Did you know that Ebenezer Presbyterian Church will celebrate 170 years of ministry this year? The church was founded in 1842 and named “Ebenezer” from 1 Samuel 7:12, saying “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” The congregation is planning a special celebration later this year, and we hope you in the community will help us as we rejoice in our history.
We have been discussing the armor of God in Ephesians 6, and this article brings us to the remaining parts of the armor. “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16).
In the author’s day, the shield was an essential part of the soldier’s wardrobe. Even today, riot police will use shields when dispersing a crowd or dealing with armed criminals. The shield could be round or oblong, square or rectangle, but whatever the makeup or design of the shield, its purpose is one of protection whether in closely fought battle or volleys from a distance.
The strange thing about describing faith as a shield is that it seems defensive, but faith is an active thing, an offensive weapon that enables us to overcome our enemies. Hebrews tells us that faith is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (11:1). Confidence allows us to move forward. Assurance lets me stand in spite of what I am facing, and even to move forward without fear of falling. Holding the shield in front of me I am able to advance toward the enemy without fear of the enemies’ arrows, knowing I am protected.
What are the flaming arrows hurled by the enemy? The Old Testament refers to the tongue: “Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit” Jeremiah 9:8a. Referring to the people of Israel who have rebelled against God, Jeremiah identifies the deceitful words of their mouths as arrows. How many lives have been destroyed by lies, unkind words, and even half-truths? The Israelites themselves spoke religious words but then attacked and devoured one another. Because of this “adultery” God would judge them and all Israel. Psalm 64:3 repeats this reference to the tongue: “They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.”
Although the enemies here are vindictive individuals, they are no less the enemy of our souls as Satan himself. In fact, Jesus refers to Satan as the inspiration of these lies: “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44b). When you are walking in faith, moving forward in life, the enemies of your soul will seek to destroy you, to stunt your growth in Christ, to tell you that God doesn’t really love you, that you can never amount to anything, perhaps even that there is no such thing as eternal life.
The flaming arrows serve to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a). God’s creation was devastated by the temptation of Adam and Eve, but Jesus, the second Adam, came “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (10b). Faith in Christ allows us to deflect attacks of the thief as he attempts to destroy families, devastate relationships, and place division between us and our God. This is why strengthening your faith is so important.
A shield made of paper would burn up immediately and would fail to stop the arrows. Faith without a foundation in the Word isn’t faith at all, but wishful thinking, nice thoughts. A shield that is made of fabric would split at the touch of an arrow. Faith that is your grandmother’s, never accepted for yourself, just repeated from what you have heard, is such a shield. This type of shield cannot protect you from flaming arrows and attacks.
However, faith that is strong and filled with assurance will, like steel, repel the attacks of the enemy. The shield of faith isn’t held over us as we cower in fear behind it. No way! Faith gives us the confidence to stand firm behind it, knowing that we belong to God and that nothing can separate us from God’s presence with us.