The Christian’s Armor: Gospel Shoes
Sometimes it is easy to overlook even the most obvious things. And as we come to the particular piece of armor to be considered in this study, we might make this mistake. It is easier to see the importance of the girdle of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, but how many of us would think of the equal importance of having on the right shoes? And yet, right here in the list of the Christian’s armor, the third thing on the list is “having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” So to understand the significance of this particular piece of equipment we will think about: The importance of shoes to begin wit, then the identification of “Gospel shoes, and then, the interference with shoes.
So let’s begin our study by thinking about the importance of shoes. In our day and time, shoes are important primarily from the standpoint of whether or not they are “in style.” But historically, shoes were important simply as a means of protection of the feet. In the days when most travel was done on foot, the shoe was designed to protect feet from the hot desert sands, or thorny or rocky soil. And for the same reason, shoes were simple – basically a thick piece of leather attached to the foot by means of leather thongs. Naturally, as time has gone by, shoes have taken on various degrees of importance. For instance, they have become an almost essential part of the equipment of players of various sports. And the shoes are quite different, depending on the particular being played – football shoes compared to hiking boots, as compared to track shoes. But each shoe is designed with the particular demands upon the foot by the particular sport.
And the same thing is true spiritually! In the Roman world of Paul’s day, a soldier wouldn’t think of wearing his thin soled sandals into the battle. For that he needed boots that would give support to his ankles, and protect his heels and toes. So Paul takes that fact and makes another of the analogies that he is making between the armor of the soldier and the provision that God makes has made for Christians. And it is an analogy that fits right in with much of Paul’s other teaching. As we have seen in the last couple of chapters, over and over again he refers to the Christian life in terms of “walking.”
In the New Testament there are at least 27 references to “walking” as a description of the Christian life. And it is particularly referred to in Ephesians, the context of this passage on the Christian’s armor. For example, in chapter 2 he described their past life when he said in chapter 2, verse 21, that “in times past you walked according to the course of this world.” In other words, the unsaved live exactly the way Satan wants them to – that is their “walk.” Then in chapter 4, verses 17 through 19 he describes that walk in detail – a wicked lifestyle that results from a “vanity” of the mind. But in chapter 4, verse 1 he describes the way we should walk in detail. And in chapter 5 verses 1 and 2 he tells us how to put that into effect.
So shoes are an important part of life – historically, in sports, and even spiritually. But now let’s think about the specific identification of the shoes that Paul is talking about here. Notice carefully the reference to these shoes: your feet shod with the “preparation of peace.” Now at first glance we would think that he talking about the gospel. And that is certainly generally true. But it is more specific than that – this is a limited segment of the whole doctrine of salvation. The word “preparation” here is a translation of a Greek word which stresses internal preparation, as opposed to external preparation by means of equipment. And the word “gospel” means, simply “good news.” Now the best news anybody ever hears is the “good news” of salvation. But the actual word “gospel” just means “good news” of any kind. And notice what this good news is about: it is the good news of peace. And that is the basic, essential message of the gospel: that we have peace with God! Romans 5:1 puts it very succinctly:
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The key phrase here is “being justified by faith” And specifically, faith in Christ. So what is this piece of armor? It is the good news that we have peace with God! The unbeliever may not think that he is at war with God, but there is a lack of peace there because of sin. That is why unbelievers usually want to change the subject when the talk turns to things of God. But that lack of peace is what was taken out of the way by the sacrifice of Christ. And we can walk through all of the various battles of life with that truth to give us sure footing – the war is over! We are at peace with God no matter what may be happening all around us.
Now we have identified this important piece of armor. But, as with all the other pieces of armor, Satan will try to attack us in spite of it. So the third thing we want to think about in this regard is the interference with the shoes – some things that can nullify the effectiveness of this piece of armor. There are many illustrations throughout scripture, but two from the Old Testament will suffice: In Isaiah 59:10 through 12 we find an example of people who don’t have this armor
Like the blind we grope along the wall feeling the way like men without eyes at midday we stumble, as if it were twilight, among the strong we are like the dead. For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us and we acknowledge our iniquities.
What brought about this groping, stumbling condition? Verse 12 answers. – their sins! If a believer allows sin to go unchallenged in his life and then tries to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith he is called” he will find he makes no progress at all. Because he has taken off his hobnailed boots. But there is another situation described in Psalm 73:2
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
The psalmist’s feet were slipping – he wasn’t able to use his boots: why? Verse 3 answers
For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Isaiah was talking about overt sin that causes us to stumble and grope. But this is mental attitude sin – and it has the same effect. Well, then, how do we put the boots back on? I John 1:9 tells us:
If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The believer who is out of fellowship with God is just as ill at ease with God as the unbeliever is.
But, as I John 1:9 says, that can be very simply remedied by confessing our sin.
If we could choose the terrain on which to do battle against Satan we would certainly choose a level place where there would be nothing to make us slip or fall. But unfortunately, we don’t get to choose where we will do battle with him. In fact, it seems that he hardly ever attacks when we are on smooth ground. But when the going is already rough then he delights to make it worse. And that is why we need to have on our “gospel shoes” before we get into the battle.
But perhaps as you read this you are already in the battle and you find your feet slipping – perhaps you have taken off you battle shoes. If a believer walks in the old ways, follows the old patterns, conforms to the old habits and standards, he should not wonder why his feet slip! We must, by the grace of God, appropriate that peace which God has provided so that we will have a secure footing the enemy attacks.