16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
What is armor used for? Protection, yes. But protection from what? Why, from something—or someone—that can potentially cause us harm or death. Knowing this, if you were aware that someone was going to come against you to harm or kill you, and you had armor at your disposal, would you refuse it? I think not. I believe that if you were in armed conflict as part of a military operation, you would not be so bold as to shun the armor at your disposal, that your life may be preserved. Yet how many of us go into the world—a battlefield more vast and more cunning than Gettysburg, Shiloh, Ardennes, or Suribachi. You see, on those fields, we knew who the enemy was. We had a pretty good idea of where the enemy was, how they were going to attack, the types of weapons they were using, etc.
But the battlefield we go out into everyday is more like the ones we faced in the Far East, with its thick jungles and underbrush. There, we did not know where the enemy would be hiding, where they had rigged booby-traps, or even if there would be enemy soldiers hiding in civilian villages and huts. We could also compare the battlefield of the world to what our soldiers are facing in Iraq. When they see an innocent child standing in the middle of the road, they have to make a decision. Does that child need help? Or has someone packed explosives under their clothing, waiting to detonate it, killing the child and anyone around him/her. Perhaps that child is simply sent to halt the convoy long enough for those who lie in ambush to have a clear shot.
You see, this world is Satan's battleground. And he uses things and methods and people we would never imagine him using. He sends his troops against us every day, and we do not always know where they are, who they are, or how Satan will use them. We cannot know, in our limited wisdom, what kind of battle plan Satan is devising to bring about our downfall. And make no mistake—Satan does indeed make plans for us. We saw in verse 11, that the reason we put on the armor—the WHOLE armor—of God is so that we may stand against the μεθοδεια (methodeia), or “plans, schemes, cunnings” of the evil one. And since Satan makes plans for us, should we not also make plans for ourselves? Or, rather, should we not plan ahead for any possible military operation in this spiritual war we call the Christian Walk? How do we do that?
Can we see the future before it happens? No. But we do know someone who does. We know Someone who can see things that lay farther ahead than any kind of radar man has been able to invent. We know Someone who can see the battle before it ever begins. And He is the one we should get our armor from. And when He offers us His armor, we should take every single piece of it. Because if we leave off even one piece, our enemy will exploit that deficiency, and he will land a blow that could have the capability of rendering us severely wounded. A wound that has the capability of taking us out of the battle for quite a while. A wound that may take a long time to recover from. So after we surround ourselves with the truth, after we put on Christ’s righteousness as a breastplate, after we strap the gospel to our feet that its preparation may lead us in walking where the Spirit leads us, what do we grab next?
above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. What good would it do a Roman soldier to go into battle without his shield? After he has covered his chest—his heart, his lungs, his vital organs—and has girt himself with that belt that holds everything else together, and has put upon his feet those shoes that will protect his feet and ankles from the blows of clubs and swords, is he going to go out with the one thing that can protect him from the arrows that the enemy will launch at him from afar? Of course not. Because, you see, his shield was not for his own protection only.
Roman shields were usually rectangular, and what they would do is, as they got ready to approach their opponents, they would lock their shields together to form sort of a wall. They were also covered with leather, and they would take and soak their shields in water—often overnight—because what would happen a lot of times was, their opponents would take arrows, and wrap cloth around the shaft near the tip. Now this cloth would be covered with pitch, or tar. And when the fight began, they would light their arrows on fire. So not only did the arrow pierce the oncoming soldiers, but even if they pulled the arrow out of their skin, they would still have that hot tar stuck to them.
That’s what sin is like. Sin is like an arrow that Satan stands and fires at us from a long distance, hoping to end the fight quickly. Psalm 11:2—For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. Proverbs 25:18—A man that bears false witness against his neighbor is a mallet, and a sword, and a sharp arrow. And once Satan has done his damage, he just goes on his merry way. His work is done. You're hit, you're damaged, you're wounded, he has succeeded in his mission.
When we are pierced through by temptation, and we give in and become as the walking wounded, we may pull that arrow out, we may stop the bleeding—but we still feel it. It’s hot, it burns, and it leaves a nasty scar. This is why Paul says above all take the shield of faith. After you have taken up the pieces of armor listed thus far, take the shield of your faith to cover all those pieces. As John Wesley said, “As a sort of universal covering to every other part of the armour itself, continually exercise a strong and lively faith. This you may use as a shield, which will quench all the fiery darts, the furious temptations, violent and sudden injections of the devil.” Genesis 15:1—After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward. Psalm 28:7—The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise him.
When we lift up our faith as a shield—that is, when the enemy comes against us with some kind of temptation that he wants us to take part in—it is by lifting up our faith that resist the arrows and darts of wickedness. In Psalm 101:3, King David says, I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. When we lift up our faith, and put it in front of us, we are showing Satan who we belong to. When he bends his bow and fires temptations at us, trying to lure us into sin, we have to choices. We can stand there and let those arrows rain down on us, pierce us, cling to us. Or we can remember the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 91:5—You shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day.
And take the helmet of salvation… This is really pretty simple. What does the helmet cover? What’s inside our head? What do we use our brain for? Sins don’t just happen. Our bodies don’t do anything unless our brain tells it to. Our fingers do not type in a pornographic website unless our brain tells them to. Our eyes do not continue looking at the woman on the cover of the magazine at the checkout if our brain does not tell them to. Our feet do not walk us into the liquor store if our brain does not tell them to. Do you sense a pattern here? Now, consider this: When Paul talks about the helmet of salvation—he is talking about our brain. In a way. But more to the point, he is talking about our mind. And yes, there is a difference between our brain and our mind.
The brain and the mind are two separate things, yet they are interconnected. Your brain produces thoughts, but your thoughts influence the way your brain works. Let me give you an example. When we read something, there is a part of our brain that takes that information, processes it, and develops a new way of thinking about things. Read the warnings on your prescription. You see something on there that you aren’t supposed to take. “I should not take this without talking to my doctor because this might kill me.” So your brain prevents your hands from picking up something that you should not take, and prevents your mouth from opening to take it in. Your brain produces thoughts, your thoughts influence your brain.
By the same token, in our natural mind, we cannot know what God desires from us. Not only that, we cannot do the things that God wants us to do. Because the only thing the natural mind cares about it fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. The flesh tells the mind what to do, the mind sends the signal to the necessary parts of the body, and the sin is committed. OK, fine. You don’t believe me.
1st Corinthians 2:14—But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Romans 8:7 (NASB)—the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so...
Colossians 1:21—you who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works…
We cannot, with the simple organ that sits in our head and generates all kinds of wicked thoughts, serve the law of God. We can't. It’s impossible. We are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). That’s why we are to wear our salvation as a helmet. So that even before those thoughts come into our head—when the enemy fires those fiery darts from afar—we will always have on our minds the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ has saved us from those dead works (Hebrews 6:1, Romans 13:12), that He has brought us out of the darkness (2nd Corinthians 4:6), that the Father has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear and precious Son (Colossians 1:13). We are to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). In fact, Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 2:16, For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. We HAVE the mind of Christ.
What kind of mind is this?
1st Peter 1:13—Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:22-24—put off…the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and…put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Philippians 2:3—Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
2nd Timothy 1:7—For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
… and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God… Have you noticed something about these pieces of armor? What kinds of verbs does Paul NOT use in this passage? None of these things are to be done to us, passively. These are things we are to do, to stand and to take. This is an active thing. We are not to be passive spectators. We are not to sit there and say, “OK, God. Give me what I need so nothing bad happens.” We are to be actively engaged in this conflict. And it is not a conflict we are to enter into lightly. Before we go out the door—in fact, even before our feet hit the floor in the morning—we are to prepare ourselves for the war we are walking into. Verse 13—“take up.” Verse 14—“gird your waist…put on the breastplate.” Verse 15—“shod your feet.” Verse 16—“taking the shield.” Verse 17—“take the helmet.” Prepare yourself like the soldier you are. Prepare yourself for war—because that is what you are walking into. You are going out into a battlefield that Satan has prepared to his liking, to make it easier to take you out of the battle. And if you do not prepare yourself, your battle is over before it has even begun.
Now, what soldier would be ready for battle without his sword? You could stand in the battle, let your opponent clobber you upside the head with his club or his sword, and you may stand for a little while. But if you don’t start swinging back with some kind of weapon, you will get ground into dust. The sword of the Spirit. There’s a very good reason that God told Paul to list this part last. All the other parts have been for defense. But now we get to the one part of the armor that can also be used to go on the offensive. You see, we have to learn how to defend our position before we can go and attack an enemy. The sword a Roman soldier would use probably about 20-24 inches long. They would be used for quick, swift movements, in close quarters. There are going to be times when Satan isn’t going to stand a mile away and fire arrows at you. If we withstand his attacks long enough, he’s going to get right up in our face. That’s when we need a word from God.
Now when it says that the sword of the Spirit is “the word of God”, it isn’t talking about the Bible in a general sense. Paul would have used the word λογος (logos). Instead he uses the word ρημα (rhema). This refers to a specific message. One dictionary defines it as “a declaration of one’s mind made in words…a message.” What Paul is saying here is, “When Satan attacks, and he has exhausted all his other options, he will come against you trying to kill you. And he will try and twist the word of God to do it. But when he does, But, be ready to listen for the message GOD will give to you, so that you can fight back.” Because you see, we aren’t commanded to just stand there and let Satan take all the shots at us. Sooner or later, we are going to need to fight back. And if we aren’t listening for that word from GOD, and if we aren’t able to fight back using that word from GOD, eventually Satan is going to wear us down and he’ll win.
When Satan tempted our Lord, how did He respond? With Scripture. “It is written…” When Satan attacks us, how should we respond? With Scripture. “It is written…” Because, you see, Satan—he knows the Scriptures. His theology is better than that of the most learned man. He has seen more of the Bible written, lived out, fulfilled, proclaimed than any man ever has. In fact, you might say that Satan has an almost perfect theology. Almost, that is. He has seen God! He was in Heaven for a while! He was there when they crucified our Lord. He saw Him rise from the grave. He saw Him ascend on the clouds with the angels of God. He knows our Lord is coming back. He doesn’t know when, but he knows it’s going to happen. He is such an intelligent and influential creature that he led one-third of the angels to revolt against the very God who created them! If he can lead angels astray, who were in the very presence of God, do you think you are strong enough, wise enough, smart enough to stand up to him? Can you outwit this creature whose knowledge is so vast?
Don’t think that for a second. You are a human—a vastly limited human. Your knowledge, your wisdom, your anything is limited to the tiny little physical world you inhabit. You have never seen the realms of the spiritual. Satan has. He lives in them. And you can't see Satan. But even if you could see Satan, you wouldn’t even know it was him. Because he can make it seem like he’s your best friend. He can make it sound like he has your best interests at heart. He can make it seem as if following him was the best thing you could ever do with your life. And he can take that Bible you read, turn it upside down and inside out, and make it sound like he’s speaking the truth. Don’t believe me? Ask Eve. Does the phrase “Thou shalt not surely die!” ring any bells? She tried to reason with him. How did that whole encounter work out? Not too well, if I’m not mistaken.
Now do you see why it is so important to begin the day with the word of God? To have that word in your heart? So that when the enemy comes against you, firing his arrows, charging at you with a sword, you can defend yourself against him? You can be ready to receive the word God will give you to answer this great and awful creature, and send him fleeing? James 4:7—resist the devil and he shall flee. How are you going to resist him? By trying to outwit him and outsmart him? Yeah, try it. Or would you rather trust in God, that He will provide the word in due time? That He will show you that His word is truth. That the best defense against Satan is to attack him with the very word he will try and use against you, reminding him of what it really means—that the very word he uses to make you fall is the one that tells of his coming demise, and his eternal fate.