Around a month ago we commenced a series looking at the Holy Spirit. In between there were some special services for NAIDOC week and Mark resumed this series two weeks ago. At that time he began looking at the armour of God from Ephesians 6.
The path we've come down is that the Holy Spirit is within us to teach and equip and counsel and remind and empower and gift. A deal of that equipping and empowering is because we are in a war, a spiritual war. To be honest there are battles that we are often oblivious to and ill-prepared for.
But our participation is mandatory because we're human. We are automatically conscripted when we’re born. We're either in the battle, or we're casualties in the field hospital, or we chose to be bystanders and become, as the saying goes, “collateral damage”.
Any battle, any war involves both offence and defence. How we fare is a direct reflection on how well we listen to our commander, and on our understanding and use of tactics, weapons and armour. These need to be fully grasped, effectively wielded and property deployed.
In our case only weapons and armour and tactics determined and communicated by the Holy Spirit will make any impression in the battle – and age or lack of it is no barrier. As I’ve said, anything else means we're either a bystander or a casualty.
Let me read Ephesians 6:10-18 which gives us the entire passage concerning the armour of God. I’m reading from the NKJV:
 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenly [places.]  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;  praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints
Two weeks ago Mark spoke on the belt of truth, that we’re in a battle with the father of lies. As such, we need to dress for the occasion by beginning with the belt of truth upon which all else depends.
And last week Mark, speaking on the breastplate of righteousness, indicated that righteousness or holiness is living that truth and so flows from knowing that truth.
Today we're looking at the third piece of armour – feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
The shoes Paul probably had in mind in these times of Roman occupation were leather sandals strapped on up the calf muscle. They were hob-nailed for grip and durability. The shoes, the sandals afforded protection, stability, flexibility and mobility – but we’ll say more on those later!
I think it’s fair to say that at a first, second and third reading Ephesians 6:15 about having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace is quite strangely worded. And I’m certainly not alone in that thinking because each of the current major translations of the Bible in English place the emphasis on different things:
As you can see, these translations emphasise different aspects of the sentence, and demonstrate different understandings of the readiness. This unfortunately reflects a lack of clarity as to what Paul is speaking about.
Despite the slight ambiguity of how this verse has been translated, what is clear is there is an expectation that we are to understand something about the gospel. We are to figuratively ensure it covers and protects our feet. And we are to be readied, mobilised and at peace. Does that make sense?
The primary object here is the gospel, and it is further described as a gospel of peace. So we are to put on the readiness or preparation of this gospel of peace.
It raises four questions in my mind:
I'd like us to consider each of those questions in turn.
The gospel is the good news. An older phrase is glad tidings. It contains positive information that through faith and belief in Jesus, we are welcomed into the Kingdom of God, become heirs of that Kingdom and receive eternal life.
That is not good news. That is fantastic news. It is the best news anyone will ever get. Amen?
That is the gospel in a nutshell. The world says we're crazy, but we know we're not because this gospel, this good news is a treasure that is in our earthen vessels, our jars of clay (per 2 Corinthians 4:7). The world looks at our external vessel and sees flaws and weakness, but we hold the treasure through faith!
I find it interesting that the good news mentioned here is not simply referred to as the gospel, but as the “gospel of peace”. Why did Paul add those extra words “of peace”? The phrase is also found in Romans 10 which likely predates Ephesians by 3 or 4 years. Romans 10:13-15 reads:
13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
And so the gospel of peace is declared by travelling and preaching and proclamation.
Here today we are proclaiming the gospel of peace.
And in Romans 10 Paul is loosely quoting Isaiah 52:7:
7 How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good [things,] Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
It is the same context – the distribution and and declaration of good news being the availability of salvation and peace with God.
The gospel is many things – it is good news of salvation, of deliverance, of healing, of mercy, of redemption.
But this aspect of peace is specifically mentioned here. I think this is declaring that when you're in the spiritual battle, and you have put on the armour – the belt, the breastplate, the shoes or sandals, the shield, the helmet and the one offensive weapon – the sword of the Spirit, then you can take comfort in the gospel of peace. If we are where God wants us to be and appropriately trained and equipped then peace, not fear can reign and rule.
It is the peace Jesus speaks of in John 14:27:
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
This peace comes from knowing we’re on the winning side, and that we can exercise appropriate spiritual authority and power in a situation.
What we are to do is to fit the preparation of this gospel of peace onto our feet like we do sandals or shoes.
We don't put the gospel on our feet. We put on the preparation of the gospel. A preparation is something that has been compiled. It is something that has been completed. And so we put on and appropriate what Jesus has already finished. Our feet, being shod with this preparation, this finished salvation work, are then made ready as a result.
Some commentators state that we are to be readied and prepared, whilst others indicate that this readiness and preparation has already been done by Jesus.
I think both views are valid. On the cross Jesus announced that "It is finished" (John 19:30) meaning this salvation had been won. The price had been paid. Ransom had been secured. And so in that sense the gospel of peace has been prepared. But we also need to be prepared and readied. There are things we need to do to grow our understanding of and love for the gospel, and we can appropriate and practice living the peace it brings.
Does that make sense? Jesus has done his bit and we need to do ours.
And our part is to appropriate this preparation of the gospel of peace. To appropriate something is to acquire it, to put it on, to accept, to embrace. Paul’s analogy is of putting on shoes or sandals – ensuring our feet are protected and ready for whatever may come.
And we spiritually put on those sandals, as I've mentioned, by faith in Jesus and belief in what he accomplished on the cross. He's made his move, it then becomes our move.
It is an activity we undertake. We do the putting on. It's not something the Holy Spirit will do. It’s not something we do can for each other. Each person needs to come to a decision, a moment when we believe and embrace Jesus and what he achieved on the cross. A point when we say we want the gospel of peace for ourselves.
I hope that explains what having ones shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace means. I keep repeating the verse so it becomes familiar and we can dwell and meditate on it outside of this room and this day.
What then are some of the out-workings, the expectations of us having had our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace?
The first is the Scriptural imperative to stand firm. Three times in this passage Paul makes reference to the idea of standing or standing firm:
And so the standing is against the wiles or the tactics of the evil one. It is to stand against the evil day, and stand in the light having put on the full armour of God. We are to hold our ground and remain on our feet defending against evil.
I'm sure we've all heard that all the items listed in the armour of God are defensive except the the the sword of the Spirit. Solid defence keeps you in the battle.
Holding ground is one thing, and it is important; but taking ground is ultimately more important. It's only when you remain firm in the battle that you can hope to take ground from the enemy.
I’d point us to a couple of Scriptures with which many would be familiar which talk about taking ground:
The great commission from the end of Matthew’s gospel in 28:18-20 brings together several ideas:
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age.” Amen.”
Our commander, the Lord Jesus has authority on heaven and earth. And he commands that as we go, as we travel, as we are mobilised with and for the gospel that we baptise, teach and make disciples. He also commands obedience which is the righteousness of the breastplate. And the gospel of peace can be ours because Jesus will be with us always.
There is similar teaching from Jesus when he sends out the seventy recorded in Luke 10. Let me read selectively:
So in this sending out we see the disciples bringing peace, healing the sick, and declaring the presence of the Kingdom of God. The ideas of mobility and travelling and gospel and peace are all incorporated.
The last expectation of having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace is an extension of the previous two.
I believe we are called to defend without being defensive. I believe we are to go on the offensive without seeking to offend.
That doesn’t mean that people we come across won’t in turn be defensive. Many will take offence at our message and our choices and our lifestyles. But there is a difference between us defending our faith and becoming or causing defensiveness. And there is a difference between going on the offensive and seeking to cause or give offence.
In the first epistle of Peter 3:15 Peter writes, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always [be] ready to [give] a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”
As we travel through life we are to be prepared to give a defence of the hope we have – and our hope needs to be in the gospel. But Peter exhorts us to do that with meekness and fear. I translate that as with humility and gentleness.
Some will say that Jesus caused offence, but that wasn't his specific intent. His intent, his purpose was to highlight truth gracefully yet uncompromisingly. John 1:14 tells us that Jesus incarnate was “full of grace and truth”. He knew what was in people’s hearts and he said what needed to be said to challenge their views and lifestyles. Luke 2:52 also tells us that as Jesus grew up he “...increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
We need to walk and talk the same measures of grace and truth. We need to walk wisely and with favour before God and people.
And as I have been known to say, if someone looks for offence, they will find it. So defend without becoming defensive, and go on the offence without seeking to cause offence.
As we finish this morning my primary encouragement is to make sure we are each standing firmly in faith and belief in the gospel of grace won by Jesus on the cross.
Can you stand firm in a clear understanding of this good news? Do you demonstrate this grace by practicing repentance and thanksgiving?
If you aren’t standing firmly in and under the gospel; or if you don’t believe you have the favour and grace of God over your life then come forward after we’ve finished and there will be people to listen to you and pray with you.
Let me pray using something of a paraphrase of this passage from Ephesians 6:
Heavenly Father, may we each be strong in you and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and in the power you make available.
May we each put on the whole armour you provide so that we can and will stand against the plans and designs of the evil one.
May we have a greater recognition and revelation that our struggles aren’t against the powers of this world and flesh and blood but indeed against the devil and his demons, and the temptations and troubles they can inflict.
The only way, Father, that we can stand against evil things is by wrapping your belt of truth around our waists. We receive this truth by reading and studying your word and receiving revelation as your Spirit guides us into all truth.
With regard to righteousness, Father, you command us to be holy because you are holy. May we see obedience and righteousness growing more in us each day, and may we listen to your Spirit as he reminds us of your desires and commands for us.
As for our feet, Lord, may they stand firm upon your gospel of salvation. May we not alter your gospel but present it and live it faithfully and lovingly and gracefully and truthfully.
Regarding the shield of faith, Father, may we take it up to protect us from the accusations and lies of the enemy of our souls.
And may our minds be protected by the helmet of salvation and be transformed by your word and truth which is the sword of your Spirit.
May we understand and know how to put on and take up your armour for our protection and the advance of your kingdom.
May we stand firm and advance under your direction and command.
Thank you Father for your gospel of peace.
[The preceding was the text of a sermon preached in our church on Sunday 4th August 2019]