A Commentary by John Stott
Ephesians 6:13-20. 3) The armour of God (continued).
The gospel boots come next in the list. According to Markus Barth, there is agreement among the commentators that Paul ‘has in mind the *caliga* (“half-boot”) of the Roman legionary which was made of leather, left the toes free, had heavy studded soles, and was tied to the ankles and shin with more or less ornamental straps’. These ‘equipped him for long marches and for a solid stance…While they did not impede his mobility, they prevented his foot from sliding.’
Now the Christian soldier’s boots are *the equipment of the gospel of peace* (verse 15). “Equipment’ translates *hetoimasia*, which means ‘readiness’, ‘preparation’ or ‘firmness’. The uncertainty is whether the genitive which follows is subjective or objective. If the former, the reference is to a certain firmness or steadfastness which the gospel gives to those who believe in it, like the firmness which strong boots give to those who wear them. NEB takes it this way and translates: ‘Let the shoes on your feet be the gospel of peace, to give you a firm footing.’ And certainly if we have received the good news, and are enjoying the peace with God and with one another which it brings, we have the firmest possible foothold from which to fight evil.
But the genitive may be objective, in which case the Christian’s shoes are his ‘readiness to announce the Good News of peace’ (GNB). There can be no doubt that we should always be ready to bear witness to Jesus Christ as God’s peacemaker (2:14-15) and also – as Paul writes in a parallel passage in Colossians (Col.4:5-6) – to give gracious though ‘salty’ answers to the questions which ‘outsiders’ put to us. Such tip-toe readiness has a very stabilizing influence on our own lives, as well as introducing others to the liberating gospel. For myself I veer slightly towards this explanation, partly because of the Colossians parallel and partly because of the faint echoes of 2:17 (‘He came and preached peace’) and of Isaiah 52:7 (‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace’). As Johannes Blauw has written, ‘Missionary work is like a pair of sandals that have been given to the church in order that it shall set out on the road and *keep on going* to make known the mystery of the gospel.’
In either case the devil fears and hates the gospel, because it is God’s power to rescue people from his tyranny, both us who have received it and those with whom we share it. So we need to keep our gospel boots strapped on.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Ephesians: Being a Christian. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.