Summary: The shield of faith is designed to fully cover us. But it requires attention and care.
As we continue our study on the spiritual armor, let’s recap what Paul has observed so far. The most impressive parts of the armor were made of brass, the breastplate and the shoes. The breastplate covered the soldier from shoulders to knees, front and back. The shoes were like boots, covering the soldier from knees to the bottom of his feet. Wrapped around the armor was a leather belt, designed to hold the armor together, plus be a resting place for his shield and spear, and also a place to keep his sword at his side.
The breastplate was a defensive weapon designed to protect the soldier in combat. The shoes, with their three inch spikes, were used to establish a firm footing when in combat.
The breastplate was also an offensive weapon. When polished, the sunlight bouncing off the brass would intimidate and blind their opponents. Likewise the shoes were an offensive weapon. The sound of a marching legion of soldiers would be deafening on paved roads and the three inch spikes would be used to crush an opponent who fell.
The leather belt was not actually used in a combat role. However is was extremely important because it held everything together and kept weapons close at hand.
Paul related the breastplate to the righteousness of God. It is a reminder of our right standing with God through the sacrifice of Jesus. It was given to us at our conversion as a gift. It defends us against the attacks of Satan that are both close and far away. It is a reminder that our relationship with God is not based on our actions. Therefore, Satan’s accusations against us can not cause us to doubt our relationship with God.
It is also an offensive weapon when polished with the word of God. It reflects the love, kindness, and acceptance of Jesus into the dark corners of Satan’s domain. He cannot withstand the brightness of God’s righteousness.
Paul related the shoes to the peace of God. We are assured of our firm footing when battling the forces sent against us. Plus we have the promise that we can trample them underneath our feet. It is this assurance that gives peace with God that results in the peace of God. It is that peace which leads us into a spirit of calmness when crisis arises. We have the assurance that God is in control.
Paul related the belt to the Word of God. It is his written word that holds everything together and in place. Although it’s made of leather and not brass, it is the most important part of the armor. Without the written Word of God everything falls apart. Without it nothing stays in place. It is the most important investment we can make in our spiritual armor. If we are not reading the Word of God, our armor is useless.
Next Paul looked at a piece of weaponry that a soldier would carry. It was impressive due to its size. It was his shield. Ephesians 6:16 “In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.”
Paul has observed how impressive the armor is thus far. The protection from shoulder to foot. Even the helmet that protects the head will be discussed later. The soldiers are covered from head to foot. But he recognizes that even this isn’t enough. They need a shield.
Most pictures of Roman soldiers show them with a rather small, round shield. These were parade or public ceremony shields. They were beautifully decorated. We often see them in the movies being used in arenas to fight for entertainment. That would be historically correct. But those small, round shields would be ineffective in an actual battle.
The shield that Paul had in mind was taken from the Greek word meaning oblong. This is another Greek word that is used only once in the Bible. It described a door that was wide in width and long in length. These shields carried into battle were the size of doors. And like a door covers you when you are behind it, so did these shields.
These shields were not made of brass but rather animal hides. They were usually six layers thick. They were tanned and woven together to make them almost as strong as steel. Imagine a leather couch with six layers. You would never have to worry about it being punctured or worn out.
Since it was made of animal hide special care was needed. To keep the outer layer from becoming brittle and breakable it was necessary for the soldier to apply oil to his shield daily. If it became hard, stiff, and brittle, a hard blow could cause it to shatter.
Another tactic was to soak the shield in water before battle. He would leave it in the water until it was completely saturated. It was estimated that these shields would weigh between twenty to forty pounds, depending on the saturation. In order to relive some of this weight from them they would clip it to the belt tied around their waist.