Every Christian is born a warrior. It is his destiny to be assaulted; it is his duty to attack. Part of his life will be occupied with defensive warfare. He will have to defend earnestly the faith once delivered to the saints; he will have to resist the devil; he will have to stand against all his wiles; and having done all, still to stand. He must be able to say with David (to Goliath), “I come against thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom thou hast defied." He must wrestle against principalities and powers. He must have weapons for his warfare — not carnal — but “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” but he must go forth to attack the castles of the enemy, and to pull them down, to drive the Canaanite out of the land.
Men who are willing to follow Christ in the midst of an ungodly and perverse generation, to come right out from it and be separate; their life will have to be like the life of the men of Napthali, who hazarded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field. You remember, in Nehemiah’s day, how the Jews wrought in their work when they built the walls of Jerusalem. With one hand they held the trowel, and in the other they held a weapon. “The builders, everyone had his sword girded by his side and so builded.” Moreover there were master masons along the wall, and the labourers all actually engaged, yet here and there you might see a sentinel ready to sound the trumpet so that the workmen might prove warriors, rush to the fray, and drive away their foes. Be you but very diligent in doing good to the Church of Christ, and you shall soon have reason to defend your cause. Do you but serve your Master zealously and diligently, and let but the Lord’s blessing rest upon your labours.
Faith is here compared to a shield. The shield in olden times was an emblem of the warrior's honour, and more especially in later days than those of Paul. It carries the Christian’s glory, the Christian’s coat of arms. And what is the Christian’s coat of arms? The Christian's best coat of arms is the cross of his Saviour. This morning put thy coat of arms upon thy shield, and lift it up. Let that blood-red cross be your choice.
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 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. 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 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.
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. Neither does his foot slip, nor can the enemy triumph over him.
Or suppose the arrow is aimed at the knee, and Satan seeks to make him weak in prayer, and tells him that God will shut out 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 unto 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.” 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 will.
Nor does faith only 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 armour too. After recounting various pieces, he says, “Above all.” The man of God is to put on the girdle and the breast-plate, and he is to be shod, and he is to wear his helmet. But though these are all armour, yet faith is an armour for his armour; it is not only a defence for him, but a defence for his defences. Thus faith not only shields the man, but shields his graces too. You may easily perceive how this is. Satan sometimes attacks our sincerity; he tries to cut the girdle of truth which is about our loins. But faith enables us to be all sincere. Then the enemy will often make an attack against our righteousness, and try to batter our breast-plate. Yet doth faith come in and enable us like Joseph to exclaim, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God.” Or like Job we cry, “Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”
Or like David we can cry, even in the worst of slanders, “Thou Lord that delivered me out of the jaw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, wilt deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” You see how faith guards the breast-plate and protects the girdle. All our virtues are unable to live of themselves, they need Grace to preserve them, and that Grace is given us through faith.
Have you the spirit of love and gentleness? Take care that you have the shield of faith, or your gentleness may yet turn to anger and your love be changed to bitterness. We must protect our graces with faith as well as the nature they adorn. It is not simply the head, but the helmet; not the feet merely, but the shoes; not the loins, but the girdle; — all must be shielded and secure by this all-covering, all-protecting, all-triumphant shield of faith.
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 ever they have come out of their first convictions of their own sinfulness and found the Saviour, oh! now they are going to ride softly to heaven, singing all the way. What did they put their armour on at all for if there were to be no battles? What have they put their hand to the plough for 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 wanted to fight? What is the good of a fair-weather soldier, — one who stays at home to feed 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.
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 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 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.
On, champion, on! in the Name of Him that 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.
Excerpted from the sermon titled “The Shield of Faith” (Ephesians 6:16) by CH Spurgeon dated 27 October 1861. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon from https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-shield-of-faith/#flipbook/