The Shield Of Faith
By Charles H. Spurgeon
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16). Faith is here compared to a shield. There are four ways in which we may liken faith to a shield.
The natural idea which lies upon the very surface of the simile is, that faith, like a shield, protects us against attack. Different kinds of shields were used by the ancients, but there is a special reference in our text to the large shield which was sometimes used. I believe the word which is translated “shield,” sometimes means a door, because their shields were as large as a door. They covered the man entirely. You remember that verse in the Psalms which exactly expresses the idea, “For Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt Thou compass him as with a shield” (Psa. 5:12). Just as the shield enveloped the entire man, so, we think faith envelopes the entire man, and protects him from all missiles wherever they may be aimed against him.
Faith protects the whole man. Let the assault of Satan be against the head, let him try to deceive us with unsettled notions in theology, let him tempt us to doubt those things which are truly received among us; a full faith in Christ preserves us against dangerous heresies, and enables us to firmly hold those things which we have received, which we have been taught, and have learned, and have made our own by experience. Unsettled doctrines generally spring from a weakness of faith. A man who has strong faith in Christ, has a hand that gets such a firm grip on the doctrines of grace, that you could not pry it loose, no matter how hard you tried. He knows what he has believed. He understands what he has received. He could not and would not give up what he knows to be the truth of God, though all the schemes that men devise should assail him with their most treacherous art.
While faith will guard the head, it will also guard the heart. When temptation to love the world comes in, then faith holds up thoughts of the future and confidence of the reward that awaits the people of God, and enables the Christian to esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt, and so the heart is protected. Then when the enemy makes his cut at the sword arm of a Christian, to disable him, if possible, from future service, faith protects the arm like a shield, and he is able to do exploits for his Master, and go out, still conquering, and to conquer, in the name of Him who has loved us.
Suppose the arrow is aimed at his feet, and the enemy attempts to make him trip in his daily life – endeavors to mislead him in the uprightness of his walk and conversation. Faith protects his feet, and he stands securely in slippery places. Neither does his foot slip, nor can the enemy triumph over him.
Or suppose the arrow is aimed at the knee, and Satan tries to make him weak in prayer, and tells him that God will ignore his cry, and never listen to the voice of his supplication; then faith protects him, and in the power of faith, with confidence, he has access to God, and draws near to His mercy seat. Or let the arrow be aimed at his conscience, and let it be winged with the remembrance of some recent sin; yet faith protects the conscience, for its full assurance of atonement quenches the fiery darts with that delightful text, “…The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). So there is no part of a man which is not secure. Although Satan will certainly attack him in every direction, yet, let him come where he wants.
He that has made his refuge God,
Shall find a most secure abode.
Not only does faith protect the whole man, but if you will think for a moment you will see that the apostle suggests the idea that it protects his armor too. After recounting various pieces, he says, “Above all.” The man of God is to put on the belt and the breastplate, and he is to be shod, and he is to wear his helmet. But though these are all armor, yet faith is an armor for his armor; it is not only a defense for him, but a defense for his defenses. Thus faith not only shields the man, but shields his graces too. All our virtues are unable to live by themselves, they need grace to preserve them, and that grace is given to us through faith. It is not simply the head, but the helmet; nor merely the feet, but the shoes; not the waist, but the belt – all must be shielded and secure by this all-covering, all-protecting, all-triumphant shield of faith.
In the second place, let me suggest, that faith like a shield receives the blows which are meant for the man himself. Some Christians think that faith would enable them to escape blows – that if they had faith everything would be quiet, everything would be peaceful and calm. I know how young Christians imagine this. They think as soon as they have come out of their first convictions of their own sinfulness and found the Savior, oh! now they are going to ride softly to heaven. Why did they put their armor on if there were to be no battles? Why have they put their hand to the plough if they are not to plough to the end of the furrow and often to wipe the sweat from their face through their hard toil? Why enlist, young men, if you are not needed to fight? What is the good of a fair weather soldier, one who stays at home to live at the public expense? No! let the soldier be ready when war comes; let him expect the conflict as a part and necessary consequence of his profession. But be armed with faith, it receives the blows. The poor shield is knocked and hammered and battered like a penthouse exposed in the time of storm; blow after blow comes rattling upon it, and though it turns death aside yet the shield is compelled itself to bear the cut and the thrust. So must our faith do this – it must be cut at, it must bear the blows.
On, champion, on! in the name of Him who is with you. No lance can pierce that shield; no sword shall ever be able to cut through it; it shall preserve you in all battle and in all strife; you shall bring it home yourself, through it you shall be more than conqueror. Faith, then, is like a shield, because it has to bear the blows.
Thirdly, faith is like a shield, because it must be strong. A man who has some cardboard shield may lift it up against his foe, the sword will go through it and reach his heart. He who would use a shield must take care that it is a shield of proof.
You will say, how then are we to know whether our faith is the right faith, and our shield a strong one? One test of it is, it must be all of one piece. A shield that is made of three or four pieces in this case will be of no use. So your faith must be all of one piece, it must be faith in the finished work of Christ; you must have no confidence in yourself or in any man, but rest wholly and entirely upon Christ, or else your shield will be of no use. Then your faith must be of heaven’s forging or your shield will certainly fail you; you must have the faith of God’s elect which is the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit who works it in the soul of man. Then you must see to it that your faith rests only upon truth, for if there is any error or false notion in the fashioning of it, that shall be a joint in it which the spear can pierce. You must take care that your faith is agreeable to God’s Word, that you depend upon true and real promises, upon the sure word of testimony and not upon the fictions and fancies and dreams of men. And above all, you must mind that your faith is fixed in the person of Christ, for nothing except a faith in Christ’s divine person as “over all, God blessed for ever” (Rom. 9:5), and in His proper manhood when as the Lamb of God’s Passover He was sacrificed for us – no other faith will be able to stand against the tremendous shocks and the innumerable attacks which you must receive in the great battle of spiritual life. Look to your shield.
Faith is [also] like a shield because it is of no use except it is well handled. A shield needs handling, and so does faith. He was a silly soldier who, when he went into battle, said he had a shield but it was at home. So there are some silly professors who have a faith, but they do not have it with them when they need it. They have it with them when there are no enemies. When all goes well with them, then they can believe, but just when the pinch comes then their faith fails.
Now there is a sacred art in being able to handle the shield of faith. Let me explain to you how that can be. You will handle it well if you are able to quote the promises of God against the attacks of your enemy. The devil said, “One day you shall be poor and starve.” “No,” said the believer, handling his shield well, “He has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5); “bread shall be given to you and your water shall be certain” (Isa. 33:16).
“Indeed,” Satan said, “but you will one day fall by the hand of the enemy.” “No,” faith said, “for I am persuaded that He who has begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
“Indeed,” Satan said, “but the slander of the enemy will overturn you.” “No,” faith said, “He makes the wrath of man to praise Him; remainder of wrath He restrains” (Psa. 76:10).
“Indeed,” Satan said, as he shot another arrow, “you are weak.” “Yes,” faith said, handling his shield, “but, ‘my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my infirmities, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me’” (2 Cor. 12:9).
“Indeed,” Satan said, “but your sin is great.” “Yes,” faith said, quoting the promise, “but He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by Him” (Heb. 7:25).
“But,” said the enemy again, drawing his sword and making a tremendous thrust, “God has cast you off.” “No,” faith said, “He hates putting away, He does not cast off His people, neither does He forsake His heritage” (Psa. 94:14).
“But I will have you, after all,” Satan said. “No,” faith said, “He has said, ‘I give to My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand’” (John 10:28). This is what I call handling the shield.
Enforce the Exhortation
“Above all, taking the shield of faith.” If you sent a servant upon an errand, and you said to him, “Get so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so, but above all now see to such-and-such a thing,” he would not understand that he ought to neglect anything, but he would perceive that there was some extra importance attached to one part of his mission. So let it be with us. Above all, as the most important we are to see to it that our faith is right, that it is true faith, and that it covers all our virtues from attack. The necessity of true faith is clearly explained by the text. Faith is here said to have a quenching power – “…wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” The ancients were accustomed to use small arrows, perhaps light cane arrows, which were tinged with poison. They would be called fiery arrows, because they no sooner touched the flesh or even grazed the skin than they left a fiery poison in the veins. Sometimes too they employed arrows which were tipped with hemp that had been dipped in some inflammable spirit, and were blazing as they flew through the air in order to set the tents of their antagonists on fire, or burn down houses in besieged cities. Now faith has a quenching power, it sees the temptation or the blasphemy, or the insinuation coming against it with poison and with fire in it to take away its life or to burn up its comforts. Faith catches the arrow, not only stops it, but takes away its sting, and quenches its fire.
Faith alone, out of all the pieces of armor, is able to quench all the arrows. Faith protects against all attacks. It is good for everything – good for the timid to make them strong, good for the rash to make them wise; it is good for those who are desponding to make them brave, and good for those who are too daring, to make them discreet. There is no situation in which faith is not useful to us. Therefore, see to your faith; be careful above all that you take the shield of faith.
You know in the old Greek fights the aim of the enemy was to get near enough to push aside the shield, and then to stab under the armor. And that is what Satan wants to do. If he can knock aside the shield and get under it, then he can stab us mortally. Take care of your shield. Do not live in perpetual unbelief. Do not be always cast down. Pray to your God until you can say – “...I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him...” (1 Tim. 1:12).
Oh! the old saints were not always doubting. Solomon said, “My Beloved is mine and I am His.” David said, “Say to my soul, I am thy salvation.” “The Lord is...my salvation.” “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Job too could say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Paul could speak very confidently in very many places. And why should we be content to say, “I hope, I trust,” – when they said they knew, and were persuaded – all was well between God and their souls? Let it be so with us.