A shield is a defensive piece of Armor, which was much used in ancient times. It was made use of both in single combats and in battles fought by armies. Some shields were made of gold, some of brass, and others of inferior materials; but sufficiently strong to preserve the warriors from the charges of their antagonists whenever they met the force of their weapons. This weapon being large, and fixed to the arm, or held fast in the hand, and held up against the enemy, guards the body from the arrow, the dart, or the sword. With this the skilful warrior meets the javelin, catches the shaft, and parries the thrust of his enraged and inveterate foe.
On account of the singular usefulness of this instrument in battle, we have frequent allusions to it in the Holy Scriptures, and our Lord has thought proper to adopt it as a fit emblem of himself, as a defense of his people in all their wars with sin and hell. He has, condescendingly, called himself their shield. To the father of the faithful he said, "fear not Abraham; I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward." (Gen. 15:1) And in this endearing character he was known by his people in ancient times. Moses, the man of God, to excite the children of Israel to confidence in him, said unto them: "Happy art thou, 0 Israel; who is like unto thee, 0 people, saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency." (Deut. 33:29) Here their Saviour is called their shield: and as Jesus is the only Saviour, he must be the shield intended. David, the man after God's own heart, sang of Jesus, and taught the church of the firstborn to sing of him as their shield. "The Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory." (Ps. 84:11) "But thou, 0 Lord, art a shield for me; my glory and the lifter up of my head." (Ps. 3:3) "The Lord is my strength and my shield." (Ps. 28:7) "Thou art my hiding place and my shield." (Ps. 119:114) "Blessed be the Lord my strength, who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. My goodness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield, and he in whom I trust, who subdueth mine enemies under me." (Ps. 144:1,2) In all the above places, Christ is, unquestionably, the shield. Now, what he was to Abraham, to David, and to the church of the Old Testament, he is to his people now, and will be to the end of the world.
As their strong impenetrable shield, and their invincible defense, he stands between his people and their enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil; shelters the former from the most furious and well directed charges of the latter; saves those while he rebukes these: breaks their Armor, routs and discomfits them; and graciously verifies his precious promises to his church: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper." (Isa. 54:17) "The Lord is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, but will, with the temptation, make a way for your escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Cor. 10:13) "The gates of hell shall not prevail." (Matt. 16:18) We are, therefore, "more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Rom. 8:37) We "overcome through the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 12:11)
Now why should it be thought incredible, that Christ should be the shield intended by the apostle, when he says, "above all, taking the shield of faith." There is not one passage that I can find, in all the Old Testament, from which we learn that faith is our shield; but there are many, which plainly declare that our shield is Christ. No man, who is truly skilful in the word of righteousness, and sound in the faith, will venture to affirm, that when the same apostle makes mention of the righteousness of faith, he means that faith is our righteousness. Why then should it be thought, that when he speaks of the shield of faith, he designs to teach us, that faith is our shield.
Why faith should be considered as our shield, is not easy to conceive; since the whole current of scripture language on the subject, is quite opposite to the thought. But it is no uncommon thing to set the servant in the master's place, and to attribute that to faith, which can be predicated of none but Christ.
Faith is quite insufficient to be our shield, nor was it ever designed of God to answer that end. Indeed it wants a shield for itself. It is at best but a puny arm; "makes feeble fight;" and would soon fall a prey to its enemies, were it not guarded and defended by him who prayed for Peter, that his faith might not fail, and is called "the author and finisher of faith." But is it not said: this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith? How does it overcome, if it is not our shield? By putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, who has overcome the world, and conquered principalities and powers for his people, and by opposing every enemy in his all-prevailing name, and his never-failing power. It never yet obtained a victory over the least of its adversaries by its own prowess. It can do nothing but as it stands connected with Christ, who is, really, its almighty shield. If ever it conquers, it is when it lays hold of the strength of Jehovah, puts on Christ as its all-sufficient shield, and is "strong in the grace which is in him;" "strong in him and the power of his might."
Nor is my opinion upon this subject novel and singular. The learned and truly evangelical Dr. Gill, upon Gen. 15:1 thus writes: "Christ is the shield of his people against all their spiritual enemies, sin, Satan, and the world, which being held up in the hand of faith, called therefore the shield of faith, is a security against them." We might, with strict propriety, ask those who maintain that faith is our shield, what is the hand by which we take hold of that shield? Here, it is supposed, they must pause; because nothing but faith can, without impropriety, be called the hand, with which the soul takes hold of any of the blessings which are freely given us of God. By faith we receive the holy promise, take hold of the truths of the gospel, and hold fast the form of sound words, which was delivered to us by the inspired writers. By faith we receive the atonement, put on our beautiful garments of righteousness and salvation, and handle and feel the word of life. By faith we gird up the loins of our minds with the girdle of eternal truth; buckle on our breastplate of righteousness; put on the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace; take Jesus as our shield and oppose him to the enemy; take the helmet of his finished salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God; and pray, always, with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, watching thereunto with all perseverance.
Indeed, Christ may be said, in truth, to be the whole of our Armor, appointed and given of God for our use, defense, and safety; and we may with equal truth, be said to put him on as such, by faith, He is the truth, the essential truth, the Lord our righteousness, the preparation, the sum and substance of the gospel of peace, our shield and buckler, our complete, everlasting salvation, and that essential word of God, which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing, even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. See Deut. 33:29, where our Saviour is called our sword. By faith we take this whole Armor of God, as his free gift, and face our enemies. It is by faith in Christ, as our shield and our complete Armor, which entirely covers us in the day of battle, we resist the devil and quench his fiery darts; wrestle with flesh and blood; contend with principalities and powers; and triumph over spiritual wickedness in high places.