The Shield of Faith: The Fiery Dart Extinguisher
Pr. Mathew V. S.
The spiritual warfare is discussed in both Old and New Testaments (for the survey of biblical teaching on this topic, see, Ed.Murphy, The Hand book For Spiritual Warfare (Nashville: Thomas Nelson publishers,1992) The Ephesians passage is the most remarkable passage on the spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-18). Every believer is engaged in the Spiritual battle. Paul says that our struggle is not against the flesh and blood, but against the cosmic principalities of evil (Eph 6:12). The Greek term used for struggle is pale which also means ‘wrestle’.Indeed it is a wrestling. Apostle John says the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1Jn 5:19). Apostle Paul refers to him as the god of this age (2Cor4:4).Our chief enemy is Satan and his hosts. But the believers can get victory over him. Each believer is supposed to put on the full amour of God. This passage deals with six pieces of weapons .They are belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit. This article is focused only on the Shield of faith.
What is a Shield? This is a prominent weapon of defense. This is used for the protection of the body especially the heart, lungs and other vital organs. The Greek term employed for the shield is ‘thureos’. The shield was generally made of wood with a thick coating of leather. Similarly bows and arrows were also mostly used in warfare. There were two types of bows Simple and Composite. Simple bows made of a piece of wood and strings. Bows like this did not have much power/range. So the composite bows were developed which were made of wood and animal horns. This combination of materials provided the bows with the flexibility and strength needed for effective combat. The destructive agent of a bow was the arrow, a long slander, shaft of wood with a tip of sharp stone or metal. The archer was also equipped with a quiver, a deep, narrow basket constructed especially for arrows.
The enemies will shoot arrows dipped in pitch or similar materials and set on fire before being discharged, when these darts collided with the shields their points were blunted, their flames extinguished .The leather coating of each shield was soaked in water before battle. Similarly, the exercise of genuine God given faith enables one to extinguish the flaming missiles of the evil one. Here the burning arrows represent every type of assault, temptation, anguish, persecution and famine etc. Sometimes he uses the weapons such as occult practices (ouija boards, divinatory devices), black magic, and false teachings to mislead the people of God (for the analysis of occult practices see, Bob Larson, Larson’s book of Spiritual Warfare (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999).
There were two types of shields small and great used in the Old Testament times the smaller used to defend against the sword, spear and battle and large shield which reached from the ground to a man’s chin used to protect a soldier while besieging the cities (Isa. 37:33,Ezk 36:8). In the O.T we read of shield bearers, trusted soldiers who would carry the shield for a king or a mighty warrior (1Sam 17:7,41).The Shield that used Romans possibly large one, four feet in length and two and a half feet in width. In the OT the shield was used as an image for God’s protection of his people ( Gen 15:1; Ps 5:2:18:2,30; 28:7; 33:20; 35:2; 59:1; 91:4; 115:9-11; 114:1) In our Christian life faith is a strong weapon with which we can withstand all the weapons of satan.
Since faith has a significant role in the Christian life, we must know more about it. What is faith? The Greek term for faith is pistis which means confidence, certainty, trust, guarantee, assurance etc. The word faith in the N.T has many aspects. The Gospel writers/ the evangelists depict Jesus Christ as the object of the faith. John summarizes this emphasis when he states the purpose of the gospel, namely, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, that by believing you may have life in his name (Jn 20:31. Acts also speaks that the present faith in Jesus was a hallmark of early Christians; Paul says that God puts the sinner right with him through faith. Those who believe in Jesus Christ will be justified freely (Rom 3:22). He further explains that faith comes from hearing the word. Paul states the content of faith is presented in Rom 10:9. It involves the acknowledgement of the risen Christ. Faith in Christ means faith in his resurrection. Faith is something historical and real. It is the actualization of the salvation history in the believer’s life. Whenever satan brings doubts in the hearts of the believers, they must repeatedly affirm the lordship of Jesus Christ. Therefore confession of the lordship of Jesus is very important.
The author of the Hebrews also gives definition about the faith (Heb11:1). Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Here the writer of this epistle does not give a dogmatic exposition; instead he formulates a few clear straightforward sentences. The forefathers gained the approval of God for the faith that they demonstrated. This definition is not contrary to the teaching of other bible writers. The author was writing to a group of Jewish Christians who were thinking of abandoning their faith and lapsing back into Judaism (Heb10:32-39). So the author exhorts them to hold fast to their confession of Christ as savior and lord. Those people who shrink from putting their trust in God are destroyed, but those who believe are saved. This is the context of chp 11.This chapter deals with the history of the heroes of faith. All of them have one thing in common that is faith. All of them could exercise faith in their life situation. Abraham was successful in putting his trust in God and overcame the fiery darts of doubts. Against all hope, he believed and so became the father of many nations. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God (Rom 4:18-20).
Besides Abraham, other O.T. Saints like Abel, Enoch and Noah, Isaac and Jacob , Joseph, Moses exercised faith in their lives. They were able to realize God’s plan in their lives. By faith Moses, when he had grown up refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than treasures of Egypt (Heb11:24-28)
.Being a heroine of faith, Rahab’s name is enlisted in the faith Chapter (Heb11).She was a gentile woman. Her declaration of faith in Yahweh is mentioned in the book of Joshua 2: 8-13. We can summarize it as follows. She believed that the land was given to Israelites by Yahweh (v:9). She mentioned two historical events that were done by Yahweh. They were, drying up of Red sea (v:10)and the victories over two kings east of Jordan, sihon and Og (Num21:21-35). The next remarkable statement is “the Lord Your God Is God in heaven above and on the earth below (Josh 2:11b). Rahab affirmed that Israel’s God had dominion over the realms of the heaven and the earth and also Yahweh is the only true God. All the Canaanite gods whom she worshipped once (Asherah, Marduk, Baal and Ishtar) were no gods. Her declaration of faith is remarkable and significant because of two reasons, firstly, It came from a pagan lady, Secondly, as soon as she heard all those things she wholeheartedly embraced the faith in Yahweh . That is why she welcomed the spies in her home. Like any other heroes of faith she also gained the certificate from God that is righteous. Moreover God transformed her life and an Israelite man, named salmon married her and became the great great grand mother of Jesus( Matt 1:5). As she exercised the faith in the midst of a disaster, she was able to experience the deliverance of God. Dear brothers and sisters God values our commitment and confession that we take especially in the midst of temptation and confusions. When we are attacked by the devil by brining confusion and doubts, we must use the shield of faith.
In 1Thes 5:8 Faith and love are paired together and described as breastplate. Breastplate is also a strong defensive weapon. Breastplate was constructed of strips of metal fastened together by leather. This piece of equipment weighed from 20 to 30 pounds (See, htt://www.truthnet/spiritual warfare). We must be ready to use this weapon in times of satanic attack
In 1Pt 5:8-9, Peter asked the people to be vigilant “be self controlled and alert”. Here two imperatives could be seen. The second one watch/ alert is used in eschatological contexts (Mtt: 24:42-43, Mk13:34-35, Lk12:37, 1Tim5:6, Rev3:23, 16:15). Vigilance is needed because the devil is prowling. Believers must remain vigilant and alert until very end because the devil seeks to destroy their faith. The devil inflicts persecution on believers so that they will deny Christ and lose their eschatological reward. Peter portrayed the devil here as a roaring lion seeking to devour its prey. The devil roars like a lion to induce fear in the minds of the people of God. In other words persecution is the roar by which he tries to intimidate, so the believers are reminded to resist the evil. “Resistance, then is not passive but represent active engagement against a foe” How can we resist him and get triumph? Only by trusting in God by believing that he truly cares for them.
The author of the epistle to Hebrews mentions the physical suffering that the martyrs endure for Christ (Heb11:36-38). By faith they conquered even though they lost their lives. They all suffered for the lord thinking God had planned something better for them.
At this juncture, It is good to think about the great faith that a centurion expressed during the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion (Mtt8:5-13, Lk7:1-10) came to Him and requested to heal his servant who was paralyzed. The centurion expressed his faith by telling “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word and my servant will be healed. He completely put his trust in Jesus. As a result his servant was healed. This centurion would have been in the army of Herod Antipas. He may not have been a Roman, but he was certainly a gentle (Mtt 8:8, 10). Calvin remarks, “before Christ healed his servant, he himself had been healed by the Lord” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, PNTC (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm.B. Eerdmans,1992) P.128) Jesus Certified it as a great faith. Do we have such a faith? Are we able to affirm our faith especially the Lordship of Jesus Christ when we are attacked by satan?.
As a conclusion we can say that shield is a defensive weapon. The shield was generally made of wood with a thick coating of leather. The exercise of genuine God given faith enables us to extinguish the flaming darts of evil one. Every Christian is involved in spiritual war .We must identify the weapons of satan. He may bring doubts, confusion persecution and sickness in our lives to take us away from the Lord. We must be alert and watchful. We should resist the evil. Stand firm in the faith. Then he will flee away. By putting our trust in God we can triumph over satan. With the exercise of faith we can get the approval of God. Let us draw near to the Cross and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ. May God bless us to lead a successful Christian Life.