Verse of the Week – Ephesians 6:16
…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
Ephesians 6:16 begins with the phrase, “Above all.” In the Greek this is a term that does not mean to compare what follows with all the rest, as if this is more important. It is a phrase that means, “In addition to all these things.” So what follows in the next two verses are to be taken up in addition to, or along with the other things that we have studied.
What have we studied that this spiritual armor is “the whole armor of God.” It comes from God, and is powered by His might, not by our ability to wear or use it. Further we know that this armor was given to us so that we could stand against the wiles (methods) of the Devil, successfully refuting his attacks upon us through accusation, temptations, and attempts to influence us to sin. Because of this, we know that we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against spiritual hosts of wickedness that manipulate us and the people around us. The whole armor of God has been given to us so that we can stand, withstand, and continue standing against these satanic schemes.
We also see as we have studied the first three individual pieces of the armor, that we have been given a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, and shoes of readiness with the Gospel. Again, these are things we have. They are parts of the armor that are fixed to the soldier, strapped on at all times, and used even when not in battle.
Now, in addition to these things, we are to take up the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Notice, it does not say that we have these, it says we need to take them up. These next three pieces of armor are only useful in battle if we pick them up and use them.
It does us no good to refuse to pick up a shield to deflect the arrows and spears of the enemy. We are exposed to serious injury and even in danger of being killed if we forget our helmet. And we cannot inflict injuries or death upon our enemy if we do not have our sword.
So these are pieces of the armor that we are to have ready at hand. Things we are prepared to use and skilled in using through training, practice, and past combat experiences.
Paul starts the list of these three things that we need to take up and use with the shield. The Roman shield that he is using as an example was a specific shield. It was a large rectangular shield made of a solid piece of wood that was covered with metal or oiled leather. It measured two and a half feet wide by four and a half feet tall and could protect the whole body, and anyone standing behind the soldier holding it.
This is the shield that the frontline soldiers carried and stood next to each other forming the well known Roman Phalanx. The enemy was confronted with an impenetrable wall of shield with infantry and archers immediately behind it.
Paul tells us that our shield is a shield of faith.
What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells us:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
What does that mean? We quote it a lot but do we know what faith is? Contrary to the health and wealth false gospel prosperity preachers, faith is not a force, it is not some secret power that comes from positive thinking or positive confession, and it is not merely assenting to facts of truth. Seriously, faith is more than agreeing with the Bible, after all, even the demons believe! (James 2:19).
So what does this verse mean? What is faith?
Faith is the “substance of things hoped for.” The word substance means literally “existence” and refers to having the most solid possible conviction and absolute assurance of reality. This deep abiding trust in Christ gives substance to a reality for which we hope. We believe that the Word of God is true and that God meant what He said, and we take Him at His Word, having His Word give actual substance to our hopes. Faith makes our hope a tangible reality.
Think of it this way, because we have faith we do not just believe that Jesus exists, we know He exists. How do we know this? Through faith we know Him. Our faith proves He is real, that He is who He said He is, and we have a relationship with Him. Jesus is not an imaginary friend or a make believe superhero that we manifest in our minds to cope with reality. No, Jesus is real, and we know Him because of our faith. Faith gives substance to our hopes.
Further, faith is the “evidence of things not seen.” Here the word evidence means “proof.” It is the proving of unseen things, an inner conviction about what is real and what is not. It is supporting evidence. Faith gives us proof that the Word of God is true and that Jesus is Lord. It provides us with an inner conviction of things we cannot see. We know it is real; we are sure even though we cannot see it with our eyes.
There is also an assurance that comes with true faith, not just a flimsy hope or a false glimmer of truth and reality. We are assured of what is true and real. The atheist may think that there is not a God, but we know better. Through faith we know God. The atheist’s faith is placed in himself and in his ability to think through questions and contradictions, but the logic and wisdom of men is foolishness to God (1 Corinthians 3:19). The atheist may think he is right, but he can never be sure, he can never know with any degree of certainty other than to trust his own mind. To know that God does not exist one would have to know all that is, and then realize that there is no God. Yet for us, those of us who have placed our faith in Christ, we know who He is, not because we dream up this hope. This is no delusion of grandeur. We know Him because we are His.
We see then that faith is the most solid possible conviction and absolute assurance of that for which we hope, and it is the proof and inner conviction of the reality of things we cannot see with our eyes.
This is our shield! So how does it protect us from the fiery darts of the devil? Every temptation begins with a doubt about God’s character or His Word. Get that? Every temptaton, at its root, is a distrust or a doubt about Who God is, what He has said, what He has done or has promised to do. So having a shield of faith is using trust in who God is and what He has said to deflect the lies and schemes of the devil.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones said that to take up the shield of faith was:
The quick application of what we believe as an answer to everything the devil hurls at us.
So how do we take up the shield of faith?
When we have doubts about God, His character, His Word, His promises, or His provision, we must go to the source of our faith. Faith is a gift of the Spirit (Eph 2:8-9; 1 Cor 12:7-11; Gal 5:22-23) given to us through the Word of God (Rom 10:17). When we doubt, when we are tempted, when we are tried, we must read, memorize, and meditate on the Word of God.
If we are like the disciples and only have a little faith we need to pray for more! And then in the heat of battle, when the fiery darts are hurled at us like flaming arrows, we need to depend on Christ. Do not trust our faith – trust Jesus!
Bible Reading for Further Study
Genesis 15:1; Psalm 18:30; Proverbs 30:5; 1 John 5:4
Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 10:17
James 2:19; 1 Corinthians 3:19
Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-4