"In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one ...".
Paul is laying out the armor of God that we must put on in order to fight and win the spiritual battles against "the schemes of the devil." Paul makes it clear that victory is the result of "being strong in the Lord and the strength of his might." Putting on the whole armor of God is what gives us the ability to stand, fight, and win.
We have looked at the first three pieces of armor: truth, righteousness, and peace. The fourth piece is "the shield of faith." Roman soldiers used several kinds of shields, but two were the most common. The first was a small round shield, about two feet in diameter, that was secured to the arm by two leather straps. It was relatively lightweight and was used to deflect the sword blows of an opponent in hand-to-hand combat. The second kind of shield was the thureos, to which Paul refers here. This shield was tall and wide, designed to protect the entire body of the soldier. The shield was made of a solid piece of wood and was covered with metal or heavy oiled leather.
The soldiers who carried the thureos were in the front lines of battle and stood side by side with their shields together, forming an inter-locking phalanx that was the first to engage the enemy. Enemy archers would often shoot flaming arrows dipped in pitch, and the leather covering of the thureos quenched the flames of the arrows.
This is the picture that Paul paints for us here. What the thureos was for the soldier, so the shield of faith is for the Christian. The enemy constantly fires "flaming darts" at us, and these flaming darts are various forms of deceit, disruption, and temptation. The defense we have against these attacks, Paul says, is the shield of faith.
The deceptions and seductions of the evil one are particularly dangerous because they are enticing. They are not just lies; they are attractive lies. This is precisely what 1 John 2.15-17 warns about. "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." The King James translation renders it "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life."
Whether we call it "lust" or "desire," the point is that we are attracted to these things. The "desires of the flesh" are things that deceive us because they feel good. The "desires of the eyes" are things that deceive us because they look good. The "pride of life" are things that deceive us because we think they will make us look good. The shield of faith is our protection against the evil one's "flaming arrows." Faith is our defense against the attractive lies of the enemy.
The shield of faith means believing and trusting God's presence, power, and principles in response to the specific circumstances and situations you face. Stop and consider what that means. The whole of Christianity is an act of believing God in response to the specific situations of your life and work. What Paul is talking about here is applying faith strategically to those times when the enemy is attacking you either through external circumstances or internal impulses. The shield of faith is applied belief. In keeping with the theme of spiritual warfare, we could accurately call it "battlefield belief."
However -- and we will explore this in more detail later -- faith is only as effective as the object in which you place it. To be effective on the battlefield, the shield of faith must be accurate. It must have faith in truth about God. Faith in falsehoods does no good.
When resisting the flaming darts of the evil one, general faith isn't enough. What is needed is applied faith. This is faith that is action-oriented, not feeling-oriented. Far too many people today make the mistake of equating faith with feeling. They only act when they feel confident and strong. Ironically, that is a lie of the enemy. The shield of faith is not about how you feel. It is about knowing the truth and acting on it in response to situations you encounter. It is battlefield belief.
"Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." (Proverbs 30:5)
Trust God, take up the shield of faith, and stand firm against the enemy.