Archive for September 25th, 2012

The Whole Armor of God:  Shod with the Gospel of Peace

“…and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.”  Ephesians 6: 15

The Greek word for “armor” in the Text is  ‘panoplia’  ” (Our word, “panoply” is derived from it).  “Pan-oplia” literally means:  All weapons.

“God’s Word forever shall abide, No thanks to foes, who fear it;  For God Himself fights by our side With the weapons of the Spirit.” (“A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, by Martin Luther)

A Roman soldier’s footwear looked like this:

The Lutheran Study Bible footnote on this verse:

“A Roman soldier wore half-boots studded with nails to help him stand firm.  The preaching of the Gospel of peace has, ironically, prepared us for battle.”

It is clear that this sandal is like no footwear sold at Macy’s!  Likewise, peace in the Bible is not like what is literally sold out in the world. For instance: some peaceful feelings can be drugged-induced. Books, gurus, ministers et. al. make money over their programs and nostrums to produce peacefulness. Usually, by ‘peace’ what is meant are “peaceful feelings” as being “at peace”. Good feelings in general are desirable:  they can tell us we are okay and so are bad feelings, as in pain, they  can tell us something is wrong.  A feeling is the result of something else, good or bad. Peaceful feelings are a symptom but not the cause.  One can take away physical pain but the cause of that pain is left untreated only causing trouble for another day.  Clearly, feelings of peace are not the cause of peace.  God’s Word clearly teaches us that peace may not produce  peacefulness, instead, readiness with the Gospel of peace, prepares us for battle!    

The usual definition of peace is  the absence of conflict, war, struggle.  This definition is only a negative, a lack of something.  This kind of peace, absence of conflict, can become home to a host of things far worse. As the Lord taught:

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” St. Luke 11: 24-26

Having no struggle, conflict,  war, is an absence, and absence is emptiness. Our sinful lust for more, even for peacefulness, to fill that swept and empty house results in doing anything to fill the void and  feel peaceful and good again:   more drugs, more pleasures, more satisfactions.  The last state can become worse than the first.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He Himself is our peace-Ephesians 2: 13-14

The Lord shows us that peace is not mere absence but presence and more: Presence. Peace has a name: Christ Jesus. He alone cures the fever in our blood by His blood shed for warring humanity.  Mao Tse-Tung (old spelling), once dictator of communist China wrote that peace comes from the end of a gun barrel.  In one sense, he was correct, tragically correct.  It will look like peace, but only being terror and tragic emptiness. Peace does not come from the end of a gun barrel but it has come from the foot of His Cross and fullness of His life, eternal life.   Peace is reconciliation through the blood of Jesus Christ in His forgiveness of the entire world received in faith as pure gift.  This is His Presence and as Lutherans say of the Holy Communion: His Real Presence.  

Peaceful feelings are usually only about the self, the person alone.  Christ, our peace, is for us and our salvation, that the “dividing wall of hostility” is  broken down in His flesh (Ephesians 2:13-15).  All Christians who cling as lambs to the Shepherd and as children to their Father, know each other.  They know each other as sinners.   Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,  “In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.” Sinners forgiven in Jesus Christ.  They know each other forgiven.

His peace then prepares us for battle.  His peace is for the “good fight of faith” 2 Timothy 4:6-8.  Again, Pr. Bonhoeffer:  ““When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the Spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”  This is called “sanctification”, being made holy by the Holy Spirit in the work of Jesus through the Word and Sacraments.  It is the struggle against the world,the flesh and the devil.  The Apostle Paul makes this so clear in Ephesians 6 about the whole armor of God. Some 4 times, he uses the word  “stand”, to take a stand, to withstand, to fight against the powers and principalities.  It is not a struggle against someone else’s flesh and blood, only my own and yours.  But it is a struggle against the false doctrine and teachings of the world we see arrayed in commercials, say, to want and covet more and more; in the lusts resulting in an ideology that says if it feels good, do it and look what has happened to marriage and the family…we could sadly go on.  But like those Roman Soldier’s sandals, His peace is for us to take stand upright and firm in His grace and mercy for us and for others, to battle for  souls and lives.  

Triune God, be Thou our Stay;
Oh, let us perish never!
Cleanse us from our sins, we pray,
And grant us life forever.
Keep us from the evil one;
Uphold our faith most holy,
And let us trust you solely
With humble hears and lowly.
Let us put God’s armor on,
With all true Christians running
Our heavenly race and shunning
The devil’s wiles and cunning.
Amen, amen! This be done;
So sing we, “Alleluia

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