The Shield of Faith.
This is part three from my Sunday School lesson based on Larry Richard's book The Full Armor of God.
At the end of his letter Paul says in 6:16, “Take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” But he covers what this means in Ephesians 2:1-10 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
In hand to hand combat Roman soldiers were the likely winners. So their enemies would shoot flaming “darts” or “javelins” at them as they advanced. But even that didn’t work very well because the Romans had large shields two and a half feet wide and four feet tall that they held in front of them as they advanced in long rows. When the arrows came from above they moved the shields over their heads and formed a roof. This formation was called a turtle. The arrows just bounded off.
Paul likens theses arrows to demonic attacks. This is not close, personal confrontation. They were hurled from a distance. And they weren’t weapons for killing; they were just designed to break up an advancing formation. Separate the soldiers so they could do hand to hand combat.
Sometimes Satan throws obstacles at us to make us anxious and discouraged. Sarah urged Abraham to have a child with her servant Hagar rather then wait on God’s promise. And he did! And that’s what began the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews that still goes on today! They panicked under pressure instead of raising the shield that God provides all believers. The shield of faith.
What faith is Paul talking about? THE faith? The Good News that Jesus saves? Or OUR faith – the trust we exhibit in Jesus? Or is it our new self-image? Because when Paul talked about the helmet of salvation he went to great lengths to show how it was meant to shape our self-image.
When we grasped what each member of the Trinity did to provide us with salvation we realized we were not nothings or nobodies. We are special and part of God’s family. We could see ourselves as God sees us: no longer victims, but victors. We could shake off Satan’s lies and step out boldly to live the lives God created for us to live. Called to live out the victory Jesus won for us.
But in Ephesians 2:1 Paul, after just telling us we are chosen, loved, blessed and empowered, says we were dead in transgressions and sins. That we used to live in our sins when we followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Satan). And on and on. But then he says we were not totally lost. Because of His great love for us God intervened!
We cannot save ourselves! God acted. God raised us up. God gave us life in Jesus Christ! And because our salvation is entirely the work of God we will be on display for all of eternity as living expressions of “the incomparable riches of His grace.” We are special and wonderful. But only because God created us and only because God saved us.
In this section of Ephesians 2 Paul wants us to realize we are totally dependent on God, not on ourselves.
The author of this book believes that the “true faith” in these verses is not pointing to our faith, but God’s faithfulness. That when it comes to salvation God does it all. So the shield that extinguishes Satan’s flaming arrows is not the strength or measure of our faith, it’s the faithfulness of God. Our salvation is rooted in His grace and love.
Psalm 7:10 is just one verse in the Old Testament which confirms the idea of God as the believer’s shield. “My shield is God Most High.”
“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Our lives have purpose and meaning. God has a path for each of us to follow.
Satan wants to force us off that path. So he hurls his flaming arrows at us. Those difficulties and troubling circumstances that cause us fear and anxiety. He hopes we’ll panic and rush ahead of God’s timing like Sarah did. Or turn and go in the wrong direction. But God is faithful - if we listen to Him – to His promptings, He will guide us along the path He has chosen. We may not know what that path is right now, but He will show us when and how to take the next step.
Paul knows we are frail. He knows how hard it is for us to trust God for today. Isn’t it interesting we trust Him to get us to Heaven, but it’s so hard to have confidence He’ll get us through today?
So Paul reminds us. Often!
Romans 5:10 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Romans 8:38-39 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
God knows exactly how much we can bear. And then will provide a way out.
How are we to take up this shield of faith?
First, be prepared. Satan will go after you because you believe in God. Don’t focus on your problems. Focus on God. Remember everything He has done for you and been to you. Memorize Bible verses:
Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 33:20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.