As a historian with a keen interest in military history, I am well aware of the prowess of the Roman army and its great leaders whose strategies, tactics and exploits are still taught to 21st century officers in military academies across the world.
Well trained, disciplined and led, the sheer professionalism of its legions enabled Rome to conquer and hold most of the known world 2,000 years ago.
Roman soldiers were well armed and equipped from head to toe. While most Roman civilians wore thin sandals, soldiers had special footwear which time after time proved to be a decisive factor on the battlefield. Indeed some historians credit the military successes of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to their soldiers’ feet being well enough shod to enable them to undertake long marches over seemingly difficult terrain at speed.
The soldier wore the caliga, a thick-soled, hob-nailed, half-boot with leather straps tightly tied round the ankle. Studding with metal nails gave him stability in all forms of terrain. Good footwear ensured a firm footing when charging forward in battle and helped him to hold his ground and make quick moves without slipping, sliding and falling.
What then does the Apostle Paul mean when he says that believers should “Stand firm then……………….with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”
The author John Piper writing on his website at www.desiringgod.org sheds some light on the ‘gospel of peace’: “Sometimes commentators point out how strange it is that Paul should mention a gospel of peace right in the middle of a passage dealing with spiritual warfare and conflict and armour. But it isn't strange is it? The aim of our warfare is that people would accept the terms of peace that God holds out, namely, faith in Jesus. And the only reason there is any conflict at all is because the power of sin and the powers of Satan are dead set against making peace with God.”
The Apostle Paul’s analogy here is one of having our feet shod so that we can resist Satan and stand firm when we are attacked. In ‘military-speak’ believers are to stand firm, hold their position and not run away. In order to do that their feet need to be both protected and equipped to keep from slipping.
In his Epistle to the Romans the Apostle gives this wonderful assurance to believers under pressure: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Standing firm with, ‘feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace’, true believers in 21st century Scotland are more than conquerors.