14th Sunday after Pentecost ‘A Bold Choice in Footwear’
August 29, 2021 Ephesians 6:10–20
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
As Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians, he writes those important words back in chapt.2: “For it is by grace you have been saved thru faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Saved by grace, thru faith; and we are set on a life-path with things God has planned for us to do. To do those good things, God equips us so we can still do them even when we are opposed. So now in chpt.6, we’re told of some important equipment the Lord has for us; it’s the 6-piece armor of God = with /the belt, /the breastplate, /the shoes, /the shield, /the helmet, /& the sword. *I wonder which is the most important part? All the pieces are needed, and we might argue that the sword is the most vital piece of equipment. But let’s look at the SHOES, since 3-times Paul uses the word ‘stand’, and you don’t stand on your sword.
So, *how important are a soldier’s shoes? *What does a soldier need from his shoes?
And *what kind of shoes does the Lord give to us in our faith-battle?
First, how important are a soldier’s shoes? If you & I were turned loose in the armory to pick out our equipment, we might go first to get the best sword or shield. Then we might look at the helmets & body armor. Lastly we might think about a belt & footwear. I wonder if that’s the priority a seasoned soldier would have; especially one whose experienced long marches in rough terrain, or who has needed a strong stance to hold the line.
*How ready would a soldier be to face an enemy & do battle if their boots are falling apart, or if their ankles are injured, or if their toes are frostbitten? Proper footwear is as important as any other piece of armor; a battle might be won or lost by shoes. So, to know what’s ‘proper,’ we need to know what the soldiers job or purpose is = *is it /to look fashionable, /to be comfortable, /to run fast, /or to stand firm? Paul gives our answer 3-times: ‘stand’.
*Have you ever heard why Scotland’s national flower is ‘the thistle’? The story is, in order to take the sleeping Scots by surprise, an army of Norse invaders was ordered to remove their shoes so they could approach in silence.
What the commander didn’t know was that the field they were to cross barefoot was filled with thistles. The Norsemen’s cries of pain sounded the alarm that led to their own defeat. Scotland has honored the thistle ever since.
When feet are properly fitted, /the soldier, /the athlete, /the dancer, /the mountain climber, /& the scuba diver are all ready to go to work & accomplish their goal. Thru Paul, the HSp is saying that it’s the same with the Christian soldier.
Listen to these verses from Isaiah 59: ‘the Lord saw there was no justice, and it displeased Him.’ ‘…so His own arm worked salvation for Him, …He put on righteousness as His breastplate, and the helmet of salvation was on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance, and wrapped Himself in zeal as a cloak. …men will fear the name of the Lord, … The Redeemer will come to Zion, for those in Jacob who repent of their sins, declares the Lord.’ (vs.16-20)
As Yahweh equipped His Savior as heaven’s warrior, so likewise the Lord’s people will be equipped to battle against the powers of darkness. Even tho Isaiah did not describe footwear, it’s not surprising that Paul does. As Paul writes to the Ephesian Church, he has spent plenty of time in the Roman prisons; even now he was under house arrest, waiting to have his chance to stand before the Roman Emperor = which is why he asked for their prayers to be able to open his mouth boldly to proclaim the Gospel when he gets his chance. As Paul was being led around by those soldiers, he had the opportunity to contemplate the difference between his own common sandals and the sturdy footwear of the Roman soldier.
So, Paul makes a connection between the sturdy footwear of the Roman soldier and the sturdy gospel foundation of Christ Jesus for the Christian soldier. It’s the Good News of our unbeatable Savior which gives us the firmest footing for our job & purpose. And the command given -here- to the Christian soldier is very simple: “Stand!”
You & I don’t need to go out looking for the enemies of God. The opposing world already surrounds us; the devil is prowling around like lion seeking to devour us. The command for us is not to ‘attack’ and certainly not to ‘retreat.’ But to “Stand firm!” Stand with the truth,
in righteousness, and stand on the Gospel of peace. This whole armor of God is given to the Christian so that we are able to stand our ground, and to withstand the assaults of the enemy.
So, we can see that footwear is important. What else is Paul thinking = what does a soldier need from his or her shoes? How about ‘protection’ and ‘traction’.
The Lord’s army needs shoes that give protection. A soldier will not stand firm & steadfast with wounded feet. Recall from Greek Mythology the story of the mighty warrior Achilles. He was otherwise unbeatable, with just one weakness, and an arrow to the heel of his foot was his downfall. *Why didn’t he wear a steel-soled boot? *What is our ‘achilles’ heel’? Our mortal weakness is our sinful nature; and our certain defeat is the Law of God to punish our sins. We cannot stand upright before God; we have no good works to stand on, and we are guilty & condemned.
But, just as the shield of faith will protect us from the fiery darts of the enemy, so the Gospel’s promise of full forgiveness by Jesus’ death on the cross protects our stance from the punches & stomps of any accuser. You & I have a steel-soled boot; without it, we are defeated. Our protection is the promise of God’s mercy in Christ. Our feet are protected by the Good News of our forgiveness.
God’s soldier also needs shoes that give traction; traction for moving ahead to accomplish those works God has prepared for us to do. The Gospel of our peace with God takes away the threat of death. Yes, physical death is not a pleasant thing, and we don’t seek it. But the Living God is pleased to call you His own. You are washed clean in His Baptism; He has called you by name; He has written your name in His own Book of Life, so now the sting of death is gone. Our death is not our end; it now means our resurrection to new life with Him.
That is the Gospel of our peace. With that kind of traction, our feet are firmly planted in a peace of mind & heart. No matter what the worry, or doubt, or fear, we have traction to live without slipping or shaking. We can also notice here that the Christian is equipped to stand without anger, violence, or retaliation. The Gospel simply gives us the solid peace of the absolute truth & full assurance of God’s mercy in Christ for all.
So, that’s what a soldier needs from his shoes: protection and traction. The belt & breastplate & shield, the helmet & sword all begin to lose their effectiveness once the soldier has been knocked to the ground. To remain in the battle, the soldier needs to stay on his feet.
You & I will remain on our feet when our feet are fitted with the readiness given by the gospel of peace. That has been given to us by the work of Jesus, when His feet took Him to the cross, and when His feet walked Him out of the tomb.
So finally, what kind of shoes does the Lord give to us? Here, Paul uses himself as an example of a soldier equipped with the Lord’s armor, including those Gospel-shoes.
To those shoes & to his stance, Paul twice uses the word = ‘bold.’
Paul thinks about what lies ahead for him; he will have a face-off with the world’s most powerful Emperor; behind that Emperor stands a whole nation under the influence of the spiritual forces of evil, and the cosmic powers of darkness. Most of them have never heard of who the One True God is, and they are headed to hell without heaven’s Savior. But God is going to give Paul the opportunity of a lifetime: to come before Caesar. *Will he be able to stand firm? He will be standing on the Gospel of ‘peace on earth & good will toward men.’ So what he needs now is boldness.
He asks the Church of his day to pray for him so that he can boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel. Paul is not going to the world’s unbelieving rulers with the thought, ‘let them feel the edge of my sword.’ Instead, he wants to be bold enough to say to them, ‘Hey, look at my shoes!’
Paul’s shoes, this peace with God, is a mystery to those under the influence of the present darkness. This mystery is not like those things that can be solved by us working thru evidence & scientific reason. The mystery of the Gospel is beyond the understanding of ‘wise men’, and yet it’s revealed to little children. This mystery is solved by the HSp’s grace, and thru faith; just as Paul said back in chpt.2.
Paul’s prayer is that he be given the words to make known to the world this secret which God has -finally- made known: that God loved the world, so that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. To speak that message of Christ boldly means to speak it freely. It means to hold nothing back; to not worry about ‘offending’ people who don’t want to hear about ‘our religion.’ The Lord desires all to be saved thru Christ Jesus. Now we understand why Paul wants boldness.
All sinners are enemies of God; but they are not our spiritual enemies; our fight isn’t against our own flesh & blood. Paul’s battle was not against the Emperor, even tho the Emperor could decide whether he lives or dies. Paul’s goal was to present the Gospel fully and naturally, and in a winsome way to a man who hadn’t heard.
We know that it takes courage to speak of God’s view of sin & grace to those who are naturally resistant. And yet, we know the secret: Jesus is God’s Son, and the soul’s only Savior; man’s only hope. That’s nothing to apologize for; and we can’t change that message to make it either hurt less, or feel better. Like Paul, we want others to know the full joy of dying to sin, & being fully forgiven, so as to live a new life in Christ Jesus in His good & right ways; with the promise of heaven before us.
What it meant for Paul & the Ephesians to be strong in the Lord, and equipped with God’s armor, is still what it means today for you & me. Our feet are to be fitted with the readiness given to us by the Gospel of peace in Christ. In that Good News, we stand secure when opposed, and we are able to move when the Lord prepares an opportunity to declare it boldly. It’s the simple message of forgiveness that the Gospel & the HSp has made known to us: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.’ Our feet are fitted with that Good News.