Ephesians 6:16 – “In addition to all, take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
When I first read this verse, I thought, “how is faith a shield?” Wouldn’t some other things make a better shield than faith?
- Why not truth?
- or courage?
- or God’s love?
- or our worship or thanksgiving?
- or Jesus’ righteousness?
- or wisdom?
- or the Spirit’s power?
Look at what it says the shield of faith does: “it extinguishes all the flaming arrows of the evil one”. Now wait – shields don’t extinguish fires – water does, or foam, or CO2. How can a shield extinguish a fire?
The word used for the shield of faith is “extinguish”. The imagery here is to quench, thwart, snuff out fiery arrows – Satan’s tactics. John 8:44 teaches that Satan is a pathological liar; his whole game is deception.
Look at what Satan does in Genesis 3:1 – “The serpent was more crafty than all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?’ ”
Notice that Satan doesn’t enter the scene with a bold-faced lie. He’s crafty. He’s sly. He’s a deceiver. He takes the truth, but inserts a little sliver of doubt. He gives it a little twist – puts a little slant on what God actually said. He doesn’t reject the truth outright, he just perverts it a bit, just deviates ever so slightly to create room for doubt and to begin to erode away at our faith in what God has said.
But the evil one does not just try to get us to doubt what God has said, but also who God really is. Satan wants to twist and distort not only the words of God, but also our image of God – our understanding of who God truly is – what we think about His character.
Listen to Satan’s tone of voice here in Genesis 3: “Did God really say…?” A translation of this could be: “Do you really think you can trust God?” This is the devil’s game: can you really trust God? Is He really where you want to put your faith?
Now, what does a shield normally do? It repels blows from a sword or axe, or it deflects or blocks away arrows or spears.
But this shield of faith in Ephesians 6 – it does something very different: it extinguishes fiery arrows. Why does this matter? Why can’t it just block them away like a normal shield would?
Well, what does a fire do when it is not quenched? It spreads. It grows. Satan’s arrows are not just pointy and painful; THEY ARE ON FIRE. A fiery arrow does not just stick in and wound its target; a fiery arrow’s destruction spreads from that initial insertion point. And it grows. It consumes, and it burns up the thing that it hits.
Satan’s arrows cannot just be deflected or blocked away. They must be extinguished. Quenched. Thwarted. Snuffed out.
In the next post, we will look at what faith really is and where it gets its extinguishing power against Satan’s flaming arrows.