‘Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.’ (Ephesians 6:16)
Faith, in western culture, has become a very individualized matter, perhaps stemming from the time of the Reformers with their stress that it wasn’t ‘the church’ that saved us but our individual faith Christ. While this is quite true, it sadly led to something being lost: that while faith must be personal, it can never be private; for, from the beginning, God has not just been looking to save individuals, but to build a family. Today’s text brings home this corporate dimension; for while Paul promises that the shield of faith will overcome the enemy’s attacks, it is not a personal, but a corporate, shield he has in mind.
Roman soldiers had two kinds of shields: one that was small and round, ideal for hand to hand combat, and another that was like modern riot shields, full body–length and curved to protect the holder. It is the word for this second type that Paul uses here. Such shields, when held together, formed a solid wall or roof that stopped every missile. Soldiers alone were vulnerable; but in a group, with their shields together, they had a tremendous defence. And so it is with us in the battles that we face.
One thing we cannot see in our English translations of Paul’s instructions about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10–20 is that they are all in the plural. He is saying that these are all things we need to do, not alone, but together. Although there will be constant individual skirmishes, it is together that we stand against the devil’s schemes; it is together that we are to be strong in the Lord; it is together that our faith is strong (which is why good relationships amongst God’s people are so important and why Satan tries to spoil those relationships); it is together that we can lift our shields of faith and see the enemy’s arrows extinguished
Individually, we may be weak in faith; but together, the Bible promises that our shields will overcome every attack of the enemy. Don’t stay isolated in your battle; share your needs and circumstances with God’s people. Together, you will overcome!
'This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.’ (1 John 5:4)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont
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