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EPHESIANS - Chapter 6 - Verse 16

Verse 16. Above all. epi pasin. Not above all in point of importance or value, but over all, as a soldier holds his shield to defend himself. It constitutes a protection over every part of his body, as it can be turned in every direction. The idea is, that as the shield covered or protected the other parts of the armour, so faith had a similar importance in the Christian virtues.

The shield. See Barnes "Isa 21:5".

The shield was usually made of light wood, or a rim of brass, and covered with several folds or thicknesses of stout hide, which was preserved by frequent anointing. It was held by the left arm, and was secured by straps, through which the arm passed, as may be seen in the annexed cut. The outer surface of the shield was made more or less rounding from the centre to the edge, and was polished smooth, or anointed with oil, so that arrows or darts would glance off, or rebound.

Of faith.On the nature of faith, See Barnes "Mr 16:16".

Faith here is made to occupy a more important place than either of the other Christian graces. It bears, to the whole Christian character, the same relation which the shield does to the other parts of the armour of a soldier. It protects all, and is indispensable to the security of all, as is the case with the shield. The shield was an ingenious device by which blows and arrows might be parried off, and the whole body defended. It could be made to protect the head, or the heart, or thrown behind to meet an attack there. As long as the soldier had his shield, he felt secure; and as long as a Christian has faith, he is safe. It comes to his aid in every attack that is made on him, no matter from what quarter; it is the defence and guardian of every other Christian grace; and it secures the protection which the Christian needs in the whole of the spiritual war.

Wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. Or, rather, "of the WICKED ONE", tou ponhrou. The allusion is undoubtedly to the great enemy of the people of God, called, by way of eminence, THE wicked one. Comp. 2 Th 3:3. Mr. Locke renders this, "Wherein you may receive, and so render ineffectual," etc. There seems a little incongruity in the idea of quenching darts by a shield. But the word quench, here, means only that they would be put out by being thrown against the shield, as a candle would by being thrown against anything. The fiery darts that were used in war were small, slender pieces of cane, which were filled with combustible materials, and set on fire; or darts around which some combustible material was wound, and which were set on fire, and then shot slowly against a foe. The object was to make the arrow fasten in the body, and increase the danger by the burning; or, more frequently, those darts were thrown against ships, forts, tents, etc., with an intention to set them on fire. They were in common use among the ancients. Arrian (Expe. Alex. 11) mentions the purfora belh, the fire-bearing weapons; Thucydides, (ii. c. 75,) the purforoi oistoi, the fire-bearing arrows; and Livy refers to similar weapons as in common use in war, Lib. xxi. c. 8. By the "fiery darts of the wicked," Paul here refers, probably, to the temptations of the great adversary, which are like fiery darts; or those furious suggestions of evil, and excitements to sin, which he may throw into the mind like fiery darts. They are blasphemous thoughts, unbelief, sudden temptation to do wrong, or thoughts that wound and torment the soul. In regard to them, we may observe,

(1.) that they come suddenly, like arrows sped from a bow;

(2.) they come from unexpected quarters, like arrows shot suddenly from an enemy in ambush;

(3.) they pierce, and penetrate, and torment the soul, as arrows would that are on fire;

(4.) they set the soul on fire, and enkindle the worst passions, as fiery darts do a ship or camp against which they are sent. The only way to meet them is by the "shield of faith;" by confidence in God, and by relying on his gracious promises and aid. It is not by our own strength; and, if we have not faith in God, we are wholly defenseless. We should have a shield that we can turn in any direction, on which we may receive the arrow, and by which it may be put out.

{a} "wherewith" 1 Jo 5:4 {*} "wicked" "Wicked one"

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