Our God has an Adversary. And when we choose to walk in a relationship with God, Satan aims his attacks at us as well. Jesus’ work on the cross ensures Satan’s defeat, but for now the Adversary is still active in the world and fighting against God’s people.
Knowing that He has called us into a battle, God makes sure that we’re well equipped to stand against spiritual wickedness. He offers us His own strength and clothes us with appropriate armor. The first three pieces of this armor are the Girdle of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, and the Footwear of the Gospel. They’re all vital, but there’s something particularly important about this fourth piece.
in everything taking up the shield of faith, with which you are able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Eph. 6:16, LEB)
The King James says, “Above all, taking up the shield of faith.” Whichever translation you use, the emphasis is clear. The shield of faith is needed all the time in everything we do and we must make using it a high priority.
The One Who Shields Us
This is the only reference to shields in the New Testament. They’re mentioned quite often in the Old, though. Many of these references speak of war and soldiers, for shield and spear were standard weapons (1 Chr. 12:8; 2 Chr. 14:8; 25:5). But there are also many versus like this one:
God is my rock in whom I take refuge; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge. My savior, you save me from violence. I call on Yahweh, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. (2 Sam. 22:3-4, WEB)
Comparing God to a shield shows up several times in David’s writings (Ps. 3:3, among others). God also describes Himself as Abraham’s shield (Gen. 15:1) and all Israel is told Yahweh is “the shield of your help” (Deu. 33:29, WEB). It is a symbol of protection held by a capable defender.
As for God, his way is perfect. Yahweh’s word is tried. He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him. (Ps. 18:30, WEB)
The Shield He Gives Us To Cary
From the Old Testament, we learn that God is our shield. From the New, we learn that God also gives us a shield made of faith. We know that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1, WEB). It relates to the conviction that what God has told us is true and that Jesus is the Messiah who saved us. Faith is one of the most important foundations of Christianity.
Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. (Heb. 11:6, WEB)
Such a strong conviction and assurance in God snuffs out the influence of our Adversary. But when we start to waver in our faith, it gives the enemy a foothold. That’s why taking up the shield is so important every day and in all situations. We must cultivate faith daily and spend time with God and in His word to continually bolster our conviction. To combat lies, we have to stand in truth.
The Darts of Our Enemy
What are the “flaming arrows of the evil one?” Adam Clarke thinks it refers to evil thoughts meant to “inflame the passions, and excite the soul to acts of transgression” (Clarke’s commentary on Eph. 6:16). I agree with Matthew Henry that it also includes every other sort of temptations the Adversary can throw in an attempt to wound our souls (Henry’s commentary on Eph. 6:10-18).
We are consistently under attack if we’re trying to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Sometimes the attacks are clear and we really feel that we’re in a battle. But sometimes it’s more insidious — a dart thrown to distract us from something good rather than to call attention to itself as a wound. The shield of faith catches those too, and turns them aside.
For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5, WEB)
The armor and weapons God gives us are powerful. When we take them up and use them as He intends, God makes us “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37). Using the shield of faith every day catches the Adversary’s wicked darts before they can lodge in and poison us. When we’re armed with faith in our Father God and in Jesus Christ our Lord, victory is assured.
Because everyone who is fathered by God conquers the world. And this is the victory which has conquered the world: our faith. (1 John 5:4, LEB)