Gospel of Peace

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 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. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”-Ephesians 6:10-20

To get a better grasp of what it means to have our feet fitted, we must look again at the Roman soldier.  Thus far we have looked at the belt, which protects the soldier’s upper legs and private areas.  Last week, we took a close look at the breastplate which protected the soldier’s vital organs.  This week we are taking a look at the feet.  Why are feet so important?  Roman soldiers marched to battle, often over rough terrain, and if their feet were not protected they were done for.  You can have the greatest armor ever constructed, but if your feet are not taken care of it is all for nothing.

Last week, I described Paul’s education and training as a Pharisee.  By describing the feet Paul is alluding to a passage in Isaiah 5:27 which states, “No one in it is weary or stumbles, None slumbers or sleeps; Nor is the belt at its waist undone, Nor its sandal strap broken.”  In biblical times, the breaking of a soldier’s shoe was used as a metaphor for defeat.  The Roman soldiers sandal consisted of a thick sole that enabled him to march long distances without growing tired. 

Paul uses the concept of “peace” elsewhere in his writings.  In Romans 5:1 he writes, “Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The first step in being fitted is to stand on a firm foundation which is faith in Jesus Christ.  As we live for Christ, and strive to do is will Colossians 3:15 starts to take effect.  In passage Paul writes, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” As Christians, we are commanded by Christ to proclaim the gospel.  The armor of God which we have been studying has an interesting parallel in Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace.” 

We are constantly marching as Christians because we are forever at war.  As I’ve said before there are no breaks.  Shoes are vital to the mission, and if our shoes are torn we will not be able to stand.  I’m reminded of a hymn which says “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”  What is our foundation?  If it isn’t Christ, and the truth that is only found in Him then it is time for new shoes.

Belt of Truth

We are taking a look at our spiritual armor, but specifically we are looking at the belt of truth this week.  We have heard these terms many times before, but it is important for us to understand why Paul is using them.  Remember that Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus  Being in the Roman empire Paul is using imagery that the people encountered on a daily basis.  Everyday the people would see Roman soldiers and the gear they wore.  Keep that in mind.

The piece of armament Paul describes is the belt of truth in Ephesians 6:14. That verse reads, “Stand therefore, having fastened the belt of truth around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.”  To rise victorious over evil, Christians must be fully committed to the Gospel and take advantage of every spiritual resource.  Things such as scripture, sound teaching, and prayer are crucial weapons in spiritual warfare.  These things, great as they are, need to be grounded in truth.  But what is the truth?

If we ask someone they may say that truth is anything you feel it to be.  If what is true for you is good for you, and what is true for me is true for me what good is that?  What if my truth says your truth is a lie?  Is it still true?  Friends…truth is not a concept or an abstract idea.  The truth is a person, and that person is Jesus Christ!

The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of the belt of Truth for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost the teaching of Christ (i.e. truth) should be held near and dear to us.  In fact, without Christ we will be unable to overcome any attack that the enemy hits us with.  Without a solid foundation, we will buckle under the first hint of pressure.  John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible states, “And to have the loins girt with it, shows, that it should be near and close to the saints, and never departed from; and that it is a means of keeping them close to God and Christ, and of strengthening them against the assaults and attacks of Satan; and is of great use in the Christians’ spiritual conflict with their enemies.”

Secondly, for the Roman soldier a belt was not a piece of insignificant clothing as it is today.  The belt was normally made of leather and extended down to the thighs, protecting the lower abdomen and genital areas.  The soldier would then tuck his tunic in and be on guard and ready to move very swiftly.  This act of the soldier was a display of valor and courage.   Paul’s point in telling us to gird our loins with truth is that we cannot be ready to fight the enemy, if we are not strong and ready with God’s truth.

In order to put on the belt of truth, we must know what that truth is.  If we are not engaged in regular reading and prayer we may put the wrong belt on.  The results of that have the potential to be disastrous.

God bless you all!

References

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/ephesians-6-14.html

Breastplate of Righteousness

Ephesians 6:10-18 states,

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 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. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

First of all it is useful to understand what a breastplate meant in the ancient world.  A breastplate protected the chest and back, which of course, is the place where our vital organs are.  I was made of leather and overlaid with numerous bronze plates.  It was designed to protect against arrows and other such objects. If a soldier did not wear one an arrow can easily pierce his heart or lungs. The Apostle Paul uses vivid imagery which was readily apparent to the readers of his day. In doing so he alludes to Isaiah 59:17 which states, “He put on righteousness like a breastplate.” 

Our heart is so important that there are over 900 verses in scripture that discuss it.  King Solomon writes in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out f it are the issues of life.”  Our Lord Jesus Christ states in Luke 6:45, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Just as the breastplate protects a soldier from the arrows of their enemy, righteous living guards a believer’s heart against the assaults of Satan.

When we become Christians the devil works overtime to make us stumble.  He has lost a priceless possession that is now firmly in the hands of God.  He will attack you with everything to make you question your faith.  He will bring up the past and try to tell you that you do not deserve the grace that you have been shown through faith in Christ.  As a soldier of Christ, we must be dressed for battle at all times.  There is no offseason.  James 4:7 says, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.”  How do we resist him?  We do so by remembering that we have been saved by faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), and that righteousness is given by faith Christ to all those who believe (Romans 3:22).

We are at war.  Spiritual warfare is real.  We will be victorious if we keep Christ in front.  Put on your breastplate, the righteousness of Christ, by accepting him by faith as Savior.  Maybe you strayed from faith and need to rededicate your life.  It time to put that vital piece of armor back on and make the devil flee from your life.

Meaning of “Canon”

 

The term canon comes from the Greek word kanon which means rule [1].  Some may say that it is a measuring stick because by the canon is how we get our doctrine.  It is through the canon that we not only get our doctrine, but the rules and norms on how Christians should conduct their lives [2].  The canon that we have today consists of the 66 books of the Bible and is the supreme authority of our faith and was written over a period of over 1,500 years.  Through the canon God chose almost every mode of communication to get his message across [3].  The books included in the canon are authoritative and inspired by God and are profitable for the study of the faith [4].

The books of the New Testament were still being written during the rapid expansion of the early church.  From AD 49-95, the New Testament scriptures were being produced and copies were most likely not keeping up with the new conversions [5].  By AD 100 the four Gospels had gained universal acceptance, as did Acts, the epistles of Paul, but others such as Revelation, Hebrews, and 2 and 3 John, were only partially accepted as they were written later in the century.  The early church needed to establish an authoritative canon to combat the other heretical writing that were out there confusing Christians.  The gnostics were prolific writers who were using the names of the Apostles to con people into reading their material.  Marcion also published his “canon” which contained very little of the New Testament we see today.  The early church saw the need for the canon, and had to act to protect the flock. To determine the canonicity of a book the early church used the following three principles:  apostlicity, orthodoxy, and catholicity (universal) [6].  All of the writings of the New Testament had an apostolic connection.  They may not have been written by the Apostles themselves, but they had a close connection with them.  The books themselves lined up with the shared theology, or orthodoxy, or the rest of the Christian world [7].  Thirdly the books had been very useful for the churches since the earliest Christians.

In my opinion the most important criteria of canonicity is the apostolic connection.  Using this element we connect ourselves with the first followers of Christ, and those whom He gave the Great Commission to.  They saw Jesus, lived with him, or had personal encounters with him that they could write down.  These earliest Christians allow us to read about the faith from its infancy without development of traditions.  If it does not have an apostolic connection there is a possibility that it is not orthodox, and it most likely will not be accepted by the worldwide church.  That lack of acceptance would make it fail the catholicity test.  The least important element in my opinion is that of catholicity.  In the beginning some books of the New Testament were not accepted universally.  Revelation and Hebrews are good examples of this.  They were accepted in some parts of the world and rejected in others.  Yet they are still believed to have an Apostolic affiliation, with the exception of Hebrews, and came to be accepted.  I believe this third criteria is dependent on the other two and thus the least important.

What should we say to someone who thinks the canon is open?  In a loving way the three principles of canonicty and what the early church did would have to be discussed.  The three criteria for something to be included in the canon has no way of being met.  The work will not have an apostolic connection for the simple reason that the apostles died long ago.  If they do not have that apostolic connection then they would not meet the orthodoxy requirement.  Thirdly the new revelation would not be accepted by the universal church, and because of that it would fail the catholicity test.

This post is not intended to be an exhaustive summary of the meaning of the canon (After all it isn’t even 1,000 words), but a brief summary.  This is becoming a very important theological topic as many groups are now calling the canon into question.  May we be diligent in doing our research and growing in our understanding of the Christian faith.

Footnotes

1.  William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 114.

2.  J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 446.

3.  Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 22.

4.  Duvall and Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 446.

5.  Duvall and Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 448.

6.  Klein, Blomberg, Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 115.

7.  Ibid, 116.

Bibliography

1.  Duvall, Scott J. and Hays, J. Daniels, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

2,  Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

3.  Klein, William W., Blomberg, Craig L., Hubbard Jr. ,  Robert L., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004

A Life of Devotion

What would Jesus Do?  This phrase became very popular in the 1990’s and had the power of merchandising behind it.  Christian Rock bands made songs by the title, T-shirts were made, and a bracelet that simply read “WWJD” was all the rage.  Jesus is our ultimate example and this is echoed by Klaus Issler who writes, “By refining our understanding of Jesus Christ we can benefit from the Bible’s teaching that Jesus is our genuine example[1].”  In imitating Christ we are just not imitating a man, but the incarnate Son of God who was our perfect substitute for our sin[2].  Medieval writer and theologian Thomas Kempis puts it this way, “By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ[3].”

Many writers have discussed imitating Christ, but there are several passages in scripture that do just that.  Some of them even record Jesus saying those very words.  The Lord said in John 13:15, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you[4].”  Paul also wrote about Christ being our example in Philippians 2:4-11, the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews echoes this in Hebrews 12:1-6, and Peter writes about it in 1 Peter 2:21-23.  The passage in 1 Peter is especially clear as Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:21, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps[5].  If one truly accepts Christ, repents, and makes a confession of faith then it is expected that he will seek to imitate Christ[6].

During the 19th century, and into the 20th, liberal theology had started to gain a foothold within Christianity.  Liberal theologians believed that Christianity had to adapt or die, and in doing so several key doctrines were denied.  According to theologian Roger Olson, “It may be identified with denial of biblical inspiration and rejection of dogmas such as the Trinity or the Deity of Christ[7].”  In 1897 Charles Sheldon wrote a novel titled In His Steps, and it challenged the very foundations of the liberalism that was running rampant.  This was very appealing before World War I as it was easy to read and cut to the heart of Liberalism.  Charles Sheldon writes, “giving illustrations from the life and teachings of Jesus to show how faith in the Christ helped to save men because of the pattern or character He displayed for their imitation[8].  Charles Sheldon also describes the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the atonement in his novel.  This is also why Bible-believing evangelicals found the work so appealing.  Not only was it readable, but it was a great devotion that reinforced the foundations of Christian dogma.

What are the values or dangers in the What Would Jesus Do Movement?  The value is that one has the potential to become a better disciple of Christ.  Jesus gives us the ultimate example of how to live the Christian life.  We will have setbacks, but we can go to him for anything as he knows how we are tempted since he himself was tempted.  We can learn from his character, his study, his quiet time, and his prayer life.  So are there really any dangers?  If we are looking to how Jesus lived then there is the very real possibility of turning Jesus into a good moral teacher.  If this happens then the point was missed, especially if we are no longer looking at him as the perfect savior[9].

In conclusion imitating Christ is a practice with biblical merit, and it is something that Christ told us to do.  It does not mean that we will be sinless, but it does mean that our perfect savior expects us to live godly lives.  These godly and loving lives will be seen by non-believers and will be helpful in evangelization.

 

 

 

WORKS CITED

“In His Steps By Charles Sheldon,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed July 5, 2016, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/sheldon/ihsteps.ii.html.

1 Peter 2:21 (New International Version).

John 13:15 (New International Version).

Kempis, Thomas A. Imitation of Christ. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1996.

Newton, Gary C. Growing Toward Spiritual Maturity. Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers, 2004.

Olson, Roger E. The Story of Christian Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999.

Sanders, Fred, and Klaus Issler, eds. Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective. Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 2007.

Yarnell, Malcolm B. The Formation of Christian Doctrine. Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2007.

 

 

[1] Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler, eds., Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 2007), 192.

[2] Gary C Newton, Growing Toward Spiritual Maturity (Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers, 2004), 88.

[3] Thomas A Kempis, Imitation of Christ (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1996), 1.

[4] John 13:15 (New International Version).

[5] 1 Peter 2:21 (New International Version).

[6] Malcolm B Yarnell, The Formation of Christian Doctrine (Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2007), 191.

[7] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 538.

[8] “In His Steps by Charles Sheldon,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed July 5, 2016, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/sheldon/ihsteps.ii.html.

[9] Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler, eds., Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 2007), 197.