“In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.“
Ephesians 6:16 NLT
So far we’re doing well, working through our defensive armour. Paul has suggested the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of the Gospel. But he thinks we also need a shield. Now, the Roman soldiers were very skilled with their shields. Not only was the shield an essential part of their body armour, but it had a corporate purpose as well. The Roman soldiers on occasion formed a column of men with shields positioned above, at their sides and at their front and back. It became known as a testudo or tortoise formation. It was very difficult for an enemy to pick them off, because there was nowhere an arrow could penetrate.
But what form do these “fiery arrows” take. Don’t forget that our adversary the devil, is a master of telling lies. We saw that a couple of days ago. So he will try and deceive us. A bit like the scammers who ring people up with an investment opportunity that sounds so good and plausible that, before they know it, they have committed their savings to a dodgy scheme. The devil will on occasion sound so plausible, twisting the meaning of Scriptures, or telling lies about all sorts of things that might be of interest to us, that we have to be on the ball, always aware of his schemes.
Why did Paul describe the enemy’s barbs as being “fiery“? Perhaps some of the “arrows” he fires at us are shameful memories. From a time before we came to faith in God. And they induce in us a red face, fired up and flushed with shame. A flaming arrow is also more destructive, achieving more damage than an ordinary arrow would.
So two things about the shield of faith. Firstly, as Christians, we each have one. Even a new Christian will be equipped with such a piece of armour. After all, we came to God through faith, believing that Jesus is who He said He is, and that is sufficient to protect us even when the devil is doing his utmost to destroy us. Secondly, just as a troop of Roman soldiers, we can join together with other Christians to form our own tortoise formation, each of us using our faith to help protect us all. A Christian on his or her own, perhaps going through a wobbly patch, and susceptible to a whisper of deceit, is easily picked off by the devil. There is safety in numbers, in the church. So we must never stop joining with other Christians, as the writer to the Hebrews said in Hebrews 10:25, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near“.
We’ll finish this morning’s blog with a scripture written by another Apostle in 1 Peter 5:8-9a,“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith…”. So listen out for a prowler and keep your shield handy, just in case.