Only the Gospel of Peace
Prepares our Feet for Battle
Text: Ephesians 6:15
Sermon by Rev. Alan Camarigg
Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Lynden, Washington, 2003
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 19, No. 4
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Congregation, beloved of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Just how critical can our spiritual “feet” be to our warfare with the principalities and powers of darkness anyway? Indeed, we may be tempted to pay little attention to our feet as we prepare for spiritual battle, but that would be a deadly mistake. It’s been noted that in ancient warfare, soldiers would take sticks of wood, sharpen them to a point, and then bury them in the ground on the pathways and roads traveled by enemy soldiers with just the very tip of the point above ground — the emphasis here on a very small part of the point — so small that it was almost impossible to see. But it was just enough, if the advancing soldier should happen to be unfortunate enough to be walking or marching along barefooted, to poke or rip the skin on the bottom of his foot. And while the initial injury was not particularly life-threatening, in a day or two, once infection had set in and the soldier began to run a fever, he was rendered almost as useless in battle as if he had been struck by an arrow in the chest!
And so we realize that the preparation and protection of the feet is crucial to a soldier’s performance on the battlefield. And what is true on the “flesh and blood” battlefield is also true, as we hope to see this morning, in our spiritual struggle as we wrestle with the principalities and powers of darkness. In fact, it is striking that the overarching command is that we take up the whole armor of God so that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. It’s been noted, in this connection, that while the breastplate is essential to protecting our vital organs, we do not stand on our chest, but on our feet! It is of utmost importance, therefore, if we are to take our stand against the wiles of the devil, that our spiritual feet be prepared and well-protected.
It is with that in mind that I proclaim the Word of God to you today, which reminds us that “Only the gospel of peace prepares our feet for battle.”
1. What danger are we facing?
2. Why does the gospel help?
3. How do we “shod” our feet?
One of things that we look for, as we examine each piece of armor, is the particular danger that we are facing as Christians in conflict with the principalities and powers of darkness. In connection with the belt of truth, we realize that it is the devil’s lies which pose the real threat to us. And in connection with the breastplate of righteousness, we realize that it is the devil’s attempts to demoralize us with the accusations of our sins that is a real danger to us. So what spiritual danger is suggested by the command to shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel? The answer to that question lies in the design of the footwear itself. It was not a boot like that worn by the modern soldier, but a sandal which consisted essentially of a sole held to the bottom of the foot with straps wrapped up around the soldier’s foot and lower leg. And one other important feature of these sandals that should be mentioned, is namely, that they were fitted, on the bottoms, with spikes to give the soldier good traction in battle.
By their very design then, these sandals provided the soldier with both mobility and stability. On the one hand, they were light, allowing the soldier to move freely and quickly on the battlefield while the studs kept his feet from sliding when he took his stand to fight. And this, in turn, suggests a two-fold danger in our spiritual warfare, namely, that our feet become heavy and we lose our agility in battle; or that we lose our footing, slip and fall. Both situations are, of course, potentially lethal on the battle field. So what causes our feet to become either bogged down or else to slip in the heat of battle as we contend with our spiritual enemy? The answer, according to the imagery employed by Paul, is that our feet will either become heavy and bogged down or will slip when they are prepared with anything other than the gospel.
Let’s look, for example, at the soldier who cannot move swiftly in battle because his feet are heavy and bogged down. What has happened to him? — And let’s just assume, for the moment, that we’re talking about a member of the church. As we examine this soldier’s feet, what we realize is that he is carrying a lot of extra weight that would not have to be there if he had shod his feet with the gospel of peace. In place of the gospel of peace, this person has shod his feet with his own works and man-made traditions; and when the devil makes his move to destroy his peace with God, the soldier, because his feet are prepared with his own works and man-made traditions, cannot meet the devil’s offensive. He has no speed, no agility to counteract the devil’s attack on his peace which is, after all, a false peace. If he tries to respond to the devil’s accusations on the basis of his traditions or works of righteousness, his attempts will be comparable to a soldier fighting with lead boots on his feet. He will not be able to move swiftly to meet the devil’s attack, who then succeeds in destroying and shattering his peace of mind.
But there’s another problem for the person whose feet are not shod with the gospel of peace. Not only is he sluggish and slow in his response to the devil’s attacks, but he has no stability. Because he has no spikes or studs on his sandals, his feet are always slipping and sliding around as he wrestles against the principalities and powers of darkness. I can’t help but think here of Psalm 73. As you know, Asaph confesses that his feet had almost stumbled, and his steps had nearly slipped. Why? Because he was envious of the boastful when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. But the whole matter was immediately cleared up for him when he went into the sanctuary of God, and understood their end. “Surely You set them in slippery places,” he concludes, “You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors.” It’s obvious that he’s talking about someone who is not a believer, but the fact remains that their feet, not being prepared with the gospel of peace, slip and slide right into eternity under God’s judgment and eternal wrath!
And there are so many people in our day whose feet are slipping and sliding because they are not shod with the gospel of peace. We sometimes speak of the slippery slope. There are those who ridicule us for that. They would have us believe there is no such thing — that you can set your foot on the path of disobedience to God’s Word on one point, and have it remain firm on all other points. But if we really stop to think about it, how can the foot, once set deliberately on the path of disobedience, not slide! Deliberately setting one’s foot on the path of disobedience is comparable, if you think about it, to sitting down, loosening the straps of the Gospel sandal on your foot, taking it off, and then trying to walk on ice in the rain! If we purposely reject the Word of God at any point, our foot will inevitably slip quite easily when we begin to wrestle with the principalities and powers of darkness on any other point of Scripture. They will slip and slide all over the place!
And, sad to say, that’s precisely the problem faced by a vast number of people today, even in the church. Why are people having such a hard time standing against the wiles of the devil? The reason is very obvious. They are not standing on the solid ground of Scripture. They have failed to shod their feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace! Instead, their convictions on the issues of the day are determined by humanistic philosophy and man-made morality or just plain sentimentality; and the result is that they are slipping and sliding all over the place. Today, we find people slipping and sliding into all kinds of spiritual fads, and what could be called, I suppose, “trinket Christianity,” where the Christian faith expresses itself with all sorts of slogans and trinkets. People by the scores approach church life, and worship and doctrine not with careful thought based on the Word of God, but by slipping and sliding from one innovation to another. And even more troubling is the fact that more and more people are slipping and sliding their way into a whole host of cults, sects and false religions.
And why all this slipping and sliding and instability? It’s interesting and deeply significant, I believe, that Paul should instruct us to shod our feet with the gospel of peace. Why do I say that? Because it occurs to us, as we think this through carefully, that it is actually in the pursuit of peace and stability in life that all this slipping and sliding is done! Why do people join cults? Why do they chase after spiritual fads and alternative styles of worship? I would contend that they are in a desperate search for something — for some system of teaching, some doctrine, some fellowship, some attention paid to them or spiritual experience that will give them some semblance of peace and security in their lives. People, in day, are nervous, ill at ease; and they will reach out for just about anything that promises peace and stability in life; and hence all the slipping and sliding.
And, of course, behind all that slipping and sliding stands the devil and his diabolical schemes to deceive people and make them slaves of their feelings and emotions and false religions and humanistic philosophies. That is the danger; and the thing that needs to be emphasized is that we all face it. Not one of us is exempt. If we do not have our feet shod with the Gospel of peace, they will slip right out from under us the moment we try taking our stand against the devil and his schemes. True peace will be completely illusive to us. The devil will succeed in throwing our lives into a state of complete upheaval and uncertainty, especially with regard to our salvation and standing with God. For that reason, it’s imperative that we ask ourselves…
I trust that all of you know what it is to wrestle with these principalities and powers of darkness. Every true Christian is, without exception, a veteran of this spiritual warfare; and we understand that our wrestling is a matter of life and death! And there are times, in this spiritual struggle, that we feel our feet slipping a little. So how does the Gospel help us as we take our stand against the devil’s schemes and as we wrestle against the principalities and powers of darkness? The answer to that question is, very simply, that the Gospel reveals the only way to true peace.
In this connection, we must ask ourselves again why it is that so many people end up slipping and sliding around when confronted with the devil’s schemes? As I said a moment ago, the problem for the vast majority of people in the world today is that they are looking for peace and security in life, but don’t know where to find it or what peace even is, for that matter. What, in the minds of millions of people today, is the essence of peace? Peace is having financial security. It is the peace of mind that comes from having plenty of money for life’s needs and wants. It’s the peace of mind that comes from having good insurance policies which, like good neighbors, are always there. For many, peace is the absence of any and all violence, including the violence of the governing authorities who must deal with people who are evil and disruptive to society.
For others, who still want to retain the name Christian, peace is found when we dispense of the law and the preaching of sin and the necessity of salvation through the blood of Christ because, in their estimation, these doctrines rob people of their peace and cause division. One can only wonder how they handle that passage where Jesus says very clearly that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword, causing divisions even among family members. Peace, in the mind of many, is obtained when we become completely tolerant, open-minded, non-judgmental, and simply learn to get along at all costs. And because peace is defined in these terms, it is sought in all the wrong places, with the result that feet are slipping and sliding all over the place. People try one thing after another to obtain peace, but never have it.
But it is entirely different when we shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. And what, precisely, is this gospel of peace? It is, simply stated, the glad tiding of peace with God in Jesus Christ! It is the peace we enjoy when our warfare with God is finally over —- when we have not only confessed our sin and repented of it, but also repented of our own works. It is the peace that we have when we finally admit that we’re sinners, and turn to Christ who alone can save us and restore us to fellowship with God. And it goes without saying that this is precisely why so many people fail to shod their feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. That gospel is offensive to them. They resent the accusations of God’s Word; and the idea that they can find peace with God only through the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the cross is entirely repugnant to them. And so they reject His terms for peace, which is repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is esteemed, by many, as sheer folly, and so they seek to establish their own peace in some other way.
But it’s only by submitting to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that we have real peace with God. That Gospel teaches us, first of all, that we are sinners who are worthy of God’s intense wrath. But this Gospel also leads us to Christ, and reveals to us that in Him we have perfect peace with God. He is our peace. He has ended the warfare between ourselves and God by shouldering our sins and carrying them to the cross where He endured God’s infinite wrath against them all. And the result, for those of us who turn to Him in humble repentance and faith, is peace — peace with God. And it’s only as our feet are shod with this Gospel of peace that we will be able to withstand the wiles and schemes of the devil.
When the devil comes at us with the fiery darts of insinuation: insinuating that God is still angry with us — that we are at war with Him — that His wrath is still upon us, we can say, “It is indeed true that I was conceived and born in sin; and that I am, by nature, a child of wrath. My heart testifies to the fact, and it grieves me to admit this, that I am by nature a rebel at war against God. That terrible fact is plain in each and every sin that I commit. And it is certainly true that I would be worthy, by virtue of my own treason and rebellion, of God’s eternal punishment. But, Satan, I now belong to my blessed Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the Prince of peace. He has taken the guilt of all my treason and rebellion to the cross, and has declared to me, in His love and mercy, that my warfare with God is ended — that He has obtained the peace with His own precious blood! Go your way, for it is here that I stand. I rest me in this glorious promise: “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” Yes, that is my hope; and because it is Christ who has obtained that victory for me, I know it shall not fail. The God of peace Himself will crush you under my feet which are shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace!”
Are your feet shod with the Gospel of peace? Do you know what to believe? Do you know where to stand? And in this connection, I must stress, beloved, that we’re not just talking about taking a stand on a couple of issues as important as that might be. There is a much deeper and more fundamental foundation that must be in place first. Do you know in your heart that you have peace with God; and do you know why you have peace with Him? And do you know where to stand in terms of that peace — where the rock of your salvation is found? Is the eye of faith focused upon Christ alone as the One who has made true peace between you and God? If not, your feet are bound to slip and slide when you try to take your stand against the schemes of the devil. Make absolutely sure, therefore, that your feet are shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. So how do we do that?
The first thing we must do, if our feet are to be shod with the gospel of peace, is to submit to that Gospel. That means, simply, that we acknowledge our sin — repent of it and seek forgiveness and redemption from our Savior, Jesus Christ. And we realize, once again, that ultimately it is God Himself who must prepare our feet with the Gospel of peace. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us alive spiritually, opens our eyes to see our sin, and leads us to humble ourselves at the feet of our Savior where we sue for peace with God through His blood and righteousness. But as those who have been led to Christ who is our peace, we are now obligated also to shod our feet with this Gospel of peace. This means that we appropriate, in faith, the benefits which God holds out to us in His Gospel, namely, the daily cleansing of our sins, and that peace which we have with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Each day we must obey the command to take up this armor, and to stand against the wiles of the devil. Each day, we must bend over, as it were, and securely lace the sandals to our feet so that we’re ready for battle.
And that will mean keeping our feet securely planted on this Gospel of peace as we engage our enemy. This is crucial, for our enemy’s strategy is to push us around, often changing his tactics, until we slip and fall. One minute he may be opposing us violently with one accusation after another, and then the next minute flattering us as the paragons of honesty and virtue. Are you ready? Are your feet shod? Are you ready to move swiftly, on the one hand, to meet the ever-changing tactics of our enemy, but also to take a firm stand, at a moment’s notice, to raise the shield of faith and swing the sword of the Spirit? Are we ready to meet the devil’s accusations head on, standing firm upon the ground that all condemnation was removed when Christ carried our sins to the cross? Are we ready to then swing around swiftly and take our stand against the devil’s attempts to flatter us with the goodness of our own works — to remind ourselves and the devil that our peace with God is not based upon our own works, which are as filthy rags, but upon the righteousness of Christ? That’s how we shod our feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. It means, simply, that we counter the devil’s attacks always on the basis of that Gospel.
And we do this wary of the fact that our enemy often contradicts himself. He does so shamelessly. One moment he may be undermining and opposing the Word of God, and the next minute he may be quoting it as he did with our Savior, Jesus Christ, in the wilderness. You must shod your feet against this scheme; and you do so by standing firm on the precise Words of Scripture. This requires, of course, that you really know what God has said. Shodding your feet with the Gospel will, therefore, entail studying this Gospel of peace, committing it to memory, and, I would add as extremely important, learning the doctrines of Scripture as summarized in our confessions. Have you done that? Have you shod your feed by learning, frontward and backwards, the true doctrines of salvation?
The devil has so many tactics. Sometimes he will whisper in our ear that we don’t have to be all that concerned about committing a certain sin because God will forgive us; and then he will turn right around and push and prod us into establishing all sorts of scruples that have no basis in the Word of God, until we hardly dare to move. Do you understand the nature of these attacks; and are your feet prepared to stand against these wiles with the preparation of the Gospel of peace? Your feet are prepared with the gospel of peace when you say, “I may not be lax in my observance of God’s law because that is contrary to the peace that Christ has established between God and myself by His suffering on the cross; but I refuse, at the same time, to become morbid in my scruples for then I am, in essence, denying that peace and acting as thought I must obtain it on my own.” Do you see how this is done, beloved — how we shod our feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace and take our stand against the wiles of the devil? I suspect we’ve all had experience in the use of this defensive armor, but perhaps now we can employ it more self-consciously.
If I may make a suggestion: that you make a point this coming week of asking God specifically to help you shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; and then think of some specific tactics the devil may use against you where this armor will be essential to standing against them. And we should bear in mind again, that we really are obligated to do this — to make a conscious effort to understand the armor and put it on. Paul doesn’t present this as a suggestion for those who are inclined to seek some new spiritual adventure, but as a command to every believer. Let us take up the full armor of God including now the Gospel of peace. Let us prepare our feet for battle with the Gospel of peace so that we are able to take our stand with agility and firmness against the devil’s schemes. Let us stand firmly in the peace that we have with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Then our feet cannot slip. Then our confidence will be that the God of peace will indeed crush Satan under our feet. Indeed, to that end, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.