Preparation. Paul, in saying that the believer will be able to quench the fiery darts of the devil, refers to the practice of the Roman soldier drenching his shield in water before a battle. The fiery arrows would be extinguished when they attached themselves to the wet shield. A soldier who failed to wet his shield did not make adequate preparation for the battle. This is a reminder that we too need to be preparing our faith before we need to use it. The way to prepare it is by filling our minds with biblical descriptions of God and of his promises, and simultaneously praying that the Holy Spirit would apply them to us. It is probably too much to say that the water in the shield depicts the Bible and the Holy Spirit (both of which are likened to water in the Scriptures), but an application is not out of place. If we are not under attack today, we should be preparing for the next attack.
Imitation. The obvious example for us is the Saviour and the way he overcame the devil’s temptations in the desert (Matt. 4). He replied to each temptation by quoting a verse from Deuteronomy. His example does not suggest that all that is needed to overcome the devil’s temptations is to recite Bible verses. The Saviour had prepared for this battle by meditation on the Bible and prayer, and so he was ready to deflect the fiery darts of the devil. The Saviour is our pattern for resisting the devil.
Unity. One of the uses that Roman soldiers made of their shields was in a shape called the testudo (tortoise). In this formation there were twenty-seven soldiers arranged with six in front and seven in each of three rows. Those on the outside would hold their shields facing the enemy and those inside would hold their shields above their heads. This formation was practically impenetrable – chariots could be driven over it without penetrating it – it was a kind of human tank. The application to a church is obvious. When each believer is utilising the shield of faith, he not only protects himself but also contributes to the overall victory of his fellow-soldiers. But if he fails to use the shield of faith, he lets the devil in and great damage can be done.