Paul has told us, in the previous verses, that our ability to live our lives in a manner worthy of our calling as Christians is beyond our human ability. He told us that the enemy is spiritual and not physical and that our only hope is to suit up with the full armor that God has provided for us, all of it.
Last week, we learned that we need to "gird our loins with truth"; how that is the element, like the belt that the Roman soldier wore, that holds everything together and allows us to be agile. The truth really does set us free, whether it is the absolute truth of the Bible, or being truthful or recognizing that sure enough, Jesus was right, he is the truth and the light. He said it and it is true.
If your life is not based on truth, in all these aspects in the battle with Satan, the spiritual battle that Paul told us we are in, you lose. You do not lose your salvation; you fail to have the life that God intended for you; you fail to do your part in the Church; you fail yourself and God. You do not live in a manner worthy of your calling as a Christian.
Then we looked at the Breastplate of righteousness. We recognized that the breastplate is essential to protect the vital organs in battle. And it is essential to protect the heart in this spiritual battle. We saw that the righteousness that Paul was talking about was our personal integrity. If we do not maintain our integrity, we are vulnerable from all sides, in this world and in the spiritual world. I continue to be struck by the quote we looked at last week from Alexis de Tocqueville, "America is great because she is good. If she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." The future of our country depends on its integrity, which is in shambles. If your integrity is lost, your life has little value.
But we also recognized that the righteousness that really matters is the righteousness of God that is imputed to us through Jesus. That is the true and ultimate protection for us in the spiritual battle.
So we have to have the belt of truth on as a base and we have to have our heart protected by personal integrity and the righteousness of God.
Today: A Good Pair of Shoes, and the Shield of Faith:
Today we will continue to learn about all of the armor that God has hanging on the wall for us to put on, and why each and every piece is so critical. We will see that if just one piece is left off, we are vulnerable. There are still some vulnerable areas that need protection.
You need a good pair of shoes.
Note that most of verse fourteen last week, and verse fifteen this week, dealing with these parts of armor, are taken by Paul from Isaiah. He alludes to Isaiah 59:17 with regard to the breastplate, and then to 52:7 about the shoes.
Remember this verse, we will come back to it.
Last week Paul said:
What Paul is saying here is that you need a new pair of shoes that have a good sole so that you do not slip. Notice though that Paul says that your feet need to be shod, not with the gospel of peace, but with the preparation of the gospel of peace. This is sort of a strange phrase, but what you see is that the preparation for the battle is what is important. You may have picked up by now that Paul sees this battle as an offensive battle, where we are on the offense against the enemy. So the preparation in anticipation of the battle is very important. Remember we also talked about how critical it is to put the armor on before the battle. After the battle has started, it is way too late to start suiting up. Remember, we are on enemy turf. This earth is Satan's home-field and he has the home-field advantage.
So Paul says that we must be protected by the preparation of the gospel of peace. This piece of the armor of God is not something casual. This requires work in preparation, in anticipation of the battle. This involves training; it involves hard work and early preparation.
So the question that you should ask your self is: "Do I have beautiful feet"? Are your feet shod in preparation for the battle? Are you prepared to proclaim the gospel of Jesus, the gospel of peace? Are you prepared to fight for and defend that same gospel of peace?
So if you are prepared, as Paul tells us to be, you are wrapped in God's truth, you have protected your heart with integrity and God's imputed righteousness and you have a firm footing, being prepared to defend the Gospel of Jesus.
The Shield of Faith:
But Paul says you still need more.
"The shield of faith"; that is an interesting idiom. The integrity of the shield was essential for protection. If you are a soldier living in a fort and you discovered a hole in the wall of the fort, you would not immediately go out of the fort into battle, you would stop and reinforce the wall, repair it, and cover the hole in the wall before you leave the fort. And you would do this not during the battle, but before the battle started. So here we are again with armor that has to be put on before the battle starts. Diligence is the key to a properly maintained shield. You have to keep it repaired and coated all the time. After every engagement you would have to inspect it and make sure that there were no areas of vulnerability. And if there were any areas of weakness you would repair them before you needed the shield again.
So what about your faith? Paul says the shield of faith. If you have doubts, if you have problems with certain perspectives and biblical views about your faith, the time to fix those is immediately, now. If you have a question about something that you do not understand about your faith in Jesus, pursue it, investigate it, do your homework. Don't be a wimp that has to be spoon fed. Roll up your sleeves, get a concordance, get what ever help you need and find the biblical answer. Meet with other believers, pray with other believers, do whatever is necessary to reinforce the hole in your faith. Of course we all have areas in our shield of faith that are strong and other areas that are weak. That is to be expected. But don't leave any gaping holes open for the flaming arrows of doubt to do damage. If you have doubts and questions about your fundamental issues of faith, like creation, or faith in Jesus, or the security of your salvation, or other the fundamental questions, get the holes sealed up now. Don't sit around waiting for a pastor to spoon feed you. Don't wait around for some lesson on a Sunday morning to patch the hole.
There is something interesting about Roman shields. The Roman shield was one of the pieces of armor that you could use in combination with other pieces of armor. The Romans had a formation which they called the tortoise formation. In the tortoise formation, twenty-seven Roman soldiers marched in a fixed, close formation. Six were on the front row with their shields locked edge to edge along the front of the formation. Behind them there were three rows of seven soldiers each with the interior soldier holding their shields above their heads and the soldier on either end of those three rows holding their shields to their outside. So as they marched forward they looked like a tortoise with a bumpy shell made up of the shields. It was like a walking tank. There was no way to penetrate it because it, in effect, sealed them in a protective shell. The way that they would practice this formation was to get into the formation and start marching. They would then run chariots over the formation to test it. You can imagine that you would get pretty good at it pretty quickly with training like that.
Perhaps it is pushing the analogy, but think about the body of Christ, the Church. The body of Christ is made up of a lot of different parts. It takes all of the parts to properly function. If you are not exercising the gifts that God gave you by doing your assigned task in the body, you are damaging the rest of us in the body. One of the things that each of us should be doing is encouraging each other in the faith. There is probably an area in your faith that you have questions, that you need help. There is probably someone else in this class or in your scope of Christian friends that has probably done homework on that area, and could help you with it; could help you plug the hole in your shield of faith. There are probably some here who have a hurt, or problem that is encumbering your spiritual growth. There is somebody near you that God has placed there that can minister to the problem or hurt. Who here has not gone through trials of some kind? We all have. We could go through a whole study on why God puts you through trials, and there are a lot of reasons. A part of it is the "No pain, no gain." Perhaps one of the reasons that God put you through some trial in the past is to equip you to help someone going through that same trial today. So if you have experienced certain trials, perhaps it was to equip you, and now you should be sensitive to others about that kind of situation, and pray about it to see if you are being called to plug a hole in the shield of a fellow Christian.
Before we leave this subject of faith, the shield of faith that we're talking about is not blind faith, which is just blindly accepting something. Not at all.
The Scripture says:
You need to be equipped; you need to be knowledgeable; you need to be so versed in the Bible that you not only believe it, but that your shield of faith is without holes. The shield of faith that Paul is talking about here is not blind faith, and you want to mend any doubt you have now, before you need it.
So we have...
...we will add the final piece of armor required to be the victor in our life, of God's armor that allows us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling as a Christian.