THE SHOES OF THE GOSPEL

EPHESIANS 6:15

 

Play Audio

                                               

            This morning we continue our sermon series on the Apostle Paul’s description of the armor of God, and in so doing we turn our attention to the third piece of armor Paul tells us to put on that will prepare us for the daily spiritual battle we fight with Old Redlegs.  We have put on the belt of truth, and the breastplate of righteousness, and today he tells us to put on shoes that will prepare us to proclaim the gospel of peace. 

            Shoes.  We wear all sorts of shoes: expensive shoes, cheap shoes, dress shoes, casual shoes, work shoes, play shoes.  Furthermore, we have shoes for nearly anything you can think of:  walking shoes, hiking shoes, cross-training shoes, track shoes, running shoes, golf shoes, even snow shoes.  Why?  Because our feet are important, and most shoes are designed with a purpose in mind, be it for lounging by a swimming pool, playing softball, hiking through the woods or dressing for success. 

             And as important as shoes are to us, they were even more important to a Roman soldier.  You see, his very life depended on them.

            A Roman soldier wore what we would call sandals instead of boots like our modern soldiers wear today, but these were a certain high-quality type of sandal. Leather straps would hold the thick, hardened leather sole of the sandal to the bottom of his feet.  This was to protect him from things he would encounter on a road.  Roads can be very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.  The terrain might be rough stones, sharp rocks, or thorns & brambles.  A soldier with blistered, cut or swollen feet would be more vulnerable to his enemies.

            A Roman soldier’s shoes were also important to protect him from traps the enemy would set in the ground to disable him.  They would sharpen sticks to very sharp points and then fix them in the ground with their tips slightly above the ground level. If a soldier came running along and stepped on these with unprotected feet, the sharp points would pierce the feet causing enough pain and damage to severely hinder the soldier.  In addition, the injury could also possibly lead to infections which could put the soldier completely out of action.  It was important then to have well-shod feet.

            But foot protection was not the only reason for the soldier to wear the special sandals.  He also needed to have good traction since he might be called to climb a slippery slope, or stand firm on slick grass or mud.  He needed his feet to have a firm grip on the ground so that he would not slide or stumble.  For this reason, the sandals would often have bits of metal or nails impregnated into them much like the spikes or nobs of athletic shoes.  These would give him that extra traction.

            Paul uses the analogy of the Roman soldier’s footwear to tell us about the next piece of armor God has given to us to fight the spiritual battle we face: shoes of the gospel of peace.

            Now what does he mean by putting on shoes that will make us “ready to proclaim the gospel of peace?”  What kind of shoes are those?  Well, the context of the passage answers our question.  When interpreting a passage of scripture, context is critically important.  When it comes to context, I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones was was a Welsh Protestant minister and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century.  For almost 30 years, he was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London, and it when it came to interpreting the bible he said, "If people paid attention to the context most of our problems of interpretation would be solved."  So let’s look, then, at this term “the gospel of peace” in the context in which we find it.

            Now a quick aside.  The word gospel literally means “good news.”  And we don’t usually associate news with feet.  When we hear the term “news” we think of a newspaper headline, or the nightly news on TV, or a telephone call, we don’t think about feet, but not so in ancient days.  In ancient days news did not come by television or internet or phone or even the newspaper, it came when a messenger arrived in town on foot.  A messenger would come into town on foot to bring you the news of the outside world.  So while “news” and “feet” don't’ go together for us, it did for Paul’s readers.

            OK, done with the quick aside.  We are to put on shoes that will make us ready to proclaim the good news of peace, and because Paul mentions the gospel here and includes with it the idea of feet, there are many that have quickly rushed to passages such as Romans 10:13-15 as the basis for interpretation.  Let’s take a quick trip to Rome once again, as we did last week.  Turn with me to page 921 of your pew bible, to Romans 10:13.  

 

            For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?  And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?  As it is written (and Paul is quoting Isaiah 52:7 here), “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

 

            And some like to point out that feet make us mobile, so for them Paul is talking about those who are ready to take the gospel wherever God leads them.  They say Paul is talking about evangelism here.  

            But that does not fit the context of the passage.  Certainly those who take the message of the gospel from place to place have feet made beautiful to those who are hearing the message.  And certainly, we need to be ready and willing to proclaim to the good news of Jesus Christ to whomever, whenever and wherever God leads, however, this “evangelistic” interpretation does not fit the context of what Paul is saying in this passage.

            In Ephesians 6 Paul is talking about spiritual warfare, not evangelism.  That’s the context.  Moreover, three times he has said in this passage that we are to “stand firm.”  In verse eleven he said, "stand against the schemes of the devil.”   In verse thirteen he said, "and having done everything, to stand firm."  Then in verse fourteen Paul says,  "Stand therefore.”   In addition, the whole armor of God is given (verse thirteen) so that we "may be able to withstand on that evil day.”  The context here is one of being attacked.  We are to stand firm, hold our position and not run away.  The context of the passage is not running to proclaim the gospel, but standing firm to resist Satan.

             Do you like a story with a good twist?  I do. I love a movie where I to Trudy, “I didn’t see that coming!”   Movies like The Sixth Sense where one of the main characters says, “I see dead people,” or The Usual Suspects and the question throughout the movie, “Who is Keyser Sose?” and when you find out it’s a big surprise, or a movie Trudy and I saw recently, and it’s still in theaters, Crazy, Stupid, Love.  Let me tell you, I didn’t see that ending coming.  Well, we have a great twist here.  The twist has to do with the word “proclaim.”    We don’t put on the shoes to proclaim the gospel of peace to others.  This is a not a passage about evangelism.  No, we put on our feet whatever will proclaim the gospel of peace to ourselves.  That’s the twist!!!

            Do you remember the Perry’s not Mary and Jim, but Shannon and Travis?  Well, Shannon grew up in Pennsylvania and was, actually still is, a huge Pittsburgh Steelers football fan.  Since Trudy has family in Green Bay, she made a bet with Shannon on last year’s Super Bowl.  Whose ever team lost, well that person had to cook dinner for the winners.  Well, we had a great dinner at Shannon’s and Travis’ home, but that’s not all that relevant.  What’s relevant is this.  Back in the 1970’s the Steelers were the best team in professional football and they had a defense nicknamed, “The Steel Curtain.”  The Steel Curtain was tough.  You could not penetrate it.  It  stood firm, wouldn’t give an inch.

            Well, we are to put on these shoes so that we will “stand firm” and not give into fear when the enemy strikes.  One of the great things soldiers need to do is not give into fear.  Give into fear and the battle is over, the soldiers will run, and the shoes of the gospel of peace, which we proclaim to ourselves, will help us withstand two particular fears that Old Redlegs likes to throw at us. 

             First, the shoes are designed to protect us from the fear of losing our salvation.   Do we ever doubt our salvation?  Do we ever wonder, “Will I make it into heaven?”  Do we ever fear that we might lose our salvation, that we will do something that will keep us out of the pearly gates?   Are we ever afraid of that? 

            Well, not if we have put on the shoes of the gospel of peace.  If we have put on the shoes of the gospel of peace, we don’t fear that at all.  The shoes of the gospel of peace remind us that our salvation is secure.   The Apostle John wrote his entire first letter to make sure we don’t ever fear we will lose or salvation or fear we don’t make it to heaven.  Turn with me to his letter, page 992 in your pew bible, to I John 5:13.  He wrote,

 

            I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.      

 

            That’s good news.  If we are Christians, if we believe in the name of the Son of God, our salvation, our hope of heaven, is certain.  That should fill us with assurance.  It should fill us with peace, not fear.  We need to put on the gospel of peace, words like I John 5:13, or if the Apostle John is not a good enough authority on the matter, how about Jesus?  He said, in probably the most quoted scripture of all time,

 

            For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him shall have eternal life.

 

            If we believe Jesus is God’s son, if we have given all we know of ourselves to all we know of Jesus Christ, we have eternal life.  We get through the Pearly Gates.  Our salvation is secure. 

            We need to remind ourselves of that daily.  We need to put on the gospel of peace each day to keep us from doubting that.  We want to stand firm on that reality, not slipping and sliding as we combat Old Redlegs.

            The shoes of the gospel of peace are also designed to protect us from every day anxieties and worries.  Listen to these words from the 20th century Methodist missionary Dr. E. Stanley Jones.  He wrote,

 

            I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear.  Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil.  I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath -- these are not my native air.  But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely -- these are my native air.

 

            And listen to these words from Walt Kelley, an American animator and cartoonist, best known for the classic comic strip Pogo.  He said,

 

            Worry is faith in the negative, trust in the unpleasant, assurance of disaster and belief in defeat ... worry is wasting today's time to clutter up tomorrow's opportunities with yesterday's troubles.  A dense fog that covers a seven-city-block area one hundred feet deep is composed of less than one glass of water divided into sixty thousand million drops.  Not much is there but it can cripple an entire city. 

 

            So can worry.  Worry pulls tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine.  And what did Jesus say about all this?  What good news of peace can we find in the Bible?  Jesus said, “My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you, not as the world gives I give to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” 

            Are our feet shod with the gospel of peace?  Are we ready for Old Redlegs attacks that seek to cause us to fear?  Do we have cleats, do we have biblical verses on our shoes, that help us stand firm in the midst of battle?

            We live in a spiritual war zone.  Let’s make sure our armor is on.  Let us put on the belt of truth.  Let us live in righteousness, and let us stand firm in the peace of God.