The fourth piece of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6 is “the shield of faith.” How did Roman soldiers use their shields? What purpose does a spiritual shield serve for us?
Up until now, Paul’s description of the armor of God has been limited to items we wear. We put on the belt, the breastplate and the shoes, and they essentially hold themselves up.
The shield is different. Paul tells us that the shield is something we must take up, something we are required to raise. Just strapping it to our arm won’t do any good at all if we don’t make the effort to hold it aloft and use it.
The Roman shield—the scutum—was not the standard “medieval-esque” shield most picture in their minds upon hearing the word. It was instead a very large, slightly curved rectangular shield featuring at its center a large metal knob (called a boss).
The scutum was an impressive line of defense. Because of its sheer size (some were three and a half feet tall and almost three feet wide), soldiers were afforded a great deal of protection from enemies. Because of its slight curve, it was able to deflect attacks without transferring the full force of the assault to the man holding the shield. Because of its boss, it was able to deflect even the more vicious blows and function in a limited offensive capacity as a means of knocking an opponent backwards!!!
What is Faith?
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Here is a biblical definition of faith that clears up some common misconceptions. If faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” then this has far-reaching implications. Substance is tangible, and evidence is solid proof. Faith is, by definition, not some hazy emotion without any grounding in reality. It is the irrefutable truth. It is real.
For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
Though it is based on solid evidence, that doesn’t mean faith comes naturally or easily. Paul here makes the obvious but necessary point: You don’t hope for what you already have. Faith involves a huge element of trust. We must examine the evidence and see that God has proved Himself to be unchanging and consistent, and then we must firmly believe that He will fulfill His promises to us
A shield guards. While a physical shield protects us physically, faith can protect our spiritual lives even in the middle of physical trials. When Satan (through Nebuchadnezzar) attacked the values and beliefs of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, they were able to stand resolute and unwavering because of their faith. In their response, they essentially said, “God is capable of delivering us from this fate. We don’t know if He will or not, but that doesn’t matter. He gave us His commands, and we are going to keep them regardless of the physical outcome. We know He can just as easily raise us from the dead.”
…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
A shield deflects. Satan is always hurling his 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 He is working everything out for our good; that whatever happens is for the ultimate best of everyone involved, however little it seems to be that way.
A shield is the first line of defense. While the rest of our armor helps protect us from Satan’s onslaught, it is not what you ideally want to be using to absorb every hit. You do not, for instance, go out into battle intentionally blocking everything with your head.
A shield can incapacitate. When Christ was being tempted by Satan, His faith in the Word and commands of God repelled Satan for a time (Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Christ was tempted in all things, so this was certainly not the only encounter Christ had with the devil). The boss (the metal knob in the middle) on the Roman shields allowed soldiers to give their enemies a stun-inducing shove that would allow them to follow through with an attack. Our faith in God, as demonstrated by Christ, can also give Satan a good shove backwards and give us a chance to fight back by doing God’s will and work. Because God tells us that faith cannot just be in our minds, it must produce actions—works of obedience and service (James 2:20).
The Roman military had an inventive and very effective tactic that made use of their large shields. When enemies would begin firing arrows and other projectiles at the army, the soldiers would close ranks into a rectangular array—called the testudo, or “tortoise,” formation—and those on the outside would use their shields to create a wall around the perimeter. Then those in the middle would raise their shields over their heads to protect everyone from airborne missiles. The result was a formidable human tank that could be stopped only through a tremendous effort. WOW!!!
We must remember as we fight that this is not simply our battle. This is the battle of all our brethren, both near and around the world. And if we are to win, it will only be once we put our faith in God and stand side by side!!!
So praying for ourselves as well as others is important. Have you put your shield of faith to use this week, this morning??