When Paul wrote about the armor of God, he put a great deal of emphasis on standing. The armor enables us to “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11, ESV). It enables us to “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (verse 13, ESV). And then, just before we begin discussing the individual pieces of armor, he reminds us once again to “stand therefore” (verse 14).
When we put on the armor of God, we equip ourselves with the tools necessary to hold our ground against a fearsome enemy—but no piece of equipment is more connected with the ability to stand than a soldier’s shoes.
In the end, so much of whether we’re able to hold our ground depends on what we’re wearing on our feet.
There are many visually striking elements in the panoply of the Roman soldier.
The caligae aren’t part of that group.
They’re plain. Simple. Unassuming. In the company of flashing swords, towering shields, jangling belts, gleaming helmets and breastplates, you’d be forgiven if you failed to notice the humble leather sandals strapped to the soldiers’ feet.
They may not have been flashy, but the Roman caligae were designed to play several important roles on the battlefield. If you’ve ever walked barefoot outside, you know that nature is filled with debris that can assault a pair of unsuspecting feet. The ground is littered with hazards that could send a barefoot explorer leaping skyward and howling in pain.
The sandals, of course, provide a layer of protection between your feet and the ground, making nature’s debris far less of a threat. But the caligae serve two other functions as well. First, their openwork design makes them breathable, which means that a Roman soldier wearing a properly fitting pair on a 25-mile march wouldn’t have to worry about blisters on the long trek. Second, the caligae were hobnailed, which made them function similar to an ancient pair of cleats. The hobnails ensured better traction on difficult terrain, extended the life of the sole, and made it easier to dig in and maintain position during an enemy attack.
So Paul speaks of our “having shod [our] feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15)—which is, admittedly, a confusing mouthful in English. Another translation says, “as shoes for your feet . . . put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (verse 15, ESV). That’s a little clearer, but it still warrants an explanation.
Let’s start at the tail end of that description and work our way back. We are talking about “the gospel of peace.” In this passage, Paul is labeling the gospel (which literally means “good news”) as a message focused on peace.
That’s an important detail—doubly important when we’re using it to describe equipment designed for war.
Consider how Jesus began His earthly ministry: “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15).
These are not two separate gospels. The good news of peace is also the good news of the Kingdom of God, because the Kingdom of God will bring peace . . .
But until that Kingdom is established on this earth—until Satan and his demons are removed from the picture forever—we must be soldiers. And so the good news that promises us peace when the Kingdom arrives—this “gospel of peace”—provides us with what Paul called “readiness.”
The Greek word Paul used implies a preparedness to act—standing by to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Because of our belief in the gospel of peace, we are able to hold our own against the enemy’s forces, ready to attack or defend as the situation requires. The Expositor’s Greek Testament calls it “the preparedness which comes from the Gospel whose message is peace.”
And that is what we wear as our shoes, our caligae, on the battlefield—the preparedness that comes from the gospel whose message is peace. That’s what protects us from otherwise crippling debris scattered around the battlefield. That’s what allows us to spend our lives marching into battles without finding ourselves blistered or immobilized. That’s what allows us to hold our ground on whatever difficult terrain the enemy chooses to assault us.
Paul talks about withstanding the enemy “in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:13), but “the evil day” is not a singular moment in time. The Expositor’s Greek Testament describes it as “the day of violent temptation and assault, whenever that may come to us during the present time.”
You will not face one single evil day in your time as a soldier of God, but many. The enemy will come after you again and again, and you will find yourself defending against his violent temptations and assaults as often as God allows them.
In those moments, on those evil days, your shoes will prove invaluable. In the gospel message, you will find peace—and in that peace, you will find stability. Readiness. Preparedness.
Satan is eager to knock you off-balance, to leave you shaken and unsteady. But knowing the end of the story means knowing that one day, “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). One day, “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isaiah 35:5-6). One day, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
And because we know these things, we can put our faith in the promises God offers us: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You . . . For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:3-4). We can trust that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
It doesn’t matter what Satan throws at us—the gospel message of the coming Kingdom will always provide us with the sure footing we need to hold our ground.
It might seem odd to be wearing peace-related equipment on the battlefield, but there’s no dichotomy here. Satan the devil is a sworn enemy of God’s way, which makes him a sworn enemy of peace. As long as he stands in the way—as long as he remains on the battlefield—true, lasting peace is impossible. He is “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). He “was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
There’s another function of the caligae. This one is far less pleasant to talk about, but it’s a function all the same. Any enemy who fell prone before an advancing army of hobnailed sandals was virtually guaranteed to be trampled to death—a gruesome fate, but an inevitable part of war.
Paul promised faithful Christians in Rome that “the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20). There’s a great deal of poetic justice in this promise: the God of peace will crush the enemy of peace under the feet of those who wear the readiness of the gospel of peace.
“Peace I leave with you,” Jesus told His disciples. “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I . . . I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (John 14:27-28, 30).
Nothing. Satan the devil, the ruler of this age, has nothing in Christ and no power over Christ. Jesus has gone to the Father, and when He returns, it will be with the Kingdom He promised us.
On the battlefield, our trust in the gospel of that coming Kingdom will give us peace in the midst of conflict, and that peace will in turn provide us with the readiness we need to hold our ground during the evil days ahead.
Stand firm. Better days are coming.