Ephesians 6:16 The Shield of Faith

… above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. Eph 6:16

Commentator Peter O’Brien writes:

In addition to the pieces of amour that believers need to wear, they are to take up the ‘shield of faith,’ for by it they will be fully protected against every kind of assault rained upon them by the evil one. The shield referred to is not the small round one which left most of the body unprotected, but the large shield carried by Roman soldiers, which covered the whole person… The large shield used by Roman soldiers was specifically designed to quench dangerous missiles, particularly arrows that were dipped in pitch and lit before being fired.

Proverbs 30:5 says, ‘every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.’ Throughout the Old Testament the shield is used as an image of God and His protection of His people. For instance, God says to Abraham in Genesis 15:1, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Psalms 18:30 goes, “He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” Here in our text in Ephesians, it is faith that is the shield. To take the shield of faith is to appropriate the promises of God on our behalf, confident that what He says will come to pass, and that He will protect us in the midst of the fiery darts of Satan. Likewise, Peter admonishes us to ‘be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith …’ (1 Peter 5:8-9)

What kind of faith is being commended here? Certainly it is not mere mental assent to the facts about God. James 2:19 says that even the demons have this kind of faith. Neither can temporary faith be meant – the kind that in a wave of emotions says, “I believe,” but only endures for a while (Mt 13:21) and then disappears. Faith to do the miraculous also cannot be meant, for even Judas Iscariot, as one of the apostles, could cast demons out of others. There is but one kind of faith that remains – a faith that in the words of John overcomes the world (1 Jn 5:4) – it is a justifying faith. Justifying faith more than gives mental assent to the facts of the Gospel, it embraces them for oneself.

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