What in the world is that? Yes, I know you were asking that question when you saw the title to this blog. Is that even a word or is it a typo? You may have wondered. It’s not a typo, I assure you. It is a Greek word meaning tortoise. It’s a formation the soldiers used when going to battle and it involves their shields.
The picture to the right depicts the formation quite well. Their shields were fairly large: 2 1/2 feet by 4 feet tall. (That’s a large shield)! They were made out of wood, wrapped in leather, and the sides and corners braced with brass. These shields were quiet strong. In fact, when the enemy shot arrows at them they would simply bounce off. When they were in this formation correctly, arrows wouldn’t touch them.
Historians also say that these formations were so strong that men, horses, and vehicles could go across them if needed. Can you imagine that? That is a very powerful formation. No wonder the Roman army had no problems in conquering their surrounding nations.
What’s The Point?
I bet you wonder why I’m talking about Roman shields and their formations, aren’t you? Well, I bring it up because Paul tells us we need to have the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). Paul is describing Roman armor in this passage—popularly known as the armor of God.
We need the shield of faith. We need to have faith in God for ourselves and come to know God in a personal way where we trust Him with our lives. This is faith. But Paul is also trying to tell us that we need to have collective faith.
Purpose of Faith
As Christians, we need to operate like the Roman army. We need to get into the Testudo Formation with our faith. What does that really look like? Well, if you didn’t know this, faith is one of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:9). That means two things.
(1) The gift is meant to bless other people not ourselves. Spiritual gifts are given to us not for our own selfish desires but to help others come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
(2) Not everyone has the same amount of faith. Every person doesn’t have every gift. Some have more than others. That means, some people have more faith than others. So what do we do with that?
In the Testudo Formation, the stronger men were not the ones in front, they were the ones in the middle holding their shields in the air. Arrows don’t come from the front they come from above. So the stronger ones are the ones who save the entire group. Those with more faith are to be the ones who protect and strengthen other Christians or seekers when they are feeling down.
Our own personal faith in God has to be strong. But, we must also rely on the faith of others. A lone Roman soldier needs to be good at what he does. But, by himself, he is vulnerable. In the formation, that same Roman soldier is fully protected. Our personal faith in God makes us strong. But we won’t be fully protected from the enemy’s attack until we form-up with other faith-filled believers in God.
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