The Belt of Truth

October 23, 2016 Series: Ephesians Scripture: Ephesians 6:14 by Chris Strevel

To stand in the evil day we must be fully armed for battle. Our day has its particular evils, and Satan is stalking more openly. We must not slumber in our self-contentedness or slink away in fear, for then he will sow more tares in God’s wheat field. He is looking for chinks in our armor and howling with his wolves against God’s truth. Zeal for the glory of our God must stir us to action. Love for our Savior and desire to see his church faithful and thriving must inspire us to be armed against his devices. Nothing but God’s full armor can resist and drive him away. Our war equipment is normally divided into two sets of three pieces, the first three being fixed and defensive and the second three being unfixed and offensive. These distinctions must not be pressed too much, however, as if we are to look for a spiritual truth beyond what is plainly stated. Paul’s main point is that our strong God and Father has abundantly provided for our security and victory. We must take up and use what he has provided, for we shall have victory over the evil one. The Lord has promised, and he is with us at every step of the battle.

Ready for Battle

The background of this basic armor is the Roman soldier. Often being chained to one, Paul was well acquainted with his equipment. It occurred to him that believers have similar but far better armor against Satan’s wiles. He begins with the belt or girdle, which was tactically significant. The main clothing of that day was often a loose fitting tunic or robe, which might stretch down to the calves or ankles. Such garments could easily trip a man up and hinder his mobility and sure-footedness in hand-to-hand combat. If a soldier’s clothing was not gathered closely about him, he would be easily distracted and constantly trying to adjust his equipment. The belt was also a fixed piece of the soldier’s equipment. Once tightened, he was ready for battle and might attach other fighting pieces to it.

It is imminently fitting that God’s truth should be compared to this belt. Some have said that by truth is meant a sincere life before God, but this is by no means fixed or constant, even in the best of believers. One of our privileges in Christ is to have a sincere conscience and “faith unfeigned,” but this is something for which we must work and that often sustains many blows as we fight against sin. But this “belt of truth” is a fixed piece of our armor, and it seems to me that what is meant is God’s truth, considered as a whole. God has delivered his truth to us (Jude 3). It is as if Paul says, “Whatever happens, face your foe, every temptation and life difficulty, with a mind fully persuaded of the truth of God’s word and his faithfulness to his promises. Circumstances and personal feelings may change, and those changes may come so suddenly that you will be knocked off your feet if you have a weak conviction of the truth of God’s word. But if your life is girded, tied together, build upon the foundation of his word, you will be able to stand fast. You will be encouraged to turn to God first in every circumstance.” God’s truth stabilizes the heart and mind. It gives courage and good hope.

A Truth-Cinched Life

Proof that God’s truth is primarily intended may be seen from Isaiah 11:5. There we learn that our Savior has a “girdle of righteousness about his loins.” The reference is not to his essential righteousness as the eternal Son of God but to the righteousness of his incarnate life because “thy law is within my heart.” His righteousness was his perfect conformity to the revealed will of his Father. His every breath was “As it is written in the Scriptures,” and, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Our Lord was Scripture-believing and dominated. He was girded at every step with the whole truth of God. Peter means something similar when he commands us to “gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Pet. 1:13), which refers to God’s truth understood, believed, and controlling the mind. How else can we “resist him steadfast in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:9), unless we know “the faith,” the whole truth of God? Some have objected to the belt of truth being God’s word, for this is mentioned specifically in connection with the sword of the Spirit. There, however, the reference is more specific. We use the sword of the Spirit as we bring to bear the specific truths, promises, and commands of God’s word upon individual situations, errors, enemies, and temptations. This is the way our Savior used the sword of the Spirit in the wilderness against Satan – specific statements of Scripture. He did not simply hold up a Bible (or a scroll), and say, “There, take that.” This would be like a soldier swinging his sword wildly rather than giving a well-aimed thrust to his enemy. Before we will ever be persuaded to use God’s word as a sword, we must be persuaded that God’s word is his invincible truth.

The belt, therefore, is God’s whole truth, the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27,32). It was this truth that the apostles everywhere commanded the early believers to study, so that they might understand and defend the Scriptures. Paul commanded Timothy to hold fast this truth, the very “form of sound words,” and to pass it on to other faithful men so that they could teach others (2 Tim. 1:13; 2:1-2). Jesus commanded his professing disciples to abide in his word so that they “might know the truth” and be freed from sin’s deceptions and man’s tyrannies (John 8:30-32). Christ promises his apostles the “Spirit of truth” so that they might be led into all the truth, be preserved from error, and raised up to be his living voices in the church (John 14:17; 15:26). There is a permanence and power to God’s truth that simply cannot be said of our personal integrity and sincerity. Being girded with God’s truth certainly works a righteous life in us, and Paul often appeals to a “pure conscience” as that which gave him such boldness before men. Yet, if the first piece of our armor is as variable as our obedience and honesty and sincerity, then we are defeated at the outset. God’s truth, however, when we understand and hold fast to it, gives us stability and confidence to face our formidable foe.

Belts that Will Hang You

This assumes that we are people of God’s Book. To have the loins of our mind girded with God’s truth means that we are hungering after the pure milk of the word, attentively listening to its preaching, reading it for ourselves, and seeking in every way to be transformed by it (Rom. 12:1-2). Sadly, when one looks out upon the modern church, this high regard for God’s truth is dangerously lacking. Many have substituted “good feelings” for “good understanding.” It is common to hear a professing child of God defend his sins by saying something like, “Well, I really feel like this is what God wants me to do.” This is to take off our belt and throw it on the ground. The same is true when men seek an “experience of God” apart from the word of God. God is a speaking God, and he makes himself known through his word. Our experiences do not define truth, but God’s truth judges our experiences. Others attempt to read Scripture through the lenses of philosophy, modern science, popular opinion, or the desire to be relevant. This is one of the leading causes of the church’s weakness and confusion when it comes to providing God’s wisdom to the world for the needs of our times. The church is to be the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), not the pillar and ground of good feelings, unity without truth, accommodation to the spirit of the age, and mystical forms of piety.

The general disregard for God’s truth in the church is aggravated when many in the Protestant tradition repudiate the Reformation. Some say that a return to Rome would be preferable to the sectarian divisions that prevent unity and a united stand against the forces of lawlessness in the world today. Admittedly, our lack of unity is shameful at many levels, but the answer to sectarianism is not a regime of tyranny such as existed under the Papacy, in which God’s truth and gospel were so obscured under a maze of errors and burdened with so many useless and idolatrous ceremonies that hardly one man in a hundred in those days had any clear conception of the gospel. If the Reformation was anything, it was in God’s providence a call to the church to be girded with God’s belt of truth. His word alone is able to rout the evil one, and it certainly defeated that rabid Anti-Christ, the pope and all his thugs and sycophants, who did nothing but undermine, twist, and ignore God’s word to suit their own ends. Better to have thousands of small churches fighting to understand God’s truth than one mega false church in which shepherds suppress God’s truth, ban the Bible, and burn true believers. Let us not despise God’s goodness in sending his people deliverance from such a beast, but rather repent that we do not hold fast to the faith of our fathers. If we put on any of these belts – feelings, experience, personal preferences, Roman Catholicism, popularity or relevance – they will hang us. They will also prevent us from giving a clear gospel witness in our day. We can only do this if we unapologetically wear the belt of God’s eternal truth and hunger after it as more necessary they our daily bread.

The High Claims of Scripture as Truth

Admittedly, truth has fallen in the streets. The Protestant and Evangelical wars over the past two or three centuries have led to general distrust of Scripture within the church. Some deny its clarity. Others ignore God’s word so they can live as they please, and then when confronted, say childish things like, “Well, that just your interpretation,” as if “fry this egg” can mean “change the oil in your car,” or “Do not commit fornication” means “unless you really love him.” Regardless of the weakness of those who have defended God’s truth or the inconsistencies of Christians, resisting Satan demands that the church recover Scripture’s own views of itself and its self-authenticating authority. The Old and New Testament Scriptures do not become the word of God by a mystical interaction with them. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth” (John 17:17). God’s word is truth objectively, against all the philosophies of men, and all the lies of the evil one. It does not contain the truth; it is the truth. Respecting the wisdom of this world, it had reached its height among the Greeks, yet the Spirit’s summary judgment is, “God has made foolish the wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 1:20). His wisdom in Scripture alone is eternal (Ps. 119:89), being known and revered by the angels themselves, for they quoted it when they delivered God’s word to his people (Luke 1:17,33). They desire to look into the very words that are preached to us by human preachers (1 Pet. 1:12). Now, if the angels speak and adore the word of God, which pertains more to us than to them, should not the hairs on our necks stand up whenever we hear God’s word preached?

And to this must be added another way that we have thrown off the belt of truth. Dangerously few take seriously the Scripture’s claim respecting its all-sufficiency. Its testimony on this point is clear: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Even with these lines, many trust science more than Scripture, or do interpretive gymnastics to make God’s eternal and sufficient word agree with the opinions of blind men. Others trust government promises rather than divine promises. It is no wonder that when it comes to the theological, social, ethical crises of our day, the gospel trump is blown unclearly from our pulpits. We do not diligently study Scripture, plead with God for wisdom, which he promises to give, or seek to be governed by the very words of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:13). This is because we doubt its authority, but the Bible’s chain of authority is indisputable. All Scripture comes from God. God inspired men by his Spirit, called by Peter the Spirit of Christ, to speak and write as infallible oracles of God’s eternal truth, so that their words are “Thus saith the Lord.” Then, when Jesus Christ came, he was the living Word that came down from heaven to reveal the Father (John 1:18). He spoke the words of God (John 3:34). How did he handle the existing Old Testament Scriptures? They must be fulfilled. “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 8:35). He promised to his apostles the Spirit of truth so that what they spoke and wrote are the “commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:38).

Truth as a Weapon

These testimonies might be multiplied many times over, but they are sufficient to indicate that the belt that girds up the loins of our mind, enables us to resist the devil, gives focus and stability on the battlefield, is nothing else but the eternal truth of God, now enscripturated for us in the Old and New Testaments. Understood, believed, and transforming us, they are the “mind of Christ,” by which our confusion is cleared away and we begin to see light in God’s light (1 Cor. 2:10; Ps. 36:9). As he told his disciples, by abiding in his word, we shall “know the truth” and be delivered from the lies of men and their enslaving programs (John 8:30-32). Why are so many in the church confused about sodomy, pre-marital sex, or abortion, or political correctness, or the relationship between science and the Bible but because they have not continued in Christ’s word? Faith in God’s word comes before understanding. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3), but listening to the world’s vain philosophers will ensnare a man in Satan’s sophisticated lies. John wrote that victory over the devil is directly, inseparably connected to the “word abiding in you” (1 John 2:14). Paul wrote to Timothy that the church is preserved from false teachers through the faithful transmittance of the “form of sound words” that were delivered from the apostles, to the church’s first pastors, down to us this day (2 Tim. 2).  Again and again, we see that God’s truth is our weapon against every form of Satanic attack. But if we are ignorant of it, doubt its authority, or think it insufficient, we shall loose our footing and stumble.

Tightening the Belt of Truth

 

This is no exaggeration. Look at the church in the West today, how “church” has become theater, how expository preaching is ridiculed and replaced with therapy sessions led by men who would not have been permitted to wipe the boots of the great company of preachers of former generations. We must tighten the belt of God’s truth in our lives. This is the real challenge of our age – to recover the truth that transforms men and nations from Satan’s dupes to humble servants of the great King. For this to take place, Christians in all communions must know and meditate upon God’s word – all of it. They must seek out those who preach it faithfully, even if it steps on their toes, and drive the deceivers out of business by removing the demand for milk toast. We must all walk more closely with the God of truth, for in his light, we shall see light. We cannot walk with him and fail to be transformed by his word. We must love God’s truth passionately, not as a cold and sterile set of propositions but as the living word of the living God. And we must obey it. “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119:100). God has given us this belt to put it on, tighten it, and then march forward confidently that his truth abides forever. We are surrounded by lies and deception, but God’s word is truth. It abides triumphant forever.