The Shield of Faith
By Caron Cline
Life has continued to bring new challenges each day as we navigate through perilous times. If we ever needed to put on the whole armor of God, it is now! In the last few months, we have examined our belt of truth, which is our foundation for living; our breastplate of righteousness, which is our right standing before God, our Father. We have shod our feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace so that we can carry the good news of reconciliation between God and man. We learned that we can have peace with God and possess the peace of God, regardless of the circumstances of life. Interestingly, the pieces of the armor of God have already been described in detail throughout this letter by the Apostle Paul. As the letter reaches its conclusion, we see an abbreviated list set in the context of a Roman soldier’s uniform. What a creative and unique word picture to ensure that readers could remember these important principles! Now we move to the next piece of armor listed in Ephesians 6; the shield of faith. Paul commands all believers to take up this shield for we will surely need it in this evil day.
Looking back at Ephesians 2:8-9, we read these words: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”.
We are saved by grace through faith. It was God’s grace that provided a means for salvation, but we had to choose to believe, or in other words, exercise faith.
Ephesians 3:12 and 17 also speak of faith. “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him”. “…So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”.
Verse 12 adds another benefit of faith; our access and confident boldness to the God of the Universe through Christ and verse 17 reminds us that through faith, Christ, Himself is dwelling in our hearts.
Ephesians 4:5 and 13 include more references to faith. Verse 5 reminds us that we have one Lord, one faith and one baptism while verse 13 continues this thought, ‘until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”.
Paul calls for unity in the body of Christ by reminding us that every believer is connected by one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one hope, and one God and Father who is over all, through all and in all. The goal for all believers is to attain unity in the faith and knowledge of Jesus.
We should now have a picture of the faith that Paul is asking us to take up as a shield. It is a faith that saves eternally, provides access to the throne room of God, and connects every believer as one. Yet faith is considered something mysterious and unexplainable and without intelligent definition. Have you found yourself struggling to define faith?
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’. The Greek word for ‘faith’ is ‘pistis’. It is defined as ‘the kind of belief that leads to a personal conviction, especially reliance upon Christ for salvation.’ ‘A firm persuasion’. Many translations of the Bible use the word ‘substance’, which is a better translation. The Greek word for ‘assurance’ or ‘substance’ is the word ‘hupostasis’ and it means ‘the ground of confidence, assurance, guarantee of proof’.
‘” Substance” in Roman times was a legal term referring to the sum of all documents concerning a person who owned property and possessions secured in an archive that provided proof of ownership. Some suggest the translation could read, ‘Faith is the title-deed for things hoped for’”. Our faith, when mixed with action, is a title-deed or guarantee for what has not yet been seen. The writer of the book of Hebrews describes faith-filled followers based on their actions. Faith is what moved them to believe God and do what He asked them to do.
For example, Hebrews 11:7 says ‘By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith’. This is one of many examples outlined in this chapter.
Hebrews 11:6 is the most convicting verse. “For without faith, it is impossible to please God, for whoever comes to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him”.
If we plan to please God, we must take up our shield of faith. Why does Paul liken faith to a shield? What does a shield provide? Protection!
The Roman army used large, slightly curved rectangular shields, generally made of two layers of wooden strips laid at right angles to each other and heated in order to be pressed into a curved shape. They were then covered by 6 layers of animal hide. Such a shield could become dry so the soldiers carried olive oil for rubbing the surface of the shield. The Roman shields were about 4 ½ feet high and about 3 to 4 feet wide and looked like a door. These shields could be joined together so that the soldiers formed something like a wall during battle. Many times, the soldiers in the middle lifted the shields over their heads, and the ones on the outside squatted behind their shields. This was known as the ‘tortoise’.
Paul could have been referencing Ephesians 2:18-22 when he considered this use of their shields. Believers are to operate as one unit in order to provide maximum protection from the enemy.
We need serious protection against the schemes of the devil and Paul warns us in this verse that Satan is shooting flaming arrows at us constantly. During the first century, the Roman soldiers used 3 types of arrows. One was a normal arrow with a pointed, metalhead. The second arrow had a metal tip covered with a pitch-tar-like substance, which could be lit and released. The third kind of arrow had a stem filled with a combustible substance. When the tip of this arrow was lit and hit its target the impact of the strike split the stem of the arrow and caused the fire to spread. Soldiers also had ‘fire darts’ which were long spears with 3-foot iron heads, which when set on fire could penetrate through the armor. Paul is warning us that Satan will throw some dangerous thoughts into our minds. Thoughts set on fire by hell. He wants to distract us from our main purpose as believers. Remember what the soldiers carried? (Olive oil) They consistently oiled their shields to keep them from becoming dry and brittle. Interestingly, Isaiah 21:5 commands the princes to ‘oil or anoint’ their shields to prepare for battle.
In the OT, the oil was symbolic of the Holy Spirit and once a priest, king, or any spiritual leader was anointed with oil, the Holy Spirit would come upon them (1 Samuel 16:13). We must be very intentional about seeking the filling of the Spirit so that we might walk by faith. A believer controlled by the Spirit will be empowered to use their faith as a shield of protection which will extinguish the flaming darts of the devil.
What are these flaming darts? Thoughts of doubt concerning God’s goodness and His mercy are at the top of the enemy’s list. Remember, without faith, it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. What causes people to stop believing God? Many times, it is the death of a loved one; disappointment in a relationship; chronic pain; loss of a job; divorce; etc. There are endless possibilities. Remember, in all circumstances, hold up the shield of faith.
Satan has one goal in mind: to steal, kill, and destroy and our faith is his greatest target. He cannot have our soul but he can render us useless in the kingdom of God. If we do not believe God, we will miss His perfect will and never believe the hope to which He has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance within us, and His immeasurably great power toward us. (Ephesians 1:18-19)
Romans 8:28 is one verse that every believer should memorize. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose”.
Faith believes this verse. God is always working all things together for good to those who love Him.
Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 1:17 remind us that the just shall live by faith.
Everything was falling apart in Israel during Habakkuk’s time. God was bringing judgment on His people for their disobedience, but the righteous were going to suffer along with the unrighteous. Yet God expected His people to trust Him and keep their eyes on Him even amid the struggles. Paul preached the gospel and everywhere he went all hell broke loose, yet He said that he was not ashamed of the good news of Jesus. He repeated this verse from Habakkuk that said he would live by faith in the God who had called him. He had been shipwrecked, stoned, cursed, jailed, and everything else imaginable but Paul never lost sight of the love and grace of God.
We must keep the same attitude.
How do we develop great faith? Let’s go back a bit. Romans 10:13-17 connects the good news of the gospel to faith. Faith comes first to those who hear the gospel, believe the gospel, and receive the gospel. God gives us a measure of faith to be able to believe. The Bible mentions 2 types of faith; little faith and great faith.
Little faith: Matthew 8:23-27 The disciples had seen Jesus perform amazing miracles and they had heard Him preach amazing sermons, yet, these things weren’t quite as personal to them as the threat of death. These men knew Jesus before, but they knew Him in a completely different way after personally experiencing a near tragedy. His Word to the storm brought a new understanding of Who He really was and the power He really possessed. But fast forward just a bit.
Read Matthew 14:22-33. Another similar incident, except this time, Jesus was not in the boat with them. He was giving them a chance to exercise their faith in another frightening situation yet their faith was still considered ‘little’. Jesus had told them to go to the other side which meant they were going to make it. As the storm increased, Jesus showed up, walking on the water. Peter’s faith must have been stronger than the first time because he asked Jesus to let him come out on the water. But it dipped about the time he looked away and began to sink. Jesus reached out and took Peter’s hand. Again, Jesus asked him why he still had ‘little’ faith. Jesus and Peter entered the boat and immediately, the wind stopped. Both of these incidents led to a greater revelation of Jesus and a new level of worship from the disciples.
Little faith was still enough to rescue them from disaster.
Great faith: Matthew 8:5-13 is the story of a Roman centurion who came to Jesus begging Him to heal his paralyzed servant. Jesus said, ‘I will come’, but this man did not consider himself worthy of such honor. However, he wholeheartedly believed that Jesus needed only to speak a word and his servant would be healed. Keep in mind, this was a Gentile, a man considered a pagan by the religious people of the day and yet Jesus called his faith greater than the faith of His followers.
Here is another example of a Canaanite woman, again someone considered a foreigner, coming to Jesus for help. Her daughter was possessed by a demon but for a bit, it appeared that Jesus would not grant her request. He told this woman that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. This did not deter her from continuing to seek a miracle, and she didn’t leave until she received one. Once more, Jesus called her faith greater than the faith of His disciples.
Faith is simply taking God at His Word, believing that with Him all things are possible.
Matthew 17:20-21 is Jesus’ response to the failure of the disciples to cast a demon out of a young boy. These men who had been given authority to heal the sick and cast out demonic spirits could not understand what had happened this time. Jesus explained that it was because of their ‘little’ faith.
The disciples wanted great faith, but Jesus said it only takes faith the size of the smallest mustard seed to grow to gigantic proportions. The bottom line is simply believing that Jesus can do what He says He can do. The Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman simply believed that Jesus could do anything. They believed that His power was greater than the power of the devil. Once we believe as much, we will see Jesus move in our lives as never before. Every word He speaks into our situation and every prayer that He answers will grow our faith. Will we vacillate between little faith and great faith? We probably will from time to time, but Jesus has shown us that regardless, He loves us and will take our hand and, like Peter, lead us into the boat, still the storm, give us another opportunity to see His majesty and then worship Him in spirit and truth.
One of the difficult realities for Christians is that throughout our journey in this world, Jesus will send tests. Let’s take a look at how Peter’s faith changed from small to great.
Luke 22:31-34 records Jesus’ warning to Peter that Satan was asking to sift him as wheat. Although Jesus plainly said that Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed, Peter boldly declared that it would never happen. Peter learned a hard lesson for the word of God always proves true. The good news was that Jesus also said he would recover and strengthen the others. Certainly, that is exactly what happened and Peter earned the right to encourage others whose faith was weak.
1 Peter 1:6-9 are verses of hope for suffering. “In this, you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you may not have seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls”.
The enemy is seeking to steal our faith. We must hold up our shield of faith by meditating on the promises of God and being fully persuaded that He is a covenant-keeping God, faithful to do all that He has promised to His beloved children. We have access 24/7 to our Father and we have an amazing support group of brothers and sisters unified through faith. Keep looking to Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith. Faith that keeps its eyes upon Jesus is a faith that will protect us from all the flaming darts of the evil one.
Caron is a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton, NC. She loves to teach the word of God.
Her desire is to see every believer grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. You can read more from Caron HERE.