Like the belt, the shoes seems to be an obscure piece of battle gear. Everyone wears shoes of one sort or another, so what’s the big deal? Of course if you happen to work for Nike or Adidas or another company like that, special shoes for special purposes are a very big, multi-million dollar deal. For the armies of old, commanders who sought victory in battle, attended to the shoes of their soldiers. Historians tell us that the Roman Caesars outfitted their soldiers with thickly soled shoes that enabled them to sustain long marches.
Part of the lore of the American Revolutionary War are the images of the Minute Men camped out at Valley Forge through a bitterly cold winter without proper provisions, especially shoes.
Eightyfive years later, in nearby Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a group of Confederate soldiers went into town looking for shoes. What they met instead was the Yankee army. And the ensuing battle went down in history as the most deadly in Civl War history. In three days 38,000 soldiers died.
Shoes in battle are a big deal. And if we recalled against whom we Christian Soldiers are fighting, not people but Satan, we remember that one of our missions is simply not to fight defensively, but offensively, to be used by God to take back the ground, win back the souls of men, women, and children, whom Satan by his deceit has enslaved and sentenced to eternal torment. We are not to be a church hiding in the trenches, but a church on the march. And, says our text, that it is by means of proclamation the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the lost we wage war against the Enemy.
But there is another aspect of this matter of "shoes" as it pertains to battle gear, which I wonder if the Apostle had in mind as he wrote this. The key to understanding this found in the line, "our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace," and understanding the classic, secular meaning of the word that we translate in the Bible as "Gospel."
The Greek word in the New Testament that is translated as Gospel (euaggelion) simply means, the "good message," which is why some modern English versions very accurately translate that word as "Good News." The Greek word is virtually unpronounceable in English, but from that Greek word we get two similar words: Evangelist and Evangelism. And in their ancient classic sense, the words we translate as Gospel and Evangelist did not have any religious connotation at all.
In ancient times, those words were used to describe the work and the message of one who ran from a battle field to the folks back in the home city, or to the king, with the news of victory. The runner, messenger, was called the evangelist, and his message of victory in battle was the gospel.
There are a few examples of such battle field messengers in the Bible, but the most famous of all was a man named Pheidippides.
The year was 490 BC. The Persian Emperor Darius I, who incidentally, is the same dude who sent Daniel to the Lion’s Den, sent his army to attack the city of Athens in Greece. Darius’ motive was to punish Athens for encouraging insurrection in Greek cities he controlled a short distance away Turkey.
Darius sent a fleet of ships with his army, and had them set up a camp on a level spot of land 26 miles north of Athens in an area called the Plane of Marathon. One historian describes the scene this way (and as I reviewed this, I saw a fantastic picture of the analogy of our battle against Satan and the advantage we have in the Amor of Christ).
From this point the Persian army landed on the mainland of Greece and the fleet anchored near the Persian camp. The Greeks watched the Persians from the surrounding hills. After a few days, part of the Persian force, including the cavalry, set sail for the Bay of Phalerum. This force plans to attack Athens from the southwest. The main Persian force of about 20,000 men remained facing the Greeks on the plane of Marathon.And it is in Pheidippides’ honor that Olympic games today have a 26-mile running event which is called, a marathon.
The Greeks had a force of 10,000 Athenians and 1000 Plataeans. They sent Pheidippides, their swiftest runner, to bring help from Sparta-about 150 miles away. But the Spartan army was delayed because of religious observances and did not arrive until after the battle. The Athenian general Miltiades attacked the Persians with a running charge. The Persian bowmen fired a great shower of arrows, but the speed and heavy armor of the Greeks enabled them to reach the Persians with small losses. When the two armies came to grips, the superior or weapons and bodily strength of the Greeks were decisive. The Greeks drove the Persians to their ships. The Persians lost 6,400 men, but the Athenians lost only 192. The Greek dead were buried under a mound of earth which may still be seen on the battlefield at Marathon.
As the fleet sailed away, Miltiades feared that the ships would attack Athens by sea. He was afraid that the city might surrender without knowing of the victory at Marathon. According to legend, he sent Pheidippides to carry news of the victory to Athens. Pheidippides, weary from his record journey to Sparta and back, raced the 25 miles to Athens. He reached the city and gasped out, "Rejoice, we conquer," then fell to the ground, dead. (Richard Nelson Fryr, Marathon, The World Book Encyclopedia, volume 13, p. 150, copyright 1983)
Pheidippides was, in the classic battlefield sense, the evangelist, and his good news, "Rejoice, we conquer!" was the gospel.
Like Pheidippides, we have a message to proclaim, with no time to waste. "Rejoice, In Christ we Conquer!"
Isaiah 52:7Notice that the text from Ephesians refers to the shoes of the Gospel of Peace.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
What kind of peace?The answer is "Yes." Peace in Christ offers us all of these.
- Peace as in a victory in Battle?
- Peace as in the reconciliation of two conflicted parties?
- Peace as in peace of mind and heart?
Even though the battle rages on, our victory has been won. Those of you familiar with early American History and the War of 1812 know about the Battle of New Orleans which was fought after Britain signed the peace treaty and promised to withdraw its forces. The only problem was that the treaty was signed in Europe, and news hadn’t made it back across the Atlantic in time to prevent English forces from losing 1,500 men and their commanding officer in an unsuccessful attack on the American forces outside of the city New Orleans. The war was technically already over, but the battle raged on. That’s a bit like the situation we face presently in the spiritual realm.
And Christ offers us the peace of reconciliation, our reconciliation with God, and our reconciliation with each other. It’s call "forgiveness."
"...God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them..." (2 Cor. 5:19)And Christ offers us the Peace of mind and heart that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). It’s the peace that comes with knowing you are forgiven. It’s the peace that comes with knowing who is really in charge, and that He can and does direct circumstances, even the difficult ones, for our ultimate good.
"For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all," (1 Tim 2:5-6)
Finally the text talks about being shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace.
1 Peter 3:15-16Can you explain the wonderful salvation that God offers us in Christ to one who does not yet know Him? I am not talking about inviting people to church or to Bible class, as indeed we ought to do. But a Christian, you are charged with bringing that message of salvation to the lost.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.
Remember that Ephesians 6 does not say, "take part of the armor of God..." or "take only that armor that you feel comfortable with." It says, "Take the whole armor of God..." for without it you will most certainly be defeated in your battle against Satan.
There are several different training programs available in presenting the Good News of Jesus Christ in a clear concise way, and I recommend all of them: D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion, The Navigators’ simple but clear and effective evangelism tract, called "The Bridge to Life," various programs called, "Friendship Evangelism," and many more.
But the most effective means by which I have found that I can easily, spontaneously, comfortably share the Good News of Jesus Christ is rise every morning with a prayer.
The first I remember the significance of my baptism: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Gal. 2:20) And I turn that truth into a prayer: "Lord, I am dead, so you live through me. Whatever is on Your agenda, whatever are Your plans for the day, do through me."
Then I say a second prayer, "Lord, help me tell someone about Jesus today." And as often as I am faithful in praying it, He delights in answering it. The gospel I share may be to an unbeliever who has yet to trust Christ, or it may be to a Christian who simply needs some encouragement.
The third part of my preparation to spend time in the Scriptures, and let God deal with me through His Word in those areas that I have difficulty in life.
And finally, when I meet people, I don’t have to look for ways to "bring up the subject of religion," but I exercise the simple art of asking questions. That encourages people to talk about their favorite subject: themselves. And as they share important information about their lives, their joys, their sorrows, I can simply share in response what I have learned from God’s Word in my walk with Christ.
Part 5 - The Shield of Faith
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