In Ephesians 6, Paul describes the armor which we, as Christians, need to wear. The first three he talks about are the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of the readiness of the gospel of peace. As Paul introduces the shield of faith, there is a shift in his language. Look at the passage closely:
“Having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph 6:14-17, ESV).
In the first three verses, he uses the perfect participle – a verb tense which signifies that the action has already happened – whereas in the last three, he uses the present tense “take up” and “take.” To me, this tense change indicates that the first three are foundational. Truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace are the basis for our faith, our salvation, and our ability to function with the Spirit’s power.
Wearing the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of the readiness of the gospel of peace, we are now commanded to take up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, so that we might be strong in the Lord. When a soldier takes up his armor, he does so with intention and purpose. It is a reminder that the battle is a present, daily engagement. Every day, even before we rise from bed, the enemy is active and seeking his best to harm us. This is the primary meaning behind the words “evil one.” He actively seeks to cause hurt and pain. Ultimately, he wants to destroy us.
Paul says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph 6:16, ESV). Our faith is essential to victory against the devil. We started our Christian journey with faith, and we need to live each day in faith. In Colossians 2:6 Paul reminds us, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” Each day we need fresh faith to combat the evil intentions and the fiery arrows of the devil. As we progress in our walk with God, we find our faith growing, deepening, and strengthening.
The Searing Arrows
We know that his fiery darts come at us in many forms. Warren Wiersbe says, “Satan shoots fiery darts at our hearts and minds: lies, blasphemous thoughts, hateful thoughts about others, doubts, and burning desires for sin.” Satan has many effective arrows and each one is deadly and dangerous. The arrows the enemy uses are specific and targeted. He knows us better than we think he does; he may even know us better than we know ourselves. He has been shooting well at believers down through the centuries. C. S. Lewis skillfully writes about Satan’s strategies in his book The Screwtape Letters.
The shield of faith must be held firmly to quench four arrows which Satan has used successfully. The first is discouragement, which can render the believer totally ineffective. It comes when things don’t go the way we had planned and life is turned upside down. Our faith in God’s power and His purposes is undermined. The second arrow is discontentment. This comes when we focus on material things rather than spiritual things. We get our eyes off what God is doing in us and through us, and we feel that we have somehow been misled or that we’re missing out. The third arrow is defilement. It is God’s Word that keeps us pure and it needs to daily saturate our minds. If we allow the sinful practices of the world into our lives, this will hinder and grieve the Spirit of God within us. The fourth effective arrow of the enemy is disunity among believers. If Satan can drive a wedge between a husband and wife, between a parent and child, between a brother and sister, or even between local churches, he is grinning with malicious pleasure, as he knows the importance of unity in the progress of God’s kingdom.
The Sure Hope
Our only hope against these arrows is the shield of faith. The word used to describe the shield here in the text is a large, door-shaped shield, which measured about 2 feet by 4 feet and protected the whole body. These shields were designed so that they could interlock with other shields when attacks were being made on a city – when the enemy was shooting down upon them from above. It is a good reminder that we are not in this war alone. We could never make it alone. We need each other. We need those encouraging words, those kind gestures, times to hug and laugh, and cry and pray together. When we build up each other’s faith, we stand strong against the enemy.
The ESV translates it well by saying that we need the shield “in all circumstances.” Our Christian lives started with faith, and for victorious living we must increase in faith. Whatever the circumstance, we must always turn to our God. We fail many times, but God never gives up on us. The psalmist says it clearly, “Trust in him at all times, O people, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (Psa 62:8, ESV).
The Securing Shield
We have considered in past articles the importance of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the readiness of the gospel of peace. Each of these reminds us of what Christ is to us, but faith is more than that. Faith is acting upon the belief – belief that Christ is our truth, that Christ is our righteousness, that Christ is our peace. Faith is appropriating for ourselves and living out what God has said to be true.
Every believer needs to put on the shield of faith in order to be protected from arrows of the enemy, because each of the darts that comes from Satan has the poison of doubt in it. This has been his scheme through the ages, and it is only our faith in Christ, our faith in God, that will give protection from these.