The Shield of Faith

Review our consideration of Ephesians 6 – the armor of the Christian. We do not need physical armor (Jesus told Peter to put his sword away), but we desperately need to arm ourselves for the spiritual battle. We have studied about the importance of putting on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of preparedness.

Although all the pieces of armor mentioned in Eph. 6 are essential, Paul made a distinction between the first three and the remaining three.

  • The first three are translated with the verb, “to have” which indicates permanency. The meaning is that we are to wear these three pieces (belt, breastplates, shoes) continually as long-range steps to preparation.
  • The last three (shield, helmet & sword) are described with the verbs “take” and “taking up”.  These separate pieces of armor were to be kept in readiness and taken up during the actual conflict.
  • The same concept is present in baseball. There is certain equipment that the player has on all the time – uniform, spikes, belt. But other things are essential to the game that he must take up..  bat, glove, helmet. Many Christians are at the game with their hat, maybe even take their glove to catch a foul ball, but they are not in the game. They are just spectators.

 I.  The Shield of Faith:  Eph 6:16 – “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”  

A.  “Above all”   – Although some translate this as “in addition to”, the better meaning may be “over all”. Barnes says, “Not “above all” in point of importance or value, but “over” all, as a soldier holds his shield to defend himself. It constitutes a protection over every part of his body, as it can be turned in every direction. The idea is, that as the shield covered or protected the other parts of the armor, so faith had a similar importance in the Christian virtues.”

B.  The Roman Shield:  Roman soldiers used several kinds of shields, but two were the most common.

  • The first was a small round shield about two feet in diameter, which was secured to the arm by two leather straps. It was relatively lightweight and for hand-to-hand fighting.
  • The other shield is the one that Paul mentions here. It was called a thureos (thoo-reh-os), a word that originally signified a door or entrance. It came to mean a large shield perhaps 2.5 X 4.5 ft. that resembled a door. It was usually covered with leather or metal and used to put in front of the soldier’s whole body.
  • The Roman shield was uniquely beneficial when the Romans were approaching the enemy’s walls. The Roman soldier would be pelted with every kind of missile the enemy had at his disposal. The soldiers were commanded to form the “movement of the tortoise.” This was accomplished by closing ranks and locking shields together.  The shields had hooks at the top, bottom and sides for this purpose. When in the formation of the turtle the soldiers were practically invulnerable.
  • In the same way, every Christian has his own faith, and must utilize it to protect himself in the battle. But when they band themselves together they are much less vulnerable.

C.   The Faith that Defends Us:  The Bible uses the word faith in different senses.

1)  God’s objective message:  James calls on Christians to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) and Paul tells Timothy he had fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith (2 Tim. 4:7). In this sense, faith is the objective, once revealed message of the Gospel. It is the body of Christian beliefs.

2)  Our Subjective Conviction: But the Bible also speaks of faith in a more personal and subjective sense. The word faith also describes the personal trust that one places in God.  Heb 10:38-39 – Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”  39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

  • A well known missionary was translating the scriptures for a South Seas Island tribe and could not find a word in their vocabulary for faith. One day an islander came in from the field and flopped down in a chair. He said, in his tongue, “it sure feels good to rest my full weight on this chair”.  The missionary now had a way to explain faith – Faith is “resting your full weight on God.”

3)  Faith is what God requires from beginning to end. Heb 11:6 – 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  Paul also tells us that faith does not come through my own intuition or discovery, but through the hearing the words of God. I cannot claim to have faith unless I have heard what God has spoken in scripture.

4)  Earlier in Heb.11:1 the writer defines faith as the “assurance of (things) hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.” (ASV)  (Heb. 11:1)

a.  The word “assurance” (hupostasis) here is also used in Heb. 1:3, where it describes the substance or exact representation of God as seen in Christ. The term refers to the essence, the real content or the reality; as opposed to mere appearance. Faith is the firm ground on which we stand – a solid conviction that what God has said it true.  Faith is the present essence of a future reality.

b.  The phrase “conviction of things not seencarries the same truth a bit further. The term conviction (evidence) means a certain persuasion but it implies a certainty that can be acted upon. When a person is convicted then the state can be certain enough to act in punishment (evidence demands it). So faith involves a response or manifestation of our confidence in God. Saving faith in the Bible is never a static conclusion. It is always responsive through obedience to God’s words.

c.  Noah, for example, truly believed God. Although Noah could not conceive of a flood, (possibly never having seen it rain), When God predicted it he had absolute assurance it would take place. Because he believed God he acted on His instructions. He had both assurance and conviction — true faith. His outward building of the ark testified to his inward belief that the rain was coming and that God’s plan was correct for constructing a boat that would float. His faith was based on God’s word, not on what he could see or on what he had experienced. For 120 years he preached in faith, hoped in faith, and built in faith. At the end of Hebrews 11 the writer says these all “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them …(Heb 11:13)  Their steadfastness was a direct result of the shielding power of their true faith in God.

II.  “All the Fiery Darts of the Wicked One”  – A common tool in battle in N.T. times was the “fiery dart” or flaming arrow. An archer would wrap the tip of his arrow in cloth that had been soaked in pitch. He would then light the tip and send the flaming missile at his enemy. When it hit its target the flaming pitch would splatter the fire and burn everything around it. A good defense against these missiles was a good “thureous” ( thoo-reh-us) made of metal or water-soaked leather. Without a shield a soldier was vulnerable and may have never seen the archer that killed him.

A.  Satan’s darts are constantly flung towards us. These are his attempts to deceive us at every turn. He tempts us to doubt God and disobey His word.

1.  Sin began when Satan took aim at Adam & Eve’s confidence in what God had said. God created a perfect environment and there was no reason to doubt what God had said. But God gave Adam and Eve the power of choice (as He has you and me).  So Satan, disguised as a serpent, said to Eve, “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1, NIV) Satan wanted her to doubt God.

a.  The temptation to doubt God was made more appealing because Satan lied to Eve, saying, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (vv. 4-5). Satan was saying, “You can’t trust God because He has ulterior motives

b.   Eve was vulnerable from two perspectives:

  • She failed to hide behind God’s revealed word (the faith that has been made known). She did not have to be intimidated by Satan’s lies because she already knew what God had said.
  • In the end, she sinned because she failed to put her trust in God (lean her full weight upon him, and obey.

c.   Satan will fire shafts of impurity, selfishness, doubt, fear, disappointment, lust, greed, vanity, and covetousness. Those temptations are all part of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).

d.  Satan will say, “I know the Bible says you’re not supposed to have sexual relationships outside of marriage, but trust me: It’s fun.” Many fall to that temptation.

2.  Satan shot his fiery arrows at Jesus in Matthew 4. Each was a call to disobedience through the seed of distrust.

  • Turn these stones to bread (v. 3) – “you do not need to trust God to care for you, you can do it yourself. You have been without food for 40 days. Your Father has forgotten you.”   But Jesus had a shield to deflect this arrow.  His faith in the promise of God – It is written –  “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Jesus put His faith in God.
  • “If You are the Son of God throw yourself down.” (v. 6)  –  The honor that you deserve and seek from others can be yours if you take control now and test God’s loyalty.  But Jesus had a shield for that as well. It is written.. you shall not tempt God. He was completely convinced that it was sinful to tempt the Lord through disobedience.
  • “Fall down and worship me. (v. 9) – I’ll give you everything you want (and deserve) if you worship me.”  Satan’s third arrow was rather direct.  It was a call to change allegiances with the promise of instant reward. But Jesus knew that God was the one who could be trusted and that Satan was a liar. It is written.. You shall worship God and Him only will you serve.

B.   My faith can shield me just as Jesus’ faith shielded Him. If I am willing to confidently affirm my trust in what God has said, Satan has no reply. But too many times our response to temptation is not a confident affirmation of what we know God has spoken, but a rationalization or excuse as to why it does not apply to me.

Conclusion:  The only way to quench Satan’s flaming missiles is to believe God above all else. In Proverbs 30:5-65 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.  6 Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.   Satan says, “I know God said that, but let me add this.” No. God is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.

  • The Apostle John wrote, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). We win by trusting in God. Even though Satan hurls his flaming missiles at you, you will find strength by believing in His Word.

Faith is the victory