I did not preach yesterday, so I am posting the completed sermon notes for a portion of the armor of God that I did not preach over.
and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:15 ESV
With this third piece of the armor of God before us, we have officially moved into the latter half of our final section of Ephesians, Kingdom War. We began, of course, by discussing the nature and methods of our spiritual enemy, Satan and his demonic hosts, followed by Paul’s three commands to us within verses 10-13: stand firm, be strong, and put on the whole armor of God. As we have noted, those five parts together lay the biblical framework for what we today call spiritual warfare. Yet our study has not ceased since the command for us to put on/take up the whole armor of God also led us into our present discussion of each component of our heavenly armaments. After endeavoring to understand and be equipped with the belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness, we now proceed to the shoes of the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
This particular piece of the armor is unique in that it is listed as having three distinct, yet connected, terms. Therefore, we will divide our study into two parts, yet answering three questions: What is the gospel, what is peace that the gospel brings, and for what does it make us ready?
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL & WHAT PEACE DOES IT BRING?
One of the primary questions regarding the apostle’s description of these shoes is: what are the shoes a picture of? Are they the shoes of the gospel, the shoes of peace, or the shoes of readiness? My answer, as it so often is, is yes. Readiness or preparation may be immediately at view, yet Paul seems to be very intentional about his linking together of these three components.
This is further evidenced in what was likely the Old Testament text that Paul is referencing and building up. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7). Iain Duguid notes that this is the only other verse in Scripture to reference the gospel (aka good news), peace, and feet. Indeed, Isaiah’s imagery is of a herald bringing the latest news from another realm of the kingdom; therefore, while readiness is not explicit, it is certainly implicit. Therefore, Paul is urging us to use like shoes the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
First, what is the gospel? Meaning good news, what Paul refers to as the gospel is very much connected to the glorious reality that we are equipped with the righteousness of Christ. The good news, of course, begins with the bad news that we are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s perfect and holy law. From the moment that Adam and Eve ate of the only forbidden fruit, we continuously have been choosing to wander away from God’s commandments. Yet, thinking ourselves wiser than God, we betrayed ourselves as fools. Our sin places us against the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, which is the very height of folly, but it also destroys us from within as well. Sin has a corrosive effect upon our hearts and conscience. Furthermore, sin fosters strife between one another. As James 4:1-3 notes,
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Sin, therefore, ravages both within and without. It steals away our peace with God, with others, and with our own conscience. Who can redeem us from such a state of enmity? Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord has done it. Paul is right to call it the gospel of peace because the gospel is the good news that peace has finally come. Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah called Him the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Through His own flesh, Christ has purchased our peace.
Paul already described this peace which only Jesus brings in chapter 2. First, Christ reconciles us to God (2:1-10). Although we were His enemies who willfully followed after the schemes of Satan, Christ raised us from our death in sin, bringing us to life before the Father. Through the giving of His innocent blood, Jesus atoned fully the debt of our sin, and in His resurrection, He now applies His own perfect righteousness to us so that we are now able to come into the Father’s presence in the purity of His own Son!
Yet the gospel continues its work of peace moving outward to one another. Paul specifically applied the gospel to the divide between Jews and Gentiles, saying that Jesus “is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (2:14-16). The gospel places an eternal perspective onto earthly conflicts. How can brothers or sisters in Christ remain at enmity with one another knowing that Christ gave Himself up for the other person or party?
Finally, the gospel brings peace to our own guilt and conscience. Paul wrote in Romans 8:33-34,
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
These statements apply to our own condemning conscience as well as to the accusations of the enemy. If God Himself has justified, there remains no charge to bring against us. The Almighty has spoken; let creation be silent. The Infinite has worked salvation; let us mortals fall before Him in everlasting adoration!
READY FOR WHAT?
It is not, however, the gospel of peace that Paul presents as metaphorical shoes for our feet; instead, it is the readiness given by the gospel of peace. The gospel of peace gives us readiness, makes us ready, and it is that readiness that acts as the shoes of the armor of God. Before moving into the question of for what we must be ready, we should note that shoes are an apt metaphor for readiness. A comedian has said that the decision to use flip-flops is essentially saying, “I hope I don’t get chased today.” Shoes, even the kind of shoes, ensure that we are able to meet whatever challenges may find us. Shoes, after all, enable greater mobility. Long marches are an active component of military life. Soldiers must be always ready to move from one location to another at the command of their captain. Furthermore, who can say on what sort of terrain a battle will be fought? How can a soldier fight properly barefoot upon stones? How can he move quickly across a field of thorns without shoes to protect his feet? With a good pair of shoes upon his feet, the soldier is made ready, ready to complete whatever tasks lay before him without having to fret over every pebble at his feet.
But how and for what does the gospel of peace make us ready? Let us consider three large points. The gospel of peace readies us:
To Proclaim the Gospel
We see this point in the apostle himself. In Romans 15:20, Paul described his ministry as being: “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build upon someone else’s foundation.” His desire was for all people who had yet to hear the good news that Jesus Christ rescues sinners from the wrath of God. Although he wrote this very epistle from prison for proclaiming the gospel, his imprisonment did not quench his longing for the world to know Christ. To the Philippians (which was written during the same imprisonment), Paul wrote:
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.Philippians 1:15-18
Paul’s life was a poured-out drink offering for the proclamation of Jesus. This was both his joy and his aim, the sole direction of his life. But what made Paul ready to preach the gospel, even at the cost of imprisonment? Paul latched onto the gospel of peace. “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). The former persecutor had received mercy from the One whom he persecuted. The apostle could not keep such an amazing grace to himself.
To Die for the Gospel
The gospel of peace also makes us ready to die for the gospel. A survey of Christian martyrs never proves fruitless. Consider the first martyr of Acts, Stephen. As a newly appointed deacon of Christ’s church, he faithfully served God’s people through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, but he also powerfully declared the gospel through the Spirit. As they did with Jesus, the religious leaders ignored the wisdom and wonders that Stephen displayed and falsely charged him with blaspheme. Yet while Stephen stood before the council, the Spirit gave him the boldness to proclaim:
You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.Acts 7:51–53
In rage, the council threw him out to the city and stoned him. Luke then records,
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59–60)
While his accusers raged, Stephen was peaceful, comforted by the Comforter. Throughout history, this is the pattern of the martyr’s for Christ and His gospel. We could think of Polycarp’s prayer before the fires of his execution were lit:
I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body.
We could consider Jan Hus, who prayed as he was being burned alive, “Lord Jesus, I endure this cruel death for you. I ask you to have mercy on my enemies.” Or perhaps of Thomas Cranmer, who although he previously recanted of the gospel during torture, thrust his hand which signed the recantations into the fire first, calling it “that unworthy hand.” The list unfortunately goes on and on.
The gospel of peace makes us ready to endure such a death by uniting us to the Father. Speaking of persecution and even death for the sake of the gospel, Jesus gave us these words:
So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.Matthew 10:26–33
It is the wonder of being reconciled to our heavenly Father that makes us ready to suffer for the sake of His great name.
To Live for the Gospel
Finally, the gospel of peace also readies us to live for the gospel. This is an important point of clarification because some proclaim the gospel who are not themselves transformed by the gospel. Whether they merely believe in Christ on an intellectual level or they only preach the gospel to achieve some sort of gain or status, declaring the gospel to someone else does not necessarily mean believing it personally. Preachers and teachers, should particularly take note of this point. Heed the warning of Paul: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). How tragic is the doctor who recognizes symptoms of disease in everyone but himself! Greater still is the tragedy of a preacher of the gospel who has not believed its good news himself.
Furthermore, dying for the gospel does not necessitate belief. As little as we would like to think of this, the reality stands that even suffering and death can be used as instruments for self-aggrandizement. Should we live long enough, we will suffer. That is the simple reality of life in this fallen sin-scarred world. We should take care, therefore, that when suffering comes, we suffer well. Christ proclaimed blessing upon “those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10), which, of course, implies that not all persecution is for the sake of righteousness. Or as 1 Peter 4:15-16 say, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” This is a hard word for frail ears, but not all suffering is a persecution of the godly and not all martyrdoms are holy.
The gospel of peace must, therefore, prepare us to live for Christ and His good news. It must be our daily pattern to take up the cross, to crucify self, and to live for Christ’s glory. We must submit our everyday lives to Him in obedience, which was exactly the point of the household commands. The same gloriously good news that existed in the mind of the triune God before all time now infiltrates the smallest and most ordinary events of our lives. Nothing is too great for the gospel of Christ, but also nothing is too small for its manifold working.
Has the gospel of peace also made you ready to proclaim its good news? Are you prepared to die for this gospel? Are you currently living for this glorious message? The spiritual forces of evil are always ready to lead to damnation or, at least, inactivity, but like shoes for our feet, the gospel of peace readies us for whatever act of obedience to our Lord lies before us.
 Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14.