Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:13-17, NIV)
The Shield (“Scutum”). The Roman soldier’s shield, which was called a “scutum”, was appx two-feet wide and 4-feet tall. Planks of wood were fused into a single piece. This solid core was covered, first, by leather and then by canvas. Shaped iron was inset as a center panel and molded to wrap at the edges around the perimeter. The shield was a perfect complement to Roman combat strategy. Offensively, the Roman shield could resist strikes by a broadsword. Defensively, a kneeling soldier could be covered entirely by the shield in his crouched position.
Flaming Arrows. Flaming arrows were standard and effective in combat. Flaming arrows, according historians and battle experts, would confuse and distract advancing soldiers. Injury was not the primary goal of these tar-dipped javelins. The purpose was to terrorize, paralyze and divert attention during attack. The shield, developed for the Roman soldiers, was deployed in “Turtle Formation”. In Turtle Formation, a group of soldiers to kneel together, lace their shields together and withstand a flaming barrage. The crouching team would absorb the impact, extinguish the flaming arrows and, determinedly, continue their advance.
Our Instruction. Paul writes, “In addition to all this…”, meaning that after the spiritual soldier has armed himself his belt of truth, his breastplate of righteousness and shoes of peace, he must take-up the Shield of Faith. Unlike his other weaponry, Paul tells us how to use the Shield. As the shield protects the Roman soldier from flaming arrows, so faith protects the spiritual soldier from Satan’s primary tactics: distraction, confusion, uncertainty and dissention. In life, the tactics of our enemy are designed to distract, confuse, fester doubt, prompt discord and bitterness within us and between us.
Victory, in combat, comes from tactical awareness and preparation. Besides training, we faithfully put God’s strategy into action. James, Jesus’ brother, coaches us, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Js 2:17). Whether the conflict is persecution or battle, we advance in combat by trained faith. In combat scenarios, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, God’s prophets and others throughout history have believed God’s word and acted-out on their faith training. The word used for faith (pistis) is used by Paul and James repeatedly in the New Testament to refer to active, NOT passive, faith.
As God’s man, I have leadership responsibilities. I must know God, personally, and apply His training regiment to my life. In Christlikeness, I should expect that Satan will fill the air with flaming arrows of doubt, insecurity, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, anger, lust for pleasure, lust for things, lust for power, pride and more. I have been trained to recognize Satan’s tactics and act faithfully, myself. However, I am called to train others, particularly within my family and family of believers, to douse his arrows. Lord God: grow me, teach me and train me to active faith and trust.