“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” –Ephesians 6:16
So far, we have looked at three pieces of the armor of God. We looked at the belt of truth which is the teaching of Scripture which helps hold the rest of the soldier’s armor in place. We looked at the breastplate of righteousness held secure by the belt of truth and learned that the breastplate of righteousness is the righteousness of Christ which protects us from the temptations of the enemy which often come in the form of pride, self-righteousness and legalism. It reminds us that our righteousness does not come from us but only Jesus. Previously, we looked at the shoes of the gospel of peace which empowers us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others. The shoes of peace then equip us to fight for Christ in the spiritual battles we have with the enemy.
The next piece of equipment Paul mentions as a part of the armor of God is the shield of faith. In the Greek, the first words of the verse can be translated, “Above all,” or “most importantly, take up the shield of faith…” The shield of faith is different from the rest of the armor. While the soldier wears the other pieces of armor: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith is not worn. It must be taken up. The soldier had to make a conscious decision to pick up the shield and use it. The shield was a very important part of a Roman soldier’s battle equipment.
The Roman shield was called the scutum. It was a very large, slightly curved rectangular shield that held in its center a large metal knob called a boss. The scutum was an impressive line of defense. Because of its great size (some were three and a half feet tall and almost three feet wide), soldiers were provided with great protection from their enemies. The scutum had a defensive and also a limited offensive function. Defensively, the slight curve of the shield deflected attacks without transferring the full force of the assault to the man holding the shield. The metal knob or boss in the center could also be used defensively to deflect the worst blows of an opponent. But it could also be used offensively as a weapon to knock an opponent backwards.
The primary purpose of the shield was to deflect attacks. The enemy is always hurling fiery darts of fear, doubt and worry in our direction, but the only time they can hit us is when we let our shield of faith down—when we stop believing that God is in control; that God is working everything out for our good; that our God who loves us in Christ will have the ultimate victory, however little it seems to be that way. So the shield of faith is vital in protecting us from these attacks.
From where does this shield come? It is important to understand that the source for the shield of faith does not originate with us anymore than the other parts of the armor of God. It is God’s armor. But it is God’s armor given and fitted to us. The shield is provided by God. It is a supernatural gift imparted by God’s unmerited grace. As Paul reminds us in Galatians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” We don’t work up faith by ourselves. It’s not something we can will ourselves to do. It is a gift given to us by the grace of Christ. And it can be a shield to protect us from attacks of doubt, fear and worry. All we need do is ask for it. Like the man who had the son with an unclean spirit begged of Jesus, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!” The shield of faith is a gift of God. If we would stand up against the attacks of the enemy we must take up the shield of faith that God offers us in Christ.
Heavenly Father, help us to take up the shield of faith so that we might repeal the fiery attacks of the enemy who flings arrows of fear, doubt and worry any chance he can get. Arm us with the shield of faith today that we may be able to extinguish his arrows and spread your Gospel to those who need to hear it. Help us in our fear and doubt to trust in your Son Jesus’ goodness, graciousness, and protection. In Jesus name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
1. How can trusting completely in Christ shield you from the attacks of doubt and fear? What happens when we lower our shield of faith when we are facing a frightening or threatening situation?
2. Is faith something we work up mentally in our thinking or is it a gift we receive freely by God’s grace for the asking?
3. Are there times when you may have lowered or even dropped your faith shield? What happened when you did?4. Paul tells us “to take up” or in the Greek “take in your hands” the shield of faith. What does this imply we need to do when God offers it to us? Are we making a conscious decision each day to arm ourselves with complete faith and trust in Christ? If not, why not?