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23. The Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness

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Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, (Ephesians 6:14)

How can we stand firm in spiritual warfare? In Ephesians 6:12, Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and in his might and to put on the full armor of God. This is not a battle that can be won in our own strength. It is a battle against the devil and innumerable spiritual forces all set on opposing God and his people.

In Ephesians 6:14, Paul begins to talk about the armor Christians should put on. Commonly in Scripture, clothing is used symbolically of actions and attitudes. For example, Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” In this passage, compassion, kindness, humility, etc., are symbolized by clothing. It is the same with the armor of God. Each part of the soldier’s armor represents an action or attitude needed for the believer to stand in spiritual warfare.

As we consider each piece of armor, it tells us something about Satan’s attacks. No piece of armor can be excluded in our warfare—for Satan and his demons will always attack the vulnerable area. In this text, Paul focuses on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness.

Big Question: How can believers stand firm in spiritual warfare by using the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness?

Believers Stand Firm by Putting On the Belt of Truth

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist … (Ephesians 6:14)

A Roman soldier wore a tunic under his armor, and a large leather belt “was used to gather his garments together as well as hold his sword.”1  The belt was the first part of the armor put on, and it held everything else together. It was crucial. Similarly, truth is a crucial component for every believer in this spiritual battle—without it believers are not prepared to stand and fight.

Interpretation Question: What does the belt of truth represent, how do we put it on, and how does it protect us from the enemy?

Commentators are divided on the exact meaning of the belt of truth. It could represent several things.

1. The belt of truth represents knowing the content of truth as revealed in Scripture.

Jesus said this in John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” The Word of God is truth, and it is through knowing and applying this truth that we are sanctified—daily made holy and righteous.

With that said, we can clearly discern Satan’s attacks during this age. We can see it in the post-modern concept of relativism. We live in an age of no absolutes. It is the predominant philosophical thought taught in our education system today. Peter Singer, an ethics professor at Princeton and arguably the most influential modern philosopher, teaches that bestiality is not morally wrong (as long as it doesn’t hurt the animal),2 and neither is killing infants with disabilities.3 Ironically, he teaches at the same seminary where Jonathan Edwards served as president!

Because of teachings like this, we are raising up a generation that is increasingly vulnerable to the devil. In their world-view, there are no absolute rights or wrongs. Therefore, sexual immorality, homosexuality, the murder of innocent infants, assisted suicide, and sometimes even gross injustices like pedophilia are not wrong. The only thing “wrong” is to declare the existence of absolute truth—for that you will be persecuted. We live in a system that is based on the lies of the devil, and if you don’t know the truth, you will fall into the temptation of the day.

But Satan is not just attacking the culture with relativism and other fashionable lies, he is also attacking the church—the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15)—and specifically, the Word of God. With Eve in the Garden, he attacked God’s Word. “Did God really say?” he asked. In the Parable of the Sower, the devil removed the seed on the wayside before it could produce any fruit (Matt 13:4). Our enemy always attacks the Word of God. In 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul talks about doctrines of demons that will lead some away from the faith. The enemy of our souls constantly assaults the church by twisting or denying Scripture—pulling many away from God. It is increasingly common for people to call themselves Christians and yet not believe that the Bible is true and without error, even though Scripture refers to itself as true, perfect, inspired, and enduring (cf. John 17:17, Ps 19:7, 2 Tim 3:16, 1 Peter 1:23). Jesus says man shall not live by bread alone but by “every word” that comes from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4). He does not say “SOME” words, as many in the church today would teach, but “EVERY” word.

When believers accept the lie that not all Scripture is true, they are on a slippery slope. It is not too soon after that they throw out the virgin birth, the resurrection, the judgment, the miracles of Christ—soon leading them to discard the gospel and salvation altogether.

Saints, if you do not know the Word of God, you are not prepared to stand in this spiritual war. An ancient soldier couldn’t even fight without cinching his belt—all his clothing would have hindered him. And neither can we fight without knowing the truth. Ephesians 4:11-14 talks about God giving the church pastors and teachers so his children would no longer be tossed to and fro by every wind of teaching, and by deceitful men. The enemy feasts on believers who don’t know the Word of God, but at the same time, he is defeated by those who do know it. Consider John’s description of spiritual young men in the church in 1 John 2:14. He says, “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” Spiritual young men overcome the devil because the Word of God is strong in them. Therefore, they are conquering their lusts, confronting false teachings, and helping set others free.

It is no wonder that many of the great warriors in church history have been men and women of the Word of God. It was said of Martin Luther that he essentially memorized the entire Bible in Latin. John Wesley memorized almost the entire Greek New Testament.4 If we are going to win this battle, we must know the great doctrines of the Word of God.

In considering this, I would especially recommend that young believers systematically study the major doctrines of Scripture. It is harder to understand Scripture verse by verse in a short time, but easier to understand it systematically. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, for example, addresses the doctrines of Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, end times, etc. Know what the Bible teaches on major doctrines so you won’t be led astray by all the false teachings circulating in the church.

Application Questions: How is the enemy attacking truth throughout the world and the church today? How is God challenging you to hide God’s truth in your heart to better stand against the attacks?

2. The belt of truth represents living a life of honesty and integrity.

The belt of truth does not represent just knowing the content of the truth, but also living out the truth practically in our daily lives. Ephesians 4:25-27 says:

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Practicing falsehood and hypocrisy opens the door to the devil in our lives—it gives him a foothold. Wiersbe says, “Once a lie gets into the life of a believer, everything begins to fall apart. For over a year, King David lied about his sin with Bathsheba, and nothing went right.”5 When David repented, he wrote this (Psalm 32:2-5):

Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.

While David was living a hypocritical, dishonest life, he lost the blessing of God. He experienced sickness, depression, and physical weakness until he confessed his sins. As he said in Psalm 51:6, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”

Lies and deception open the door to the devil; therefore, we must put off falsehood and practice transparency before God and others as we confess our sins (cf. 1 John 1:9, James 5:16). Satan likes to work in the shadows—he wants people to keep their sins in the dark instead of confessing them before God and man. It gives him a base from which to attack us. But the light of confession enables God to work in those dark places and set us free.

In what ways are you giving the enemy a foothold by practicing dishonesty? Is it through cheating on tests, lying on taxes, illegal downloading, or telling little fibs at work? In what ways are you practicing transparency—confession before God and man—in order to close the door on the devil?

In order to put on the belt of truth, we must practice honesty and get rid of all deception in our lives.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced dishonesty opening the door for Satan to attack a believer personally?

3. The belt of truth represents total commitment and zeal for Christ.

The metaphor of buckling or girding is often used in Scripture to describe the preparatory action of gathering one’s flowing garments in order to work, run a race, or fight a battle.6 Luke 12:35 says, “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning” (KJV). First Peter 1:13 says, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind” (KJV). These texts both refer metaphorically to the action of tightening one’s belt so as not to hinder action.

Since buckling or girding is often used to describe preparation, some commentators think the belt of truth refers to serving the Lord wholeheartedly, with total commitment, as a soldier going into battle. John MacArthur says this:

I believe that being girded … with truth primarily has to do with the self–discipline of total commitment. It is the committed Christian, just as it is the committed soldier and the committed athlete, who is prepared. Winning in war and in sports is often said to be the direct result of desire that leads to careful preparation and maximum effort. It is the army or the team who wants most to win who is most likely to do so—even against great odds…To be content with mediocrity, lethargy, indifference, and half–heartedness is to fail to be armored with the belt of God’s truth and to leave oneself exposed to Satan’s schemes.7

Christ says that in order to follow him one must hate his father, mother, brothers, sisters, and even his own life (Lk 14:26). He requires total commitment—anything less is to not be his disciple. Everything that might hinder our walk with Christ must be removed. Uncommitted Christians are fodder for the enemy. He uses them to scatter people from Christ instead of gathering people to Christ (Matt 12:30).

Application Questions: Is there anything in your life keeping you from being fully committed to Christ? If so, how can you get on fire for God—totally committed to him?

Are you putting on the belt of truth? Are you daily seeking to know the full counsel of Scripture, or are you neglecting God’s Word? Are you practicing truth, or are you practicing hypocrisy and deception? Are you fully committed to Christ, or are you half-hearted? We must put on the belt of truth to stand against Satan’s attacks.

Application Question: Which aspect of the belt of truth stood out most to you and why?

Believers Stand Firm by Putting On the Breastplate of Righteousness

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, (Ephesians 6:14)

The Roman soldier wore a tough, sleeveless piece of armor that covered the whole torso, front and back, from neck to waist. It was often made of leather, metal, or chains. The primary purpose of the armor was “to protect the heart, lungs, intestines, and other vital organs.” 8

Interpretation Question: What does the breastplate of righteousness represent, how do we put it on, and how does it protect us from the enemy?

As with the belt of truth, commentators are divided on what the breastplate of righteousness symbolizes. It could represent several things.

1.The breastplate of righteousness represents recognition of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God” (paraphrase). Essentially, Christ took our sin at the cross and gave us his righteousness. This is the very reason we can come into the presence of God and worship him. When he sees us, he sees the righteousness of Christ. This is probably symbolized in Zechariah 3:1-7, where Joshua, the high priest, comes into God’s presence wearing filthy clothes. Satan stands by Joshua’s side to accuse him—and no doubt to declare him unfit to be in God’s presence. However, God rebukes Satan and places clean clothes on Joshua, which probably represents imputing to him the righteousness of Christ. The Angel of the Lord says, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he says to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you” (v.4).

It’s the same for us. Our clothes—representing our character and works—are unclean to God. Even our righteousness is like filthy rags to him (Is 64:6). Even our best works are full of bad intentions—to be known, exalted, etc. However, God rebukes the devil and gives us clean clothes—the righteousness of Christ. This is the only reason we can stand in the presence of God.

Because the imputation of Christ’s righteousness happens at salvation, many commentators say the breastplate of righteousness cannot represent Christ’s work. How can we put it on if we are already wearing it positionally? However, we still need to recognize this work in order to stand against the accusations and condemnation of the devil.

Many believers, though they assent to salvation by grace, think it is their daily works that continue to justify them before God. When they fail to fully satisfy God’s righteous requirements, the enemy quickly comes to condemn them and pull them away from God. By not recognizing Christ’s work, they are agreeing with the devil. “You are right, Satan. I should not go to church; I should not read my Bible—that would be hypocritical.” They agree with the devil’s lies—opening the door for him into their hearts and minds.

However, we must not do that. We must continually declare the righteousness of Christ. “I am justified by grace—the unmerited favor of God—through Christ’s righteousness. I can do nothing to justify myself before God. Every day I must throw myself upon God’s gracious provisions. He provided the perfect Lamb that was slain so I could come into his presence.”

Are you still depending on the perfection of the Lamb? If not, you will accept the lies and condemnation of the devil and allow him to pull you away from God. We must daily recognize the perfect righteousness of Christ to put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Application Question: How does one recognize the difference between condemnation from the devil and conviction from the Holy Spirit? How can we practically apply the righteousness of Christ in our warfare?

2.The breastplate of righteousness represents our practical righteousness.

But the breastplate is not just imputed righteousness; it is also practical righteousness. When we are living a righteous life, we are protected from Satan. However, when we fall into sin, we give Satan an open door to attack and defeat us. Again, Ephesians 4:26-27 indicates this, as it says, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18 also represents this truth. In the parable, a master forgave a servant a great debt, but the servant did not forgive his fellow servant a much lesser debt. Because of this, the master handed the servant over to torturers. Matthew 18:32-35 shares the master’s judgment:

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Obviously, the master reflects God and the servants reflect believers, but who are the torturers? No doubt, they are Satan and his demons. We see this throughout Scripture. When Saul was in unrepentant sin, who did God hand him over to? A tormenting spirit (1 Sam 16:14)! In the Corinthian church, when an unrepentant man was fornicating with his stepmother, who did Paul call for the church to hand him over to? Satan (1 Cor 5:5)! They would do this by putting him out of the church.

Sin opens the door for the devil into our lives. No doubt there are many Christians who, as a result of unrepentance, have psychological problems which are demonic in origin. There are Christians being tormented in their minds, bodies, emotions, work, and relationships because they have been handed over by God to the enemy until they repent.

Ephesians 2:2 says Satan works in those who are “disobedient”; however, a righteous life is a protection.

Application Questions: What doors are still open in your life for the enemy? In what ways is God calling you to turn away from sin so you can put on the breastplate of righteousness?

3.The breastplate of righteousness represents guarding our mind and emotions.

As mentioned, the Roman soldier’s breastplate was used to protect the vital organs such as the heart and intestines. In the Hebrew mindset, the heart represented the mind and will. The bowels, or intestines, represented emotions and feelings (cf. Col 3:12, KJV).9 Therefore, the breastplate probably represents guarding our mind and emotions. Solomon says, “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” (Prov 4:23, NIV 2011.)

Satan realizes that if he can get our minds and emotions, that will affect our worship and our obedience to God. That’s why he always works to implant wrong teachings and lies into our minds through books, music, TV, and conversation. Our minds affect our walk—how we live. But he also wants to get our emotions. Many Christians are emotionally all over the place, and part of that is a result of spiritual warfare. Satan stirs up people to criticize and condemn. He stirs up little romances with the opposite sex to distract us from focusing on God. He works to make believers worry and fret about the future so that they lose their joy. The enemy is cunning and keen. Therefore, we must guard our hearts above all else.

Application Question: How can believers put on the breastplate of righteousness by guarding their hearts?

  • Believers guard their hearts by recognizing wrong thoughts and emotions, taking them captive, and making them obedient to Christ.

Second Corinthians 10:4-5 says,

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Here we see that a major part of our fight is recognizing wrong thoughts and emotions, taking them captive, and making them obedient to Christ. For example, Scripture teaches us to “be anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6) and to “give thanks in all things” (1 Thess 5:18). When we are struggling with anxiety or complaining, our hearts and minds are not being obedient to Christ. We need to confront wrong thoughts and emotions with the truth, confess them to God, and submit them to Christ.

Are you taking your thoughts and emotions captive? Scripture calls us to control our emotions. God says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4.) I must choose to obey even when I don’t feel like it; I must bring my heart into submission to Christ.

  • Believers guard their hearts by filling their minds with Scripture.

Philippians 4:8-9 says this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

If we fill our minds with truth and righteousness, then the devil will have less opportunity to tempt us. Every day we must fill our minds with truth by thinking on Scripture through our reading, worshiping, and even entertainment, if at all possible.

Application Question: In what ways does Satan commonly attack your mind and emotions? How do you take rogue thoughts and emotions captive and make them obedient to Christ?

Are you putting on the breastplate of righteousness? Are you recognizing Christ’s imputed righteousness, living a life, and guarding your heart and emotions? Without these practices, you are opening the door to the devil.

Application Question: Which aspect of the breastplate of righteousness stood out most to you and why?

Conclusion

How can believers stand firm in spiritual warfare—the attacks of Satan and his demons?

1. Believers Stand Firm by Putting on the Belt of Truth

  • through knowing the content of truth as revealed in Scripture
  • through living a life of honesty and integrity
  • through being fully committed to God

2. Believers Stand Firm by Putting on the Breastplate of Righteousness

  • through recognizing the imputed righteousness of Christ
  • through living a righteous life
  • through guarding their hearts

Copyright © 2016 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV or AKJV are from the King James Version or Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentators’ quotations have been added.


1 Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 244–245). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

2 Accessed 11/14/2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer#Bestiality

3 Accessed 11/14/2015 from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-57-protected-truth-and-righteousness-ephesians-614

4 Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians: the mystery of the body of Christ (p. 224). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

5 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 58). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

6 Foulkes, F. (1989). Ephesians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 10, p. 179). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

7 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 350–351). Chicago: Moody Press.

8 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 351). Chicago: Moody Press.

9 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 351). Chicago: Moody Press.

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