Your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace.
Living the Christian life we would like to have is getting harder and harder as society becomes more and more opposed to those things we hold dear. We are living in a day when Satan, as God’s enemy, is seeking to destroy God’s people. To counter that, God has given us armor to enable us to withstand Satan’s attacks and attack his strongholds of sin.
The 3rd piece of armor is a challenge to translate. The King James version reads, “your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” In the NIV reads, “With your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” You will notice that the NIV makes no mention of footwear. The reason for that is that the Greek denotes a readiness associated with peace but makes no mention such. Translators and commentators are called upon to determine exactly what Paul had in mind.
The idea of shoes comes from the similarity between the language here and Isaiah 52:7. Read that verse. Paul quoted that verse in Romans 10:15 and saw a relationship between Isaiah and the responsibility of the church to proclaim the gospel.
In addition to trying to identify exactly what is meant by one being ready, there is a more difficult challenge in determining what Paul had in mind by that. The problem is that the Greek tense of the verb Paul used is identical in both the subjective and objective forms. Normally that does not create a problem because the context makes the choice obvious. Here it does not, so you can get two different meanings,
Let me illustrate the problem. The word “sheep” is the same in both the singular and plural. If I say to you Sam just bought a sheep, you know sheep is singular. If I say Sam has a 100 sheep, you know sheep is plural. The context makes that clear. If I say Sam has a lot of pets including dogs, cats, a cow, and sheep, you cannot be 100% sure if sheep is singular or plural.
In the Greek that Paul used here it is possible to see his meaning stemming from either the genitive subjective or the genitive objective and the context doesn’t help. What adds to our inability to say for sure what Paul meant is that both possibilities have significant biblical evidence elsewhere to be true.
Before we look at those 2 lessons, however, let’s assume that in one form or another Paul was thinking about shoes. Go to a shoe store today, and you will have literally dozens of options to choose from. In Paul’s day no such options were available. Civilians going outside generally wore soft leather sandals and when they were inside, they wore what we might call a soft slipper. Soldiers, on the other hand needed something more. They often had to walk great distances over difficult terrain. Soldiers were expected to be able to march on rough roads, climb over jagged rocks and across thorny fields. Their feet need protection. A soldier whose feet were cut, blistered, or swollen could neither stand and fight or advance against the enemy. There are historical reports that occasionally an enemy would place sharp objects on the roadways to delay an advancing army. Once an enemy was engaged it was vital that a soldier be able to stand firm.
Roman soldiers were fitted with special footgear, wearing heavy military sandals called caliga. It was half boot and half sandal. The sole was made of several layers of leather up to three-quarters of an inch thick and studded with hobnails. The toes were often open. They were tied on with leather straps, wrapped halfway up the shin. For a soldier, proper shoes were essential. His life often depended upon his ability to hold a firm grip.
Paul, looking at the feet of Roman soldiers he was chained to thought, “A Christian needs that kind of shoe for both footing and advancing forward in spiritual battles.”
First, proper shoes assure us of a secure footing whenever Satan attacks. Notice that Paul wrote that our feet should be “fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Initially it seems strange to think of wearing armor for war and being fit for peace in the same sentence but remember, Paul was using a military metaphor to describe spiritual battles.
When Satan attacks us, he will generally attack on one of two fronts. Satan loves to try and convince us we are not really Christians. That may come in one of several forms. Sometimes he will try and convince us that what we did when we thought we were making a commitment to Jesus was just an emotional decision that really means nothing. Satan will tell us that if we really were a Christian, we wouldn’t act the way we do.
If I am not a real Christian, then I may as well forget trying to enjoy the blessings I thought should be mine in Jesus. Paul wrote that to withstand that kind of attack we need to know with certainty that we belong to God and, therefore, are at peace with God. Read Romans 5:1. Satan tells us we not Christians. Our heart tells us we are because we have peace with God.
Then Satan tries another approach. If you have peace with God, how come you’re in the situation you’re in? Obviously, somethings wrong. Satan will try to knock you off your feet spiritually by discouraging you. But if you have the proper footwear, you answer back, “I not only have the shoes of peace with God, but I also have the peace of God.” Read in Philippians 4:6-7 what it should mean to be wearing the shoes of peace.
Put on the footwear of peace knowing that you have peace with God and because of that you can always enjoy the peace of God regardless of what Satan throws at you. You are grounded in Him. Insecurity leads to defeat, but faith assures you of victory.
That takes us to the second part of this armor. Footwear enables us to move out. William Barclay, in his study of this passage wrote, “Sandals were a sign of one equipped and ready to move. The sign of the Christian is that he is eager to be on the way to share the gospel with others who have not heard it. (p. 183). We must put on the sandals of peace, so we are prepared each day to share the gospel of peace with a lost world. A faithful Christian is a witnessing Christian. If we wear the shoes of the gospel, then we have the “beautiful feet” mentioned in Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15. Satan has declared war, but we are ambassadors of peace.
The footwear of the Roman soldiers was designed to enabled them to travel great distances in a short amount of time. They did not conquer the known world by waiting for the enemy to come to them. They took the battle to the enemy. Too often the church today says to the world, “Come to church and get saved” but the Roman soldiers and the early church knew that their responsibility was to go to the enemy and subdue them where they were. The church today should be what the barracks were to Roman soldiers, a place of rest and renewal and the place from which they planned their next strategic attack on the enemy.
We need to be ready to take the gospel wherever we are called to go. The Christian warrior must be ready to oppose the evil one by carrying the gospel to the lost. This will bring peace to those who are otherwise enemies of God.
Read the instructions Jesus gave in Matthew 28:19-20. That is no small task, but the good news is God has designed footwear to enable us to do that. It is time for the church to take off the comfortable slippers and put on that which God has designed so we can fulfill the commission we have. We have shoes of peace designed to remind us that as believers we are at peace with God and when the going gets tough, we have the peace of God. The world needs that peace. It is up to us to seek out the lost and share with them the gospel of peace.