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Sermon Notes

Please note that these are only notes, not transcripts, and as such are not identical to the recorded sermons. They also contain frequent abbreviations.

Introduction

    1. With verse 16, we reach a transition in the full armor of God.

      1. We see that in the beginning of the text, “Above all.”

        1. By that, the Holy Spirit is not saying that this piece is the most important.

        2. Think of shield: it is held in front of all the other pieces as extra defense, really as the first line of defense. In that sense, the HS means above all, in addition to all.

      2. Also, the first three pieces of armor differ from the second three in one important respect.

        1. The belt, the BP and the shoes are attached to the body and are not removed until the battle is over.

        2. But the shield, the helmet and the sword are really detachable, especially the shield and the sword. You do not wear them as much as you take hold of them. And you cannot take hold of them until the first three are in place.

    2. The Roman soldier had very distinctive armor. Even today, if you go to a museum you can recognize it.

      1. The Roman shield was an important piece of armor: it was large and impressive, and expertly trained soldiers used their shields to great effect.

      2. In fact, Roman armies were well known and feared for their shield maneuvers.

      3. We have a shield, too, it is called the shield of faith. Let’s consider it this evening.

 

THE SHIELD OF FAITH”

I. The Identity of the Shield

II. The Necessity of Its Use

 

  1. THE IDENTITY OF THE SHIELD

    1. [Shield] A shield is something which a soldier holds in front of himself to protect himself from, and to deflect the attacks of, the enemy.

      1. The Roman shield in common use in Paul’s day was very distinctive.

        1. There were two kinds of shields, a small round one about the size of a small dustbin (trashcan) lid and a larger one about the size of a small door.

          1. The one in our text is the large one: it was made of wood, about 4 foot tall (122 cm) by 2.5 foot wide (76 cm), oblong in shape and curved.

          2. It was reinforced with a metal fireproof covering and sometimes also covered in leather.

          3. And it was usually painted a reddish color and embossed with Roman insignia such as the eagle. This was a tactic to intimidate the opposing forces.

        2. The soldier entered the battle armored (girded, with BP in place and shoes on his feet) and with a shield in his left hand & a sword in his right hand.

          1. The shield had a handle inside it so that the soldier could hold it in front of himself during the battle.

          2. And on the outside of the shield was a large knob or “boss” which had offensive as well as defensive application.

          3. Imagine a whole army all carrying such shields: a formidable sight!

      2. The Roman shield was not an incidental part of his panoply, his whole armor. Roman soldiers were well trained in the use of their shields and could use them to great effect. In fact, Roman soldiers were expected to be so skilled in the use of the shield, that it became almost like an extension of their left arm. just as the sword should be like an extension of their right arm.

        1. The primary use of a shield is protection. A soldier holds the shield in front of himself or hides behind it to avoid being struck with swords, spears or arrows.

          1. When face to face with an enemy who threatens with the sword, the wise soldier does not use his BP as the first line of defense, or offer his helmeted head (both of which can take a blow from a sword): he hides behind his shield.

          2. The shield is more versatile than the BP: the BP is fixed to the body, it takes quite a while to lace up and it stays on the body, but the shield can be turned this way and that way to deflect blows from all directions.

          3. And, if the enemy starts throwing missiles from all directs the wise soldier kneels down behind his shield and takes cover until the barrage is past.

        2. With protection comes deflection

          1. If arrows are coming from the left, the soldier can direct his shield to the left and the arrows are deflected away from him.

          2. If arrows are coming from the right, the soldier spins around and directs his shield to the right and the arrows are sent flying in the opposite direction.

          3. If arrows are coming from above, the soldier lifts the shield above his head and the arrows bounce off him. The same applies to spears and sword thrusts from every direction.

        3. But the shield is not only defensive, it can be used offensively as well.

          1. Remember it was about the size of a small door, and on the outside of it was a large knob called a boss. With that you could knock over an opponent, wind him, pin him to the ground and finish him off with a thrust with your sword.

          2. Imagine the sight of a heavily armed Roman soldier bearing down on you with his shield and sword. How terrifying for the enemy.

        4. Soldiers did not only use their shields individually. Collectively, shield-wielding soldiers could be virtually impregnable.

          1. Let us say that a battalion of soldiers wanted to push through enemy lines. They would use the fearsome “tortoise formation.”

          2. The soldiers would huddle together in a group. The soldiers on the outside (the flanks) would form a wall of shields to the left and the right. The soldiers on the inside would form a roof of shields by holding their shields aloft. The resultant “tortoise” would be very difficult to penetrate.

          3. Such a tortoise formation was virtually unstoppable and could smash through the enemy lines.

    2. [Faith. We do not bring out such details so we can have an interesting history lesson. We do it to explain the concept of shield in the text]. The shield of the Christian soldier is faith. The meaning of our text is “Taking the shield which is faith.”

      1. If faith is our shield, we need to be very clear what faith is in this text.

        1. Always, beloved, when you see a concept such as faith in Scripture, you need to ask the question: what kind of faith is meant here? The same applies to hope and love. What kind faith, hope or love? And there are always two possibilities, objective or subjective faith.

          1. Subjective faith is our activity of believing. Paul speaks of that in Eph. 1:15 (“your faith in the Lord Jesus”).

          2. That subjective faith begins with a bond of faith, which the HS produces between the elect sinner and Jesus Christ, and out of that bond the elect child of God actively believes.

          3. But subjective faith must have an object. Objective faith is what we believe, the body of truth revealed by God in the Holy Scriptures. We speak of the Christian faith or of the Reformed faith. Jude 4 speaks of “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

        2. In the text our shield is objective faith, not our activity of believing or the strength of our faith, but what we believe.

          1. We have seen this again and again in this series on the whole armor of God. The entire panoply is really one. The armor is really God’s Word, the truth of the Scriptures, seen from different aspects, angles, perspectives and applications.

          2. What was the belt? Truth – truth which holds everything together and protects us from confusion. What was the BP? The righteousness of Christ imputed to us as that is revealed in Scripture and applied to doubt. What were the shoes? The readiness, stability and surefootedness which come from an assurance of salvation grounded in the Gospel of peace.

          3. Add to that now the shield, later the helmet of salvation and finally the sword which is God’s Word.

        3. Objective faith, then, is our shield and it consists in the revealed faith of the Bible which has as its object the truth of our Father in heaven with all His promises centered in Christ Jesus.

          1. In Gen. 15:1, God declared to Abraham, “I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward …; in Deut. 33:29, Moses declares, “Happy art thou, O Israel, who is like unto thee, o people saved of the Lord, the shield of thy help …”

          2. In the Psalms God’s people often sing of Jehovah as their shield: Psalm 3:3, 5:12, 28:7, 33:20, 84:9, 11, 91:4, 115:9, 10, 11, 144:2.

          3. God is our shield, then; His truth is our shield; He gives us the shield of faith and He enables us to wield that shield in our spiritual battles. Our taking of the shield is our appropriation of the promises of God in all of our individual circumstances.

      2. We can prove that the shield of faith cannot be subjective faith, but objective faith, from two considerations, one negative, the other positive.

        1. First, subjective faith is not strong enough to be a shield. You cannot hide behind and protect yourself with your own faith. You simply cannot work up enough faith to act as a shield against Satan.

          1. What we believe is often false. Mixed in with true faith are a lot of false notions which will not stand up to scrutiny. Faith is only as good as its object.

          2. Our hold on the truth is very weak, and our faith is therefore weak. Often our faith is hesitant, faltering, filled with fear, mixed with much unbelief. We cry like the father in the gospel account, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!”

          3. If the shield depended on the strength of our subjective faith we would be trusting in shields as useless as paper or thin cardboard.

        2. Besides, the shield of faith –like the rest of the armor – is the armor of God.

          1. We have seen that in this series: the truth, the righteousness, the gospel, the peace, the salvation and the Word all come from God Himself.

          2. This shield of faith, then, comes from God, it is supplied by God and it is forged in the heavenly armory. Man does not produce it. Man cannot produce it. The heavenly commander gives it to us and we are called to use it.

        3. The astute Reformed man will see that both objective & subjective faith are from God. That is correct & there is definite relationship between the two.

          1. God is the author of objective faith: He is the author of every promise, the revealer of every doctrine.

          2. God is also the author of subjective faith. He unites us to Christ by a living bond; He gives us faith to lay hold of Christ; He works faith in our hearts and in the hearts of our children by the power of the HS. Proof is in Eph. 2:8-9. Phil. 1:29. Arminianism makes faith man’s contribution. That is false.

          3. You could explain the figure this way: God places the shield (objective faith) into our hands and then gives us the ability to handle and to wield the shield (subjective faith).

  2. THE NECESSITY OF ITS USE

    1. We have seen some of the ways in which a Roman soldier used his shield. It was a truly versatile piece of military equipment. Paul zeroes in one use of the shield of faith – the quenching of fiery darts. Remember that our enemy is not flesh and blood, but a powerful spiritual foe. He is the devil assisted by his evil hordes of demons. These enemies are wily, deceitful, malicious, murderous and hell bent on our destruction

      1. Shooting fiery darts was a tactic used by the enemy.

        1. This is just one of the ways in which the enemy seeks to destroy us but it is at this time that the shield is especially necessary.

          1. Sometimes the enemy engages in a propaganda war, seeking to confuse us, deceive us and make us let down our guard.

          2. At other times, the enemy engages in a violent assault: he stands before us with his sword drawn, engaging us in mortal combat.

          3. Sometimes, the enemy plants booby traps along our path to try to trip us up, ensnare and injure us.

        2. But at other times, the enemy uses darts. A dart is anything which is thrown from a distance, a missile.

          1. This was a favorite tactic in ancient warfare. The enemy retires, there seems to be a lull, and suddenly he starts a fierce onslaught with missile warfare.

          2. At such times, darts, hundreds and thousands of darts, come flying from every direction, suddenly and swiftly through the air.

          3. The result is confusion, disorientation, panic and terror. Think of a sudden storm of darts, arrows shot from bows, or missiles shot from catapults.

        3. Add to that fiery darts. Soldiers took a dart or some sharp or piercing object, dipped it in some kind of flammable substance, set it alight and then threw it at their enemies. The best modern equiv. I can think of is petrol bombs.

          1. The addition of fire makes the dart doubly deadly, and increases the panic and confusion among the enemies even more. Such a hailstorm of fiery darts would be especially effective at night.

          2. If a fiery dart landed on a soldier, it would pierce him, burn him and cause him a lot of pain.

          3. Soldiers without shields were in grave danger if the enemy launched a particularly fierce attack of fiery darts.

      2. What does a soldier do and what does the whole army do when they come under a hailstorm of fiery darts?

        1. There are certain things which he does not do.

          1. He does not charge forward into the hailstorm. That would be folly. Suicide.

          2. He does not use the wrong piece of armor in the wrong manner. He does not use his BP as a defense and he does not try to hit the darts with his sword, nor does he head them off with his helmet or kick them with his shoes.

        2. He takes cover & waits, relying on his shield to take the brunt of the attack.

          1. If he is well prepared he will have doused his shield in water before the battle to make it easier for him to extinguish those fiery darts. That was common practice among the Romans.

          2. He kneels behind his shield and takes cover until the storm is past, until the enemy stops throwing darts. Only then does he advance.

          3. And as the hailstorm of fiery darts is descending upon him, he uses his shield skillfully to deflect the darts which come at him from all directions.

    2. We need to take the shield of faith because the devil uses fiery darts in his attacks against the Christian soldier.

      1. That word fiery means “having been set on fire and remaining on fire.” The word underlines the malicious spite of the evil one. He is not content to throw sharp, piercing objects; he has to dip them in fire first.

        1. Satan carefully prepares missiles to inflict maximum damage upon the church of Jesus Christ, the object of his hatred. He crafts them with other hellish instruments and when he throws them they lose none of their potency.

          1. Paul has already told us to beware and never to underestimate the enemy. The devil has an almost inexhaustible amount of wiles, schemes and devices which he uses against us.

          2. He is a master of deception, of confusion; a planter of doubts, an underhand and sneaky foe, and he never rests. And sometimes his onslaughts are as fierce as a hailstorm of fiery darts.

          3. With his use of darts, the devil remains hidden, out of sight, and it is difficult to pinpoint where he is shooting from. Ps. 11:2.

        2. At certain times, these darts come thick and fast. When we let our guard down, they penetrate our defenses and he pierces us with many sorrows.

          1. These darts are ignited with the fires of passion and when they penetrate our defenses they ignite passions in us – the passion of lust, the passion of anger and a desire for revenge, the passion of impatience and discontentment, the passion of covetousness and greed or the passion of pride.

          2. The devil sends his darts through the air and evil thoughts, even blasphemous thoughts crowd upon us – this can often happen when we are trying to pray, read God’s Word or pay attention to the preaching. Suddenly all kinds of distractions come to us.

          3. By such thoughts, which did not originate in us, but were inflamed by him, the devil is trying to suggest an evil course of action, to incite us to evil.

        3. These kinds of fiery darts are disorientating, distracting and confusing to the child of God.

          1. They seem to come from nowhere and from every conceivable direction - one dart might incite you to pride so that you no longer rely on Christ but become self sufficient and like Peter walk into disaster; another dart might incite you to despair so that you become convinced that your sins are unforgivable, that you have even committed the unforgivable sin by that evil and blasphemous idea you just had; another dart might incite you to lust so that you are tempted by the sins of the flesh; another might incite you to anger against your brother in the church.

          2. The devil does not really care which sin you commit as long as you commit some sin. And when he gets you to commit sin, he will come to torment you about it afterwards. Then he becomes the accuser of the brethren.

          3. All of these darts cause considerable pain and are difficult to dislodge. But here is one practical guideline: if you can say that you hate that evil thought and ungodly suggestion you can know that it did not originate with you but the devil shot it at you.

      2. There is only one thing to do in such situations. It is to hold up the shield of faith and to hide behind the precious promises of God.

        1. The Christian who puts down his shield, who relies upon himself, his own experiences or abilities or looks away from Christ and focuses on the situation around him will be pierced by one or more of Satan’s fiery darts.

          1. That was Peter’s problem when he tried to walk on water. Everything was fine when he looked to Christ in faith but when he saw the storm, he panicked and started to sink. The devil will have you take your eyes off Christ and look at the impossible situation in which u find yourself. Then he will have u grumble and complain, doubt God’s goodness to you and will lead you to despair.

          2. What does a Christian do? He quickly applies the shield of faith and he remembers that God has promised to provide in every circumstance and that God is always faithful. He leans upon passages such as Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

        2. We must take up the same shield against all the fiery darts of the devil.

          1. Take evil and distracting thoughts, blasphemous notions. When the devil seeks to bring us into despair of God’s love, hold the shield of faith against him. Remember that we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, that we belong to the Savior body and soul and that He has promised that none can pluck us from His hand.

          2. Take the fiery dart of lust. The Christian will extinguish that dart by calling to mind that he is not his own to serve the lusts of his flesh, but that he is called to serve God with his spirit and his body. He will rely on passages such as I Cor. 6:20, “For you are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

          3. With the shield of faith, the Christian calls to mind and applies the faithfulness of God, relies upon His promises and trusts in His power. If God gave His Son to the death on the cross for us, how can we doubt His love to us in the lesser things of life?

        3. And, praise God, the shield of faith will do what God has designed it to do. It will quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

          1. Notice that beloved: Ye SHALL be able. Paul does not say, “You might be able,” “Hopefully, you will be able,” “Perhaps you could.” He makes a promise here. You shall be able.

          2. Notice what you shall be able to do. You shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. Not only will the shield deflect these unwanted and deadly darts, it will put them out, and render them ineffective and harmless as if they landed in cold water.

          3. And the shield of faith is wide enough and large enough and strong enough to deal with everything the devil can throw at us. ALL the fiery darts of the wicked.

        4. Let us be confident, beloved, in the battle of faith. The armor which God gives us is perfectly designed for every eventuality.

          1. Oh yes, the devil will throw everything he can devise in his hellish mind at us in an attempt to destroy us. But the devil is defeated already. Christ destroyed him on the cross and purchased for us the right to wear the heavenly armor in Christ’s army.

          2. Let us then hide behind and trust in the shield of faith. And with it in combination with the rest of the divine panoply, we shall stand. Amen!