Check Your Panoply
“Stand, then, girded about your loins with truth, with the cuirass of righteousness put on, and your feet sandaled with the readiness of the evangel of peace” (Eph.6:14,15).
That which pertains to the first and second part of our spiritual suit of armor, applies to the third part as well, I.e., that there is as yet nothing fundamentally new in the apostle’s appeals. We have pointed out before how Paul, time and again, exhorted his readers to become acquainted with the word of truth and remain in it, how he endeavored to explain the various aspects of righteousness, not in wisdom of word, but in divine logic, “lest the cross of Christ may be made void. For the word of the cross . . . to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor.1:17,18). Hence righteousness is for us the power to live righteously, to walk in newness of life, seeing that we died with Christ and have the same spirit of life which resides in Him. With this in mind, the apostle bids us to “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace!” (2 Tim.2:22).
God never asks from us what He does not give first. In Christ Jesus, He gives us His own righteousness; and only then does He expect us to present our members as slaves to Righteousness for holiness. This we can do since our spirit is indeed life because of righteousness, in accord with the spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus (Rom.4:5; 6:19; 8:2,10).
Likewise, God would not want us to pursue peace without having given it to us first. “Being, then, justified by faith, we may be having peace toward God, through our Lord, Jesus Christ” (Rom.5:1). Thus our peace toward God is grounded on justification. The longing of God’s heart, however, is not satisfied with the fact that He has given us His own righteousness and has thus cleared us from all guilt. His desire is to grant us much more. He wants us to be close to His heart, as near to Him as can be, as if there had never been any estrangement, barrier, or distance. He wants us to enjoy the fruits of perfect reconciliation! Once we had been shut out from entering His presence, now we are entitled to affectionate fellowship with Him.
This is expressed in the divine declaration that not only did Christ die for sinners, but at the same time, God’s own Son died for His enemies (Rom.5:10). This means that all enmity is over; there is no longer any “cold war” going on; now we have perfect peace. As the result of justification is righteousness, so the result of reconciliation is peace. In either case, it is God’s gift which He presents to us before He asks us to pursue the attitude for which it stands. This means that we are supposed to appropriate His gifts to such an extent that they become ours, indeed, and are reflected by our behavior. But before going into details, let us once more consider His foremost gift to us, Christ’s death.
APPROPRIATE CHRIST’S DEATH!
Romans 6:6 begins with a very short, though important phrase: “Knowing this.” When surveying our life, we will perhaps admit that we are often walking as if we no longer knew what Paul has written here. Hence in our case, this verse should rather read: Forgetting this, “that our old humanity was crucified together with Him.” Let us praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that He knows, even if our memory is slipping. This is why, once in a while, He reminds us of the fundamental facts, such as those presented in the first half of Romans six.
Such a reminder is nothing unusual, as we gather from the two epistles to Timothy, who certainly wanted to be an ideal servant of Christ Jesus, yet was as human as we are. Living, as he did, in a time of political unrest, religious persecutions, and personal sufferings, he was worse off than most of us. As Paul’s assistant, he had his share of toil and labor, famine, and thirst, in addition to the daily pressure caused by his concern for all the ecclesias (compare 2 Cor.11:27,28). Under this strain, Timothy was forgetting about some aspects of God’s grace, though we are not told which. This is why the aging apostle found it necessary to remind his child of faith that he should rekindle God’s gracious gift and nourish himself with the words of faith and of the ideal teaching (1 Tim.4:6; 2 Tim.1:6).
In our Lexical Concordance, the Greek word for “nurture” (or “nourish”) is explained as provide with the essentials of growth. Hence there will be no spiritual growth as long as we are forgetting about some essentials in our life of faith. Knowing this, what God says in Romans 6:6, is the same as appropriating every word of it and rekindling this gracious gift, i.e., that in His eyes our old humanity was crucified together with Christ and that we died together with Him and are now walking in newness of life. Let us make a point of really knowing this and let us nourish ourselves properly and regularly with such essentials as these (Rom.6:8,11): “Now if we died together with Christ, we believe that we shall be living together with Him also. . . . Be reckoning yourselves to be dead, indeed, to Sin, yet living to God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
Believing all of God’s declarations in the first half of Romans six means appropriating Christ’s death in such a way that we know (what God knows) about our old humanity, i.e., that in His eyes it was already crucified together with Christ. For this reason, we are not expected to wrestle with our own blood and flesh, but rather take its crucifixion for granted, for the transcendent greatness of God’s power is available for us who are believing (Eph.1:19). Should we, however, fail in appropriating Christ’s death in the first place, then we will fail as well in appropriating God’s righteousness and His peace.
BECOME, THEN, IMITATORS OF GOD
Trying to imitate God is the best way of showing our full appreciation for His gifts. In his letters, Paul has given us ample evidence to prove that God, in Christ, deals graciously with us. Hence there should be an adequate response from our side, for all the blessings are given “for the laud of the glory of His grace, which graces us in the Beloved” (Eph.1:6). But how could we praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ day after day for His gracious attitude toward us and all His creatures without feeling compelled to show a similar attitude toward them, too? How could we pray daily for all the saints along the lines of Colossians 1:9-12 and still fail to deal graciously among ourselves? Could anyone ever fully enjoy God’s grace, and at the same time deal harshly with his fellow believers and fellow men?
A NORMAL RESPONSE
When we think this over, we will admit that God does not ask us for anything but a normal response that should satisfy His heart as it warms ours. The more we ponder over the word of the cross in all its precious details, the more we will experience the power of God which is inherent in any of His blessed gifts. The more we ponder on His grace and praise Him for it over the years, the more emphatic becomes our yearning to appropriate this gift in such a way that it really becomes ours, so that our own attitude, too, is governed by grace, thanks to the power of God!
Likewise, the more we appreciate the fact that Christ loves us and gives Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, the more we, too, will want to walk in love as God’s beloved children and imitators, due to the power of God (Eph.4:32-5:2). Likewise, the closer we come to a full realization of the various aspects of righteousness which God provides for us, the more we will appropriate it until we become so enslaved to Righteousness that we will detest even the slightest tinge of unrighteousness on our own part, thanks to the power of God.
And again, likewise, the more we enjoy the one aspect of reconciliation and peace (that between God and us), the more we will be prepared to fully appropriate this gift in order to enjoy all of its aspects, such as pursuing peace and being sandaled with the readiness of the evangel of peace.
HOW TO APPROPRIATE PEACE
In view of the hostile attitude of the Adversary and the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials, we would be unable to stand on or withstand because of our celestial allotment, were it not for God’s promise that we will be invigorated in the Lord and in the might of His strength which is being given to us through various channels. Truth and righteousness are two of them, peace is the third. Here, again, our full cooperation is invited, as can be gathered from the careful wording, “your feet sandaled with the readiness of the evangel of peace.”
Why is “peace” so important that God made it part of the panoply which He is providing for us? The reason for this has been explained at length in earlier volumes of this magazine, where three answers were offered.
(1) We should appropriate God’s gift of reconciliation to ourselves
and thus have permanent peace toward Him.
(2) We should anticipate the fruits of God’s reconciliation with our
fellow men and adopt an attitude of permanent peace toward
others—sinners and saints alike.
(3) We should consider ourselves ambassadors for Christ, sandaled
with the readiness of the evangel of peace. In this capacity we are
beseeching: “For Christ’s sake be conciliated to God!” (2 Cor.5:20).
The following quotations are taken from UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, volume 31, beginning with page 371, and volume 23, page 389.
PEACE THROUGH THE CROSS
“Enmity has come in through the entrance of death and sin. All of mankind, without exception, are estranged from God. It is more than likely that this discord has affected the whole creation, in varying degrees. To make peace between God and His unfriendly creatures is the greatest of all achievements. In this world of strife and contention, the role of a peacemaker is a difficult and discouraging one. Contention comes from pride. Notwithstanding the shameful record of mankind since the dawn of history, men are proud of what they are and what they have accomplished, and what they possess. . . . But heart peace with God comes only through Christ’s sufferings and shameful, ignominious death.
“The cross, the inglorious, the disgraceful, the infamous, the outrageous stake, the most disreputable death that man can devise, where weakness and shame combine to dishonor the High and Holy Son of God—here is where peace was made for all who are estranged, where the world was conciliated to God. With this as a basis, the Son will reconcile all God’s enemies with Him when the eons have run their course. In the cross, we see the utter worthlessness of man as well as the supreme exhibition of the love of God. Reconciliation is effected by the revelation of God’s love in the deepest display of human hate.
ALL OUR PRIDE BURNT OUT
“The cross, like a lightning flash, reveals the heart of man. He Who hung upon it was the Touchstone by which all things may be tested. When He appeared among His people, humanity manifested itself as it really is. He should have been welcomed and honored and adored. By the condemnation of the only One Who deserved to live, mankind has condemned itself and sealed its own death warrant. By the shameful crucifixion of the Lord of glory, men made it manifest that they, not He, deserve the death detestable. O that we all may learn what we really are in the light of the cross! This will burn out all our pride and prepare the way for peace. And thus it is that reconciliation comes. The cross will abase all into the dust, and humble their hearts before the Deity, and prepare them for the revelation of His love.
“But if the cross only revealed what is in man, it would not reconcile the race but would rather destroy it. Thanks be to God that it also reveals what is in God! It is the fullest revelation of His love. In it, He seemed to side with man. Instead of rescuing His Beloved from their hate, He sends fire from above into His bones. He makes Him to be sin, Who knew no sin. He forsakes Him instead of the ones who deserved His displeasure. The divine alchemy which transformed the Victim of human hate into the Sacrifice for their sins is almost too wonderful for human apprehension.
THE PERMANENT POWER OF THE CROSS
“The cross was the supreme crisis in universal history, an event unique, unparalleled in the annals of time. Nothing has ever occurred which has such a profound effect upon the world. It will transform an alienated universe into adoring worshipers. It is a permanent, abiding power which will never lose its potency. Today the cross avails to conciliate the world, and to reconcile those who receive the conciliation. But this will by no means exhaust its power. It will be the basis of all blessing in the eons to come and will bring immortality and peace to all at the consummation. Death cannot stop its course, for Christ arose, the Firstborn, and all for whom He died (and He died for all!) will share His life when death is finally abolished.
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
“The blood of Christ is a most expressive figure of the permanent power of His sufferings. The soul, sensation, feeling (not the life) of the flesh is in the blood. In the days of old this was sprinkled in the holy of holies once a year on the day of propitiation, and for a twelve-month period preserved the potency of the sacrifice. So it is with the suffering of Christ. Thank God it is past, but its potency is permanent. It avails today, and will never lose its power. The blood remains, as it were, within the holiest in heaven, to witness to His offering.
THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS
“But the blood of His cross—this goes far deeper still. Only in Colossians 1:20 do we have this notable expression. It is not a mere literary variant, but a deliberate endeavor to distinguish between the death of God’s Son and the manner of it. This is done because here we have not merely the salvation or the justification of all, but the reconciliation of the universe. It is not a question of sin so much as of offense and enmity. In fact, this passage is concerned with salvation only insofar as it is included in reconciliation. Peace is made by the blood of His cross. The blood is a reminder of its permanence.
“The blood does not merely remind us of His death and suffering, but of the shame and enmity of man, and the darkness and distance from God endured by Him because of the crucifixion. Stoning would have brought death but would have avoided much of the suffering and the curse of the Deity which rested upon the One Who was hanged upon a tree. The marvelous truth that all will be reconciled to God is based, not only on the suffering and death of Christ but especially on the abject abasement involved in the manner of His death, coupled with the curse which it drew from above.
“The cry of the august Sufferer, ‘My God, My God, why didst Thou forsake Me?’ finds its answer in the cross. With any other form of death, God would not have forsaken Him. He would rather have turned against His murderers. It would have increased the distance and estrangement between God and His creatures. It would have made enmity, not peace. But because He voluntarily placed Himself beneath the curse of God for the sake of His enemies, the result was reconciliation.
“But let us note that in Colossians 1:20 the cross is brought in parenthetically. It is the basis of reconciliation, indeed, but by no means all that He will do in order to bring back the universe to God. On this basis, He will carry on all of His future work of ruling and judging, of rousing and vivifying the dead. All of His coming acts will have this grand goal in view, and we will have our share in His work of reconciling God’s creatures among the celestials, for we are His complement. As living examples of the power of the cross, we will have our part in the final and effectual peace propaganda. For this reason, we read in Colossians 1:20 of the blood of His cross, for its abiding power will be the means at our disposal in bringing out perpetual peace.
NO FIGHTING WITH OUR FELLOWS
“One of the hardest lessons for us to learn is the fact that we do not fight with our fellows. There must be no close conflict, no grappling with men, no wrestling with those within our reach. This negative injunction has never been heartily heeded. The saints have seldom worn the sandals of the evangel of peace, in their earthly contacts. The great truth of the conciliation of mankind was not recovered at the Reformation. There was only a blurred vision of Romans three and four, and a refusal to enter the fifth chapter.
NO FIGHTING WITH OUR OWN FLESH
“Neither is the fight with our own flesh. It is a fatal mistake to seek to subdue the flesh. It is futile to strive against our physical propensities. The disposition of the flesh is death, so let us put it in the place of death. It cannot be subject, so let us cease to expect anything from it, or seek to improve it. The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. The only successful solution to their opposition is to starve the flesh, to put it in the place of death, to nail it to the cross. Those who are of Christ crucify the flesh with its passions and lusts. The flesh is not on a par with the spirit. We have power and authority over the flesh so we should never condescend to strive as equals. We must condemn it to the ignominious stake.
THE SANDALS OF PEACE
“The sandals of the readiness of the evangel of peace give us the positive side of the apostle’s warning that it is not ours to wrestle with blood and flesh. It is a most difficult lesson to learn. There is so much friction with our fellow men, they are so blatant in their enmity to God, that it is difficult to maintain His attitude toward them, and refuse to antagonize the unbeliever. Yet this is essential to our celestial strife. When this administration ends and the next begins the scenes will all be shifted. Then our celestial foes will be dislodged and God will change His attitude toward men from peace to indignation. Until then, let us not jeopardize our warfare by antagonizing those with whom He is at peace.”
The opinion is widely held that all of the Lord’s work will be done here and now; and because of the urgency of the situation more stress is laid on announcing the evangel in its simplest form than on growing into Him, Who is the Head, Christ. Then there are others, no longer surging hither and thither, nor carried about by every wind of teaching, who occasionally show a lack of readiness in heralding the evangel of peace, opportunely or inopportunely, since, in their opinion, God will call those whom He has designated beforehand anyhow. Both groups, however, fail to recognize the importance of the lifelong training program which God has set up for all His saints.
In His infinite wisdom, He has laid down the sequence of steps to be taken; acquaintance with the word of truth comes first, appropriating righteousness is the next logical step, and only then should we try to walk in the readiness of the evangel of peace, and thus conciliate those being used by the spirit powers which are directing human affairs.
After sufficient preparation for an earthly job or profession, we might well become such experts at it that we no longer need to study the fundamentals at all. Perhaps we will try to keep posted on the latest developments in our special field, but otherwise, the period of training is past, since we are now constantly applying our knowledge in our job or profession, and our performance will probably be fair or good, perhaps even excellent.
In the Lord’s service, however, things are quite different. He will see to it that in the oncoming eons we, too, will be experts in displaying the transcendent riches of God’s grace to the celestial audience which is right now, for the most part, hostile to us. But until that date, we will not be experts, but rather trainees. As long as we are in this body of humiliation, we will never become fully proficient in the first step (knowing the word of truth, and remaining in it), nor the second (appropriating righteousness), and certainly not in the third (becoming experts in the readiness of the evangel of peace); but this should not deter us from going through these steps time and again, as long as we live.
Even Paul appealed to his readers that during every prayer and petition, they should be praying for him on every occasion that to him expression may be granted in the opening of his mouth with boldness, to make known the secret of the evangel, the conciliation; and in addition, he requested their prayers that God might be opening for him a door of the word, to speak the secret of Christ.
As far as readiness of the evangel of peace is concerned the apostle has been an excellent trainee since he was fully aware of his own limitations and the boundless power of his Lord. Paul’s eyes were no longer blind to the will and purpose of God as they probably had been prior to his initial training period in Arabia (Gal.1:15-17). As a matter of fact, however, this training was never finished as long as he was alive, slaving for his Lord and seeing the weakness and insufficiency of his flesh, as well as his lack of proper qualifications. Hence he said that Christ had commissioned him to herald the evangel, “not in wisdom of word, lest the cross of Christ may be made void.” His heralding was not with superiority of word or of wisdom, but rather in weakness, fear, and much trembling; not with the persuasiveness of human wisdom, but with the demonstration of spirit and of power, so that the believers’ faith may not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Cor.1:17; 2:1-5).
Under these circumstances, what else can you expect of a sincere trainee but weakness, fear, and trembling? However, as soon (and as long) as we are aware of our own limitations, we are indeed ready for our training in the Lord’s service. But let us never forget that the printed word of God does not provide us with an easy “correspondence course” where we pick up one or two subjects that are attractive to us and just set aside a few hours for their regular or occasional study. The Lord’s method is different, He is training us on the job, as He did with Paul; and this will last as long as we live in this body of our humiliation. While still being trainees, we are already God’s ambassadors, though most of us, like the apostle, will conduct an embassy in a chain which was literal in Paul’s case; but with us, it might be some individual handicap.
As ambassadors we are strangers in a foreign country that follows a different way of life, in accord with the eon of this world; in accord with the chief of the jurisdiction of the air. When ambassadors try to be faithful to their home government, they will not be very welcome nor popular in the foreign land. At the end of his career, Paul was no longer welcome even in his own ecclesias in Asia Minor, such as Ephesus, Laodicea, and Colosse where his last letters had been circulated, or Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium which once were called “stable in the faith” (Acts 16:5). When the aging apostle was facing death, he wrote to Timothy, “Of this you are aware, that all those in the province of Asia were turned from me.” But in the same letter, he says, “I have contended the ideal contest” (2 Tim.1:15; 4:7). The love of God had been poured out in his heart and had prompted him to love others, friend and foe, never heralding himself, but Christ Jesus, the Lord Whose slave he was (2 Cor.4:5). Here we have the picture of a chained ambassador, a lonely apostle, and yet, an ideal slave of his Lord, who had always been ready to obey his Lord’s orders.
From this we see that the apparent lack of success is not due to God’s disapproval, the trainee’s failure, or his lack of faith, as some might suggest. It is not the success that counts with the Lord, but rather the readiness. And what else can we expect of a handicapped ambassador but readiness? It is up to his Lord to grant him expression in the opening of his mouth with boldness so that he can make known the conciliation. It is up to his Lord to open a door of the word, so that he can speak the secret of Christ. It is the Lord Who sets the time for his trainees to announce the conciliation, Who provides opportunities to herald the Image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature, the Head of the body, the Firstborn from among the dead, Christ, Who will make peace with all, through the blood of His cross.
“The feet sandaled with the readiness of the evangel of peace.” Now we see that God has carefully worded this sentence so as to fit Paul’s case as well as yours and mine. It is the readiness that counts with the Lord, the attitude of peace which is becoming to the ideal slave whether we see him under the figure of a handicapped ambassador or an unsuccessful trainee. In conclusion, we would like to quote from UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, volume 26, beginning on page 121, and volume 16, page 65.
THE EVANGEL OF PEACE
“We war with an evangel. This seems the strangest part of our panoply. What place can the sandals of peace have in the conflict with spiritual forces of wickedness? It is evident that there can be no armistice, no peace with them. The evangel of peace is not for the foe but for our fellow men. It is the conciliation which makes God the Suppliant of the sinner, which insists that God is at peace with them, which makes us ambassadors of heaven to humanity. It is the lost gospel. Here we learn of its effect on the world of wicked spirits.
“In the figure, it may not be easily seen how such sandals would be any protection. In considering the facts, it is much clearer. The evangel is our point of contact with the world. If humanity had even a slight inkling of the great truth that God is conciliated, that He refuses to have any conflict with them, it would rob the spirit world of the best ally that they have. As it is, wicked men are the tools of wicked spirits, and are arrayed against us, so that it is often difficult to refrain from clashing with them, with whom we should not wrestle. Now that the evangel of peace is practically unknown in Christendom, the saints have shifted their standing. Instead of proclaiming peace, they represent God as at war with mankind, angry and antagonistic. They are shod with iron shoes. The spirits are able to wound them through the unbelieving world which is controlled by the chief of the aerial jurisdiction.
ALL ENEMIES ARE POTENTIAL FRIENDS
“It is always pleasing to God for His saints to imitate Him, in His latest revelation of Himself. Our characters should conform to the truth we teach. The marvelous message of the ultimate reconciliation of all to God is the most powerful incentive to peace. We look upon all our enemies as potential friends. We welcome and anticipate the time when all enmity and every difference will vanish, and it is bound to have a soothing and salutary effect on our present conduct, in the measure in which it has gripped our hearts.
“Great as is God’s grace in the gospel, how excessively redundant is its outflow to those who have received the conciliation and are reconciled! We are to imitate Him, not merely in our attitude to His enemies, but more especially toward those whom He has taken to be His friends. Here is where we all fail. Here is where we all place limits on His favor.
“The highest evidence of a close communion with God is not a haughty holding of the truth and a separation from all who do not see it as we do. We are to endeavor to correctly cut the word of truth, but we are also to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the tie of peace. Truth, too often, has been held in hate. Truth in love is the key to the approval of God and to the hearts of His saints.
“In these days of apostasy, the truth must often be most unwelcome and unwanted, even by the saints. But truth, in love, has a power difficult to resist. Truth, in love, is sometimes silent, for fear of offending. It is often grieved but does not retaliate. Above all, it does not, like Peter, cut off the ears of those who oppose, for it is patiently waiting for the time when the ears will be healed, not hurt. Let us, who believe in ultimate reconciliation and present conciliation, complement our belief by a most gracious and loving exercise of the grace we have received, in our contact with the world and with His beloved saints!”
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