In church, we may have heard about elements of the ‘armor of God’ but never looked deeply into each individual piece of the armor. Of course, the armor of God isn’t a literal outfit of armor. It’s not a physical set of equipment that a pastor hands out once we’ve said the sinner’s prayer.
Your metaphorical armor of God defenses does, however, help you block the blows of the devil as described in Ephesians 6:10-18:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Although it may seem odd to us that we need to put on armor of any type—after all, we tend to live in a society where we don’t have to suit up for battle—we can often forget that a spiritual battle wages around us every day (2 Corinthians 10:4).
And if we don’t put on our armor, we leave ourselves in a vulnerable position on the spiritual battlefield.
Let’s focus in on one element of the armor of God in particular: the shield of faith.
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What Is the Shield of Faith in the Bible?
When we envision a shield, we may think of a star-spangled one that Captain America holds, or a circular rim that can protect the upper torso at best.
But back when Paul had written this passage in Ephesians, he likely had different imagery in mind. Roman shields, depending on the type, could protect a good portion of the body. Especially in the Roman phalanx and legion formation, a soldier could protect most parts of his body with his shield (with the exception of the lower legs and feet).
The shield of faith, likewise, covers our most vulnerable spots: especially our heart. This heavy shield can withstand the impact of fiery blows from the devil.
Ellicott’s Commentary agrees with this, showing how the shield in this passage is supposed to protect the full length of the body from the flaming arrows of the devil. In fact, another commentary, by MacLaren, suggests the word used for shield here has a similar root as the word for “door.” This shield would’ve covered the entirety of the body.
Back during the time Paul had written this passage, soldiers would set arrows on fire as a battle tactic. What was the only way to extinguish them and protect the whole body? By having a shield likely as long as a door.
Many have suggested these arrows represent ‘doubt’ (as faith can quench doubt). Others have said these arrows can represent anything that impedes our spiritual growth such as discontentment or fear.
No matter what arrows the devil uses to attack us, we need to take up the shield of faith to protect ourselves from his assaults.
How Do We Take Up the Shield of Faith?
The above passage from Ephesians 6 makes it clear that we need to put on all the pieces of the armor through prayer.
But the shield of faith does seem to stand out from the other pieces of armor. We come to the battle with the other pieces already on our person, but we have to “take up” the shield of faith. What does this look like?
As mentioned in this video, we hold onto our faith like a shield. We have to deliberately choose faith in all circumstances. This means that when we encounter doubts, or when we find a passage of Scripture that troubles us, that we choose to hold on to faith.
We do have to keep in mind faith isn’t blind belief. As discussed in Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, faith comes when we have enough evidence to make an informed decision.
For instance, one of Strobel’s interviewees uses the example of an eye doctor. The interviewee needed a scary operation on his eye, so he and his wife investigated the best eye doctor in the nation. After compiling enough research, enough evidence, they had faith that he would carry out the procedure properly. And he did.
In the same way, we as Christians have investigated God. We’ve found him to be good, all powerful, merciful, and so much more. Therefore, we can enter the eye operation, so to speak.
So how do we take up the shield of faith? We pray that God will arm us with it in all circumstances, and we choose to take it up, even when the devil keeps firing arrows of doubt and deceit.
How Is Faith like a 'Shield?'
The shield does a lot more than take blows from arrows. The typical Roman shield could push back against the enemy and, when soldiers clumped together, could form a protective barrier (phalanx formation).
How do we see this in terms of faith?
Faith can not only protect us from the blows of the devil. It can help us push back against him.
For instance, when Satan tempts Jesus, Jesus uses his knowledge of Scripture (evidence of God) as an act of faith, and pushes against Satan’s taunts (Matthew 4:1-11). We can also see it played out in the defense of the Christian faith. Apologists such as Ravi Zacharias push back against the claims of this world, using the evidence-based faith they have from Scripture and from God.
Second, we can extinguish arrows. Not only can faith handle the impact of them, but it can put out false truths. People may say, “God is not really good.” or “God is not all-powerful.” But with our shield of faith, we can extinguish right away any lies we encounter.
Third, when we band with other Christians, in phalanx formation, it strengthens our faith. When we fellowship with believers and help each other through our doubts, we form a stronger barrier against the devil.
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What Does Jesus Say about Faith?
Jesus has a great deal to say about faith.
He says whatever we ask in prayer, we will receive, if we have faith (Matthew 21:22), implying what we ask is geared toward God’s plan for our lives. And those who have faith as small as a mustard seed has the ability to move mountains (Matthew 17:20).
In fact, Jesus placed a huge emphasis on faith throughout his ministry. He didn’t care about rituals; he simply cared about faith.
Where Else Is Shield Imagery Used in the Bible?
We see the shield in action in other places in the Bible.
The Bible makes it clear that the shield comes from God and God alone, and the shield protects us.
Although God won’t shield us from tragedy or loss, he can provide us faith when we need it most. If we believe, he’ll help us in our unbelief.
A Prayer for You to Take Up the Shield of Faith
Help me to take up the shield of faith. We live in a broken world where the devil will fling his arrows of discord, doubt, and deceit any chance he can get. Arm me with the shield of faith today that I may be able to extinguish his arrows and spread your Gospel to those who need to hear it. Lord, help me when I doubt to remember your goodness, your graciousness, and who you are.
We need to take up the shield of faith in every circumstance. If we drop it for any reason, we leave ourselves very vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. The shield of faith comes from God alone, and we need to ask him to arm us with it to help protect ourselves from the devil.
We also need to consider formation. When we take up shields together, we are more protected. If we ever struggle with doubts, we need to go to fellow believers and help walk each other through our darkest moments.
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Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her here.
This article is part of our series on the Armor of God. To learn more about the meaning, context, and purpose of each piece of armor in the spiritual life of the believer, visit the articles below.