By Martin Morrison
“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”, Ephesians 6:16 – 17.
Let me remind you again, of the context of these verses. Paul is instructing the believers in the churches of Ephesus, present day Turkey, that being a Christian, is not a life of ease and comfort. On the contrary, he makes crystal clear, that having become a Christian, you are now on the front line of a great battle. Warfare. Spiritual Warfare. It is not a game. It is not an optional extra. No, you are right in the middle of a fight to the death. Whether you know it or not!
Your enemy is not only the world and the disciples of the world. It is not only your own weak flesh and your own sinful nature. No, your enemy is also most profoundly the “… the schemes of the devil…the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”, Ephesians 6:11 – 12. On first reading it’s unbelievingly terrifying! This is the worst possible horror movie, but it’s not a movie! Not sure this is what I signed up for, you say!
If you look carefully at those verses, you will see the formidable power of the enemies arraigned against each one of us individually and collectively. We are beaten before we even start! Better just throw in the towel. In and of ourselves, you and I are defenceless and will be taken out in a heartbeat. We need help. We need armour. We need defences. We need back-up and front-up and side-up. Now.
Thankfully, the impenetrable defence we have is, “… to be strong in the Lord”, Ephesians 6:10. Our only defence is the Lord. The Lord, nothing more and nothing less. The Lord and the armour he gives us to fight the battle.
Firstly, the shield of faith, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one”, Ephesians 6:16. The word shield, is not the small round shield, but the long oblong shield used by Romans soldiers, measuring 1.2 meters by .75 meters. The heavily armed infantryman had a huge shield like a curved door made of layers of wood covered with leather and metal. It was constructed to stop and put out burning arrows, the soldier’s greatest fear. In combat the soldiers would stand side by side with their shields together, facing the enemy with a solid barrier that could even stop pitch-laden burning missiles. (EXPLORE. David Seccombe).
What then are the flaming darts of the evil one? The devils’ darts no doubt include thoughts of doubt, disbelief, disobedience, rebellion, lust, malice or fear. It includes the accusations which the devil uses to inflame our consciences and cause false guilt:
How on earth can you call yourself a Christian if you did that? Remember? How can you claim to be a believer if you said that? Remember? Surely God cannot use YOU? Are you crazy?
Don’t you remember how you failed him last time, big time?
And what about the time before that?
Who do you think you are to speak on behalf of Christ, you’re a loser?
But there is a shield with which to quench such fire-tipped darts. It is the shield of faith. God himself is “… a shield to those who take refuge in him”, Proverbs 30:5. It is by faith that we flee to him for refuge. For faith takes hold of the power of God in times of doubt and depression, and faith takes hold of the power of God in times of temptation.
If you are in Christ, then take hold by faith of these unbelievable promises made specifically for you:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, Romans 8:1
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. 1 John 1:9
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall
to the ground apart from your father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows”, Matthew 10:28 – 31.
What a picture this is for the Christian under attack! Our trust in God and his promises will see us through. “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith”, 1 John 5:4.
Secondly, our armour includes, the helmet of salvation. The Roman soldier’s helmet, which is the next piece of armour on the list, was usually made of tough metal like bronze or iron. Usually there was a sponge or felt inside to make the weight more bearable. A soldier may receive wounds and still be standing, but if his head is injured, he will go down.
Salvation is not something we do, it is a gift from God. According to Ephesians 2, it derives from God’s love and grace, it is founded on Christ and his substitutionary death, it is acquired by faith and not works, it results in salvation now and forever. Amazing! Extraordinary! Unbelievable!
When we are faced with the most excruciating attack of the devil, in whatever form, our ultimate defence is that I am saved by God in Christ. Charles Hodge said, “that which adorns and protects the Christian, which enables him to hold up his head with confidence and joy, is the fact that he is saved”. Thanks be to God!