Summary: 60th in a series from Ephesians. Peace is the foundation that allows us to stand firm against the devil.
Opening: Clip of Nike commercial – “It’s gotta be the shoes.”
This 1989 classic Nike commercial was intended to convince the buying public of the importance of having the right shoes. And, although shoes are often much more of a fashion statement than functional, there are still many times when having the right shoe is crucial.
As many of us watch the Summer Olympics over the next few weeks, we’ll see just how important shoes are to many of the athletes. Obviously that’s not a big issue for swimmers, divers and gymnasts, but for many of the athletes, having the right shoes will determine whether or not they have a chance to win a medal.
Many sports have their own specialized shoes. The successors to Michael Jordan on the U.S. basketball team wear shoes that give them the proper traction and stability as they run and jump. Even though volleyball players also run and jump, their shoes are designed especially for their sport and they differ quite a bit from the basketball shoes. Cyclists wear specialized shoes that allow them to provide the maximum force to their pedals. And in track and field, each event requires different kinds of shoes. In fact, those who compete in the decathlon, an event that requires athletes to compete in ten different events, may very well use ten pairs of shoes, one for each discipline.
So, as Paul continues his description of the armor of God, it’s not surprising that he now focuses on the shoes. Let’s read our passage out loud together. Once again, we’ll read from both the NIV and the more literal NASB:
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:15 (NIV)
and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace
Ephesians 6:15 (NASB)
The Romans soldiers wore heavy leather shoes called caligae. These shoes were bound by thongs over the instep and around the ankles and the soles were thickly studded with hobnails, which served to reinforce the shoes, provide better traction and which could also be used as a weapon by kicking the enemy. Those shoes that were worn by the ordinary soldiers were so essential that those soldiers came to be known as the caligati.
Germanicus, was the adopted son of emperor Tiberius and one of Rome’s most beloved generals. When he was among the soldiers he began to put the caligae on his young son, who was appropriately nicknamed “little boots”. So when that boy later became emperor, he was known not by his formal name, but by his nickname, Caligula.
This is perhaps the most difficult of all the pieces of the armor to understand. This is the only piece of the armor where Paul doesn’t actually identify it directly. We have the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. But if you look at verse 15 carefully, you’ll find that Paul doesn’t actually use the word shoe at all. It’s implied in the verb which is translated “fitted” or “having shod”, which literally means “having sandaled”, but the word “shoe” isn’t there. In fact, if we take this phrase literally, we are actually to sandal our feet with “readiness”, or “preparation” and not the “shoes of readiness” or the “shoes of preparation.”
As a result, the commentaries and sermons on this passage tend to be divided into two major camps:
• The most adhered to, and the correct view in my opinion, views the gospel of piece as the foundation that prepares or readies us to stand firm against the evil one in this spiritual war we’re involved in.
• The second view, one taken by many well-respected biblical scholars and teachers, is that readiness refers to the idea that believers should be ready to go out and defend and spread the gospel of peace.
While that second view is certainly in line with other passages that exhort believers to be ready to share the gospel with others, given the context, I’m not sure that is what Paul has in mind in this passage. But I think it is helpful to us to understand how those who hold to that position support that view. So let’s begin by looking at...
The shoes as a picture of readiness to share the gospel
As, I’ve already shared with you, Paul’s description of the armor may very well have been influenced by his familiarity with the Roman soldiers, but it was even more influenced by his knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures which described the armor of the Messiah, Jesus. And I have no doubt that when he writes about having our feet fitted with readiness, he was influenced by this passage from Isaiah: