“SHIELD OF FAITH”
You will notice when we come to the fourth piece of armour, the “and” is lacking. The first three were joined together, for that which is denoted by those figurative terms is inseparably linked together-the mind, the heart, the will; there you have the complete inner man. “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (v. 16) I think the words “above all” have a double force.
First, literally understanding them as a preposition of place, meaning over-all, shielding as a canopy, protecting the mind, heart, and will.
There must be faith in exercise, if those three parts of our inner being are to be guarded.
Second, “above all” may be taken adverbially, signifying, chiefly, preeminently, supremely. It is an essential thing that you should take the shield of faith, for Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “But without faith it is impossible to please him.”
Yes, even if there were sincerity, love, and a pliable will, yet without faith we could not please Him. Therefore, “above all” take unto you the shield of faith.
Faith is all in all in resisting temptations. We must be fully persuaded of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures if we are to be awed by their precepts and cheered by their encouragements; we will never heed properly the divine warnings or consolations, unless we have explicit confidence in their divine authorship.
The whole victory is here ascribed to faith “above all”: it is not by the breastplate, helmet, or sword, but by the shield of faith that we are enabled to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
It seems to be a general principle in the Spirit’s arrangement of things in Scripture to put the most vital one in the center: we have seven pieces of armour, and the Shield of Faith is the fourth! So in Hebrews 6:4-6 we have five things mentioned, and in the middle is, “made partakers of the Holy Spirit.”
Faith is the life of all the graces. If faith be not in exercise, love, hope, patience cannot be. Here we find faith is likened unto a “shield,” because it is intended for the defense of the whole man.
The shield of the soldier is something he grips, and raises or lowers as it is needed. It is for the protection of his entire person. Now the figure which the Holy Spirit uses here in connection with Satan’s attacks, is taken from one of the devices of the ancients in their warfare, namely, the use of darts which had been dipped in tar and set on fire, in order to blind their foes: that is what lies behind the metaphor of “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked”; what is in view is Satan’s efforts to prevent our looking upward!
The attacks of the devil are likened to “fiery darts,” first, because of the wrath with which he shoots them. There is intense hatred in Satan against the child of God. Again; the very essence of his temptations is to inflame the passions and distress the conscience.
He aims to enkindle covetousness, to excite worldly ambition, to ignite our lust. In James 3:6 we read, “the tongue…is set on fire of hell”
-that means the devil’s “fiery darts” have affected it. The third reason why his temptations are likened unto “fiery darts” is because of the end to which they lead if not quenched; should Satan’s temptations be followed out to the end, they would land us in the lake of fire. The figure of “darts” denotes that his temptations are swift, noiseless, dangerous.
Now taking the shield of faith means, appropriating the Word and acting on it. The shield is to protect the whole person, wherever the attack be made, whether on spirit, or soul, or body; and there is that in the Word which is exactly suited unto each, but faith must lay hold of and employ it.
Now in order to use the shield of faith effectually the Word of Christ needs to dwell in us “richly” (Col 3:16).
We must have right to hand a word which is pertinent for the particular temptation presented. For example, if tempted unto covetousness, I must use “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” (Mat 6:19);
when solicited by evil companions, “if sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (Pro 1:10);
if tempted to harshness, “Be kindly affectioned one to another” (Rom 12:10).
It is because the details of Scripture have so little place in our meditations that Satan trips us to frequently.
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
Like most of the other terms used, “faith” here also has a double signification.
The faith which is to be our “shield” is both an objective and a subjective one.
It has reference, first, to the Word of God without, the authority of which is ever binding upon me.
It points, secondly, to my confidence in that Word, the heart going out in trustful expectation to the Author of it, and counting upon its efficacy to repulse the devil.
Tomorrow we look at the fifth piece of the armour of God “Helmet of Salvation”