When Aimy Zeweniuk was here a few weeks ago, she came up to me and said, “I really like your shoes; can I have them?” She was joking of course about taking my shoes – because they were obviously too big for her. But she was not joking about admiring my brown wingtip brogue dress shoes. If she could find a pair in her size she’d buy and wear them.
Emphasis on fashion has shifted over the years. It used to be that men wore wingtips but women didn’t, and now it’s the other way around. And shoes used to be nothing more than protection from stones, thorns and burning sand. But now they are fashion statements, and those fashions change from year or year, season to season.
Paul showed he had some concept of the importance of footwear for the soldier as well as the traveler. I wonder how he became aware of the Roman military panoply. Were his comments based on general knowledge, or had he made some specific observations? After he has told us to be sure our waists are girded with truthfulness and we are wearing the breastplate of personal, practical righteousness, he says, having “your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”
In Paul’s day, Romans, as well as Jews, normally wore lightweight sandals consisting of a leather sole tied on the feet with leather thongs. Sometimes they were decorated with metal or even jewels. But when a soldier was sent into battle, he laid aside his lightweight sandals and put on a pair of heavy, thick-soled shoes. Sometimes there were even an early form of cleats imbedded in the soles to provide a firm secure footing.
Paul reminds us to have our feet properly prepared for battle.
The soldier of Christ has been called to lay aside that which would merely ornament the feet and to put on the heavy boots which will enable him to stand against the enemy. Picture a modern athlete – any kind of athlete you choose; his foot gear is extremely important. The tennis player wears different shoes from the basketball player or baseball player. And the football player may have two or three different kinds of shoes ready to be worn depending on the changing condition of the field. I watched a few minutes of Olympic skeleton sledding the other day, and I noticed that those racers have shoes with special cleats in the tips of the toes – protruding out the front of their shoes.. If some Olympian wore basketball shoes to the bobsled track, it would not be likely he’d win.
As Christians engaged in spiritual warfare, we need a firm secure footing. There is a sense in which our ability to stand before the enemy will depend on the shoes we wear. It would be poor preparation if we girded our waists with truth, and strapped on the breastplate of righteousness, but then wore our bedroom slippers into battle.
Paul exhorts us to have our feet shod with the “PREPARATION of the gospel of peace. “ In my study, I noticed that different commentators looked that these shoes differently. Some of them suggested that in order to be good soldiers for Christ we have to have been saved. Duh! While granting that obvious bit of advice, was that what Paul was saying? To whom was this epistle addressed? “To the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” At the close of his letter, Paul was not telling these people that it was necessary for them to be saved. They were already children of God, but they still needed to equip themselves with the “preparation of the gospel of peace.”
Other commentaries point back to Paul’s frequent talk about walking – the “Christian walk.” In chapter 2 he reminds those Ephesians that formerly they, “walked according to the course of the world, according to the prince of the power of the air.” Before our salvation, we wore the shoes and we walked the walk of lost people. We strolled into places of sin; we skipped around the truth; we ran towards wickedness. But now that we have been broken down under the Holy Spirit and the gospel we walk differently – or at least we should. Ephesians 4:17 – “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart…” Does this mean, “put on the shoes of the preparation of the gospel”? It is a logical application of 6:15.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” – Ephesians 4:1. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” – Ephesians 5:1-2. ” Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” – Ephesians 5:8. Paul could be telling us to wear the shoes which match the new life and the testimony we have in Christ.
Some commentaries think that he is talking more about the foundation upon which we plant our shoes. What is the gospel? “Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” Christ is the rock, upon Whom we build our house in contrast to the sand. Christ is the sure foundation, and it is through the message of the gospel that we are attached to Him. “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Paul even refers to Christ the foundation stone here in Ephesians – “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.”
It is always interesting to watch preparations for constructing a large building. A couple weeks ago, I stumbled onto a documentary about the construction of a new building in Miami. It immediately caught my attention; and Judy even followed it for a few minutes after I left to take my shower. As a general rule, the higher the building, the deeper the foundation must be. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but in Manhattan, there are huge skyscrapers at the southern end of the island, and then there are more huge towers farther north, but in between the buildings are small. It’s because there is no bedrock for several dozen blocks, making a solid foundation impossible. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth only as it rests on the foundation of Christ and His gospel.
A couple of these interpretations of “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” make sense. But I think there is a better explanation.
We are in a battle for souls.
Some of this panoply is defensive and some of it is just the opposite – it is for an aggressive attack. The sword of the Spirit is not a defensive tool, while the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith probably are. And I suppose that a good pair of shoes could be both for defense and offence. But that sledder at the Olympics doesn’t wear his particular shoes to keep his feet warm. They are offensive weapons to help his toes grip the ice and to propel him down the beginning of the track.
“The preparation of the gospel of peace” appears to me to be proper preparation to attack Satan in order to rescue his slaves. It is one thing for us to have placed our faith in Christ to deliver us from the guilt of our sins. The night in which I was saved, I confess to have been far more emotional than logical. It was all about my sins exposed and Christ’s grace revealed – both of which I embraced by faith. I wasn’t thinking about justification or being adopted into the family of God. I didn’t understand regeneration, atonement, reconciliation or propitiation. I simply knew that I needed deliverance from my sin and I reached out to the crucified Saviour to deliver me.
But now the shoe is on the other foot, or perhaps I should say I have different shoes on entirely. You and I are supposed to be the aggressors, striving to help other lost souls to see the Saviour. Yes, our battle orders are to give them the gospel – “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” And what again is that? “Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel …. By which also ye are saved…. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
But to be properly prepared, we need to know some of the details which lay under the gospel. We need to be able to show from the scriptures that the religionist is a lost man despite his religion. We need to be able to answer that person who points to his baptism or the Mass as the place of his salvation. Can we explain how Christ is not only Saviour, but also prophet, High Priest and King of Kings. We need the “preparation of the gospel of peace” in order to be the soldier God intends for us to be. We must be able to talk intelligently about Heaven and Hell, about the difference between the soul and the human spirit. An ability to explain why a blood sacrifice was necessary for our salvation is helpful. Perhaps, to have a definition for atonement, propitiation and redemption would some day be helpful when we are in hand-to-hand combat for the soul of a friend.
“The preparation of the gospel of peace” is important for stability in our responsibility. “The preparation of the gospel of peace” is a part of Christian’s armor.