A Commentary by John Stott
Ephesians 6:13-20. 3). The armour of God (continued).
Our fourth piece of equipment is *the shield of faith* (verse 16) which we are to take up not so much ‘above all’ (AV), as if it were the most important of all weapons, but rather *besides all these*, as an indispensable addition. The word Paul uses denotes not the small round shield which left most of the body unprotected, but the long oblong one, measuring 1.2 metres by 0.75, which covered the whole person. Its Latin name was *scutum*. It ‘consisted …of two layers of wood glued together and covered first with linen and then with hide: it was bound with iron above and below’. It was specially designed to put out the dangerous incendiary missiles then in use, specially arrows dipped in pitch which were then lit and fired.
What, then, are *all the flaming darts of the evil one*, and with what shield can Christians protect themselves? The devil’s darts no doubt include his mischievous accusations which inflame our conscience with what (if we are sheltering in Christ) can only be called false guilt. Other darts are unsought thoughts of doubt and disobedience, rebellion, lust, malice and fear. But there is a shield with which we *can quench* or extinguish all such fire-tipped darts. It is *the shield of faith*. God himself ‘is a shield to those who take refuge in him (Pr.30:5), and it is by faith that we flee to him for refuge. For faith lays hold of the promises of God in times of doubt and depression, and faith lays hold of the power of God in times of temptation. Apollyon taunted Christian with the threat, ‘Here will I spill thy soul.’ ‘And with that,’ Bunyan continues, ‘he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that.’
The Roman soldiers helmet, which is the next piece of armour on the list, was usually made of a tough-metal like bronze or iron. ‘An inside lining of felt or sponge made the weight bearable. Nothing short of an axe or hammer could pierce a heavy helmet, and in some cases a hinged vizor added frontal protection.’ Helmets were decorative as well as protective, and some had magnificent plumes or crests.
According to an earlier statement of Paul’s, the Christian soldier’s helmet is ‘the hope of salvation’ (1 Thess 5:8), that is, our assurance of future and final salvation. Here in Ephesians it is just *the helmet of salvation* (verse 17) which we are to take and wear. But whether our head piece is that measure of salvation which we have already received (forgiveness, deliverance from Satan’s bondage, and adoption into God’s family) or the confident expectation of full salvation on the last day (including resurrection glory and Christ-likeness in heaven), there is no doubt that God’s saving power is our only defence against the enemy of our souls. Charles Hodge wrote: ‘that which adorns and protects the Christian, which enables him to hold up his head with confidence and joy, is the fact that he is saved’ and, we might add, that he knows his salvation will be perfected in the end.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Ephesians: Being a Christian. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.