on Ephesians 6 :16
Above all, (Επι πασιν, over all the rest of the armor), taking the shield of faith - In the word θυρεος, thureos, the apostle alludes to the great oblong shield, or scutum, which covers the whole body. See its description before. And as faith is the grace by which all others are preserved and rendered active, so it is properly represented here under the notion of a shield, by which the whole body is covered and protected. Faith, in this place, must mean that evidence of things unseen which every genuine believer has, that God, for Christ's sake, has blotted out his sins, and by which he is enabled to call God his Father, and feel him to be his portion. It is such an appropriating faith as this which can quench any dart of the devil.
The fiery darts of the wicked - Βελος, a dart, signifies any kind of missile weapon; every thing that is projected to a distance by the hand, as a javelin, or short spear; or by a bow, as an arrow; or a stone by a sling.
The fiery darts - Τα βελη τα πεπυρωμενα. It is probable that the apostle alludes to the darts called falarica, which were headed with lead, in or about which some combustible stuff was placed that took fire in the passage of the arrow through the air, and often burnt up the enemy's engines, ships, etc.; they were calculated also to stick in the shields and set them on fire. Some think that poisoned arrows may be intended, which are called fiery from the burning heat produced in the bodies of those who were wounded by them. To quench or extinguish such fiery darts the shields were ordinarily covered with metal on the outside, and thus the fire was prevented from catching hold of the shield. When they stuck on a shield of another kind and set it on fire, the soldier was obliged to cast it away, and thus became defenceless.
The fiery darts of the wicked, του πονηρου, or devil, are evil thoughts, and strong injections, as they are termed, which in the unregenerate inflame the passions, and excite the soul to acts of transgression. While the faith is strong in Christ it acts as a shield to quench these. He who walks so as to feel the witness of God's Spirit that he is his child, has all evil thoughts in abhorrence; and, though they pass through his mind, they never fix in his passions. They are caught on this shield, blunted, and extinguished.
on Ephesians 6 :16
Above all - Ἐν πᾶσιν En 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 armor, so faith had a similar importance in the Christian virtues.
The shield - note, Isaiah 21:9. 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 figures. The outer surface of the shield was made more or less rounding. Item the center 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 the notes on Mark 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 armor 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 all 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 defense 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" - τοῦ πονηροῦ tou ponērou. The allusion is undoubtedly to the great enemy of the people of God, called, by way of eminence, the "wicked one;" compare 2 Thessalonians 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 (Exped. Alexan. 11) mentions the πυρφορα βελη purphora belē, the fire-bearing weapons; Thucydides (ii. c. 75), the πυρφοροι ὀΐστοι purphoroi 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.
on Ephesians 6 :16
6:16 Above or over all - As a sort of universal covering to every other part of the armour itself, continually exercise a strong and lively faith. This you may use as a shield, which will quench all the fiery darts, the furious temptations, violent and sudden injections of the devil.