Summary: We are not called to be peacekeepers, but peacemakers. (#20 in The Christian Victor series)
“…and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…”
The footwear of the Roman soldier was of special design. It was a sandal; more specifically, a thick leather sole that was held on by straps. It was also studded on the bottom so the Soldier could better keep his balance and his footing in a slippery place, or when climbing and of course, when fighting.
If Paul was thinking about these characteristics as he wrote, and used the soldier’s footwear to illustrate the Gospel message, it should provide some thought-provoking application for us.
Notice again the order. Put on truth, then guard the heart against error with that truth and appropriate righteousness to yourself with the spiritual breastplate that is right standing before God through faith in the gospel. Now, before going on to talk about faith and the sword, which is the Word of God, he exhorts to be prepared and moving forward with the gospel of peace.
I want to make something clear before passing on from here. I don’t know if any other commentators would disagree with me in my use of the phrase, ‘moving forward’. Paul doesn’t actually say that in our text. He says to stand. And I have to assume that there might be some out there who would say, ‘well, you’re misapplying the analogy. Paul says to stand, but nothing about marching’. So I just want to point out that the soldiers Paul was talking about; who were a part of his life’s experience, did indeed move out, to conquer and bring home the spoils.
I do not think there can be any doubt that Christ’s intention for His church was that it would move forward aggressively against the schemes of the enemy, in order to save many with the gospel message.
In truth, to approach his admonition to stand as though he only means to not fall down, is in itself a misapplication of the analogy. Far too many in the church, indeed, far too many churches, are so busy just trying to stand that they never get forward inertia going.
And I don’t want to get ridiculous with this analogy, but someone standing still and flat-footed is easier to knock down than someone who is moving forward. Food for thought.
I want to focus more sharply on this idea of preparedness now.
Paul says to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Preparation for what? Well, for going out, and preparation for what lies ahead. Again, I want to point out that by way of order, he puts this before the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.
In a nutshell, if we’re not standing firm, as he has admonished us to do, if we’re not moving forward, there isn’t much use for the rest of the armor, is there?
No need to be concerned about the enemy’s fiery missiles, if you’re no threat to him. And no need for protection of the head, if your head is kept under cover at home. No need for a sword, if you’ll never be in blade’s reach of the enemy.
In what way are we prepared then, and against what?
One of the purposes of the thick leather soles of their sandals, and the studs in them, was to protect against what we might think of as ‘ancient land mines’.
Enemy forces that knew the Roman legions were coming would anticipate their route of travel and plant small, sharp steaks just under the surface of the dirt; made of sticks, or bamboo, or iron nails and so forth.
If an infantryman has a wounded foot, he’s not much good for marching. And if that injury is serious or gets infected he will be out of the battle altogether. So the feet had to be protected.
‘SHOD’ WITH THE GOSPEL
Remember that it is the gospel message we are standing and going in. With. We talked about the gospel message last week.
Jesus Christ shed His blood and died to pay the penalty for our sins, was buried and rose on the third day as was predicted by the Old Testament scriptures, and because He lives He now gives eternal life to all who believe in these things. That’s the gospel.
So staying with Paul’s analogy, if there are dangers to that message, if there are spikes and snares in our way, then they must be beliefs and philosophies that are contrary to that basic message.
We’ve talked on this subject in several different sermons of late; and I might add here that while driving in the car I’ve even heard several radio preachers addressing the same issue.
One of the greatest enemies of the church, and one that has been around from the very beginning, is heretical doctrine. It must be guarded against with great watchfulness; with tenacity; it must be preached against and whenever possible headed off in advance, by sound teaching.