Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
I. EXPOUND THE METAPHOR.
1. 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 employed. I believe the word which is translated "shield" sometimes signifies 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 hits the idea, "Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous, with favour wilt Thou compass him as with a shield." 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. You will remember the cry of the Spartan mother to her son when he went out to battle. She said, "Take care that you return with your shield, or upon it." Now, as she meant that he could return upon his shield dead, it shows that they often employed shields which were large enough to be a bier for a dead man, and consequently quite large enough to cover the body of a live man. Such a shield as that is meant in the text. That is the illustration before us. Faith prelects 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 verily received among us; a full faith in Christ preserves us against dangerous heresies, and enables us to hold fast those things which we have received, which we have been taught, and have learned, and have made our own by experience. Unsettledness in notion generally springs from a weakness of faith. A man that has strong faith in Christ, has got a hand that gets such a grip of the doctrines of grace, that you could not unclasp it, do what you would. 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 forth, still conquering, and to conquer, in the name of Him that hath loved us. Suppose the arrow is aimed at his feet, and the enemy attempts to make him trip in his daily life - endeavours to mislead him in the uprightness of his walk and conversation. Faith protects his feet, and he stands fast in slippery places.
2. Faith, like a shield, receives the blows which are meant for the man himself. Blows must be expected; the conflict must not be shirked; but let the shield of faith bear the cut and the thrust.
3. Faith is like a shield, because it hath good need to be strong. A man who has some pasteboard shield may lift it up against his foe, the sword will go through it and reach his heart. Or perhaps in the moment when the lance is in rest, and his foe is dashing upon him, he thinks that his shield may preserve him, and lo it is dashed to shivers, and the blood gushes from the fountain and he is slain. He that would use a shield must take care that it be a shield of proof. He that hath true faith, the faith of God's elect, hath such a shield that he will see the scimitars of his enemies go to a thousand shivers over it every time they smite the bosses thereof. And as for their spears, if they but once come in contact with this shield, they will break into a thousand splinters, or bend like reeds when pressed against the wall - they cannot pierce it, but they shall themselves be quenched or broken in pieces. You will say, how then are we to know whether our faith is a right faith, and our shield a strong one? One test of it is, it must be all of a 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 a 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, 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 of the operation of the Holy Spirit who worketh it in the soul of man. Then you must see to it that your faith is that which rests only upon truth, for if there be 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 but a faith in Christ's Divine person as "God over all, blessed forever," 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, man.
4. But to pass on - for we must not pause long on anyone particular - faith is like a shield because it is of no use except it be well handled. A shield needs handling, and so does faith. He was a silly soldier who, when he went into the battle, said he had a shield but it was at home. So there be some silly professors who have a faith, but they have not got it with them when they need it. They have it with them when there are no enemies. When all goeth 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.
(1) 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 hath said, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee'; 'bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure.'" "Ay," said Satan, "but thou wilt one day fall by the hand of the enemy." "No," said faith, "for I am persuaded that He that hath begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." "Ay," said Satan, "but the slander of the enemy will overturn you." "No," said faith, "He maketh the wrath of man to praise Him; the remainder of wrath doth He restrain." "Ay," said Satan, as he shot another arrow, "you are weak." "Yes," said faith, handling his shield, "but 'my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." "Ay," said Satan, "but thy sin is great." "Yes," said faith, handling the promise, "but He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him." "But," said the enemy again, drawing his sword and making a tremendous thrust, "God hath cast thee off." "No," said faith, "He hateth putting away; He doth not cast off His people, neither doth He forsake His heritage." "But I will have thee, after all," said Satan. "No," said faith, dashing the bosses in the enemy's jaws, "He hath said, 'I give unto My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.'" This is what I call handling the shield.
(2) But there is another way of handling it, not merely with the promises, but with the doctrines. "Ah," says Satan, "what is there in thee that thou shouldest be saved? Thou art poor, and weak, and mean, and foolish!" Up came faith, handling the shield doctrinally, this time, and said, "'God hath chosen the base things of this world, and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are'; for 'not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.' 'Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him'?" "Ay," said he, "if God should have chosen you, yet after all you may certainly perish!" And then, Christian handling his shield of faith doctrinally again, said, "No, I believe in the final perseverance of the saints, for is it not written, 'the righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger'?" "Those that thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost," and so forth. So by well understanding the doctrines of grace, there is not a single doctrine which may not in its way minister to our defence against the fiery darts of the wicked. Then, the Christian soldier ought to know how to handle the shield of faith according to the rules of observation. "Ay," saith the enemy, "thy confidence is vain, and thy hope shall soon be cut off." "No," said faith, "I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken." "Yes, but thou hast fallen into sin, and God will leave thee." "No," saith faith, "for I saw David, and he stumbled, but yet the Lord surely brought him out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay." To use this shield in the way of observation is very profitable when you mark the way whereby God has dealt with the rest of His people; for as He deals with one, so He will deal with the rest, and you can throw this in the teeth of your enemy. "I remember the ways of God. I call to remembrance His deeds of old. I say hath God cast off His people, hath He forsaken one of His chosen? And since He has never done so, I bold up my shield with great courage, and say He never will; He changes not; as He has not forsaken any, He will not forsake me."(3) Then there is another blessed way of handling this shield, and that is experimentally. When you can look back, like the Psalmist, to the land of Jordan and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar; when you can return to those days of old, and call to remembrance your song in the night, when your spirit can say, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, why art thou disquieted within me. Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him." Why, brethren, some of us can talk of deliverances so many, that we know not where to end; scarcely do we know where to begin. Oh! what wonders has God done for us as a Church and people! He has brought us through fire and through water. Men did ride over our heads, but hitherto all things have worked together for our good. His glory has appeared amidst all the villanies and slanders of men to which we have been exposed. Let us handle our shield then, according to the rules of past experience, and when Satan tells us that God will fail us at the last, let us reply, "Now thou liest, and I tell it to thee to thy face, for what our God was in the past, He will be in the present, and in the future, and so on even to the end." Young soldiers of Christ, learn well the art of handling your shield.
5. Lastly, for the matter of the figure. The shield in olden times was an emblem of the warrior's honour, and more especially in later days than those of Paul. In the age of chivalry, the warrior carried his escutcheon upon his shield. Now, faith is like a shield, because it carries the Christian's glory, the Christian's coat of arms, the Christian's escutcheon - the cross of his Saviour.
II. ENFORCE THE EXHORTATION. 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 any, but he would perceive that there was some extra importance attached to one part of his mission. So let it be with us. We are not to neglect our sincerity, our righteousness, or our peace, but above all, as the most important, we are to see to it that our faith is right, that it be true faith, and that it covers all our virtues from attack. There is no respect in which faith is not useful to us, therefore, whatever you leave out, see to your faith; if you forget all besides, be careful above all that ye take the shield of faith. And then, again, we are told above all to take the shield of faith, because faith preserves from all sorts of enemies. The fiery darts of the wicked! Does that refer to Satan? Faith answers him. Does it refer to wicked men? Faith resists them. Does it refer to one's own wicked self? Faith can overcome that. Does it refer to the whole world? "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." It matters not who the enemy may be; let the earth be all in arms abroad, this faith can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. Above all, then, take the shield of faith.
III. Lastly, I have a word or two to say by way of conclusion to some POOR SINNER WHO IS COMING TO CHRIST, BUT WHO IS GREATLY VEXED WITH THE FIERY DARTS OF THE WICKED ONE. You remember how John Bunyan in his "Pilgrim's Progress" represents Christiana and Mercy, and the children coming to knock at the gate. When they knocked, the enemy, who lived in a castle hard by, sent out a big dog, which barked at them at such a rate that Mercy fainted, and Christiana only dared to knock again, and when she obtained entrance, she was all in a tremble. At the same time hard by in the castle there were men who shot fiery darts at all who would enter; and poor Mercy was exceedingly afraid because of the darts and the dog. Now, it generally happens that when a soul is coming to Christ the devil will dog him. As sure as ever he feels his need of a Saviour, and is ready to put his trust in Christ, it will be true of him as of the poor demoniac child: as he was a coming, the devil threw him down and tear him. Now, poor tempted sinner, there is nothing that can bring joy and peace into your heart but faith. Oh, that you may have grace this morning to begin to use this shield.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.