In the time of ancient Rome, Rome was famous for many things. However, there were few things more famous that Rome’s military might. They were the only superpower of the world at that time. What made Rome’s armies so famous was the training, discipline, and equipment of the soldiers. Roman soldiers trained with weapons that were twice as heavy as the ones they actually used in battle. Roman soldiers were taken from the elite of Roman free citizens, and so they were well-motivated, since they were defending their own lands. Roman soldiers were famous for their discipline. They were afraid of nothing, since their drills were bloodless battles, and their battles were bloody drills. The Roman solder was a very formidable person. He also had excellent equipment, which enabled him to fight better. We have talked about some of this equipment already, with the breastplate. This week we look to the feet and the shoes. Oftentimes, we look at this passage and think that the shoes are light and feathery, so as to be quick. At least, I used to think this for a long time. However, this week I learned something different from R. Kent Hughes, retired pastor of a church in Wheaton.
The shoe of which Paul speaks is called the caliga, in Latin. It was a cleated shoe that had heavy leather soles with nails as the cleats. In fact, they were somewhat like football shoes today. These boots were then tied to the ankle and calves with straps. These were not running shoes, because Roman soldiers did not run. These shoes were designed to give heavy traction so that the feet would not slip in the time of battle. Most battle in Roman times was hand to hand combat. These shoes gave Roman soldiers a big advantage over their opponents, who, for the most part, did not have such good boots. If conditions were muddy, you can see how these shoes gave the Roman soldier an even greater advantage.
This gives us a clearer picture of how the Gospel helps us in our spiritual warfare. Let’s not forget that the context is that of warfare. We are fighting our own sin nature, and we are fighting Satan and his demons. Knowing the Gospel of peace helps us in the time of war. I never saw the irony before this week when I was studying this closely. As Harold Hoehner points out, the Gospel of peace helps us in war. There is profound truth there for us, if we are patient to see it. For, you see, human beings are always at war with someone. If we are at war with God, then we cannot be at war with Satan. Just as you cannot serve both as masters, so also you cannot be at war with both. So, in a sense, when we are presented with the good news of what Jesus has done for us, that is the peace that starts the war. As soon as we have peace with God, our war with Satan starts. But having peace with God gives us that stability we need so that we do not slip in our war with Satan. Any soldier who slipped in the time of battle was almost sure of being killed.
Furthermore, the Bible uses the image of being barefoot as being unready. 2 Samuel 15 describes David fleeing barefoot from his son Absalom. David had not been prepared for what his son was going to do. In contrast with that, we are to be ready. Paul describes this state of mind as being ready: “having the readiness.” It is being prepared. It is having those nails firmly nailed through the bottom of the boot. It is having those boots securely strapped to your ankles and legs so that they will not come off.
So what is this gospel that we are to have on our feet? Well, this gospel is the teaching concerning Jesus Christ in His Person and work. Listen again to what Isaiah said: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” The God who reigns is Jesus Christ, who now has the Name that is above every name.
We spoke a bit about this Gospel last week when we heard about the breastplate. The breastplate protects us against those sword strokes of the enemy. The breastplate is our righteousness, both that imputed righteousness, and that imparted righteousness; that alien righteousness of Christ reckoned to us, and that personal righteousness that the Holy Spirit gives us by dwelling inside us. This Gospel is only possible because of Christ’s perfect life on earth, His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. In theology, we speak of this salvation in two ways: salvation accomplished by Christ during His lifetime, and salvation applied to us in our lifetimes. That is the Gospel.
Do you have these shoes on your feet? If so, have you made sure that they are strapped to your feet securely? If not, then you will slip in the time of trouble, in the time of battle. But if you have these shoes, then you need to make sure that they are secure. This will keep you from slipping while you are under attack.
Now, Satan attacks us as a serpent. Serpents attack the legs and feet, because serpents are animals of the ground. He tries to get us to stumble and fall. He wants to lead us into muddy ground so that we start slipping and sliding. So, we need to make sure that we are well-grounded in the Gospel of peace. We need to seek peace with God at all costs, because peace with God enables us to fight properly our war against Satan. Jesus once said that if Satan is fighting against himself, then his kingdom cannot stand. Any nation that is divided becomes very ineffective. In our own history, we could see this in regard to Vietnam. The nation was divided about that war. As a result, we did not win that war. Similarly, if we belong to the house of God, we cannot be divided against God and expect to win any battles against Satan. If you have unconfessed sin in your life, by all means, take that to God, and confess your sin. Do not let those confessions lapse. Confess often to God your sin, and receive forgiveness.
Another way in which we can apply this truth is to realize that we can never go deeper than the Gospel. The Gospel is what grounds us, keeping us from slipping. When we learn more about the Christian faith, we are learning more about how the Bible shows us the Gospel. We never outgrow our need for the Gospel any more than we outgrow our need for peace with God. Is peace boring? I should hope not. Then neither is the Gospel boring. If we are bored with hearing the Gospel, then we need to check our boots to see if they are securely fastened. If we are bored with the Gospel, then we need to ask whether God is bored with the Gospel. Does God have a problem sending out the same old Bible all over the world, which tells us about the same old story? Then, by no means should we ever tire of hearing the Gospel, which has many different facets. The Gospel is like a wonderful work of art. There are many, many levels of understanding, when it comes to art. You can appreciate it as someone who is not used to art. But as a person learns more about art, one can notice more and more about that same piece of art. There is depth. Of course, there are people out there who take one look at a piece of art, and then think that they know all there is to know about it. Those people need to be helped along to see more and more. So it is with the Gospel. There is no limit to the Gospel. It always has more for us. Just when we might think that we know it all, something new comes along. I can tell you from personal experience that there are many very familiar passages that I have read many times. However, something that someone says, or something that I read gives me a whole new angle on that passage. I am constantly learning something new about the Gospel, both what it is, and how it applies. Therefore, do not grow weary of hearing about the same Gospel, for it is rich and deep, and you will continue to learn, if you have the desire. Therefore, cultivate that desire by reading the Scriptures and by reading good books about Scripture.
Last, but not least, this passage does tell us about missions. Are we ready to march for our King, and launch an attack on Satan’s kingdom by marching into his territory and doing battle with him? The Gospel of peace is portable. It can move, and it can march. These are not running shoes that we are talking about. But they are firm and steady boots. This is the peace that marches, the peace that fights, the peace that is militant. This is the peace we have with God with which we will march on the world, and reclaim this world from Satan and his demons. For God is our Warrior. He has conquered, and has made us to be more than conquerors. Amen.