15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (Ephesians 6:15–16)
As we return to this topic of spiritual warfare, let me remind you of the primary question that we are trying to answer in this series: How can we, fallen, sinful creatures, fight against the greatest sinner, Satan? It’s like fighting mud with mud!
What we’ve seen is that we can only fight Satan and his demons by putting on the armor of God.
The belt of truth is the first piece we looked at. We fight Satan with God’s truth; and as we grow in God’s truth, we become more truthful ourselves.
The breastplate of righteousness focuses on God’s righteousness that is given to us when we believe in Jesus.
Satan cannot successfully accuse us of being unworthy because God doesn’t see just us when he looks at us, he sees his righteous Son, Jesus Christ.
So when we come into the battle, it’s not because we are some spiritual Goliath that can take on Satan—that’s just not going to work. Satan will take a sin you’ve committed and use it to doom you to destruction.
Without God’s armor, any believer is like an unarmed man thrown into the ring with a roaring lion. Let’s look then at two more pieces of God’s armor that we should be wearing:
I. THE SANDALS OF READINESS
Ephesians 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
What does every soldier need? A sword, a helmet—sure, but don’t overlook…
A. A Good Pair Of Sandals
“your feet shod” (ὑποδέω)—The Roman soldier’s footwear, or caliga, resembled what we would call sandals, with laces that went up above the ankle.
The caliga had a heavy sole, with hobnails for traction. It was a vital piece of armor for the average soldier who had to march for miles and miles over all kinds of terrain.
These sandals gave the army mobility. The Romans were very interested in mobility, they had to be, their empire stretched all the way around the Mediterranean. Mobility allowed the army to move quickly and to move far.
A good pair of sandals also gave a soldier balance. If you are in the midst of a heated sword fight, the one thing that you don’t want to do is slip and fall. That’s a bad deal, and not just because you might sprain your ankle.
Sandals would make a soldier ready for battle. That’s the idea behind the word, “preparation” (ἑτοιμασία). It’s readiness.
You can imagine a group of soldiers marching, and they come across a steep, rocky incline. Several of the soldiers don’t have good sandals on—they are not ready. As they climb the incline, they cut and bruise their feet. It’s important to be ready.
The right footwear makes a soldier ready to meet any obstacle.
B. Spiritual Sandals
So the idea here is one of readiness, but readiness to do what? It’s a readiness of the “gospel of peace,” but in what way? Bible scholars are divided over two basic explanations. One way to read this is that it means that we are to be…
1. Ready To Share Or Defend The Gospel
What do you do in sandals? You travel in sandals. So the idea is to prepared to share the “gospel of peace” with people. Other verses lend support to this view, for example:
7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; That bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; That saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Isaiah 52:7)
The problem with this view is that it doesn’t fit the context of verses 10-18 very well. What is the main thing being talked about in those verses? Spiritual warfare, not evangelism. What’s a key word repeated several times in these verses? “Stand,” not “Go.”
Another way of understanding what is meant by having “your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” is that we are to be…
2. Ready To Stand Firm
Just as a soldier needs to stand firm when he is engaged in hand-to-hand combat, so a Christian believer must also be able to stand firm when being assailed by the demonic weapons of temptation and trials. This view fits the context of spiritual warfare best.
How do the sandals of the “preparation of the gospel of peace” help a believer to stand firm? Because the gospel gives the believer peace.
C. The Peace Of The Gospel
There are two ways that we can have peace from the gospel. There is the peace with God and then there is peace from God.
1. Peace With God
The most important peace that anyone can have is peace with God. Every unbeliever is not at peace with God, but are, in reality, enemies of God.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)
What this verse is saying is that before we were saved, we were enemies of God—that’s why we need peace with God.
How do we get peace with God? By agreeing to his terms for peace. God’s terms are laid out in Romans 5:1—
1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1)
Being “justified” means being put into a right relationship with God. We are justified by “faith,” but not just faith in anyone or anything, faith in “our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So when you realize that you are a sinner at war with God and that you can be made right with him by having faith in Jesus Christ, that’s when you repent and turn to Jesus.
You need to make a conscious choice to accept God’s terms of peace—and then you will have peace with God.
How does peace with God help us fight battles with Satan?
We can stand in confidence because we know that God is at peace with us and we are at peace with him! God has changed from being our enemy to being our defender.
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
There is a good side-effect of peace with God, and that is…
2. Peace From God
Peace from God is a sense of calmness when all else around you is falling apart. The best illustration of peace that I know of is when Jesus was asleep in the boat during the storm on the sea:
23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! (Matthew 8:23–27)
This is the kind of peace that Jesus promises:
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
Obviously, we can see that every believer has somehow missed out on this peace from time to time. That is because peace from God comes only when we actively depend on him.
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)
Put it this way: have you put on the sandals of peace by turning in dependent prayer to the Lord?
When temptations and trials from Satan fly at you left and right, peace from God enables you to stand firm.
Perhaps you are hit with the trial of cancer, tempting you to doubt God’s goodness.
The sandals of the gospel of peace with and from God will help you realize that God loves you and wants only what is ultimately good for you. You have peace that will hold you firm.
The fourth piece of armor given in this passage is…
II. THE SHIELD OF FAITH
Ephesians 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
A. What Does A Shield Do?
“shield” (θυρεός). Roman soldiers would have used several kinds of shields, but the one being referred to here was an oblong shaped shield.
It would have measured about 32 inches wide by 50 inches long. It was meant to cover the whole body, which, in those days of shorter people, it would have easily done the job.
A shield was made…
…of two layers of wood glued together and covered first with linen and then with hide: it was bound with iron above and below.’ It was specially designed to put out the dangerous incendiary missiles then in use, specially arrows dipped in pitch which were then lit and fired. (John R. W. Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians, The Bible Speaks Today [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979], 281)
B. How Does Faith Shield Us?
Spiritually, the shield here is a shield of “faith” (πίστις). Faith is a trust, a confidence, in God. It’s a trust that begins our salvation, but also continues it as we trust Christ for our day-to-day living.
It’s here that many Christians run into trouble. We can trust Christ for our salvation—that’s a big thing that God does in us. But we have trouble trusting Christ with our day-to-day lives, which, compared to our eternal salvation, are small potatoes.
I mean, we dare not say that our daily problems are harder for God to handle then saving us eternally—right? But, in practice, that’s how we act. The shield of faith is a metaphor for how we apply our faith in Christ to meet everyday temptations and trials.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
Faith here means the ability to apply quickly what we believe so as to repel everything the devil does or attempts to do to us.
Faith is not merely an intellectual belief or theory. Of course, faith includes what you believe, but faith never stops at mere intellectual assent and belief. Faith is always practical. Faith always applies the truth. ‘Faith without works is dead.’ …
So I define faith in ‘the shield of faith’ as meaning the quick application of what we believe as an answer to everything that the devil hurls at us.
(David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Soldier: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10–20 [Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977], 305)
C. What Does Satan Fire Against Us?
When you hold up the shield of faith “ye shall be able” (δύναμαι) “to quench” (σβέννυμι) “all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
In this verse, “the wicked” (or the wicked one) refers to Satan and his demons.
A “fiery dart” or arrow was a special danger to soldiers of old, particularly psychologically—it was the high tech weapon of the time. To make a flaming arrow, one would dip cloth in tar or pitch and then wrap it around the arrow. Then, right before you fired the arrow, you’d light it.
To see flaming arrows whizzing through the air would have been frightening and distracting. It’s possible the bits of pitch would spatter on impact, inflicting burns on nearby soldiers.
Spiritually speaking, “fiery darts” are every kind of attack that Satan makes on believers. These would be temptations to sin, accusations of our unworthiness before God, doubt of God’s love or his existence, anger, lust, fear, and others.
But Satan’s primary attack is that God does not want what is best for you. God just wants to keep you down and wreck your fun. That’s how he won over Eve:
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:4–5)
Eve bought the lie that God was holding back on her, and that Satan was offering freedom and independence and power to be her own woman.
Her faith in God collapsed as Satan’s fiery darts slammed into her. She did not know…
D. How To Hold The Shield Of Faith
How does a Christian pick up and hold the shield of faith? It has to do with what your faith is in. If your faith isn’t truly in Jesus Christ, you will soon collapse under the barrage of Satan’s darts.
There’s a misunderstanding about faith that is very common these days. Faith, for many people, is really about faith in yourself. We might encourage someone, “Have faith, you’ll pull through just fine,” and we really just mean that they are to look inside for their strength.
One person that I was reading recently was talking about how she needed to lose weight and get in shape. She said that as she was running a 5K race, she kept thinking, “Faith. Faith…have faith in yourself.” And you know what? I did!”
Well now, positive thinking is important. But we’ve confused faith with positive thinking. Faith isn’t positive thinking, it’s thinking about and having confidence in God.
Positive thinking is easily misdirected to sinful purposes. You can almost hear Eve’s thoughts as the serpent convinced her, “God is holding back on me…I can be better! I can be like God!”
And Satan, when he was a good angel about to rebel against God, had a spat of positive thinking that’s recorded for us:
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:13–14)
Oh yes, positive thinking is beneficial, but it can be bent to sinful thinking, and most assuredly, positive thinking is not the same as having faith!
Faith, the kind of faith that is a shield against Satan’s darts, is a faith in the Lord God alone, not in ourselves.
This is the faith that Abraham demonstrated when he considered God’s promise to give him a son in his old age.
18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. (Romans 4:18–21)
So faith in the Lord God is faith in his abilities, in his promises, in his love for you.
Imagine if Eve had had that sort of faith on that fateful day in the garden of Eden.
When the serpent had suggested that God was holding back on her, she would have said, “No sir. Our Creator God is a good and loving God. I know he has rules, but they are rules for our benefit. He loves us.”
Let me give you one example of how you might hold the shield of faith in battle. Let’s take a common temptation: lust. It could be lust for your neighbor’s wife, or for your girlfriend or boyfriend to whom you aren’t married yet, or even for your neighbor’s Dodge Ram pickup!
Now what Satan often does is cause people to question God’s goodness. We find ourselves saying, “If God didn’t want me to have this, then why did he make me with such a desire for this thing, this person, this pleasure? My neighbor has it. He does it. And he is doing so well…” (R. Kent Hughes).
What we need to do at that point is what Eve should have did. We need to be fully persuaded as Abraham was, that God is for us and will do as he promised. Faith points us to God and especially to God’s promises.
So, we might turn to scripture and put our full weight on a promise like this one:
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
This verse would remind us that God isn’t out to ruin our lives. He wants the best for us. He’s willing to give us whatever would be the best for our lives.
When Satan launches his flaming arrows of temptation and deception, we are to lift our shields by trusting in God and his Word, and those flaming arrows will harmlessly bounce off. Truly, faith is the victory!
How can a sinner fight against the king of sinners, Satan? How can mud fight mud?
By not relying on ourselves, but on God’s armor. By finding our peace with God through Jesus Christ his Son. By lifting the shield of faith, not in ourselves, but in the mighty God who keeps his promises.