God’s armor for us: the girdle (17)
“Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth….” Ephesians 6:14a
Having heard our marching orders, “Be strong in the Lord!” (Eph. 6:10), and how to carry them out, “Put on the whole armor of God!” (Eph. 6:11), we now proceed to a treatment of our battle armor. God fashioned this armor in Jesus Christ and through His effectual command—“Put it on!”—will fit it to us.
In Ephesians 6 the inspired apostle teaches a spiritual lesson by using the illustration of a Roman soldier. Everyone knew what a soldier looked like, for Roman soldiers were stationed everywhere from Jerusalem to Rome. In the earthly soldier’s armor Paul is given to see the spiritual realities like truth, righteousness, peace, and faith needed in our spiritual warfare.
The first piece of armor is the girdle or belt. The text reads, “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about (or, having girded yourselves) with truth.” The command would be, “Gird your loins!” And that is the first charge in equipping ourselves: “Gird your loins!” A girdle? Before all else? The way to victory is in tightening our belts? Indeed, we gird our loins with truth.
Truth! Gird your loins with truth! The Christian life is one of ongoing spiritual warfare, and the very first exhortation to the soldier arming himself for battle concerns truth. Truth is first. In everything truth is first. In battle truth is first.
How contrary this instruction of Scripture is to the prevailing attitude in Christianity and Protestantism today. In almost direct contradiction of this word of the inspired apostle, the church today rejects truth and clamors for a certain spirit. Not truth. Not objective truth. Not doctrine. Not creeds. Not catechism. Not sermons. Not books. Not study. Not systematic and orderly instruction in the Bible. But this vague, warm, nebulous spirit of brotherhood and fellowship, this universal holding of hands and praying together and joining together, this feeling that if everyone in Christianity would participate in the brotherhood, start loving each other, and stop causing division over doctrinal differences, we could conquer the world of evil—this is the way to victory. Of course, a spirit of fellowship, brotherhood, unity and communion is absolutely vital in the church (read Eph. 4); but that has its basis in, and only in, the truth (keep reading Eph. 4).
How important truth is! Should you say to me, “I don’t want to be indoctrinated with all kinds of cold, abstract, heady theological propositions; I just want to have a relationship with and love Jesus. I just want to live for Jesus,” then I ask you, “Who is Jesus?” Is He man, for He slept on a boat? Is He God, for He calmed the storm? Is He both? How? And how can you know? Try to answer satisfactorily that fundamental question, “Who is Jesus?” without knowledge of biblical truth.
How important truth is according to the Bible! With profit you could read and study these passages in praise of truth (John 1:14; 4:24; 8:32; 14:6; 16:13; Gal. 3:1; II Thess. 2:10-12; I Tim. 2:4; III John 4). Jesus is the truth. Worship is rendered in truth. Jesus’ Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Truth liberates. Apostasy begins with no love for the truth. God wills that all kinds of men come to know the truth. Believers love to see their children walking in truth. It is only fitting that the call to battle begins with a call to gird our loins with truth.
Truth is that which really is. The truth is that God is. God is God. God is great, glorious, and gracious. From eternity God determines all things for Himself and for His glory and for the salvation of His church in Jesus. The apostle gives the biggest picture of truth in Ephesians 1:9-10. “…that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” The grand truth is that God is God, and He is working to bring everything in heaven and in earth together in Jesus Christ for the praise of His name.
To understand that big picture of the truth we have to ask and answer many questions from the Scriptures. What is the Bible? Who is God? What is He like? What does He do? What is the origin of the universe and man? Who is man? What is man’s natural and spiritual condition? Who is Jesus? Where is He right now? What did He do, and what is He doing? What is salvation…salvation from what…salvation unto what? What is the covenant? What is the church? Why is the church important? What is the end of all things? What will happen to this world? When will Jesus come, and what happens when He does come? What is and what will His kingdom be like? All of these questions have answers, and the answers are found in the Bible as truth. The answers are formulated with words like: inspiration, predestination, Trinity, creation, total depravity, Mediator, propitiation, atonement, regeneration, justification, communion of saints, parousia, and bodily resurrection.
Our understanding of truth develops over time. Although the Ephesians had the same truth we have, our understanding of it is deeper as the Spirit of truth leads us into the truth. If the truth of God is like a large city, called the city of God, then the Ephesian Christians were looking at the city from atop a high mountain. From the mountain peak they saw the whole city of truth down below. But as history in the new dispensation progresses, the church gets in a helicopter and flies down to the city to get closer and closer, seeing individual buildings and even windows, which could not be seen from the mountain. And eventually, the helicopter lands—maybe we could say that is heaven. Then the people of the church get out and walk up and down the city streets and even go into buildings. Perhaps a saint enters a jewelry store of God’s heavenly riches and sees behind the counter sparkling diamonds revealing the glory of the Trinity. That saint sees something that was always revealed, but no one could ever see it from the mountain or from the hovering helicopter or even from outside the door. So it is that by the Spirit we grow in our understanding of the truth of God and of Christ and of God’s purposes in Christ.
Often our understanding is sharpened through controversies. Although Paul explained to the Ephesians election and faith, neither he nor they could articulate the doctrine of election as we can today with the first head of the Canons of Dordt written after the Arminian heresy. What a marvel that we are here today in our beloved Protestant Reformed churches in the year 2017 and with the profound understanding of the truth that God has given to us through controversies in our own history!
Gird your loins with truth!
Having his loins girded meant the soldier was ready. In Paul’s day, people commonly wore a long, loose-flowing robe. When it was time to run or work, a man would gather the flowing ends of his garment and bind it to his waist with his girdle or belt. For example, before fisherman Peter started working the nets and pulling in a big catch, he girded his loins so he would not be encumbered. In his first epistle (I Pet. 1:13) Peter uses that figure, saying, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind….” While the Roman soldier did not wear a robe as long as the common man, neither did he wear a neatly fitted uniform like policemen or soldiers today. He still had that outer garment that would flow and the girdle to keep it tight to his body, so that he could maneuver swiftly and freely. He was ready.
Furthermore, the sword was in a sheath attached to the belt. If the soldier’s loins were not girded, his sheath was not ready. Additionally, the soldier fastened the bottom of his breastplate to the girdle. If his loins were not girded, his breastplate would be unattached at the bottom. To gird your loins was to ready yourself for battle.
Before anything else we are expected to have our loins girded. The girdle itself is not a weapon or protection. In fact, Ephesians 6 does not speak of a thing—a girdle, but of an action—girding. Girding is fundamental to readiness.
Girding is the spiritual activity that can be summarized in six words: Learn. Know. Believe. Love. Confess. Live. To gird your loins with truth means: Learn the truth. Know the truth. Believe the truth. Love the Truth. Confess the truth. Live the truth. The power of the Lord Jesus in which we are strong is His power to gird. Jesus was crucified for our sins of rejection of truth, ignorance of truth, unwillingness to confess truth, and for our sin of not living the truth but living the lie of sin. He died for those sins. He was ready to do that. Then He rose again with salvation for us in the power of faith to learn, to know, to believe, to love, to confess, and to live the truth. When the soldier in church is girded, he says, “By grace in Jesus Christ, I am ready for war.”
How urgent that we have our loins girt with truth. It does not matter how sharp our sword or how impenetrable our breastplate, if we are not girded, we are not ready.
Satan hates girding. Satan hates it when you are a child and you learn your catechism; and when your parents say, “Did you learn your ‘Essentials’ (of Reformed doctrine) lesson and the assigned extra work? Let me make sure.” Satan hates it when the father actually takes time for some heartfelt explanation of the Bible at the dinner table; for if all the father does is mindlessly trudge through a column of printed text with some uninspired reading, it is unlikely the children, whether five or fifteen years in age, will learn any truth. When your father takes family worship seriously, he is going around the table tightening your girdle. Satan hates that.
What about you personally? Satan hates it when you say, “Enough looking in the mirror already, enough self-infatuation, enough staring at my phone and sharing pictures and sending texts, enough browsing this website and all these posts, enough playing this digital game; it is high time I concern myself with something of substance—the Bible, a devotional, a book.” Satan hates it when Reformed young people go to a public university or a Christian college, having learned the truth, because those students are ready for him with girded loins. Satan hates it when church members take Bible societies seriously, and even form their own Bible study with a few friends and agree to read a book together or study a topic together because they love God and His truth. Satan hates it when we get together and instead of talking about the usual, someone asks a doctrinal question that generates a lively discussion of some aspect of the truth. Satan hates it when young people go to a church to hear doctrinal preaching of the truth. Satan hates it when the youth read the Standard Bearer and Acts of Synod and actually know a little bit about what is going on in and outside of their denomination.
Satan hates girding because when we learn, know, believe, love, confess, and live the truth, we are ready for him. Woe to the youth whose loins are left ungirded or who rip off their belt and toss it aside, for they will be caught unawares by a wily enemy far superior to them. Gird us, O God of our salvation!
“Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” Girded, we stand in the day of evil.
When the devil comes with his spear of despair and catches you all alone in your bedroom one Friday night thinking you have no friends, you have no life, you have no future, you have no abilities, and you are a worthless human being no one would ever want to employ, befriend, or date, you won’t be ready and you might even do something very harmful unless your loins are girded with truth. Girded with truth, you stand! This truth: “God’s Word is true. Satan’s lies are false. God says He loves me. He loves me! He gave His beloved Son to die for my broken soul and is already conforming me to His image!”
When the devil comes to your college classroom to tempt you with vain philosophy or a cute unbeliever, how will you stand? Girded with truth, we stand! This truth: “God is glorious and sovereign, and even though I cannot put my finger on the precise error of this new teaching, I know it is incompatible with Scripture. And though all the emotions of my soul crave a relationship with this cute unbeliever, I know I cannot cleave to my God and an unbeliever.”
Should the devil, under various guises, appear at the meetings of the church’s broader assemblies with the goal of eradicating the doctrines of our Reformed faith, how will the church stand its ground and defend its heritage? If we do not have youth (particularly you young men!) who are reading (primarily the Bible!) so that they are theologically aware, we will not stand. In the generations to come we will fall to the odious schemes of the devil and falter when battle draws near. Gird us, Lord! Having girt us with truth, the Lord will use us as His instruments to rout Satan.
When the devil comes in great tribulation tempting us to deny Jesus Christ or suffer job-loss, imprisonment, or even martyrdom, we will stand with our loins girded with truth—the truth of eschatology and what things must shortly come to pass before heavenly glory is revealed in us.
When the devil comes in the day of great calamity and affliction, we are ready. The phone rings…your loved one is being loaded into the back of the ambulance. The doctor walks in…the tumor is cancerous. The letter came in the mail…the college or employer denied your application…or the bid for the job was not accepted and now there is no work the rest of the year. Now the devil will lure you into doubt, despair, hopelessness, anger against God, bitterness against others, or sulking silence. Ready? We are ready. We have been ready since the time we were little children and our father and mother sang the songs of Zion with us around the table, “Jehovah is my light and my salvation near, who shall my soul affright, or cause my heart to fear.”
If all we have is a spirit of brotherhood, we have almost nothing. The ungodly wicked have that spirit. Watch them in the hospital room, at the scene of the crash, or at the cemetery. They hold hands, embrace, and weep. But without truth they have nothing to say. “What shall we say to these things?” Nothing. They cannot stand. What a pity.
Having our loins girt about with truth we shall stand, declaring the truth, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”