“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 is necessary for fighting and winning the spiritual battles against “the schemes of the devil.” Paul states 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. A thureos 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 would quench the flames of the arrows.
This is the picture that Paul paints for us. What the thureos shield 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 or passions, 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 these deceitful desires. Faith is our defense against the flaming arrows and attractive lies of the enemy.