Recently, our local Reformation Society studied Romans 10:14-17. In the concluding discussion, one pastor remarked that while he has been complimented on good sermons, he has never been told that he has beautiful feet, referring to verse 15: “And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!’”
Why no compliments on our feet? Especially in the reformed tradition, the preacher stands behind a wooden-box pulpit, thus concealing his feet. Perhaps Paul, in quoting from Isaiah in verse 15, is issuing a call for Plexiglas pulpits? I ministered regularly from behind a Plexiglas pulpit in a rented location a few years ago. When doing so, Dr. Gerstner’s counsel rang the more true: “Before stepping into the pulpit the last two steps are: 1) entrust your preaching to God, and 2) check your fly.” Check. And yet, no compliments on my feet.
If Paul is not issuing a call for Plexiglas pulpits, what’s the point? In antiquity, runners would take news of the battle back to the capital city. The city watchmen were able to tell from the gait – the footwork – of the messenger whether the news was good or bad. Nothing has changed. Watch the footwork of athletes at the end of almost any sporting event, and you do not need to see the scoreboard to know who won.
Preachers commissioned by Christ and his church bear the good news of Christ’s victory over sin and death. We are sent to declare this good news. Ironically, some in the reformed tradition use Romans 10 to emphasize the priority of preaching with the focus being on stationary preaching behind wooden boxes. Certainly, preaching in our churches in the public worship of God is essential, and preachers are indeed sent to those places. But does not Romans 10 compel the preacher to move his feet like the Apostle Paul and go to find the people who need the gospel? Paul went to not only churches and synagogues, but also to homes, streets, river sides, classrooms, marketplaces, and places people gathered to talk about whatever was new. He also preached on ships, around campfires, and in prisons. Paul’s news was too great to limit to stationary preaching with the expectation that others would come to him.
Paul, like every preacher, was sent. Had he not moved his feet, people would not have known the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Christ. As far as we know, he didn’t have a Plexiglas pulpit, or even a wooden box. His feet were beautiful to so many people because his feet carried the good news of Christ’s victory to them for the first time. Many people probably will never come to our churches on their own. But how can we not run to them, given the nature of the news that we bear?