“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Ephesians 6:16, KJV)
Paul instructs us to take on the whole armor of God, the whole armor, not just a piece here or piece there. No piece is unnecessary, optional, or to be disregarded in favor of another. This armor is of God, given by God, it is by His Word, His Power, His Righteousness that enables us to do as Paul implores in verse 13, to stand.
This armor, the sections that make it up no doubt modeled after the dominating military power of the day, the Roman Army, is intended for an up close and personal confrontation with the enemy.
The first piece, the Belt of Truth, is the center point of which the remaining articles anchor upon. So it is fitting that the first piece Paul ascribes to his spiritual armor is Truth. The enemy that we fight is the father of lies, so therefore the basis of our fight against him must be truth!
Without Truth, no man’s shoulders would be able to bear the weight of righteousness. By wrapping ourselves in His Word, knowing it, living it, and loving it, the weight of the burden of the Righteousness of God transfers from an unbearable load we couldn’t hope to bear into the protection of mercy and grace of Jesus.
The belt had three major functions. Firstly, it held the solider’s breastplate tight to his chest. Secondly, it transferred the weight from his shoulders to his hips, freeing his arms to speedily draw the sword and shield, and increasing the range of motion to be able to wield and maneuver his weapons to meet his foe. Lastly, the belt held the sword fast in its scabbard along his waist as he moved about his day, close by should the need of drawing it arise.
Moving up from the belt is the breastplate of righteousness, its function to protect the major organs of the body, the heart, the lungs. The Righteousness of God, which we must put on as a covering protects our hearts from the sword thrusts of the enemy. It protects the breath of God that spurns us in battle, if we can’t breathe, we can’t fight.
Moving down to the feet, we are to put on the shoes of the Gospel of Peace. It’s tough to walk through this world without Peace. Rugged shoes enabled the solider to keep his eyes on the enemy in front, not looking at the ground for sharp rocks, caltrops, sharpened sticks designed to injure and slow the pace of marching soldiers. With peace we can step on things that may be uncomfortable but our feet remain undamaged. We can march into battle, taking the Gospel throughout the world, tearing down the devil’s strongholds being assured that Jesus came, He lived, He died, and He rose again for you and for me. A prepared and resolved heart that adheres to the gospel accepts peace, peace with God, with others, and with ourselves.
The first offensive component, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. There is little like it on a battlefield, a well sharpened sword and a soldier who knows how to wield it. Nothing will pierce evil and sin like a sword in the hands of seasoned saint that has spent time in the Word. It’s not enough to just know the Bible. Knowing but not following makes you a historian, not a warrior. The devil knows the Word so how much more so should we know, and practice what it says.
To protect the head, the mind, we have the helmet of Salvation. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth Thee” (Isaiah 26:3, KJV). By keeping the promises of God we can allow all the worry and cares of life melt away, and focus instead on the battle. Knowing we have a covenant with the Most High God that gives us the victory allows the distractions of this world to fade away.
Prayer, daily prayer is the act of donning this armor. Faith, righteousness, salvation only comes through effectual fervent prayer. The one thing that ties it all together – faith. Righteousness, salvation, peace, the Spirit, all protect the body with faith stands out in front. Paul says above all, or in other words, in front of all, even most important of all.
Why faith Paul? Why was faith assigned the position of the shield of the Christian warrior?
The Roman shield, which was in no doubt what was in Paul’s mind as he penned the letter to the church in Ephesus, was three and half to four feet tall and up to two and half feet wide. The Scutum was rectangular and semi-cylindrical in shape, and made up of three parts: the wood core; outer metal and leather edging; wrapped in a leather skin with a center boss, also metal. It was designed to afford the maximum protection while still being maneuverable during battle. It would be behind this shield that the Empire would be formed, the Roman Legions laying waste to the armies of the then known world.
Well trained Roman legions would form what was called a testudo, Latin for turtle, or a form of what we call now a shield wall. This shield wall, with interlocked shields encompassing all sides and overhead was the equivalent of a tank today. Men in the front rows locked their shields together as they advanced, the ranks behind raising their shields over head forming a nigh impenetrable “shell” that prevented arrows, javelins, and spears from coming through.
The only tactic found capable of defeating this moving fortress of men, wood, and metal would be having your heavy calvary smash into sections of the formation and hope to wound or incapacitate enough soldiers to render the “shell” ineffective to ranks of archers and javelin throwers. It also meant heavy casualties for the calvary units and if faced with more than one testudo formation the calvary was often overwhelmed and consumed by the Romans before enough damage had been dealt to them.
These Roman units would paint their shields with a special and easily recognized unit insignia so that in the heat of battle a separated soldier could still identify and then rejoin his unit. They would soak the wood in water and apply a special flame retardant oil to the leather because they knew a shield set alight in the midst of battle became the weak spot, for if a soldier discarded his shield he exposed not only himself, but the man to his left and right. Holes in the line became the focal point of arrows and javelins, the target for the calvary troop to focus the next charge.
Before every battle, the seasoned soldier would look to the condition of his armament. Checking the condition of the leather strapping of the breastplate, the belt, and helmet. He would grind and polish the edge of his sword, honing it for easier thrusts and slices. He throughly checked the condition of his leather shoes, the metal rivets holding the soles on and the leather bindings. Finally, when all of that was prepared, he turned his attention to his shield.
So I ask again, why faith Paul? Why was faith put out in front of all others? Why is it the only thing capable of quenching all the fiery darts of the wicked?
It is by faith we are saved, it is by faith that we walk, it is our faith that identifies us. Apostolic faith is two fold: the faith we have in God; and the faith of God. We have faith in God, trusting in His promises, in His Word. Proverbs tells us to trust in the Lord with all our heart, not to lean unto our own understanding, if we acknowledge Him then He would direct our path. That makes up the bulk of our shields, the hefty wooden sections that absorb the impact of the darts flung by the wicked.
Then we have the faith of God, our Apostolic faith, our identifier, which is the painted outer leather skin. It defines us, it makes us who we are, it also gives us great Power in Him. Isaiah speaks of when the enemy floods in, the Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standardagainst him. That standard identifies us as a peculiar people.
Faith impacts the effectiveness of all other pieces of armor, it can enhance and strengthen or dull and weaken. Weak faith isn’t effective in a fight, its an untreated shield of soft wood and cracked leather that crumbles into pieces at first contact with the enemy, leaving its bearer defenseless, exposed, and easily wounded. But a warrior whose grip is firm and true upon his shield, one that is persuaded in His Word, His Mercy, His Glory, His Power, His Might, woe be unto the poor devil who encounters him.
”But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6, KJV.
When the enemy comes against you, the first thing that comes under attack is your faith. He knows that if he can get you to drop your faith, your grip on the assurance of God, of the marker that identifies you as one of His, then his arrows of doubt, fear, and worry have a chance to hit and wound you. Spear thrusts of alcohol, drugs, pornography, and other addictions might sink into your flesh. He knows that if you drop your faith, then there’s a brother or sister next to you that vulnerable as well.
Righteousness and salvation can protect your heart and mind but wounds can still occur. Righteousness is only effective as long as your faith in Jesus is firm. Faith that has weakened enough even allows doubt and disillusionment to creep into the mind, to point of even doubting one’s salvation.
Notice the wording of Paul in Ephesians 6:16 ”taking the shield of faith”, it implies an action. We must determine to daily take up our faith, to daily decide that we WILL live for Jesus, that He has saved, that He will save. Daily we hoist our shields, unleash our swords from their scabbards and assault the gates of hell.
Our enemy knows his only chance to survive an onslaught of holy Apostolic men and women is to lie, place seeds of doubt, hurt, or offense in their minds and get them to lower or drop their shield. He is all too aware that a determined church full of faith and willing to use it means utter defeat for him. And so he begins, signaling to demon arrows to notch and loose arrows at us.
The fiery arrow arcs through the air, its pointed head whispering “ You don’t really believe all that holiness nonsense do you?”
Another is pulled from the quiver, notched, pulled back and loosed “You really think He’s forgiven you again, after messing up again?”
Arrow after arrow, spear after spear, “You can’t, you’re weak, you’re lost, you won’t be healed, you won’t be delivered, that lost loved one won’t be saved, you have no ministry, you can’t preach, you can’t teach, you can’t win the lost…”
But in response, we lift our shields and say:
”They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength… they shall run and not be weary…”
“Fear not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God, I will strengthen thee, yea will I help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”
”My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness…”
“…And whatsoever thou bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven…”
”O give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy endureth for ever…”
”I was young and now am old but I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor His seed begging bread…”
“But my God shall supply ALL your needs according to His power and riches in Glory in Christ Jesus.”
Sorry devil but “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Before the Roman armies made their way across the world the ancient city state of Sparta had a powerful army. They were unlike the other Greek city states in their military prowess, their tactics, their training was all a cut above. At the age of 7 boys would begin one of the toughest and rigorous military training regimes of the ancient world. From the time they stepped foot into the training compound they were handed the various weapons to learn and train with. They were introduced to the sword and shield, and to the tactics to use them effectively. Why were young boys expected to learn so young? They would serve the army from age 20 to 60 and the military leaders knew that by introducing the weapons of warfare early they would be mere extensions of the hands of fierce warriors they would become.
By the time of their first taste of battle, with chaos swirling all around them, the grip of sword and shield were a familiar presence to them. They had became accustomed to the weight of the armor, the clang of blade against blade, the sounds of men wounded, dying. Their grip on the shield was of the upmost importance as locking shields with the man to the left and right was the basis of all Spartan Phalanx formation movements.
As the soldiers marched off to battle, Spartan mothers would meet the troops, each mother handing her son his shield. As she felt the weight transfer from her hands to his, she would look him in the eye and say “With it, or on it.” It meant to either come home in victory carrying your shield, or be brought back laid upon it, giving your life for the defense of Sparta. To break and run, to throw away your shield was the upmost act of cowardice and any man that ran to save himself was no longer considered worthy to be called a Spartan. Mothers refused to recognize soldiers who had fled battlefields as their sons.
We must start with our children early. We must teach them in Sunday school, teach them that there is one God, His name is Jesus, that He loved us so greatly that He came, lived, died for our sins. We must teach that He rose again, with victory over death that we might have life in Him forevermore. They need to know of His Word, of His Works, of His mercy and grace. They need to hold the shield and how to raise it alongside their sword.
We can’t wait until they get to the youth group, the young adult class and hope the youth leader is cool enough to impress them. They need to know this Apostolic faith is worth living for, worth fighting for, and worth dying for. They need us to live it, to know that it is worth picking up every day and that is works. That by living the way we do gives us power, it gives us victory. We must live it and teach it “With it, or on It”.
Generations of Apostolic have carried the shield into battle. It has been wielded through many trials and tribulations. It has carried them through every battle. And it still works today, quenching every fiery dart of the wicked flings at us. By soaking our faith in the living water of Jesus Christ and the renewed anointing of the Spirit we have the victory. We only need to hold onto our faith.
Out of David’s mighty men, only a few are mentioned by name. The captains of David’s army were renown for one thing, and it wasn’t their ability with a sword or spear, but with their shield. These men knew the value of holding onto their shield, protecting themselves and the men around them.
That should be the goal of every Apostolic out there. That they are know to hold onto faith. That when the battle was hot, when the arrows were flying through the air, they were holding onto faith. That when the enemy came against them they gripped their shields tighter and continued the fight.
We must hold onto faith. Above all, hold onto faith.
It was by faith that:
Noah built an ark having never seen a rain drop and saved his family
Abraham led his son up a mountain side to sacrifice him on his way to becoming the father of many nations
Moses chose the suffering of his people over the riches of Egypt and brought God’s people out of their bondage.
David put off the king’s armor and slung a stone into the head of a giant
kept a praying Daniel from the mouth of the lion
prevented Shadrach, Mescach, and Abednego from bending their knee to the king’s image and met them in a fiery furnace as the 4th man in the fire delivered them.
allowed Elijah to face 450 priests of Baal on a mountainside, called down fire from heaven and turned the peoples hearts back to God.
a woman with an issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was made whole.
Peter stepped out of the boat to walk where no other man has walked before.
Caused blind Bartamayus to call out to Jesus and have his sight restored.
Faith, Apostolic faith, will bring you through life’s worst storms, trials, and battles. Hold onto faith and win the victory.