Previous article in this series: February 15, 2018, p. 233.
“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”
The footwear itself
Like the girdle and breastplate we have previously examined, footwear is also important for battle. To have “your feet shod” is to have sandals fastened to your feet. The Roman soldier of Paul’s day did not wear rugged, all-terrain combat boots, but simple sandals with straps and sometimes spikes.
Footwear helped the soldier maintain or alter his position on the field of battle. Footwear was not for defense like other parts of the armor. Neither was the sandal for offense, for no sane soldier kicks his opponent or takes off his sandal and hurls it at the attacker. The sandal is like the girdle around the waist, in that it serves the offensive and defensive parts of the armor, allowing the soldier to utilize his weaponry effectively. When the battle quickly shifted this way or that way, the soldier needed solid footwear to make the shift and keep fighting. When duty called the soldier to march over long distances, he needed footwear to endure the march. Sometimes he had to jump over booby traps, pass over sharp stones or thorns, climb slippery slopes, or fight on ground that was blistering hot or freezing cold. Stabilized with his footwear, the soldier could either stand his ground or press on into the fray effectively working his sword and shield.
The spiritual reality for the Christian soldier is “the preparation of the gospel of peace.” As truth is our girdle and righteousness our breastplate, so the preparation of the gospel of peace is our footwear that allows us to move about wielding the shield of faith and drawing the sword of the Spirit in our spiritual warfare.
The word “gospel” literally means “the good news.” And the good news is that for the sinner there is “peace” with God. The preaching of the gospel is the authoritative proclamation of the good news of the peace God has accomplished for His people in Jesus Christ. The gospel is not a well-meant offer of peace whereby God proclaims, “I sincerely desire peace with all of you; will any of you accept My offer of it?” The gospel is not a conditional promise of peace, “I, God, sincerely promise to make peace with you, if you desire to make peace with Me.” If the news is the announcement of a blessing dependent for its realization upon the will and work of the sinner, then the news is bad. The good news published throughout all the world to mad, God-hating sinners, who foolishly feud with God as the Supreme Potentate of the universe, is that God, in His tender mercy and unmatched power, and through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has accomplished peace for elect sinners so that they can be graciously pardoned and made God-lovers.
The gospel of peace not only proclaims the reality of peace, but through the effectual work of the Holy Spirit causes the sinner to repent of his sin and to believe, so that the peace makes a home in his heart. The believer exclaims, “I have peace with God, the Sovereign Potentate who could have destroyed my body and soul in hell! My iniquity is pardoned! My warfare is over! I am God’s friend-servant!” How blessed in an unsettled world of raging nations and a groaning creation to have sweet communion with God!
Moreover, the appropriation of this gospel of peace positively affects the believer’s relationships with God’s people. For when the believer enjoys peace with God, he gratefully hears and obeys the sacred precepts of the gospel binding him to a life of unity with others in the way of humility. Only in the gospel do we have peace with God and with each other.
Our footwear is the “preparation of the gospel of peace.” The word “preparation” could better be understood as “preparedness” or “readiness.” Preparation refers to the activity of getting something ready, but implies an incomplete state. If the mother is involved in meal preparation, she is still making the meal and does not have it finished. Preparedness refers to a state in which something is ready. When the meal is placed on the table, it is in a state of preparedness and ready to be served. Our spiritual footwear that allows us to move about in battle is “the preparedness or readiness of the gospel of peace.” The gospel of peace makes us prepared and ready to fight. When God declares peace in the gospel, and the Spirit applies that peace to the heart of the believer so that he enjoys peace with God and is determined to live in peace with his neighbor, he is prepared for war. If you have peace with God and to the utmost of your power strive to live peaceably with others, then you assail Satan. If your heart is peace-less and war-full, you will falter when battle draws near. The footwear that helps us maintain or advance our battle position is the preparedness worked by the peace of the gospel.
The value of it
First, the value of our footwear is that we have conflict with sin. Without peace with God, we have peace with the sin within us. When you are tempted to sit down on the couch and watch a television show with partial nudity or profane language (don’t even turn it on, grab a book instead); or when your friend at work spills some gossipy news about another girl and you are tempted to run with it; or when you are tempted to cheat in class because the difference between failing or passing the exam is just claiming another’s work as your own; or when the fellow at school who parks next to your old “beater” rolls in with a 2018 model straight from the dealer, tempting you to let jealousy and resentment reign in your soul, you will never resist these temptations if your feet are not shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. You’ve made your peace with such sins. But when we live in communion with God and love what He loves, then we go through our day with a sin-mortifying dagger in our hand and at the first stirrings of the old man of lust, gossip, cheating, and jealousy there is conflict! We are ready to plunge the dagger into the old man’s chest. For God’s sake! Nearness to God is the motive and power to wage war with your sins. When young people walk in immorality or doctrinal deviation, the problem is that they are not living in communion with God. Communion with God means conflict with sin; and conflict with sin leads to victory.
Second, the value of having our feet shod is that we have confidence as sinners. We are yet sinners, and the Slanderer tempts us to believe that hardship in our life is evidence of God’s anger and punitive wrath against us, a foreshadowing of the hell-fire that awaits us. But having a close relationship with God through the gospel, our feet are shod and we are ready to do battle with Satan, believing and confessing: “I have peace with God, Satan! You cannot scare me with your allegations that my mother has cancer, or that my father forsook my mother and us children for another lover, or that I got cut from the sports team and mocked for it, or that I got broadsided in the intersection totaling my car and shattering my femur, or that I got dumped by my boyfriend who is now dating my cousin, or that I was released from my job, or that I have a speech impediment or hereditary disease, because God is punishing me for my sins with these painful experiences! Get behind me, Satan! I know I have peace with God! If He does not avert these evils, it is because He will turn them to my profit. When God comes in grievous affliction, I ask Him, ‘Comest thou peaceably?’ Without fail, He reassures, ‘I come peaceably!’”
Third, the value of our footwear is that we have courage amid peril. “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!” (). The gospel of peace proclaims, “Thy God reigneth!” Your God, with whom you enjoy peace, sits upon His throne in the heavens and does all His good pleasure. Though the billowing waves of the sea roar and pound against the shore, though the mountains be cast into the depths of the sea, though troubles and hardships of all sorts round the believer swell, though his house is swept away in a flood, reduced to splinters in a tornado, or emptied by a burglar; though his dear friend apostatizes from the faith and gives his allegiance to Satan; though hosts make war on every side with kings and nations and governments and political parties and advocacy groups and lobbyists and furiously marching mobs taking counsel together against the church in demanding universal acceptance of sexual perversions; though terrorists blow up cars and buildings and enter venue after venue opening fire on unsuspecting patrons; though corruption of the worst sort abounds at the highest levels of government throughout the world; though men and women everywhere in a hedonistic society reveal themselves more and more to be the lovers of pleasure and haters of God and His Ten Commandments that they are; though the devil himself comes to the believer using all these circumstances as javelins of terror to incapacitate him and influence him to spend more time worrying than praising, the believer is not moved, he is not afraid. You are not afraid are you? You go to church and hear the gospel of peace, “Thy God reigneth!” You have peace with Almighty God through Jesus Christ and know all these things are working the salvation of the church.
Fourth, the value of these sandals is concord with God’s people. The gospel of peace brings peace not only between the believer and God, but between and among believers. Preaching destroys the citadels of pride in hearts and turns hearts to God and each other. The only way to heal a church torn by strife and division is to preach the church out of it through the gospel of the blood of the cross, by which all things are reconciled unto God. The gospel works concord among God’s people, and when we have concord, we are fortified against Satan. Trying to battle Satan each day without having the gospel of peace and thus concord with each other is like going to battle barefoot. You will not be ready. Disunity and schism lead to greater strife and enmity. If you, young person, are not living in peace with your parents, then it is so easy to disregard their curfew, their rules for dating, and have a big mouth toward them. If you are not living in mutual respect and admiration for all your classmates, it is so easy to join in mocking a unique one. If you are not determined to see the best in others as valuable image-bearers of Christ who contribute to the diversity of the body, but only ever look negatively at people and focus on their weaknesses in order to feel better about yourself, then when you are confronted with another’s good looks, athletic prowess, or acceptance into an elite university, fires of jealousy will ignite in your heart and you will seek to find something bad in them. If you are not living in unity with others in your Young People’s Society and esteeming them better than yourself, then you will take their innocent comments in the Bible study as personal attacks directed against your lifestyle and leave in a huff. Discord fosters greater discord. Separation generates greater separation. Satan feasts on discord.
What tremendous value there is having our spiritual feet shod for battle with the preparation of the gospel of peace! The soldier who goes forth conquering and to conquer is the soldier whose heart overflows with gospel peace. I trust you know that peace.
Putting it on
Before the soldier goes to war, he carefully binds his sandals to his feet so that he is ready for combat. The child of God fastens his spiritual sandals by going to church on Sunday. God graciously gives you the gospel and a heart for it. Then when you go to church to receive the gospel of peace, you shod your feet. The soldier sings, “O, how I love to go to church to have my feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. I know it will be a good week. There will be war. I know I will take some blows. But I am prepared.”
What? You were not in church this past Sunday? What? The news God calls “good” you call boring and a waste of time? You think church should involve more social interaction and less doctrinal preaching? You think going to church to hear preaching is not biblical but a man-made custom invented by hypocritical religious zealots, so that you sing, “How putrid are the feet of them that publish the gospel of peace?” You stayed home to play video games? You went to ONELOVE, the hipster “church” downtown? This is not good. You have bare feet on the hot, thorny, rugged, sometimes corpse-littered battlefield. And your loins are not girt about with truth. Your breast is not protected with righteousness. You will not stand. Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might! Take the whole armor of God! Seek, hear, and believe the gospel of peace!
But I know you were in church Sunday, or if you were not, it was only because God’s providence kept you away. I know you love the gospel of peace. I know because you are reading right now. If you had no interest in hearing the gospel, the Standard Bearer would be rubbish to you. You are armed. Is your sibling? Friend? Relative? Co-worker? You have been taught war. Teach others to war.