Bible Study Series: Ephesians - The Third Heaven Epistle
Ephesians 6:13-14 Bible Study - The Armor of God - Belts & Breastplates
by I Gordon
Well friends, here we are again. We've been moving at the pace of a energetic snail through the book of Ephesians and have finally come to this famous passage on the armor of God. In the last two messages we focused on the unseen realm around us and the schemes of the enemy. We also saw last time the all important need to be 'strong in the Lord'. Well the next three messages might help in that regard because we'll be focusing on the 'how'... how are we able to be strong in the Lord? How are we to be clothed in His armor? Today we will explore the first two pieces of the armor - namely, belts and braces. Argh, no wait a sec... belts and breastplates. We'll look at the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness.
- What are these?
- How do you put them on?
- How are they related to the Lord Jesus?
- What happens if you don't have a belt?
That is enough questions for now but we'll explore this and more. And as I have done in a few of the other studies in this series, we'll develop these themes for our own personal lives as well as take a peak at some prophetic implications for the day in which we live. So let's begin with our passage and a wee bit of background...
The Armor of God
Eph 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
You will remember from earlier in this Ephesians series that Paul wrote this letter from prison. He was under Roman arrest at the time and was likely guarded by a Roman soldier in full armor. Being quick to see the illustration of timeless truth, the Apostle Paul got his papyrus sheet out and wrote (or maybe dictated it to a helper) 'Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.' He saw that each part of the Roman soldier's armor, from the sandals on the tips of his toes to the helmet on top of his head, all illustrated a corresponding important truth in the life of the believer. Some simple initial points come out of this verse:
- 'Put on'... Firstly Paul knew that this was something that each believer needed to do. Through the victory on the cross and resurrection, the Lord Jesus has given all that is required to withstand the attacks of the enemy but we have to apply that victory. We have to put the spiritual armor provided to us on.
- 'the full armor' - It isn't good enough to be protected in some areas but exposed in others. The full armor needs to be applied. The enemy is wise enough to look for the weak points / missing areas and strike there!
- 'full armor of God' - It is God's armor, not ours. Therefore it is robust and perfect for the task at hand. As we move through each part we will see that it is all connected with being strong in Him and what Jesus has done for us / who He is for us. It is not trying to be strong in yourself. Let's be real... that armor and weaponry is rusty and full of holes!
- 'so that when the evil day comes' - We see that we are to have the armor in place BEFORE the attack comes. It is not something that we try to apply after the day of battle... That doesn't work so well! We will all have an 'evil day' so the instruction is to be prepared ahead of time.
- 'you may be able to stand your ground' - 'Stand' is a key word in this passage. The Greek word is 'antistēnai' meaning 'to withstand, stand against, oppose, resist' - Both James and Peter also use this same word in their instruction on resisting the enemy (Jam 4:7, 1Pet 5:9).
So let's move on to the first part of the armor - the belt of truth.
Do it up tight... The Belt of Truth
Eph 6:14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist...
There is a good reason that the belt of truth is mentioned first. Now you might be thinking 'hmm... but a belt isn't actually armor. Nor is it a weapon. What are you going to do, whip it off and strap someone?' Well that certainly happened on more than a few occasions when I was little (and I needed it!) but no... the belt isn't a weapon for striking. But it critical for it held everything else in place. J. Vernon McGee writes well in his normal amusing manner on this:
"Having your loins girt about with truth." In the ancient garment of that day, the girdle about the loins held in place every other part of the uniform of the soldier. It was essential. To tell you the truth, if the girdle was lost, you lost everything. The garments would fly open and the pants would fall down. We see this routine in comedies, and the people laugh to see a man trying to run or fight with his trousers drooping down. It looks funny in a comedy routine, but it is not funny in a battle. A great battle in the past, we are told, was won by a clever general who told his men to cut the belts of their enemy while they were sleeping. The next morning the enemy troops were so busy holding up their trousers that they weren't able to shoot their guns and, therefore, they lost the battle. We are told to be girded with truth in the face of the enemy. Truth is that which holds everything together. What is that truth? It is the Word of God."
J. Vernon McGee
It is God's truth that holds everything together. Each part of the armor of God will require truth. Without it we have error and falsehood and that never protected anyone! Truth is critical because it is the very essence of God. I have always loved the following scripture regarding this: "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Num 23:19) So what is truth and where is it found? The word translated 'truth' in Eph 6:14 is 'alḗtheia'. I recently saw how important this word and recurring thought is in the book of John. Let me just briefly give 7 important verses using 'alḗtheia' (truth) in this book.
- The first mention in the book - Jesus is 100% complete truth: Joh 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
- Any true & acceptable worship of God has to be in truth - Joh 4:24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
- Truth is found in God's word and will set you free - Joh 8:31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. (32) Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
- Truth is more than a thought or belief - It is a person who embodies complete truth: Joh 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
- A key role of God's Spirit is to guide believers into all truth - Joh 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
- We are set apart as God's people through the truth of God's word - Joh 17:15-17 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (16) They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (17) Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
- The final mention in the book - Everyone who is of the truth listens to Jesus, but the unbeliever and post-modernist today, can only stand from afar and say with Pilate 'What is truth?' Joh 18:37-38 You are a king, then! said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (38) What is truth? Pilate asked.
The Opposite: The enemy - the father of lies
Joh 8:42-45 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. (43) Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. (44) You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (45) Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
Here we have another mention of this word 'alḗtheia' (truth) in John's letter but in the negative sense. It speaks of one who did not hold to the truth and has no truth in him. What a contrast! Jesus is full 100% truth in everything that He said, did and does. It is His very nature and essence of His being. But here is one that is 0% truth. There is no truth in him. None. His every word is from his native language - lies. That shines a light on how important it is to be sure of who you are listening to doesn't it? Right from the beginning we see the Father of lies speaking his native language against Eve. Note his lies:
- The enemy casts doubt on God's word
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say...'
This is a sly crafty question designed to cast doubt on God's truth. 'Did He really say that? That can't be right...' That is casting doubt on God's word.
- The enemy distorts God's word
Gen 3:1 "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
He distorts God's truth by extending the command of God to ANY tree in the garden which is not what God said.
- Eve adds to God's word
Gen 3:2-3 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
Eve herself adds to God's truth by saying that they couldn't even touch the tree. We are not to add or take away from God's word (Deu 4:2; Deu 12:32, Rev 22:18-19)
- The enemy denies God's word
Gen 3:4 You will not surely die, the serpent said to the woman.
The doubt and distortion of God's word has now led to an outright denial of what God has said. Here is the father of lies calling God a liar!
- The enemy lies and casts doubt on God's character
Gen 3:5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
'God is holding out on you. You could be like Him! He is keeping it from you!' This lie from the very beginning of being like God is still perpetuated through the New Age, Mormonism and many other false religions today.
- Adam and Eve disobey God's word
Gen 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
The enemy's goal - He casts doubt on the truth, distorts the truth, denies the truth... all for the goal of our disobedience to the truth.
About now is a good time to hear a small but important Jesus' prayer for believers once again. 'Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.' God's truth is found in the person of Jesus and in God's word. Let me say again that the belt of truth held everything in place and that is what God's truth, through His word, does for us. We must have the belt of truth in place in these days to combat the lies of the enemy. Each of his lies (through doubts, distortion and denials) must be replaced with God's truth. Every time it comes into your mind that there is no hope, replace it with the truth of God's word that He is the God of hope and fills us with hope. Every time you are reminded that you are weak and can't do something, replace it with the truth of God's word that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Replace every lie with God's truth. Remember - you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free! Error and lies bind. Truth, in combination with faith, is the key that brakes shackles and opens prison's doors.
Fallen in the Street... Truth in the last days
Now in our day truth is often the first casualty and should really be put on the endangered list. The truth of God's word is all important in these last days for lies, propaganda and deception abound. There is an awesome sobering prophetic passage in Isaiah that speaks about the conditions on earth leading up to the return of Jesus. Let's consider what this passage says about truth in the last days.
Isa 59:14-20 NKJV Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter. (15) So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him That there was no justice. (16) He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him. (17) For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, And was clad with zeal as a cloak. (18) According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, Fury to His adversaries, Recompense to His enemies; The coastlands He will fully repay. (19) So shall they fear The name of the Lord from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. (20) "The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," Says the Lord.
This is an amazing passage! It portrays a coming time when the enemy has come in like a flood and his first casualty is... truth. Truth is fallen in the streets. Truth has been struck down. Truth has failed. And the friends of truth - Justice, righteousness and equity can only stand from a great distance, no longer allowed in the city or marketplace. It portrays a time when any who try depart from evil and stand with truth and righteousness, make themselves a prey! It portrays a time when no man can change the tidal wave of lies and deception... until the God-man does! He will put on righteousness as a breastplate and the helmet of salvation on His head. The garments of vengeance are His clothing and utter zeal is His cloak. This is the second coming of Jesus. When the enemy has come in like a flood and has complete control over the whole world... over what a person can buy and sell, where they can go, what they can think, what they can do... When all has come under the control of the enemy through his global world leader, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up One against Him - The God-man, Jesus Christ! And the Redeemer will come to Zion!
We are not there yet but we absolutely live in the days when truth is falling in the street. Lies and propaganda abound. In many ways events today remind me of the 'Ministry of Truth' in the book George Orwell's book '1984'.
In Orwell's classic novel 1984 , Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth whose primary focus is to produce government propaganda and alter historical records to coincide with Big Brother's current claims. By falsifying records and thus recreating the past, they can manipulate and control the ignorant masses. Everything is twisted and turned around so that black becomes white and white black. Their famous slogan is 'War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.' Such was the strength of the Government propaganda that something so obviously wrong was accepted as truth.
Look at today... Who do you believe? Can we believe the media? Can we believe our governments? Can we even believe what our Church leaders are saying? Hopefully you go to a Church that still preaches God's word and truth and you have a godly Pastor whose desire is to shepherd the sheep given into his care. Thankfully there are still great shepherds out there. But the sad reality is that many don't have such a church. Many don't know where to go. Truth is falling... But don't fall with it. Keep that belt of truth firmly in place by abiding in God's word and renewing your mind with His truth!
An application of truth - Breastplate of righteousness
Eph 6:14 Stand firm then... with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
Let's move back to a personal application of the belt of truth and apply it to the next part of the armor mentioned in Ephesians. And that is 'the breastplate of righteousness'. There are many commentators that will say that the 'breastplate of righteousness' is a believers' personal integrity and uprightness. While righteous living is important it isn't the 'armor of God' that stops the attacks of the enemy. Give half of what you own to the poor and the devil will want to know why you kept half for yourself. Fast and pray for a week and the enemy will accuse you of stopping early. God desires right living but never rely one second on it for your salvation or victory in spiritual warfare. The Devil is too tricky for that. Man's righteousness just doesn't cut it. Thankfully, our breastplate is made of stronger material than our own fluctuating goodness. The only righteousness that truly covers an accused heart is that which God offers - His righteousness as a gift. As the Apostle Paul said (who had more reason than most to trust in his own righteousness and integrity:
Php 3:4-9 ...If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: (5) circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; (6) as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (7) But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (8) What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
Or, as the great hymn of old states:
My hope is built on nothing less, Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
There is a great illustration of this truth in the book of Zechariah. It has it all really... Satan the accuser, the accused and the work of God through the gift of righteousness that stops all accusations.
Zec 3:1-5 NKJV Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. (2) And the Lord said to Satan, "The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" (3) Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. (4) Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him." And to him He said, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes." (5) And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.
In this amazing scene we see Joshua, the High Priest of that day, standing before the Lord. Satan is also there, right at his side, right in his face, ready to accuse (as he does!) Even though Joshua was the High Priest, yet by his own works he is pictured as standing in filthy garments. So no wonder Satan was ready to accuse! 'Is this your High Priest? Is this the best you've got? Is this the one who represents the entire nation... this sinful dirty disgusting creature?' I'm sure he would do the same with me. 'Look at what that Son of yours Iain did now! What a vile creature! ' But the Lord rebuked Satan then as He does now saying 'Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?'
This is an interesting picture. A brand is a burnt shouldering piece of wood. It is blackened and isn't particularly useful for any purpose or of any worth. It would be completely burnt unless someone plucked it from the fire. That, my friend, is a picture of you. It is also a picture of me. And yet, God reaches down and saves that brand, us, from the fire. F.B Meyer wrote: 'Such is the divine economy, that God makes much of brands, fragments, castaways. What others regard as unworthy of their heed is dear and priceless to the great Lover of souls."
"No more beautiful gospel picture is found within the Bible than this. As aptly as Joshua stands for Judah, so does he represent the poor sinner coming into God’s holy presence with all his guilt upon him. It is thus every soul must meet Him for the first time. None can put away his iniquity and thereby fit himself to face that righteous throne. But clad in his filthy garments, owning fully all his dreadful guilt, every repentant soul may approach God with the conscious knowledge that for such as he there is mercy and cleansing. The adversary will be there to hinder if he can; but Jehovah will not listen to him, for He has His eye on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, accomplished on Calvary’s cross, when “He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12). Against that mighty intercession no Satanic charges can avail. Too loudly cries the blood in God’s ear that speaketh better things than that of Abel. Therefore of every believing sinner He delights to say, “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”"
And look also at what the Lord does next. The dirty clothes of Joshua are replaced with rich robes! Here we have the robes of righteousness and the garments of salvation that cover every true believer! And what can Satan say to such things? Nothing! They are God given and God earnt by His own blood on the cross, yet given freely to those that see their need, believe and receive. The book of Isaiah shows this exchange of clothing (representing our and His righteousness) in two key verses:
Our righteousness: 'All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.' (Isa 64:6)
His righteousness: 'I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isa 61:10)
So what have we seen? We've seen that truth is the first part of the armor mentioned because it is critical for the operation of each other part. It is the belt of truth that holds the other parts of the armor in place. Truth is God's nature, expressed in God's word, found in Jesus Christ and brought to us through the Holy Spirit. But, as we have seen, we have an enemy who dwells and delights in lies. He will doubt, distort and deny God's truth. So this belt of truth must be in place and applied such as when the guilt, condemnation and accusations from the enemy come in. This is how the belt of truth relates to the breastplate of righteousness. We must stand in the truth of God's righteousness for only this can shut the enemy's mouth!
To conclude with an example, my mother had the following experience. Many years ago the business where my Dad worked was getting rid of some tables very cheaply so Mum and Dad bought a few. Now Mum had a friend who wanted some of them so Mum sold some for only a few dollars more and made a very small profit. It wasn't long however before the accusations began... 'How could you sell them at a higher rate and try make a profit off your friend? What kind of friend are you? How could you do such a thing?' Try as she might Mum couldn't get away from the accusations going on within her. She prayed, repented and asked for forgiveness yet nothing stopped the accusations - 'You aren't a friend. What a horrible thing to do! What kind of Christian are you?' On and on it went.
At last a revelation came to Mum. She saw what the source of these accusations was. She saw that it was not from God but from the enemy and upon seeing that she said five words that stopped the accusations in their stride - She simply said 'Oh go tell my Father!'
And that was it. The accusations were gone. We need to learn that we are in a battle and we need to see that part of the enemy's arsenal comes through guilt, fear, accusations and condemnation. But when we have the belt of truth on and the breastplate of righteousness (and remember this is God's armor and His righteousness!) then we can take our stand in the sure position that He has given us. We can resist the enemy, even as my Mum did in this example, knowing that Satan has no grounds of accusation against those that God has declared not guilty and righteous in His sight!