Bible Study Series: Ephesians - The Third Heaven Epistle
Ephesians 6:13-14 Bible Study - The Armor of God: Sandals and Shields
by I Gordon
Let's carry on in our studies in Ephesians and in particular focusing on spiritual warfare and the armor of God. Last time we were talking belts and breastplates. This time is sandals and shields. Have you got your sandals on? Are they done up tight? Have you got your shield raised? What does that even mean!?! All of the armor is obviously critical in our battle but understanding how to apply and use the armor is, well, kind of important! So we will look at that today. Getting a little more specific, we will try answer the following:
- What are the sandals for?
- How do they relate to the gospel of peace?
- Why is the shield of faith so important for all areas of the armor?
- Can you raise that shield to protect another?
- What are some examples in the Bible where the shield has been used? We'll explore what David, Habakkuk and Hezekiah found!
We'll start with more of the theory before moving to some practical examples for our lives in this day and age. Okey dokey... let's begin with that must-have fashion accessory - those gorgeous Roman sandals!
Got those Roman Sandals?
Eph 6:14-15 Stand firm then... with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
I've mentioned before how Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians while under Roman guard and he had the image of a Roman Soldier in mind as he discussed this part of the letter. Now the Roman soldiers didn't wear boots. They wore sandals. When I was at school Roman sandals were the worst. We had the option of wearing Roman sandals or shoes through the hot summer. Shoes and hot feet it was! Now I could be wrong but I doubt that the Roman soldiers wearing Roman sandals in Roman days considered what their sandals looked like quite as much as school age teenage boys do! But the Roman sandal worn by the soldiers had some practical things really going for them - they were highly durable and robust, useful for both mobility and stability. These sandals had straps around the foot to keep them securely on the foot and studs underneath to give great grip1.
So Paul tells us that in our battle we need great footwear and there is none better, he says, that having our feet fitted with the gospel of peace. Ok, that sounds good... but what does that mean? It's right about now that some commentators make the jump thinking that this speaks of evangelism and sharing the gospel. They see that it references the gospel of peace, they note that it is in connection to the feet, and so the normal linked verse is Rom 10:15 'And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"' Now I don't want to downplay the supreme importance of evangelism and sharing the Gospel... but that is not what this verse in Ephesians is about. Context is always king! The context of this part of the armor is the instruction to 'stand' against the wiles of the enemy. It is standing your ground and not being pushed around by the enemy's attack. Three times in two verses (14 & 15) Paul emphasizes the same thought - STAND! When the fiery darts come in... stand. When the winds seemingly blow from every direction... stand. When your faith is being attacked, stand! When you feel your feet start to slip - remember the gospel of peace and the God of peace, and stand once again.
"Shoes are necessary for standing. They speak of the foundation. We need a good, solid foundation, and preparation is foundational."
J. Vernon McGee
Now the Gospel of peace that provides balance, steadfastness and sure footing, allowing the believer to stand securely, is threefold. And the enemy will try to knock you off stride in each of these three areas. What are the three areas? They are:
- Peace with God - First and foremost the gospel of Peace provides peace with God. This is through salvation and brings the assurance that all is well between the Almighty God and your soul. This provides a tremendous solid foundation that all lives need to be founded upon. Therefore it is also an area that the enemy will try to attack and cause doubt in. He will get the believer to focus on their own works instead of the rock-solid finished work of Christ. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace is in place when we renew our minds and stand strong in the truth of the gospel. Listen again to God's word:
Rom 5:1-2 'Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.'
- Peace of God - Secondly the gospel of peace connects us to the Author of Peace, providing peace to our hearts in the midst of difficult times. As an example, while preparing this message I got an email from a reader of the website asking if I could pray for a young teenager from her church that had just been hit and blinded in one eye by a golf ball. Such was the damage that the eye had to be removed. The person emailed me because she remembered that I had gone through the same experience, losing the sight in one eye through a surfing accident. There are so many challenges and difficulties that come our way as we go through life. We don't know what a day will bring forth. The enemy seeks to throw us off track by various trials, contrary winds and fiery darts that come our way. But where would we be without the presence of God and the peace that He brings? It enables us to 'stand'! Maybe this is you right now? To quote a well loved, well used, yet never worn out verse:
Php 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Peace with others - Thirdly the gospel of peace allows us to have peace with others. There is so much conflict in the world. So much hatred. People aren't getting along very well. Even families have their bust-ups and bitter disputes. Yet the gospel of peace not only gives the believer peace with God and peace in trying times, but it extends that peace out towards others. It encourages love towards your neighbor. It even asks for love towards your enemies! It brings forgiveness, reconciliation and gentleness. Our enemy is against all of this obviously but we stand on God's word and follow His instruction:
Rom 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
I really like the following quote from A.C Gaebelein (a great Bible teacher from yesteryear). He writes:
"The feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. This does not mean the preaching of the gospel to others, Christian service or soul winning. We have through the gospel perfect peace with God. We know that God is for us, who then can be against us? This perfect peace we have, in which we stand is our preparation. And we have the peace of God as well, yea, the legacy our Lord left unto us, “My peace I give unto you.” Therefore we are not terrified by our adversaries (Php 1:28). Israel wandered over the desert rocks and desert sands for forty years with shoes which did not wear out. We too wander through the wilderness, the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, a peace which will last as long as God Himself. Knowing this Peace, knowing we are in God’s hands, knowing that we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s, knowing that all things are ours, we can stand and withstand the wiles of the devil. He cannot touch one who rests in the peace of God and who trusts in the God of peace."
Ready? Prepared? Standing firm?
Eph 6:15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Before moving on it is worth looking at this verse again and asking yourself 'Am I prepared?" Am I ready to stand firm? Am I ready for when the evil day comes? Am I prepared when my faith, or the faith, is challenged? Scripture tells us that the believer is to be fitted out with the flash footwear of the gospel of peace to ensure they are 'ready' and 'prepared'. I like how the Amplified Bible expands this verse: "And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace."
We are called to stand firm against the schemes of the enemy (Eph 6:11), to stand firm in the 'true grace of God' (1 Pet 5:12) and to 'stand firm in the faith' (1 Cor 16:13). Take the last verse as an example... Many young Christians go off to College and University and come under attack for their faith. Many are not prepared or ready for the opposition or arguments that come their way and find that they are not able to stand firm in the faith. I was actually the opposite. I went off to University as an unbeliever and came back a believer. But sadly many go the other way. There is a preparation that having a solid grounding in 'the faith' and the true gospel that makes one ready for both the intellectual and fiery challenges ahead. And many challenges are coming! Just taking a wee detour into the challenges of the last days it is important to see that even Daniel required the Lord's peace and strength when faced with what he saw coming in the last days.
You no doubt remember that Daniel was given visions and prophetic insight into the last days. One vision was of 'great conflict' (Dan 10:1) And what was the result of seeing this vision? Well he was left prostrate and speechless on the ground.
Dan 10:15-16 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless. (16) And behold, one who resembled a human being was touching my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke and said to him who was standing before me, "O my lord, as a result of the vision anguish has come upon me, and I have retained no strength.
But what happened when he was overwhelmed? He received encouragement, strength and peace as the word of the Lord came to him.
Dan 10:19 He said, "O man of high esteem, do not be afraid. Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous!" Now as soon as he spoke to me, I received strength and said, "May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me."
So may we be the same as we walk in these troubled times. May we learn to receive from the Lord all that we need as we look to Him. Maybe we experience His peace, as Jesus promised, in these days
Joh 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
To sum up, the gospel of peace is a firm foundation giving stability and steadfastness to the believer in the midst of any attack or trial. But there is something else. Something that must be used to actually protect each part of God's armor... introducing the shield of faith!
The Shield of Faith
Eph 6:16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
The Bible says 'in addition to all' or, as the NKJV puts it 'above all, taking the shield of faith...' Again the Amplified Bible is useful here: "Lift up over all the covering shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one." The Roman shield that Paul used as an illustration was no small thing! We're not talking some small round Captain America shield here... (Though, to be fair, that is a pretty handy shield!) The Roman shield was around 4 feet long and 2 1/2 feet wide. As such this shield was used to protect attacks on any part of the body.
Now the Bible says that God Himself is our shield. The great saints of the Old Testament found this in some trying times. For example:
- Abraham - When he needed assurance, God came to him saying "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great." (Gen 15:1)
- David - He learnt this through his brushes with death at the hand of King Saul. Yet he was saved by the One who surrounded him! David would write: "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; (3) My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior," (2Sa 22:2-3)2
So it is fantastic to know that there is Someone, the Lord Himself, who is our shield. We need to remember this for the Word says "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)" This is the connection between the shield of faith and the practical outworking of peace. But we need to lift up that shield of faith. It is no good hanging low. You see the Lord is our shield and will only allow that which is beneficial for us, but He also wants to develop the character and person of Christ in us! That is why we have a part of play in this battle. That is why he 'trains our hands for battle' as David wrote in Psalm 18. When the fiery arrows are coming it is our faith in God's care and ability that protects us. But we have to renew our minds and lift up that shield once again!
John Bunyan writes about this in his timeless classic, Pilgrim's Progress. He writes:
"Once he was in the Valley of Humiliation, poor Christian was immediately put to the test. He had not gone very far before he spied a foul fiend coming over the field to meet him. His name was Apollyon.
Christian was afraid and struggled in his mind to know what he should do. Should he go back or stand his ground?
As Christian thought about what to do, he realized that he had no armor for his back and that turning and running would give the enemy an easy target for his darts. Christian decided that standing his ground would give him the best chance of surviving Apollyon’s attack...
Then Apollyon straddled himself over the whole breadth of the way and countered, “I am void of fear in this matter. Prepare to breathe your last, for I swear by my infernal den that you will go no further. Here will I spill your soul.”
And with that he threw a flaming dart at Christian’s breast, but Christian had a shield in his hand by which he averted it and its danger. Then Christian drew his sword, for he saw that it was time to make a stand..."
So Christian knew that he had to stand and not run, but also that the shield must be raised and the sword drawn. To give you an example from scripture on the raising of the shield of faith, I was reading the book of Habakkuk again the other day and noted the contrasting ways that the book begins and ends. It starts with his shield of faith hanging low... but it doesn't end that way!
The book starts with the prophet Habakkuk facing challenging times and many questions why? "Why is this happening God?" "Why are you allowing this?" "Why are you not listening?"
Hab 1:2-3 How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save? (3) Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
But he didn't end his letter with anymore 'whys'. He ended it with the shield of faith lifted high. He still didn't understand what was gonig to happen or why God had allowed certain things but his letter ends with one of the greatest statements of faith in all of the Bible:
Hab 3:17-19 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
For the days in which we live, many are facing troubling times and faith in God is essential. The world is running on fear right now and even Church leaders fall into it. I asked a visitor of the website how things are for her in India now. She replied:
"All is normal except in churches where only 70% are allowed to attend the service. Services have to be within 1hr duration. The sad thing is, there are some church members who attend the service with evil intentions, not to worship, rather to report to the government if the church does not strictly adhere to govt protocols. Church leaders and pastors are blinded, filled with fear not even wanting to shake hands with believers for fear of corona. Now it's both the govt and the church that compel vaccination. Some churches don't even allow unvaccinated believers to attend service. Some pastors even preach: "the blood of Jesus can't heal you but only vaccine", while others say "if you say that we are living in the end times you are over religious." These are our so-called pastors by the way... We lost our Father in the month of May, but still no church leaders or pastors have visited us. I feel Church leaders have failed miserably."
The fact is that many are facing the loss of their job and severe restrictions on their movement and ability to live unless they get an experimental Covid injection. In New Zealand where I live, the Government has just passed a 'no jab, no job' law this week for all in education and medicine (they already had it for any frontline workers like those working on the border or ports). This alone has members of my family facing dismissal from their jobs even though they are perfectly healthy and good at what they do. And this is only where it begins. People are facing this all around the world. Without the shield of faith lifted high the fiery darts can easily become too much... 'But God...' Never forget the 'but God'. Pastor J.D Farag recently asked his listeners for any 'but God' experiences in the midst of these trying times and received more wonderful testimonies and stories than he could read out!4
H.A Ironside reminds us well:
"And then protecting the rest of the armor, “the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” This is the shield of confidence in God. That is what faith is. It is not "the faith" - not what you believe, but how you believe. It is faith in the sense of confidence and trust - going to meet the enemy with your trust in the living God, not in yourself."
The Shield Over Others
Before we end I just want to point out how you can lift the shield of faith over one another. As believers we are always stronger together. As I was looking for images of Roman Soldiers for this study, I kept seeing and appreciating the photos of a group of soldiers all huddled together using their shields in a communal way, together, to guard the attacks from different directions. There were no gaps in front, or above, as the shields knitted together to form a really strong defense.5
So how do you lift your shield of faith up to protect another? You do so by standing strong yourself and encouraging the other through your faith. To give one last example from the Bible, this is what Hezekiah did in his darkest hour. You may remember the background... Sennacherib , the King of Assyria had come against Judah and was taunting the people of Judah and mocking the Lord. 'Don't think that you God will be able stop me' this wicked King would cry out... 'We'll crush you like we have all the other nations around you." We will look at this whole story in more detail in the next study but for now I want you to notice what Hezekiah did when his own military officers began feeling fear and started to believe the words of this enemy... We read:
2Ch 32:6-8 He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: (7) Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. (8) With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles." And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.
There it is... the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah said! What did he do? In the midst of an overwhelming army coming against them, Hezekiah reminded them of the Lord. "With him, Sennacherib, is only the arm of the flesh" Hezekiah said. "That is all he has got. But with us, oh, with us is the Lord our God!"
Sandals and shields. Peace and faith. The two go together like peas and carrots. They can't be separated. What have we looked at? Well we've seen that it is peace with God and the peace of God, that gives the believer such a great footing and foundation. Forget Nike and Adidas... this is the footwear that really makes a difference and never wears out! But it must be combined with the practical action of lifting up your shield of faith as Habakkuk found. Do it for yourself when the darts start coming in. Lift it up for others when they are down by encouraging in the Lord just as Hezekiah did in the days of old.
And believers will need both the shield and each other in greater measure in this last days.
But we will also need something else - the helmet of salvation to guard the mind and the sword of the spirit to fend off the attacks. Unsurprisingly, that will be the focus of the next message in Ephesians!