Rev. Kortering is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Grandville, Michigan.
Stand therefore, having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
They also are important to a soldier.
They need to be “shod” (to have shoes) if we are to function effectively in the battle of faith.
The health of the entire body is important to a soldier and to his army. For this reason, physical examinations are very thorough when one volunteers for the armed forces of the U.S.A. The critical test comes in the heat of battle.
The inspired apostle Paul drew from his familiarity with the Roman soldier, as he compared the Christian in the battle of faith to such a soldier. In the preceding verses he made clear that the real enemy in the battle of faith is not one of flesh and blood, but is an evil spirit, the prince of the power of the air, Satan and all his associates. Such evil spirits have access to our inner being, can influence our thoughts, our desires, our emotions, and thus ultimately our deeds. He also uses evil men to tempt us, and sometimes he even poses as an angel of light by using “Christians” who are such in name only, for they claim to be what they really are not. Satan and his hosts shoot fiery darts at us in order to persuade us to forsake what we believe to be the truth of God’s Word and to abandon our Christian commitment to obey God rather than man. It is the goal of our spiritual enemy to dissuade us with respect to our faith, and to defeat us through discouragement or evil influence.
God in His mercy has provided us with armor.
Yes, this includes the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, but also the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Healthy feet are important to a soldier. His feet support his entire body. All his functions as a soldier depend upon his ability to stand up. Besides this, his feet enable him to move about. With his feet he can march for miles to confront the enemy. Once he is in position for battle, his feet enable him to run, to jostle for position, to surround the enemy. All of this is impossible if he suffers blisters, torn ligaments, broken bones, or any injury to his feet.
To keep his feet healthy, he needs footwear.
For the Roman soldier this meant that he had to have the sandals which had hobnails pounded into the soles. These spike-like devices on the soles of his shoes assisted him greatly in getting about.
These sandals helped the soldier in three ways. First, they enabled the soldier to get a firm grip. Frequently the army would traverse wet or even icy paths. They would have to fight in fields wet with dew. Unless he had his hobnailed sandals he would slip about and lose grip, but with his boots he was sure-footed. Secondly, the boots protected his feet, not only from the stony path or rocky heights, but also from sharp, spear-like sticks which the enemy would often dig into the earth in order to injure the feet of enemy soldiers, who would stumble and fall on the sharp points. His sandals would keep his feet from injury and enable him to pursue the enemy. Finally, the sandals allowed extensive mobility. The Romans had learned from Alexander the Great that an effective strategy in battle was to move an entire army quickly, and attack the enemy without warning. This required the soldiers to run swiftly for miles, often under cover of darkness. His boots would allow him to take such punishment. We saw in the recent Desert Storm how the same thing holds true today, even though much of modern warfare is mechanized, using armored personnel carriers, tanks, and such like.
How does this apply to the Christian soldier?
Our feet represent our spiritual readiness. Just as the loins symbolize the deep spiritual convictions which are activated by the girdle of truth, and just as the breast includes our spiritual heart which alone can be guarded by the blessed truth that we are righteous in Jesus Christ alone, so now our feet represent our spiritual ability to march and to stand in battle. For this reason, the inspired apostle speaks of the “preparation of the gospel of peace.” That word preparation has the idea of readiness, preparedness. This is emphasized because if we have spiritually healthy feet we are agile in battle and ready to move about.
To do that we need proper footwear.
From a spiritual point of view, we need the same three advantages which the soldier had with his boots.
First, we need to be sure-footed. What a tragedy when the Christian soldier slips about when the battle rages. Is this not what is taking place in the church world today? Too many Christians have foot-trouble because they do not have the proper boots. The result of this is only too evident. Look how unsure they are about the Word of God itself. They slip and slide. Some suggest that the Bible is the product of God and man; others say there are human errors in it; and still others slip upon the rock of higher criticism. No wonder, then, that they compromise also in their confession of what that Bible teaches. They compromise on the doctrine of predestination. They prefer to speak of divine selection rather than election, and they certainly say nothing about reprobation. Evolution is more plausible an explanation for origin than creation, and miracles are denied or explained away. How beautiful when the Christian soldier wears his boots in the battle and follows the exhortation, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith” (I Cor. 16:13).
Secondly, with the proper footwear, the Christian soldier is protected from the embedded spiritual sticks which would trip him up and injure him. Yes, Satan is clever and his wiles relentless. Look how persistently he assaults the church with this nonsense of women’s liberation. Some churches are so wounded that they allow the ordination of women in the office of the ministry. Then he switches his tactics and without warning throws us into deep depression because of the difficulties and hardships of life. When we have our footwear right, we are able to stand fast in the evil day.
Finally, the boots enable us to be mobile. This is true in two ways. On the one hand we are alert to stay on the front line of attack. In general we can say that Satan attacks the entire world. Look at the effect of drugs, rock culture, secularism, and materialism in society in general. Satan attacks the church world with Liberalism, charismatic sentimentalism, and Arminian syncretism. If we look more carefully at the Reformed family of churches, we can see the same inroads; but in addition we find careless preaching, neglect of Reformed Confessions, and world conformity. The shoes will keep us as Christian soldiers ready in the front line of the battle. From a positive point of view, it will also keep us alert for opportunities to preach the gospel throughout the world as God opens doors. The second way we can be alert is to use the most modern means for the sake of the gospel. We live in a high-tech society, with modern communications, computers, information movement that makes the tape recorder like a Model-T. The church has opportunity to make use of all these things for the sake of the gospel.
What are these “shoes” which afford proper footwear?
The gospel of peace. Notice the reasoning of the apostle? If we have our feet shod we will be ready. The source of this readiness is found in the gospel. Why is this true? Because the content of the gospel is peace.
Peace as used here is not external, but internal. It is inner calm, quietness.
If a soldier is to be ready for battle, he needs this peace. The opposite is fear, confusion, inner turmoil. Such a soldier will freeze in battle, grow numb and useless. For the Christian the same is true. If we do not have peace inside, we cannot be ready to function in battle.
This peace is threefold. It is, first of all, and basic to all, peace with God. “Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:1, 2). Still more, “The God of peace, the great shepherd of the sheep. . . make you perfect in every good work” (Heb. 13:20, 21). Our peace with God is in the blood of Jesus, which provides forgiveness, and in the Spirit of Jesus, who gives us holiness. Secondly, it is important that we have peace within ourselves. Despair brings defeat. We need to know that God is in control of all things, “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28). We need to be at peace with one another. An army that has soldiers fighting and bickering among themselves cannot concentrate on the enemy. The church which is internally divided, the covenant home which has husband and wife fighting or parents and children fighting, cannot concentrate on the enemy. They are defeated by their own division. This does not mean unity at any price. It means unity in the love of God.
This peace becomes ours by the gospel. The good news is that Christ has made our peace with God and has defeated Satan. When this is heralded to us and worked in us by the Holy Spirit we are able to enjoy the words of Isaiah 26:3: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.”
When our spiritual feet are shod with such a gospel we are sure-footed, for we value that peace and will not compromise for it. We love the gospel and the peace it gives; hence we will defend it and will resist all efforts by Satan to take it away. What joy it is to be ready to live according to that gospel and to lay hold of the peace that passeth understanding.
If we are going to have our feet shod with these boots, we have to take the gospel preaching seriously, and with prayer be faithful in the hearing and doing of that word.
Stand, then, in the line of battle where God has placed you.
May God’s peace make you ready and steady in the battle.