Here are some things we have learned so far about Ephesians 6.
*We are war.
*The combat is up close and personal and very real.
-The battle is unseen
-The battle is spiritual
-The battle is mostly in the mind
*God has equipped us.
-A showy, impenetrable helmet
-An ornate, indispensable belt
-A small but deadly sword
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
The Make of the Roman Shield
The ancient Roman shield of Jesus’ day was called a scutum (plural scuti). A scutum was a semi-cylindrical, rectangular shape, was four feet tall, two and half feet wide, and weighed around twenty pounds. The Roman shield was made of several components including wood, several woven together layers of leather that became so strong it was nearly like steal (Rick Renner, “Spiritual Warfare: Understanding Your Shield of Faith” https://renner.org/spiritual-warfare-understanding-your-shield-of-faith/), canvas, iron edging, and a central feature or “boss” was made of iron, bronze or brass, (“Roman Gladius and Scutum: Carving Out An Empire” http://www.historynet.com/roman-gladius-and-scutum-carving-out-an-empire.htm). Interestingly enough, the scutum covered most of the soldier’s body. Furthermore, “The word “shield” is the Greek word thureos, which was used by the Greeks and Romans to depict an oblong door that was wide in width and long in length. The reason Roman soldiers used this word to describe their battle shields was that their shields were actually door-shaped! They were wide in width and long in length, just like the door of a house,” (Rick Renner, “Spiritual Warfare: Understanding Your Shield of Faith” https://renner.org/spiritual-warfare-understanding-your-shield-of-faith/).
The Use of the Roman Shield
The scutum was not wielded like any other shield, for it was too large to be maneuvered quickly. Most importantly, it was not merely defensive, but was first and foremost, used offensively. The Roman soldier did not wait for the enemy on the field to advance to him. After getting close to the enemy, volleys of pila were thrust at them. Pila were javelins that would stick in an opponent’s shield rendering it difficult to wield (“The Shield: An Abridged History of It’s Use and Development” http://myarmoury.com/feature_shield.html). It was then that the Roman soldier would charge forward with shield stretched out directly in front of him, his left arm straight and set. With the shield he would ram his enemy, knocking him off guard and possibly off of his feet. After doing this, the Roman soldier would could use the metal edges of his shield to hack at his opponent. If hacking was not an option for whatever reason, the Roman soldier would thrust his shield into the ground and fight from behind it, either in a crouching or kneeling position.
The Preparation of the Shield
Because the shield to the Roman soldier was of utmost importance offensively and defensively, he daily set aside time to oil its leather. After all, if leather gets dry, it cracks, and one does not want a faulty shield, especially when your life is at stake.
On top of this, before a battle, they would saturate their shield with water. This of course would make it heavier. So, why would they do this?
The opponents often had arrows they would shoot in the direction of the Roman advancement. Sometimes they were just ordinary arrows, and therefore, harmless so long as one held up their shield. Other times the ends of the arrows were set on fire so that when they hit their mark a fire would kindle. And then there were the insidious arrows which only appeared to be ordinary arrows but were filled with explosive material that would explode into fire as soon as the target was met (https://renner.org/take-up-your-shield-of-faith/). However, when any type of arrow (ordinary, fiery, or deceptively explosive) met the Roman’s saturated shield, the arrow fizzled and could not do the damage it was intended to do.
For this reason, it was imperative that the Roman soldier prepare his shield daily with oil, and with water before battle.
The Verse: Why “Above All”?
Now, to the Christian, the shield that we wield is that of faith. And according to the Apostle Paul Christians are to “Above all,” take it up. “Above all” however, does not mean that it is more important than the rest of the armor nor that it should be held onto more than the others nor to be chosen above the others. “The phrase “above all” is taken from the Greek phrase epi pasin. The word epi means over. The word pasin means all or everything. So rather than stating that the shield of faith is more important than the other pieces of armor, the phrase epi pasin describes the position faith should have over the other pieces of armor. It could be better translated, “Out in front of all….” or “Covering all….”” (Rick Renner, “Take Up Your Shield of Faith” https://renner.org/take-up-your-shield-of-faith/). In other words, the shield is not to be at our side or on the ground or in a closet or in another state. The shield is to be directly in front of us, covering all of us as well as covering most of the other armor that we are wearing. It is to cover all.
The Verse: What Does “Taking” Mean?
When Paul says, ““…Taking the shield of faith….” the word “taking” is from the word analambano, which is a compound of the Greek words ana and lambano. The word ana means up, back, or again; the word lambano means to take up or to take in hand. When compounded together, it means to take something up in hand or to pick something back up again. This plainly means your shield of faith can be either picked up or laid down. It places the responsibility on you as to whether you will use your shield of faith or allow yourself to go through life unprotected,” (Rick Renner, “Take Up Your Shield of Faith” ).
The Rest of the Verse
“…wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
When it says Christians “shall be able” this is not just an ordinary word. It sounds rather stale or limp actually, “shall be able”. But, incredibly it comes from the word dunamis. You all know what dynamite is. Dynamite is an explosive, and explosive dynamite gets its name from this word dunamis. Perhaps a better way to translate what Paul said is ““Above all, taking the shield of faith, by which you will be dynamically empowered.…” (“Here’s How to Extinguish the Fiery Darts” https://renner.org/heres-how-to-extinguish-the-fiery-darts-of-the-wicke/).
Think about that! Christians are explosively, dynamically empowered by this shield of faith.
So…what does this mean for us as Christians? What does God want us to learn from this information? And how do we apply it?
To begin with, the Lord has given us a unique, body sized, door shaped shield. It is large enough to completely cover us if it is held directly in front. It is not just a defensive weapon, but is really our first line of offense. But, in order for it to work for us, we must take care of it. First of all we must oil our faith daily. How do we do that? In the Bible oil is most often associated with the Holy Spirit, and it says in Ephesians 5:18 that we are to be freshly filled with the Holy Spirit over and over and over again. It says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit…” In the Greek this being filled is a continuous, ongoing thing. So we need our faith to be oiled by the continuous filling of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, we must saturate our faith. But what are we to saturate it with? Questions? Fears? Doubts? In Ephesians 5:25-27 the Apostle Paul has already given us the answer to this question by saying, “…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Thus, we see that the way we get a saturated faith is through the “washing of water by the word.” Indeed, we can’t even really have faith without the word. As Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” So we need our faith to be saturated with the word of God.
Remember, if our shield of faith is not oiled, it will crack and ultimately bring about certain death. We are in a very real battle with an enemy who is out to “steal, kill, and destroy” us. This is not a game. Furthermore, our shield of faith must be saturated with the word of God or else the deceptive fiery darts of the enemy will hit us and set us on fire. Without the water of God’s word we cannot “quench” those deadly darts.
And finally, we as Christians must daily choose to take up the shield of faith and charge into battle. Remember, the Roman soldier did not saunter; he did not casually walk into battle. He charged. He meant business. The well-oiled, water saturated shield is our first offensive weapon. It knocks our enemy off guard; it gives us a foothold on the battlefield. And it covers us completely. Not one of us is lacking in faith. Not one of us has too little faith or needs to increase in faith, for according to Romans 12:3 God has given each of us a measure of faith. And that measure is perfectly proportioned to each of us, and covers us exactly where each of us needs it. All we need do is take it up and use it.
“Spiritual Warfare: Understanding Your Shield of Faith”
“Take Up Your Shield of Faith”
“Here’s How to Extinguish the Fiery Darts”
“Three Kinds of Ancient Roman Shields”
“The Shield: An Abridged History of It’s Use and Development”
“Shields: Terminology and History”
“Roman Gladius and Scutum: Carving Out An Empire”