Thursday, 17 November 2016
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, Ephesians 6:14
Paul now begins his analogies between the physical implements of armor and those of a spiritual nature. These are certainly general descriptions which are intended to make spiritual points rather than being firm and fixed descriptions which are to be taken to unintended extremes. This is noted because it is exactly what happens when people write flowery books about the analogies being made here. One example of the non-rigid nature of the implements of armor is for that of “salvation.”
In verse 17, it is called “the helmet of salvation.” However, in Psalm 18:35, David says that the Lord gave him “the shield of Your salvation.” The helmet and the shield are both pointing to the same spiritual truth, salvation, but they are being used in different contexts to make different points about the matter of salvation. And so these are descriptions which Paul is giving in order to make specific spiritual analogies. And of course, they are very good analogies because they point to real truths in simple and yet profound ways.
He begins with the words “Stand therefore…” This is in support of the word “stand” used in the previous verse. There, it denoted the end of all of the efforts which a Christian will face in the spiritual conflicts he encounters. Here, it is a note for the beginning and duration of them. We are to stand now (active) in order to be found still standing at the end.
He then notes, “having girded your waist with truth.” To gird oneself is to use a belt in order to draw in a garment close to the body. Ancient dress was loose and flowing, like robes – either short or long. If one was to run, they would need to have these flowing garments drawn in tightly, or they would trip over them if they were long, or – even if short – they could get them caught in something like a branch. By girding the waist, it would draw the garment in so that this wouldn’t happen.
The analogy is obvious. When one lies, it will eventually trip them up. Just think of Richard Nixon or the Clintons. But by girding oneself and drawing in the truth, there will be no room for lies. Instead, there will be freedom of movement in one’s spiritual life.
Next he notes, “having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” The “breastplate” or “thorax” was a coat of mail extending from the neck down to the thighs. Under it is found all the vital organs which needed to be kept safe and secure from incoming jabs and blows by the enemy. In the Bible, the place of emotions, wisdom, and knowledge are said to be found in these organs. If one is unprotected against attacks on these things, they will suffer harm.
If a person is attacked emotionally, they are bound to falter in their theology by caving in to unsound moral precepts. If one is attacked through their limited knowledge of Scripture, they will not be able to withstand the onslaught. This is a warning, for example, against aberrant doctrines taught by crazy cults or heretical teachers. People need to be grounded in the Bible, and in a sound interpretation of it. Likewise, a person’s wisdom may be found wanting if they have not been trained in how to apply it to the knowledge they possess.
The “righteousness” described by Paul goes deeper than a personal righteousness. Rather, it is speaking of the imputed righteousness of Christ. All who call on Him are granted this. From the time we are saved, we are deemed righteous. But will we apply that properly? That is the question which needs to be answered. We are told in Philippians about this sacred trust we have been granted –
“…and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;” Philippians 3:9
As can be seen, Paul’s use of these analogies is given to get us think through underlying truths which have already been revealed in Scripture. Two passages from Isaiah were certainly on his mind as he contemplated and wrote –
“Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.” Isaiah 11:5
“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.” Isaiah 59:17
Life application: Understanding metaphors in the Bible is an immensely important point of knowing what is on God’s mind. God is the Creator, and so He knows what is best in order to make sound spiritual analogies. When He uses water as a comparison to something, it is because the properties of water, and the benefits to be derived from water, are sound analogies to what He is describing in spiritual matters. Pay heed to these things. In doing so, you will find a treasure trove of wisdom to apply to your theology.
Lord God, Your word asks us to gird ourselves around our waists with truth, and to put on the breastplate of righteousness. If we do not speak the truth, we will be caught up in our own lies. We will be unable to properly and effectively act as Christians who represent You. And if we are not prepared emotionally, intellectually, and practically in our theology, we will get caught up in every changing wind of doctrine which comes about. We will be weak and ineffective soldiers in this spiritual battle we are facing. Help us to be sound in our walk and faithful in our speech so that we will bring You the glory and honor You are due. Amen.