The gospel of peace
John W. Keddie
‘Having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace’ (Ephesians 6:15)
With these words the apostle Paul alerts Christians to be always ready for Christian service.When I was young, at a Boy Scouts camp I went on my first serious hill walk. I only had a hard pair of tractor boots; the walk was a bit of a misery and my feet were a bit of a mess!
Footwear is all important if you’re to be effective wherever you are or wherever you’re going! Soldiers may be crippled by ill-fitting boots, or boots that don’t provide sufficient protection. Battles can be lost through poor footwear.
In the spiritual warfare the Christian is to be shod with the right footwear. What does this mean? Well, good shoes provide firm footing and allow proper mobility. The picture used here by the apostle is emphasising readiness for defensive or for positive action.
He speaks of the Christian footwear as ‘the preparation of the gospel of peace’. This indicates readiness. ‘Be prepared for action!’
It’s like this. Wherever the Christian’s feet go, he or she is to make sure they carry the gospel of peace with them. The idea of ‘gospel shoes’ recalls another biblical text: ‘Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts [remember, the ‘belt of truth’ and ‘breastplate of righteousness’], and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear’ (1 Peter 3:15).
This means readiness in and with the gospel of peace. Gospel peace provides firm footing for the Christian’s assurance. There is so much to cause anxiety, fear, doubt and discouragement, but in Christian warfare, this assurance gives the firm footing to withstand onslaughts from the world, flesh and devil.
What is it that keeps the soul in the storms of life? ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7).
Peace with God is secured, objectively, because we are reconciled to God through the death of his Son (Romans 5:10); and, therefore, for those who trust in him there is no condemnation. They are put into a position of peace with God (Romans 8:1).
Subjectively, believers will still experience much to disturb their peace. But Christ will renew peace in their hearts through the Word and Holy Spirit.
And this peace that Jesus gives guards the heart: ‘Peace I leave with you, 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’ (John 14:27). That is what gives a firm footing for the believer in this life, in the face of devilish and worldly assaults.
Gospel peace is at the heart of the Christian’s message, as well.In other words, the right footwear also lends itself to mobility (as required by soldiers in a real war). Christians in their warfare don’t just ‘stand firm’. They also will want to be active in encouraging and spreading the peace of the gospel among the unsaved.
This is Christ’s commission – ‘go into all the world’! As someone has put it: ‘mission work is like a pair of sandals given to the church so that [those believers who comprise it] shall set out on the road and keep on going to make known the mystery of the gospel’.
So the piece of Christian equipment that provides the best form of defence also provides the best means of attack – ‘the shoes of the gospel of peace’!
Personal view: The Bible I would like
I am not asking for much. I need a Bible that is sturdy, with strong binding, because I use it every day. I need one that is handy in size, about A5 page size, so that I can carry it around.
I don’t want one which is much smaller, so that I don’t have to squint at small print. I don’t want one with a black cover – there is nothing ‘holy’ about blackness. I don’t want one with a white cover either, as if I had just been confirmed into the Anglican church.
I don’t need real or simulated leather, nor a zip; just a strong, workable, cover that will stand constant daily use.
I want the text of the Bible in paragraphs, like Tyndale had. I don’t want each verse separately as if they hardly belong to each other – that can lead to the danger of taking a verse out of context.
Many of the original manuscripts seemed to have sections like paragraphs. We might as well have something similar, and similar to ordinary books today. I know there will be differences of opinion about paragraph divisions, but the general gain will outweigh occasional disagreements.
Chapter and verse division came much later; they are not original to the apostolic authors. They are nevertheless helpful for easy reference, and need to be retained, but in a non-prominent form. Headings for sections are also helpful for finding passages of Scripture quickly.
I don’t want two columns per page. That is a legacy of large ‘pulpit’ Bibles; it is alright for A4 pages in magazines, encyclopaedias, etc. And for newspapers, four or five columns are needed, but for A5 size pages, the text can be spread right across the page – just like it is in any ordinary book.
Now, I know that the Bible is not ‘any ordinary book’, but when the original manuscripts were written, they were written like any other ordinary manuscript. I see no purpose for double columns in ordinary book size. No space would be lost in the conventional page format.
The Psalms would look better too, with each line of poetry as a single line. In the double column format, sometimes a single line of poetry occupies as many as three lines in the column.
Furthermore, with the text of Scripture spread across the page, something would be gained in respect of cross-references. Where you have cross-references in a centre column and you get to the bottom of the left-hand column of Scripture, the cross-references are high up in that centre column, and when you get to the top of the right-hand column of Scripture, the cross-references are low down.
This can be confusing, especially in the Psalms, many of which are short, with possibly four or five on a single page. No, let’s have the text of Scripture spread right across the page, and the cross-references located in a slim right-hand column, at more or less the relevant spot.
Yes, I do want cross-references, and in a right-hand column rather than footnotes, so that I don’t have to go hunting for them. I appreciate notes on the text too – e. g. when the word ‘you’ is singular or plural in an otherwise ambiguous context; who says what in the Song of Solomon; what an ephod is, etc.
I don’t mind if these notes are mixed in with the references, but I find the way the ESV does this is useful, distinguishing textual notes from cross-references by placing such notes as footnotes. There are less of these notes than cross-references, so maybe keep the cross-references close to the text, but the notes could go at the foot of the page if that was felt to be more convenient.
Helps I need
But I don’t want study notes. They tend to dictate the interpretation of the text. I want the text of Scripture to speak to me directly. I know that I need the assistance of the Holy Spirit, but I don’t want too much help from others.
And, in any case, I find I don’t always agree with the interpretation offered by the scholar/editor/theologian/youth group leader/etc. I’m not sure I want the little introductions to each individual book within the Bible either, but others might find them helpful.
However, there are some other helps I need – metric and imperial equivalents of measures, some kind of historical timeline, and maps. Maps? Yes, not because geography was my favourite subject in school, but to give some idea of the countries referred to.
For instance, the travels of Abraham, and what could he see when he was promised the land, as he looked north, south, east and west? And Joshua’s conquest of the land; David’s conquests against his neighbours; the full extent of Solomon’s territory; the imperial powers that attacked Israel; the land at the time of Jesus; and Paul’s missionary journeys.
I could also do with a few illustrations, like the arrangement of the tabernacle, the plan of the temple, maybe that ephod, and the rest of the high priest’s clothing. I don’t need pictures of individual people, because an artist could only guess what Moses, for instance, would look like.
Photos, maybe, of the wilderness because I have no experience of them, an aerial photo of Lake Galilee, the hills around Jerusalem…
No red letters, please
One more thing: I don’t want red letters for Jesus’s words when he was here on earth, as if his words in his incarnate state are worth more than his words provided by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and prophets.
No, I’m not asking for much – just the text of Scripture, with a few useful, relevant helps and the look of an otherwise typical book. Some Bibles have some of these features; all I want is a Bible with them all!
I would also want my Bible to be written in ordinary, modern, English, that is not only accurate but clear, and reads well. But that is another matter!