Paul was under house arrest in Rome while writing his letter to the church at Ephesus. In chapter six of his letter, he wrote about the spiritual war taking place on Earth. Most people are oblivious to this war, but those of you with insight have had your spiritual eyes opened to reality (Ephesians 1:18). Behind everything that goes on, there is a war being waged between the forces of light against the forces of darkness, and I hope you, dear reader, are on the right side!
Most scholars believe that Paul was chained to a Roman soldier and used the Roman soldier’s shield, armor, and sword as a metaphor for what he wanted to teach the Ephesians and all who would read his words about overcoming the attacks of Satan. When we have spiritual armor to protect us, we will be strong, not in ourselves, but in the Lord and in His mighty power, which is more than a match for any demonic spirit. The fourth article Paul mentioned was the shield of faith:
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).
The Roman shield that Paul looked at in the room with him was the scutum, a sizeable door-sized shield that the Roman soldier could fit his whole body behind when arrows, darts, and spears came toward him. The size of the shield was around four feet high and two and a half feet wide. It was made of two layers of laminated wood and overlaid with animal hide, linen, and iron. When a fiery dart or arrow pierced the shield, it was snuffed out as it buried itself into the protection. Paul pictures the Christian's faith as a spiritual shield. When the enemy fires a dart of accusation, temptation, or guilt, the Christian responds with words and actions of faith in God. What is faith? It is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
We cannot see the heavenly resources at our disposal, but we are confident, by faith, that God is with us and has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). When we know the truth of that promise, we can endure all things that the enemy throws at us. Our faith protects us from the lies and discouragements that can so quickly wound us. It changes our perspective and colors everything we view, filtering it all through the shield of faith, and removing the poisonous darts before they can settle in our hearts and infect us.
Another thing that may have been in Paul's mind was the way in which the Roman soldiers used their shields. They moved as a unit of one and interlocked their shields to cover all sides so they were all protected from arrows as they moved forward. In the same way, we ought to watch out for each other. When we fight the fight of faith, we all benefit from each other. Watch out for your brothers and sisters in Christ, by speaking the truth in love and caring for one another. We are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). As we support one another in this way, we bolster each other’s effectiveness in this spiritual battle that we fight together. We are not just an “army of one;” we are an army made up of many members, with one Captain of our salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. Keith Thomas
This meditation is a shortened version of the more in-depth study: The Armor of God.