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Ephesians 6 v 16

Matthew Henry said that Gold is the most valuable, pure, useful and durable of all the metals. So is FAITH among the Characteristics of the true Christian soldier. Faith lasts until it brings the soul to heaven, but the trial of faith is much more precious than the trial that gold has to endure. In both processes there is purification, a separation of the dross, and a discovery of the soundness and goodness of gold and faith.

But gold does not increase and multiply by trial in the fire – it rather grows less!

FAITH is established, improved and multiplied by the fiery opposition and afflictions that it meets with. Gold must perish in the end – because it is “Gold that perishes.” But true faith will never perish.

Our focus now should be on the most precious feature of the human soul that has been redeemed and saved by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in salvation – Faith. When faith is compared with gold it is faith that is the more precious commodity. The next piece of the Spiritual armour to engage our attention this morning is THE SHIELD OF FAITH.

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

The first three pieces have introduced us to that triplet of graces - truth, righteousness and peace in

1. The Belt or Girdle of Truth.

V14a Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth,

2. The Breastplate of Righteousness.

v 14b and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

3. Feet shod with the Gospel.

“having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

4. The Shield of Faith.

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

As we look at this 16th verse we notice immediately that Paul introduces it with 2 words – ABOVE ALL. When we use this phrase in regular conversation we mean to say something that indicates supremacy – whatever it is that we are talking about must be of the greatest importance if we come to use the phrase ABOVE ALL. A strategy of the orator is to build up the words and sentences of his speech to a climax. On the way he lists perhaps many important things – but as he is near to sitting down he saves the most important to last – “Above all – above all that I have said up until now – hear this!” This is NOT the Apostle Paul’s intention here in verse 16. No one piece of armour is any more important than the others.

What we can understand Paul to be saying is this – that in all things, in every situation of life, on all occasions, make sure that you are taking up the shield of faith. Paul did not want us to think that any piece of armour was less essential than another. Each piece is essential – and the phrase can be applied to every one of the pieces – on every occasion that you fight the devil and defend your soul put on the belt and breastplate and be shoed with the gospel of peace; on every occasion hold up the shield of faith, with the helmet on your head and the sword of the spirit in your hand. This is the meaning of above all.

And surely we can all testify by now that when we become aware that we have failed the Lord by falling in to sin, and allowed the enemy of souls a foothold into our lives, it is because one or more pieces of the spiritual armour have been laid aside and not TAKEN UP. So let Paul’s timely little phrase here ABOVE ALL, situated in the middle of the six pieces of armour, sufficiently emphasise that we need ever to be prepared and wearing the armour gifted to us by our dear saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.

So now let us think of the 16th verse in 3 parts –

1. The Shield.

16 Above all, taking the shield

2. The Faith.

of faith,

3. The Fiery darts.

wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

1. The Shield.

16 Above all, taking the shield

There cannot be many of us among the male members of the congregation who have not in their childhood asked for their mother’s largest saucepan lid to go with the simple wooden sword that we might have made! What a wonderful shield that saucepan lid made! It had a handle with which to hold it in front of the body and ward off the potential attacks of our make believe opponents.

A small circular shield like this was used by the Greek soldiers and Greek and Roman cavalrymen. The Romans gave it a name – the CLYPEUS and the Greeks ASPIS. This round shield was about two and half feet in diameter usually made of brass and comparatively light. Skilfully used it could be effective. However it was very ineffective against certain kinds of missile that rained on an army in an initial assault. This shield is NOT what Paul has in mind as the Greek text indicates.

The shield used and an example of faith is much larger than the CLYPEUS. This is the THUREON, which was 2 feet 6 inches by 4 feet. It was more like a door! Indeed the word THUREON is closely related to the word for door, THURA, and for window THURIS. The Romans called it the SCUTUM and it protected the soldier from his knees right up to his eyes when he held it in front of him for protection. It was of such a size, that of a small door, as to be useful as stretchers during a battle when an injured soldier need to be carried to safety. The SCUTUM was made of wood that was covered with thick leather which was regularly impregnated with oil. It had a carrying handle on one side and a device on each upright edge that enabled the shield to be connected to the shield of the soldier on either side to form a solid wall as the army advanced. It had a slightly curved shape and was a very efficient protector for the soldier – it could absorb some of the shock of the impact of various missiles hurled by the enemy. An immediate application occurs when we take up the suggestion in the illustration that none of us, as Christians, are alone in the face of the enemy and his attacks. We can form a wall of defence if we are each using the shield that we have been given, and that they are locked in place in unity of belief and practice. Together we can absorb more effectively the attacks of Satan, if we stand firm together – shields locked!

This then is the shield that Paul has in mind – the THUREON. Next we observe what the shield is designed to teach us – it is that Shield of Faith.

2. The Faith.

of faith,

If we do not have faith then we do not have the protection, the shield that we need. So Paul uses a rendering of the verb “take up” that he used before in verse 13

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God,

In this 13th verse he uses an imperative – you must take the whole armour. But here in verse 16 he assumes that this is what you are doing – that you are constantly taking and taking again the shield of faith in order to hold it up in time of attack and to use it.

Faith is a gift from the Lord God. It is the exercise of this God-given faith that is pictured in the holding up of the shield. Abraham, the friend of God, knew this and the Lord God confirmed it to him in Genesis 15:1

After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

Abraham’s faith was accounted to him for righteousness. He believed God and took Him at his word over many things, including the time when he offered up his son Isaac as a sacrifice on God’s instructions, having the faith to believe that God was able to raise Isaac up again from the dead. “I am thy shield, Abraham!” And the Lord Jesus Christ is our shield – His Holy Spirit within us, and our faith in His work, is a mighty shield of defence to each one of us. We can echo David’s words in Psalms 56 v 11

In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.

Whatever man throws at us – we have a shield. Satan influences and corrupts men so that they are his means of attacking believers in the Lord Jesus Christ – but with the shield we do not need to be afraid. Furthermore there is the ability to first shelter behind the shield until the enemy has exhausted all his missiles and then to advance in faith on the enemy – as John tells us in his first epistle –

1 John 5 v 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Faith overcomes according to John. Faith, trust, belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work of salvation secures the soul, resists the enemy and overcomes him. He hates it when we trust in the Lord Jesus. He does all He can to dissuade people from believing that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore God Himself. So long as people acknowledge Jesus Christ as a historical figure and a good man, then he is happy – he can cope with that. But when you believe that Christ is God and that he is the Saviour of your soul, the devil is overcome – he cannot answer that – for he knows that the Lord Jesus Christ has determined to save his elect and nothing will stop it – no power, no war, no negotiation. Satan knows all this – but he still tries to undermine the work of the Gospel – the saving of the elect. So he attacks believers – out of hatred for their King – Jesus – and because he reckons that he still has a chance of preventing others from believing if he can neutralise Christ’s army – the church, the body of believers. So his weapons are formed against us – but we have the shield of faith – if we will only use it! Do you have this shield of faith my friend? Are you a Christian? Has the Lord God given you your shield yet?

Faith ‘tis a grace divine, A gift both rich and free, ‘Twas grace that made this blessing mine From guilt to set me free. Faith lives in spite of hell; And when the soul’s oppressed, With miseries more than tongue can tell It leans on Jesus’ breast. Though death and dangers fly Like lightning from the skies; He that believes shall never die; Faith must obtain the prize. Wm Gadsby 603 GH

So the shield of faith is needed. But Paul tells us that it has a specific purpose outlined in the rest of the verse -

3. The Fiery darts.

wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

The shield gives the believer an ability and a power to deal with Satan’s fiery attacks of temptations.

In the military illustration the fiery darts were arrows dipped in pitch or similar materials that were set on fire before being shot into the air at the enemy. When these darts collided with the Roman shields with their leather coverings, their points were blunted and their flames were put out, extinguished and they fell harmlessly to the ground. The Bible uses the word QUENCH here. It is only used a few times in scripture. Quench means to go out or put out something that is alight. Jesus quoting Isaiah 42 v 3 said in Matthew 12 v 20

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

What a precious verse this is and what an encouragement to those who feel that their faith is weak and faint. The picture is of an oil lamp that is ready to go out. The wick is smouldering, produces much smoke but little light – yet it is still alight and showing signs of life. The Lord Jesus says that he will never snuff out such a wick, he will not quench it – but rather he will by His grace breathe on it and blow it back into life and light. This should lift up those who only feel that they are producing smoke with no light. The Lord values each one of us with His tender love and will not put us out! The same metaphor and word quench is in Matthew 25 in the parable of the 10 girls – 5 of them had lamps that had gone out and were quenched. Then in some very serious verses we are warned that the fires of hell will never be quenched – will never go out – Mark 9 v 44 and 48

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Finally there is a verse in 1 Thessalonians 5 that uses the word QUENCH –

19 Quench not the Spirit.

Many unhelpful interpretations have been made of this verse, which refers to the hindering of the operations of oral testimony in the early New Testament church gatherings. During Apostolic times God would speak through the believers in inspired testimonies – until that is the New Testament was finally written and published for all the churches. No further revelations were needed and this gift ceased. But there were in those churches some who would interrupt and intervene when God was speaking by His Holy Spirit through a believer. Paul said, “Do not quench or extinguish these utterances – they are God’s word to you for now.” The lesson for us in Post apostolic times is this – we should never quench the God ordained message of scripture. God’s word stands – it must be believed and obeyed. We have no right to quench it when preached, read, taught or memorised in our own souls. Great harm is done when attempts are made to quench God the Holy Spirit when He speaks through His word.

In this verse in Ephesians 6 v 16 the word quench is used to describe the way that Faith is powerful enough to resist the devil’s arrows tipped with fire.

But just what are these fiery darts that are thrown, hurled like ballistic missiles, at these souls of ours? We are all too familiar with them my friends. They come from the devil who is given the title by Paul in this verse “the wicked.” We could all make our own lists of his fiery darts that so often are aimed at us and that strike us where it hurts. Here are some of the common fiery darts –

Have you ever had blasphemous thoughts that you sense have come from outside you? Thoughts that tempt you not to believe that God exists and that perhaps the evolutionists and humanists are right? These are fiery darts that have got past your shield of faith.

What about those thoughts that suggest some scheme to get rich, become famous and enable you to get all that you want? Thoughts that lead you to envy those who have more than you? The darts have landed where the devil aimed them and your shield was laid to one side.

Have you never had sudden thoughts of wanting to do something wrong just for the thrill of it?

Or have you found yourself so irritated by another person that you begin to wish them dead?

This is the sudden arrow that comes. On other occasions swear words come to our minds – where have they come from? Where do they originate? Satan has fired them, being the perfect psychologist that he is. He has been studying human nature since the garden of Eden. When he successfully tempted Eve he was firing his darts.

The first dart was when he questioned God’s Goodness.

Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

He challenged God’s motives to bless in saying that Adam and Eve could not eat of EVERY TREE.

The next dart that Satan used was this challenge of God’s Government

Ye shall not surely die:

This fiery dart came with the suggestion that disobedience to God’s command was not a problem – that He would overlook it and be lenient.

There was a third dart aimed at Eve’s heart – Satan’s challenge to God’s Goals.

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

What slander this was from Satan! He accused God of wanting to keep Adam and Eve ignorant and immature, keeping knowledge and wisdom to Himself.

Did Eve have a shield of faith? Yes – she had God’s word – she had God’s covenant word to defend herself – but she declined to use it – like we do when we do not use the shield of Faith in God’s word. She was deceived and lost her faith in God, being pierced by the fiery darts. The same root of unbelief and failure to trust the word of God was Adam’s downfall too. His sin was more wilful following his wife into the same sin of disobedience questioning the goodness, government and goals of God. If only they had shown Satan the word of God and told him that they believed it!

The Lord Jesus Christ successfully resisted Satan when he came with the same pattern of firing his darts in the wilderness.

God’s Goodness was challenged – make the stones into bread – take the initiative and create what God has promised to provide. Jesus answered with the Word of His Father – man shall not live by bread alone…

God’s Government was challenged – cast yourself down from the temple – God will send the angels. Once more Jesus was ready – with the Word of God – Do not tempt the Lord God.

God’s Goals were challenged – all these kingdoms will be yours if you worship me. What a dart – how fiery. But Christ’s shield of faith was ready - worship the Lord your God – Him only shalt thou serve.

At each moment the shield of faith resisted Satan and quenched his fiery darts. If only we could learn to be quenchers of the fiery darts – how much sin would be avoided!

Then we could go on with our list of fiery darts that Satan loves to fire – worry, persecution, greed, vanity, pride, anger – all are darts tipped with fire that can set our souls ablaze with sin. There are darts commonly called lusts – lusts of the eyes, lusts of the appetite, the lust to be applauded, the lust of ambition, and the lusts of sensuality. Darts fired at us in a barrage that need to be quenched with the shield of faith if we are not to be struck by them and wounded into sin.

To have strong faith and the possession of the shield of Faith is every believer’s privilege. Our faith should be active and vital so that we -

Never question the circumstances in which we find ourselves;

Never question the limitations that He, in His sovereign wisdom, has placed on us;

Never question His right to dictate the terms of our lives;

Never doubt His goodness or His government of us – that whatever our lot, He has taught us to know it is well with our souls.

And never to doubt that He loved us so much that He died Himself for us on the cross and shed His precious blood so that we might have faith in the first place!

Let us look away from ourselves and look at the Lord Jesus Christ! In order to repel Satan’s showers of fiery arrows aimed at our souls we need to place our whole trust in Him and rely on His word of revelation and all his promises.

Are we holding up the shields that the Lord has given to us?

Perhaps there is someone here this morning that hasn’t the faintest idea what this is all about. You do not know Jesus Christ personally and you are not so sure that you want to know Him.

Well you need to know that for every piece of the armour of God, Satan has some armour too, that you are probably using right now.

Satan issues all of His followers with a shield too. It is called the Shield of Unbelief and people who refuse to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus for salvation, hold up this shield to ward off the arrows of conviction and the arrows of the call of the Gospel to repent and believe. You then who are still not Christians – I challenge you to lay aside the shield that Satan has given you and let God the Holy Spirit find His mark in your soul. You are a sinner and your sins are killing you. Therefore repent! Leave them behind you – abandon them – all your breaking of God’s law and following your own ways. And turn to the only one who guarantees that you will have forgiveness, pardon and eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There are some who come week by week who hold up the Shield of Unbelief at this point of every sermon – because the arrows of conviction are coming. My friend you will be judged for your foolishness as well as your sin – God calls to people yet with His offer of peace – don’t let Satan fool you that his way is best – he is a liar – leave him to his lies and come to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ – He is ready to issue you with the true armour – including the Shield of Faith!

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