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The Believer's Armor
The Shield of Faith
Ephesians 6:16
 
We are learning about the strategies of Satan and the armor of God.  There are six specific pieces of armor for the Christian and each of them reveal a specific strategy that Satan wants to use to defeat us. 
 
Our text in Ephesians 6 tells us to stand against the wiles of the devil.  We are encouraged to quench the fiery darts of the devil.  So these six pieces of armor have specific function when it comes to our warfare. 
 
So far we’ve looked at three of the pieces of armor. 
First is the belt of truthfulness, and we've seen that means commitment, readiness, and preparation. If we're going to fight Satan, if we're going to successfully stand against the strategies of Satan, we have to realize we have a real enemy and we've got to be ready.
 
Secondly verse 14 tells of "the breastplate of righteousness." The breastplate of righteousness is that which indicates personal holiness and righteous living.  The breastplate provides protection for our vital areas, primarily the heart and bowels. As the Hebrew would see it, the heart represents our thought life and the bowels our emotions.  So our thinking and feeling is guarded by holiness and righteousness through the breastplate. 
 
 
 
The third thing is the shoes of the preparation of the Gospel of peace. Our feet are made ready or prepared for the battle by putting on the gospel of peace.  The idea here is standing our ground and moving forward.  The Roman soldier’s footwear was designed to anchor him.  And the shoes that cause us to stand against Satan are made of the Gospel of peace.  That means we're at peace with God and He's on our side because of the Gospel of peace, salvation.  Therefore, we stand in security.  Nothing can affect the relationship that is ours through Christ.
 
So just to put it in simple terms, so far we've learned that we stand against the devil through commitment, righteousness and confidence.
 
Tonight we move on to the next piece of armor which is found in
 
verse 16
 
“The shield of faith”
 
Now the first thing we discover there is that whatever the shield of faith is, it is sufficient because it quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one. That is a pretty broad statement, it is sufficient for the total of the need.
 
Now there are several kinds of shields used by different parts of the army in Roman times depending upon the kind of thing you were doing and what you were involved in.
 
 
Two stand out; the first is a rather small round shield shaped sort of like a giant frisbee, curled at the edges. It was strapped with two straps to the left forearm of the soldier leaving his right hand free to carry his dagger. 
 
That is not the sword that is pictured here.  The reference here is to a completely different shield. This shield was typically about 4½ feet by 2½ feet and was a great big thick plank of wood. It was covered on the outside with metal and sometimes with leather.  It was, by design, very thick so that when arrows were shot, they would hit that metal and deflect.  If they were fiery arrows they would hit the leather or metal and be extinguished. 
 
Now the Roman army battle strategy called for the front lines to be soldiers with these shields.  They were the first line of defense.  Behind them would be all of the soldiers with arrows and swords and weaponry, and as they moved along they would come to the enemy, they would plant those shields side by side creating a huge wall of protection.
 
Then from behind that wall, the archers would send their arrows flying as they inched that wall of protection closer and closer until finally engaging the enemy in hand to hand combat. 
 
Now watch what Paul says in verse 16; notice how he begins: "Above all". 
 
There are a couple of different ways to look at that. 
 
 
 
Some say it is in order of importance, but I don't think so.  Remember I told you before there's nothing said here about which is most important.  They're all essential and they even overlap.
 
Others say it is “on top of everything else, or in addition to everything else”.  You have your belt, your breastplate, and your shoes.  Now in addition to that, above all that, on top of all that, take your shield. 
 
Still others look at it as addressing not just the shield, but to the last three pieces of armor. "Above all” he says, "taking the shield of faith," and then verse 17, "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit."
 
And that is an intriguing thought.  There certainly is a change in emphasis with these last three and it is underlined by the difference in the verbs that show the distinction of these last three pieces of armor. 
 
For instance, in verse 14, he says, “having, as the verb, having your loins, having your feet, and having on the breastplate, and the idea of the verb, the having verb is that this is something that is permanent, this is what you have on, this is a permanent kind of thing, a long range preparation. This is something you possess. 
 
In verse 15, the feet are "shod".  The idea is that while in battle, if there was a little break in the action, a soldier might rest for a little while, but he would not take off his breastplate, nor would he take off his belt and his shoes.  He would have those on at all times.
 
But when the battle got intense, in addition to what he had on, there are some things he needed to take, as we see in verse 16.  He would pick up his shield and put on his helmet and grab his sword. 
 
So the first three are kind of battle preparation; the second three are for immediate readiness. This is grasping that which really is necessary in the heat of the battle.
 
Think about how practical that is.  The first three are commitment, righteousness and confidence.  Those are the things you keep on all the time.  In other words, a believer shouldn't have to get committed.  We should be committed. We shouldn’t have to become righteous, we should be righteous.  We shouldn’t have to develop confidence; we should live in confidence.  Keep that stuff on all the time 
 
And then, when the arrows start flying in, you don’t have to be looking for your shoes and belt and breastplate, you can concentrate on the immediate need at hand.
 
But I think there may be another way to look at this phrase "above all". 
 
Remember the description I gave you a few minutes ago of Roman military tactics?  I said the Roman army battle strategy called for the front lines to be soldiers with these shields.  They were the first line of defense.  Behind them would be all of the soldiers with arrows and swords and weaponry, and as they moved along they would come to the enemy, they would plant those shields side by side creating a huge wall of protection.
 
Then from behind that wall, the archers would send their arrows flying as they inched that wall of protection closer and closer until finally engaging the enemy in hand to hand combat.
 
Now notice what Paul says here in verse 16.  He says the shield will, in particular, guard against "the fiery darts of the devil. 
 
So here's my question: if the attack Pau pictures is in keeping with Roman military strategy of the first century and Satan is launching his fiery darts from behind his wall of protection, then from where should we expect them to hit us? 
 
Does it not make sense that they would be fired in an arch and the darts would fall from above?  If so, then we should hold our shield "above all".  When held above, it becomes something of an umbrella of protection from the fiery darts that are raining down upon us.  The breastplate protects the front of us and the shield protects the top of us. 
 
Now to understand the imagery, let's take a look at the two key components mentioned here.
 
Verse 16
 
So the shield of faith, whatever it is, is designed to quench the fiery darts of the devil, literally, “the wicked one”.  The bad one, the vile one, the wretched one, Satan is firing all of these fiery darts and we are quenching them by the shield of faith.
 
So what are the “fiery darts” that we're trying to stop?
 
Well in the battle of those days the archers would soak their arrows in something flammable like pitch and light them on fire and then shoot them toward the enemy. 
 
When it hit its target it would splatter the pitch and it would start little fires on the clothing of the soldier or whatever and burn him, or burn up perhaps whatever target they had in view.
 
So what are Satan's fiery darts? I think he is primarily referring to temptation.  Satan fires arrows of impurity, selfishness, doubt, fear, disappointment, lust, greed, vanity, covetousness, hatred, bitterness; whatever he can use. 
 
And once he hits you, he’ll try to splatter it over onto someone else.  He’ll use your heart and your mind and your emotions to first of all get you to think and act wrongly, and then mess up someone else.  And he literally bombards the believer with these fiery darts to get out of us ungodly, non-Christlike, evil responses. And our primary defense against those is this shield of faith.
 
So get this picture in your mind?  Here we are as committed, righteous, confident Christians in a battle against Satan and his armies.  He is raining down these fiery arrows of temptation seeking to destroy our peace and witness. 
 
And even though we are protected by the first three, Paul says, be sure you use the shield of faith to protect you from the airborne attack of fiery darts that that is coming in. 
 
 
So what is he referencing with the shield of faith?  What is it in particular that protects us agisnt temptation?  
 
Well, let’s take it apart and then put it back together and see what we come up with.  First of all, the term faith means believing God.  That is the bottom line of the Christian walk.  Everything we believe, everything we hold to, everything we have our confidence in, that is our faith. The whole of Christianity is an act of believing that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
 
That's why Habakkuk 2:4 says, "The just shall live by his faith." Romans 1:17 says, "The just shall live by faith." Galatians 3:11, "The just shall live by faith." Hebrews 10:38, "The just shall live by faith."
 
Now when God says something that many times you get the message, the just live by faith. Faith is our life.
 
So what is faith?  It is believing God.
 
Now why is that so important?  Because every fiery dart that Satan ever shot was a lie.  And if you bought it and if I bought it we believed him, or put our faith in him, not God.
 
When the great missionary John Payton was translating the Scripture for the South Sea Islanders he found there was no word in their vocabulary for “believe”.  There was no word in their vocabulary for trust or have faith. He had no idea how he would convey it to them since they had no word for it.
 
One day as he was in his hut translating, a native came running and running hard and fast, ran up the stairs and in and just flopped himself in Payton's study in a chair. And then he said to John Payton, "It's so good to rest my whole weight in this chair."
 
And John Payton said, "I had my word, faith is resting your whole weight on God."
 
That became the word that entered into the translation of their New Testament that brought that whole civilization of natives to Christ. Believing is putting your whole weight on God, it's saying if God said it, it's true and I'll believe it.
 
Now how does this work in temptation? Let me show you. God comes to the Garden of Eden, creates a perfect environment, creates a perfect man and perfect woman.  There they are and suddenly here comes Satan disguised as a serpent and what does he say? Has God really said? And then he says, you know God doesn't want you to know good and evil because you'll be like Him and He doesn't like competition.
 
You can't trust God He has ulterior motives. You can't always believe exactly what He says. Satan was tempting them to doubt God and believe him, Eve was a sucker, Eve was a fool, she believed the devil and you know what happened. Every temptation that ever came to you came on the back of believing Satan and questioning God.
 
It’s illustrated in the temptation of Jesus after His baptism.  How did Satan tempt Jesus?  He tempts Him to doubt God.  It’s the same old deal, don't believe God, believe me.
Satan was saying to Him, "Hey, what's the deal? Forty days in the wilderness, nothing to eat, forty days out here in this God forsaken devastation, forty days out here what has God done, abandoned You?
 
Why God said He would take care of You, God said He would sustain You, God said He would replenish Your need and You're the Son of God, what's going on? Grab some satisfaction You can't wait for God, He's forgotten You.
 
It was a temptation to distrust God, a temptation to not believe God, a temptation to take things into His own hands. And then Satan said, look didn't God promise to make You the Messiah, didn't God promise that every knee would bow before You, didn't God promise that You'd be the King and, and all of these things didn't God promise You homage and worship, kiss the Son and all of that stuff, where is it?
 
Look at You out here, come with me and we'll go to the temple and You'll dive off and they'll say, wow, what a deal, this is the Messiah and You'll get all the stuff You've been looking for, and by the way didn't God tell You Held give You the kingdoms of the world? You're not doing too well, You don't have any of them, come with me and I'll give them to You.
 
In other words, don't believe God He doesn't keep His word, He didn't give You the whole picture, He didn't tell You the-truth, believe me, do it my way.
And that's the way every temptation comes to every believer every time.
 
 
Satan comes along and says, “I know the Bible says you're not supposed to have sexual relationships with somebody outside of marriage, but it's fun.”  And whether you realize it or not, every time you sin you've bought Satan's lie. 
 
And therefore, the bottom line is when you sin you believe Satan and when you obey you believe God. 
 
And Paul says the protection against that is the shield of faith.  I will believe God, said Christ, get away Satan, God will feed Me when He's ready and God will anoint Me as Messiah when He's ready and God will give Me the kingdoms of the world when He's ready, on His terms, I will not believe you.
 
So the only way to quench the darts of Satan is to believe God.
 
So let me sum it up. The shield of faith is the consistent application of what we believe about God to the issues of life. Now if you don't trust Him, it’s because you don’t know Him well enough because if you really knew Him you'd trust Him.
 
The more you know God the deeper you get into the heart of God, the more you know about His truth in the Word of God and the more you meditate upon His person, the more you know God the greater you'll trust God and the greater you trust God the less likely you will be to not believe Him.
 
And so it all goes back, as everything does in the Christian life, to your relationship to God. It's there; it's down deep in the heart.
 
If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, if you believe that God is who He claimed to be, if you believe all that God's promises that He gave to you are really true, then you're not going to sin because you're going to stand in the place of the greatest blessing.
 
Everybody wants to to be blessed, everybody wants the best.  Well here’s the good news:  God says, I'll give it to you if you do it My way. And if you do it Satan's way it's just proof that you don't trust God. 
 
The more you know God, the more you'll trust Him, the more you'll believe Him.
 
Genesis 15:1 God said, "Fear not Abraham, I am thy shield." Isn't that great? I am thy shield.
 
Psalm 46, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble."
 
The Proverbs tell us, "The name of our Lord is a strong tower, and the righteous runs into it and is safe."
 
Psalm 84 says, "The Lord God is a shield."
 
He's on your side. And He wants to bless you, and He wants to give you victory over Satan but you've got to believe Him, and do it His way. Keep His Word and obey it.
 
So, we're ready for the battle.  The belt of commitment, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of confidence that God's on our side, and then when the battle begins we grab the shield, taking it up and we turn away the fiery darts of temptation by trusting God.
 
There's no reason to lose the battle.  And if we put the armor on we'll win.
 
Let's pray.
 
 
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