It is written:
“above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” (Ephesians 6:16)
Understanding the nature of the Roman shield in this passage will help us to understand one of the most common and effective attacks of the enemy against the Christian: working to separate the Christian from the church assembly!
When attacked from the enemy, Roman soldiers understood the need for being “assembled” together:
“At the time Paul wrote to the Ephesians, there were two kinds of shields. One was a small, round, handheld shield like the kind you always see in movies about ancient gladiators. That’s not what Paul was referring to. The shield in this passage was about four feet high and two and a half feet wide. It had hooks on the sides to link it to other shields in a line so that an entire row of soldiers could advance without exposing themselves to incoming arrows. It was common for enemies to dip their arrows in pitch, light them, and then pelt the opposing soldiers with thousands of destructive, flaming missiles. So the Romans made their shields with iron and two layers of wood, wrapped them in linen, and covered it all with leather. But they would leave a gap between layers so flaming arrows could penetrate far enough into the shield to be quickly extinguished. One soldier is said to have come in from the battle lines with two hundred once-fiery arrows still stuck in his shield. That’s the metaphor Paul uses, and his readers understood exactly what he meant. (Chip Ingram, The Invisible War: What Every Believer Needs To Know About Satan, Demons, And Spiritual Warfare, 124 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
One of the keys to effectively surviving the attacks of the enemy is found in the protection of our brothers and sisters in Christ. They help support and encourage us when we are attacked, and their prayers and exhortations lift us up and shield us in ways that perhaps we do not fully understand. This teaches us several important lessons.
First, spiritual warfare is not a struggle to be fought in isolation. It is a group activity. The church is the Lord’s army, and we need each other. If we try to go it alone, we will be shot down by an enemy arrow that could likely have been defended against had we been active member in the Lord’s church.
Second, Satan and his forces will work to isolate the Christian from the assembly. They know that if they can accomplish this, their work in destroying the child of God will be easy. As such, they will often work to foster disharmony and unrest in the church:
1 Corinthians 1:10-13-Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
2 Corinthians 2:11-lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
We need to be active members of the church, and not members in name only.
Third, we have an obligation to our church family to help protect and encourage them. How many of our members are under spiritual attack and we could often help, but instead choose to ignore their plight, or worse, go AWOL (Absent Without Leave)? The Apostle Paul reminded the Christians of their need to be faithful to Christ and their church families:
1 Thessalonians 5:14-Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
Notice that phrase “warn those who are unruly.” The Greek is very emphatic:
“1) disorderly, out of ranks (often so of soldiers; 2) irregular, inordinate, immoderate pleasures; 3) deviating from the prescribed order or rule” (Joseph Henry Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, E-Sword Edition)
The description of some as being “unruly” has reference to those who (among other things) refuse to stay in their ranks, i.e., those who refuse to be active members of the church and assembly. When we become Christians, one of our obligations from God is to assemble regularly with other Christians (Acts 2:42; 20:7). Indeed, to willfully and continually forsake the assembly is called by the inspired Apostle “willful sin” (Hebrews 10:24-31). You need your brothers and sisters in Christ, and they need you.
One of Satan’s most common attacks is to separate the child of God from the assembly of the church. If you have fallen to this attack, then it is time to rise back up in repentance and to come back to Christ and the church (1 John 1:7-2:2).