknesses of various kinds. Disappointments in our lives can be set aflame, if the fiery darts of the Adversary were to strike us. Have you ever been discouraged or disappointed? Of course, we all have been! This can be one of the greatest trials that will ever come upon us. And then there is depression, which is a more advanced phase of discouragement. We could become lonely and despondent, or perhaps weary in well-doing. We may get tired of walking in the narrow way, and may want to take a respite. But we cannot do this because, as someone said, “On the plains of hesitation, lie the bones of countless millions, who at the dawn of victory sat down to rest, and resting, died.” These are mentioned as just a few of the areas where the Adversary might endeavor to entice us to use his methods, rather than acquiesce to God’s will. We should remember that we need to keep on going all the way to the end of life’s road. Keep on, keeping on. The promise was, “Be thou faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10

Satan attacks us not only through our human weaknesses, but through perfectly good goals, too. He will attract us by dangling those things which we enjoy in front of us as temptations to lead away from using our consecrated time in serving him and the brethren. These could be things like spending our time in refurbishing our homes—inside or outside—more than is really necessary. Or our health could be overly considered. Or perhaps pursuing more education, which is a noble goal for man, could consume our energy, our money, and our time. All of these activities are to be admired and have been designed by God to please his human children. But to indulge in them to the exclusion of meeting our Christian obligations is not the correct course for a follower of Christ. No doubt the most dangerous trials which are going to come upon us will be those that spring upon us unawares. We must keep up our guard constantly, and remain behind the shield of faith.

Throughout the ages, God has been a shield to his people. Jehovah said to father Abraham, “Fear not Abram, for I am thy shield.” And the psalmist wrote: “The Lord is a shield to all them that put their trust in him.” Again, David penned these words: “The Lord God is a sun and a shield.” As we examine the lives of the faithful cloud of witnesses of olden times, we see the Captain of our salvation standing in their very midst, overruling all the experiences they endured. Jesus said to Peter: “Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.” (Luke 22:31,32) The same thing applies to us. Satan desires to sift us—to have us lose our faith. So we must remain behind the shield of faith provided by God for our defense.

From some scriptures we learn that it is God who is our shield of faith. Greater is he who is for us, than all that be against us, over whom neither man nor the devil triumph, for, he reigns supreme! Jesus said he had overcome the world. Jesus is our elder brother and our example. In I John 5:4, we read, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” In his wilderness experiences, after he was baptized in the Jordan River, during the forty days following, Jesus was tempted of the world, of the flesh, and the Devil. He was tempted like as we are. And he was an overcomer in all of these temptations, because God was his shield!

Our faith is to us a shield only if we grasp it. The scripture says, “Above all, taking the shield.” We cannot simply stand there and wait for someone to hand it to us. It is our faith that will quench the fires of the weapons that the Adversary is going to hurl at us. Nothing but our faith will accomplish this victory. If we are to benefit from its defense, we must continue to grasp the shield of faith. If we venture out into the open, away from the shield, and rely upon our own strength, it could prove fatal to us. If we fail, we cannot blame the shield for being defective—it is impregnable.

We must exercise faith, and that takes energy on our part. “Faith is the foundation of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” If we remain in close association to God and his Son behind our shield of the faith, we are in no danger of being set on fire by the fiery darts of the wicked one.

“Without faith, it is impossible to please” God.—Heb. 11:6

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