************ Sermon on Ephesians 6:15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 25, 2016
"The Shoes of the Gospel"
I We are Under Attack
A "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Eph 6:10). Why does Paul end his letter this way? Because we are under attack! Because the Christian life is a battle! Because we face the devil's schemes (Eph 2:11). Because our struggle is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). Our struggle is against Satan.
Students of the Bible see the attacks of Satan throughout the history of salvation:
-Satan tempted Adam and Eve into sin.
-Satan prompted Cain to kill Abel. Why? To get rid of the Messiah's blood line.
-Satan prompted the descendants of Seth to marry the daughters of men to stop the promised blood-line.
-Two times Abraham claimed Sarah as his sister rather than his wife. Two times Sarah was taken by a heathen king. Satan's intention here: to stop the promised blood-line.
-Abraham had a child, Ishmael, by his wife's handmaid; Ishmael mocked Isaac and made life miserable for him; in Ishmael we see the enmity of Satan to the chosen blood-line.
-Remember what Satan did in Egypt? The people of Israel were oppressed and afflicted -- the goal was to work them to death as slave labor. And, the midwives were commanded to kill the Hebrew boys at birth -- again to close off the chosen blood-line.
-Remember Israel on the way to the Promised Land? Edom, the descendants of Esau, their own family, would not allow them passage. That was Satan at work. He wanted the chosen people to die in the wilderness.
-King Saul hated David and tried more than once to kill him. That was Satan at work trying to stop the Messiah's birth -- because the Messiah was to be from the lineage of David.
-Haman in Babylon tried to wipe out the Jewish race. That was Satan at work.
-Who can forget wicked King Herod and how he killed the baby boys of Bethlehem?
-When Jesus started His ministry, remember what Satan did? He came to Jesus in the wilderness and tempted Jesus to gain a Kingdom without the cross.
-We see the enmity of Satan when Jesus went to His hometown of Nazareth. The people responded by trying to throw Jesus off a cliff.
-Peter rebuked Jesus about the cross saying, "Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!" Jesus recognized it was Satan at work: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
-Satan came to Jesus in the darkness and loneliness of Gethsemane to stop the Messiah's work.
-Satan spread the lie that Jesus did not arise from the grave; rather, the disciples stole His body.
Satan's attacks did not stop with the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. Think of the persecution of the church in the book of Acts, the martyrdom of Paul, and the attacks of the Judaizers. Think of the heresies faced by the early church councils concerning the doctrines of the Trinity, the deity and humanity of Christ, the Holy Spirit, Original Sin. Fast forward to the Middle Ages and consider the heresies faced by the Reformation: the sale of indulgences, the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, the authority of Scripture, the place of works. More recently we have seen the birth of other heresies: an emphasis on the Spirit at the expense of Christ, the prosperity gospel, seeker services that believe those dead in sin can seek God, worship as entertainment.
B No wonder Paul writes, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Eph 6:10). How can we be strong in the Lord? Paul answers this when he tells us twice to "put on the full armor of God" (Eph 6:11,13). When we put on the full armor of God we are strong in the Lord. When we put on the full armor of God we tap into the great and awesome power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We've been looking at the armor of God the last number of weeks. [HOLD UP PICTURE FROM NURSERY.] So far we have looked at the belt of truth. The belt of truth means we need to know the Bible's doctrines, doctrines summarized for us in our Creeds and Confessions; the belt of truth means we need to be real and sincere in our faith. We have also looked at the breastplate of righteousness. We said last week this means we need the righteousness of Christ in our life by grace and through faith; furthermore, we said that in response to Christ's righteousness we need to live righteously -- that is, we need to work out what Christ has worked in.
Today, we look at the next piece of the Christian's armor: the shoes of the Gospel.
II A Soldier's Shoes
A In Bible times most people had one pair of shoes. I grew up with two pairs: one pair for the farm and another pair for school and Sundays; I remember polishing my shoes every Saturday night so they looked good and shiny for Sunday. Today, I have more shoes then I can shake a stick at:
-brown Sunday shoes
-black Sunday shoes
-insulated hiking shoes
-regular hiking shoes
-old running shoes for mowing the lawn
-two pairs of sandals
-and, my absolute favorite pair, cycling shoes that clip into the pedals of my bike
We have shoes for every conceivable kind of sport and for every conceivable kind of activity.
Today, shoes are also used to make a fashion statement. A number of years ago when a family member died the closets had to be cleaned out. Another family member complained there were over forty pairs of shoes. Knowing this family member rather well I said I bet you have almost that many. Turns out a quick count revealed this other family member had at least thirty pairs.
Especially, though, shoes are used to protect the feet. Have you ever stubbed your toe? Wow, does that hurt! Have you ever stepped on a thorn or a piece of glass? Have you ever dropped something heavy on your toe so the nail turns black and falls off? Have you ever worn shoes that don't fit quite right so you end up with blisters?
B The typical Roman soldier did not ride a horse or in a chariot. The typical Roman soldier fought on foot, marched on foot, and drilled on foot. Feet and shoes were very important. How can a soldier march if his feet are sore? How can he fight if he is slipping and sliding on bare feet? How can he push against an enemy if he has nothing to provide grip? Isn't it amazing how important feet are to a soldier? You can have an injured hand, arm, elbow, rib, or shoulder and still keep moving and fighting. But injure your feet and you are in real trouble.
Battles and wars have been lost because soldiers didn't have shoes. A number of years ago I read a book on the American Revolution. At one point, the soldiers under George Washington were wrapping their feet in cloth. Imagine losing the Revolutionary War because our soldiers didn't have shoes. That's how serious it was.
The enemies of Rome learned to plant sharp pointed sticks in the ground. They hoped to defeat the Romans by piercing the feet of the advancing soldiers.
In order to protect the feet of their soldiers the Romans developed thick-soled sandals. These sandals had tacks that protruded from the bottom -- like the spikes on a football or track shoe -- to give them a grip on the soil. They also had all sorts of straps that tied the sandal to the feet and ankles. This turned the humble sandal into military footwear ideal for protection and traction and for standing firm in battle. This is what Paul sees. He sees a Roman soldier standing firm, able to hold his ground, making quick moves, staying on his feet. He sees a soldier who doesn't slip and slide and fall.
III The Christian's Shoes
A According to Paul, the Christian needs to wear shoes as well. The Christian needs to wear shoes as part of the full armor of God. He has already put on the belt of truth. He has already put on the breastplate of righteousness. Now his feet need to be "fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace" (Eph 6:15).
Now, on this Mission Emphasis Sunday it is really easy and really tempting to take what Paul says here and to join it to what Paul says in Romans 10 about the beautiful feet of those who preach good news. That's what lots of commentators and preachers do. They say Paul is telling us to preach and evangelize and make disciples and do VBS and TASC and invite neighbors to church. Like I said, it is really tempting to go this route. And, yes, the Gospel is to be preached and declared and proclaimed in Visalia and California and all the world. But that is NOT what Paul is telling us to do when he tells us to put on the shoes of the Gospel as part of the full armor of God.
B A key word here is "readiness." The Christian's feet need to be ready. Ready for what? Ready to march. Ready to fight. Ready to push back. Ready to hold their ground. This is not evangelism and mission here. The point, remember, is fighting the devil. The point is taking your stand against the devil's schemes. The point is standing your ground when the day of evil comes. The point is Christian warfare.
Get your feet ready for battle. That's what Paul is saying. How do we do that? By putting on the shoes of the Gospel. We stand our ground, we don't slip, we don't slide, we don't fall when we have the shoes of the Gospel on our feet.
C Note the phrase "gospel of peace." What is the Gospel of peace? Let me explain this phrase by looking at what Paul says in Romans 5. The chapter starts off by saying "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:1). Now, you need to realize how amazing and wonderful and gracious this is in the light of what Paul says about our sinful condition later on in Romans 5:
-verse 6 - we are powerless, weak, without strength
-verse 7 - we are unrighteous
-verse 8 - we are sinners
-verse 9 - we are under God's wrath
-verse 10 - we are God's enemies
Do you hear what Paul is saying? We are on one side and God is on the other side. We are on one side of the battlefield and God is on the other side of the battlefield. Our sinful, natural condition is that we are at war with God.
So, in this context, what is the Gospel of peace? Go back to Romans 5:1 -- "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." This is the Gospel of peace. We, who were enemies of God, who were on the other side of the battle-line, now have peace with God. We have become friends with God. We are part of the family of God. God is on our side. That's the Gospel of peace.
This is not true for everyone. This is not even true for most people. This is true only for believers. This is true only for those whom God chose in Christ before the creation of the world, those he predestined in love to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ (cf Eph 1:4-5,11).
I say this because some of you have heard a TV preacher who always said, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life." Really? Does God love everybody? Does God tolerate everybody? Does God forgive everybody? Is God friends with everybody? Is everyone in God's family? Doesn't God say, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Rom 9:13)? This is one of those heretical statements that our modern world latches on to.
D "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes ... Stand firm ... with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace" (Eph 6:11,14,15).
This isn't our strength we are talking about. This isn't our might. This isn't our power. Remember how our Bible reading starts? "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Eph 6:10). Our strength is the Lord. Our might is the Lord. Our power is the Lord. We stand firm against the attacks of the devil because God is on our side. And, as Paul writes to the Romans, "If God is for us, who can be against us" (Rom 8:31)? And, as Paul writes to the Philippians, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13). What kind of everything? I can stand firm in battle. I can stand firm against the devil's schemes. I can stand firm in the struggle, the battle. I can stand firm when the day of evil comes -- which is every day in this life and on this earth after the fall into sin.
All we need is Christ. All we need is a relationship with Jesus and we can stand against everything and anything Satan throws at us. All we need is our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace and we can stand firm and go into battle against Satan and have nothing to fear. You go into battle against Satan, with Jesus at your side, and you just know you will be victorious.
We see an example of this with Elisha. His house was surrounded. By the enemy. By a strong force from the King of Aram. Elisha's servant was in panic mode. But not Elisha. Because he was ready. Because his feet were fitted with the Gospel of peace. Do you remember what happened? God struck the enemy with blindness (2 Ki 6).
We see another example of this in Gideon. He and 300 men were against an army of 135,000 Midianites. Gideon made an altar to the Lord. Do you know what the altar was called? "The LORD is peace" (Judges 6:24). Do you know what the LORD said to him? "Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die" (Judg 6:23). So Gideon and 300 men, having peace with God, were able to defeat an army of 135,000.
When you have peace with God in Jesus Christ, you can stand. When you have the Gospel of peace you can stand against the devil. You can bring Satan down to defeat. Because Satan cannot stand against Jesus and the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of Jesus. Satan is scary. Satan looks scary. Satan has legions under him. But Satan is not Almighty. Satan is not Omniscient. Satan is not Omnipresent. Satan is powerless against God. Satan is weak against the power of the Gospel.
Stand, congregation. Stand firm. Stand firm against the devil's schemes. How? With the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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