Shoes of the Readiness of the Gospel
4th of 8 messages delivered at the ERCS Family Camp, 19-22 Jun 2006
"And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:15).
We are standing inside the armoury of the army of Christ. Earlier on, we have been reminded to be brave; to take courage and to draw equipment and strength from the Lord as we enter into the fight.
We have also been briefed on what kind of war we are fighting and the strategy that we must adopt in the battle. It is a spiritual war. The enemies are invisible spiritual terrorists. We must fight a defensive battle. Christ our King has already conquered. We must stand and withstand as Satan the Prince of the enemy army schemes and plots to regain lost ground.
In order to fight this battle effectively, we must put on the full armour that God has provided for us.
But now we must begin to learn about various parts of the armour that are available to us. We have considered the belt or girdle of truth. We saw that this belt symbolises everything to do with the truth. Objectively it refers to the truth of the Gospel which we must hold on tenaciously. Subjectively, we must gird ourselves with honesty, faithfulness, and integrity. Unless we know the truth and are truthful, we shall easily fall prey to the temptation of the devil to fight on his side. For Satan is the father of lies. So we must put on the belt of truth. We must girt our loins with truth.
We have also considered the breastplate of righteousness. We saw that the breastplate of righteousness has two parts. One part of it refers to Christ’s imputed righteousness, and the other part refers to Christ’s imparted righteousness. We must make sure that we are assured of our justification in Christ and we must live holy lives in response to the work of sanctification of the Spirit of Christ.
The Lord helping us, we must now consider the foot protection that Paul wants us to wear. This is our combat boots.
"And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Eph 6:15)
We must study it by again considering firstly what it is. Secondly, what it represents. And thirdly, how we must put it on?
First then, let us ask:
1. What Are Shoes for in Battle?
There is one piece of equipment that every modern infantry soldier must have. It is not the rifle. It not the body armour. It is not his helmet. It is his boots. Although the larger part of modern warfare is not fought on the ground, the humble boots is still an essential part of the soldier’s equipment. Someone has put it very well when he says: "if the soldier’s feet fail, all of his high tech equipment is useless".
A poorly designed or poorly fitting pair of boots can become a tremendous source of pain and frustration for the soldier. Imagine having blisters on the foot and trying to fight a battle? Those of you who have been to the army will know. If your boots are too tight, you can hardly walk. If they are too loose, you get blisters.
So the boots are extremely important to the soldier.
Well, it was so during the days of Paul too. No doubt they did not wear combat boots the way that we do; but they wore a kind of leather shoes tied with leather tongs as well as metal greaves (like leg armour) to protect their lower legs.
These footwear were designed be comfortable and yet at the same time to allow the soldier to have freedom of movement without fear of stepping on sharp rocks or traps that the enemies may lie on the path.
The soldiers who did not have good protection for their legs and feet knew that as soon as they stepped on a sharp rock they would be out of action. On the other hand, those who have proper shoes can go out to fight their enemies on their turf.
But what does this footgear in the panoply of God represent?
2. What do the Shoes in the Panoply Represent?
Paul teaches us that our feet should be "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace."
First of all, let us understand that the shoes or the footgear that the apostle Paul is talking about represents not the Gospel of peace itself, but the preparation or the readiness of the Gospel of peace.
We are not shod with the gospel. The gospel is the Word of God, which is our belt and sword. What we are shod with is the preparation or the readiness that comes with the gospel.
But what does that mean?
Now, because the apostle Paul teaches us that this spiritual war that we have to fight is a defensive war, some commentators believe that Paul is not speaking about the spreading of the gospel.
They say that Paul is picturing the soldier as standing rather than advancing. So they say that the shoes must represent the "believer’s stability or surefootedness from the gospel which gives him peace so he can stand in the battle."
Well, I am not sure about that. I wonder how a soldier can fight a battle by standing without moving. And if you are standing only why do you need shoes?
No, no, when Paul teaches us to stand, he is not saying that we don’t move!
The fact is, in order to fight a defensive battle effectively, we must be ready to move when needed?
Why is the US army fighting in Afghanistan? It is because they believe that in order to defend their country effectively, they sometimes need to go out on the offensive. The whole doctrine of pre-emptive strikes is based on this idea. The point is: a ready offence is an essential part of successful defence.
I believe this is what Paul has in mind. I believe that what Paul is saying is: Let your feet be ready and prepared to move with the gospel of peace. Therefore put on your shoes with that readiness.
The gospel shoes represent the readiness to move with the gospel of peace and to move with its power and purpose.
The apostle Paul no doubt has in mind the words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 52:7 when he speaks about the preparation of the Gospel of peace. Paul quotes this verse in Romans 10 and I am quite sure he has it in mind in our text too.
Turn to the verse and you will see what I mean.
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth" (Isa 52:7)
Do you see the similarity? Isaiah is painting a picture of God’s people running across the mountains to bring peace and bring good news. The gospel is literally ‘good news!’ The gospel of peace is the good news of peace!
Can you see why I say Paul must have Isaiah 52:7 in mind?
And so by the words, preparation of the Gospel of peace we can be quite sure that when Paul speaks about being shod with the preparation of the gospel, he is telling us that we should all be ready to run with the gospel; to tell the good news; to publish peace that comes with salvation; and to say "Our God reigns!"
Yes, the apostle Paul is teaching us how we may stand against the wiles of the devil. It is a defensive battle that we have to fight. But in order to fight it effectively we must be ready always to make advance with the gospel of peace.
The apostle Peter says:
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Pet 3:15).
Now, it is instructive to note that the word translated ‘ready’ here has the same root as the word translated ‘preparation’ in our text. Preparation is readiness. Peter wants us to have the preparation of the gospel to be able to answer to every man who asks us of the hope that is in us.
This, beloved brethren, is an important defence strategy. It is important for us to be always ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us whether they be asking out of genuine interest, or curiosity, or even challenge. If we can’t give an answer, then the devil will assault us with doubt until we find a satisfactory answer.
But more than that, being always prepared to speak the gospel is one of the best ways of experiencing the power of the gospel in our lives that will enable us to stand and withstand the assaults of the devil.
Though we are not all called to preach the gospel, we are all called to be witnesses of the gospel. We are all called to gossip the gospel. We are all called to be like Andrew who when he found the Lord went to call his brother Peter. We must be like the Samaritan woman who when she found salvation in the Lord went and told the whole village about the Messiah.
If we would be like Andrew and the Samaritan woman, we shall ourselves be greatly strengthened in our fight against the wicked one. For one of the best ways of experiencing the power and assurance of the gospel in your life is, to give it away or to bring others to it.
The Lord says:
"Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it" (Lk 17:33).
The more you are ready to lay down your life and your pride to speak about the gospel, the more you will know of the power, joy, assurance and peace that come with the gospel.
In dying you will live. In giving the gospel of peace, you shall receive peace yourself.
Put on therefore those shoes of the preparation of the gospel and be ready always not only to give an answer to those who ask you, but also to give out the gospel to those who are too blinded and hardened in their hearts to ask. The more you do so, the more you will see the reality of the spiritual war you are fighting. It is one thing to fight a war while sitting at the HQ Ops Room. It is quite another to go out to the battlefield. Armchair commander or soldier will never be able to fight a war effectively. Likewise, a Christian soldier who does not go out to meet the enemy troops and try to lead them to the Lord, will never understand why it is so important to fight the good fight. Only those who go out with the shoes of the preparation of the gospel will know the awful reality and bitterness of being under the rule of the Prince of Darkness.
3. How Do We Put On These Gospel Shoes?
Well, first of all, you must know the gospel well. Children and teens, if I ask you to tell me the gospel, are you able to? Are you able to tell your friends who is the Lord Jesus and why He lived and died? If you can, you have already got part of the shoes of the preparation of the gospel on.
If not, why don’t you try with one another? One of you can pretend to be an unbeliever, and the other try to tell him about the Gospel.
Tell him about the Lord Jesus. Tell him about how you found peace and salvation in Him.
If you can’t tell the gospel, then you must ask your daddy to teach you how to tell the gospel.
Secondly, to put on the shoes of the preparation of the Gospel, you must resolve not to be ashamed of the gospel.
I am not saying that whenever you talk to anyone you should force the gospel into the conversation. If you do, you will become very irritating and obnoxious to those who know you and no one will want to talk to you.
But you must resolve to seize every opportunity to gossip the gospel. When you have the opportunity, give a tract. If you are sitting beside someone whether in the bus, or the MRT or in the plane, and you get talking, remember to give a tract.
If you are doing a business transaction with someone, and the opportunity arises, tell the person that you are a Christian, and invite him to come to church.
If your classmate asks you what you do on Sunday, tell him you are a Christian and you go to church. But do not stop there. Tell him that Sunday is the day that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead and you go to church to serve a risen Saviour.
If your colleague complains to you about how others misunderstand her and don’t like her, then tell her about the Lord who was misunderstood. Tell her of how when He gave you faith you found freedom from bondage of wanting always to please man rather than to please God.
But thirdly, and finally, if you would have your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel, then you must resolve to seize every opportunity to join the church when your brethren go out to invite the people in the neighbourhood to come hear the gospel.
Some of us may be hindered from going for one reason or another. You must not feel guilty about not being able to go. But let us remember to make it a point to keep those Lord’s Day afternoons free of other encumbrances and let us resolve to go.
And parents, forbid not your children from going. If they are going to fight the spiritual battle, they must early be exposed to the battle by going out into the field.
Beloved brethren and children, let your feet be shod with the preparation and readiness of the Gospel of peace. Fight a defensive battle, but do not forget that in order that you can fight it effectively, you must also be prepared to take the offensive when the occasion calls for it. Amen.