Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,
Ephesians 6:14 ESV
Having addressed the nature of the spiritual warfare that we are engaged within in verses 10-13, we concluded by addressing Paul’s command to put on the whole armor of God. Yet that command also served as an introduction into the next seven weeks in which we will be studying each piece of the armor of God. We begin this multi-part discussion with the belt of truth.
WHAT IS TRUTH?
In John 18, Jesus declared before Pontius Pilate, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). This is because the voice of Christ is the voice of truth calling out to all who will listen. However, in a telling question, Pilate replied simply, “What is truth” (John 18:38)? We do not know whether Pilate asked this question out of cynicism, doubting whether a fixed truth was even possible, or whether he asked it out of exasperation from all the competing claims on truth, or whatever other state of mind that the Roman authority might have been in. We do know, however, that the world continues asking that same question: What is truth?
The most acceptable answer today has become that we create our own truth or, rather, that objective truth cannot be known apart from our subjective vantage points. This postmodern view of truth is infiltrating society as a whole. The argument, therefore, is increasingly becoming less about finding the truth but rather about whether there can, in fact, be a singular truth. When some hold to a fixed truth while others believe in a multitude of “truths,” we should not be surprised that even well-intended conversations today feel like we are talking past each other rather than to each other. Indeed, as we are increasingly witnessing, when all “truths” are accepted as truth, the only claim that cannot be tolerated is the one that claims to be absolute. Or we might say it more properly, the single threat to any lie is the truth. It is fitting, therefore, for Paul to begin the armor of God with the belt of truth.
Iain Duguid notes of the belt of truth that:
The belt was the logical place to start because it was the first piece of the soldier’s equipment to be strapped on. It went underneath the armor to hold all the other clothing out of the way. In those days, when people wore long, flowing robes, the belt enabled a person to run and fight without being encumbered. To update the image, it is challenging to fight if your pants keep falling down.
Indeed, girding up one’s loins, which is common phrase of the ancient world, was the first step for going from casual, resting position to becoming ready for battle and physical aggression (fastening on a belt is simply the best modern day equivalent). Paul fittingly compares truth to a belt for girding up our loins because truth is similarly a necessary starting point for the Christian soldier. Without being rooted in truth, it does us little good to have on the breastplate of righteousness. It does us little good to take up the shield of faith. It does this little good to have on the helmet of salvation. As a soldier begins by girding his loins, so we must begin with truth.
Truth is not a foreign idea to Paul in this letter to the Ephesians. Instead the apostle has already brought up truth four other times in this letter. The first time that he mentioned truth was it in chapter one verse 13, where he said: “in him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your Salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Next, Paul commanded us to speak “the truth in love” (4:15) to one another, which he repeated again in 4:25. Finally, in 4:21, he told us explicitly that “the truth is in Jesus.”
That final verse clearly reminds us of what we observed last week that Jesus is the armor of God. Truth is only found in Jesus because Jesus is truth. He affirmed that very fact to His disciples, saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Since John also tells that Jesus is the Word of God through whom “all things were made… and with him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3), Jesus must necessarily be truth, which far greater than simply saying that all Jesus said and did was true.
The distinction here is one of semantics, but it is by no means unnecessary. To say that Jesus was true implies that He must be measured against some outside standard that we call truth. Yet that is not what the Scriptures reveal. Truth is reality, and whatever does not depict reality is false and untrue. Thus, when we speak, we either speak truly by declaring reality as it is or falsely by speaking what is contrary to the truth of what really is. Jesus, however, cannot be merely true. As the Author of life, Jesus is the Word of God that brought all of reality into existence. We cannot judge His words and actions as true or false because what He says is. Jesus is truth, and girding ourselves up with this reality is the first step of both spiritual warfare against our enemy and life in the kingdom of God.
HOW TO USE THE BELT OF TRUTH
With the belt of truth now described, let us focus upon how we might fasten ourselves with it and use it in the spiritual battlefields before us each day.
Embrace the Truth
Perhaps the first and most countercultural element of girding ourselves with the belt of truth would be our resolve and prayer to embrace the truth. If this sounds elementary, it is far more difficult than we might first suppose. A resolve to embrace truth, by necessity, means that we must have a willingness to be wrong. It means that we must be ready to be corrected. This is far more difficult than we are often happy to admit. We are all postmoderns at heart. We each desire to believe the lie of Satan. We each desire to create our own truth, to shape our own morality as we see fit. As we saw last week, putting on the armor of God also means putting off our old self. And the same is true for the belt of truth. In order to put on truth, to embrace truth, we must first be ready to put off what is false. We must be ready to be instructed.
This is why, after all, Proverbs 1:7 reads, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The defining characteristic of a fool is his or her hatred of instruction, and that is, tragically, our default setting. Instead, we must bend our knee in submission before God and pray as Christ Himself did before the Father, “Yet not what I will but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Or we must be ready to declare alongside Paul, “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4).
Again, to embrace the truth of God you must be willing to be proven wrong. As we will see again in a moment, Scripture is the arbiter of truth for us in this life, and Paul explicitly tells us that the purpose of all Scripture is “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (1 Timothy 3:16). Thus, if your time reading the Word only ever confirms what you already knew and never reproves and corrects you of sin, you are reading it wrong. Most likely, you are reading Scripture in submission to your own mindset rather than letting it cut through and dissect your own thinking. In fact, it would not be a bad idea to memorize 1 Timothy 3:16 and to pray it each time you go to God’s Word.
Cling to Scripture
Although we will discuss the role of Scripture in the armor more fully to come, we must also do so now, for truth cannot be separated from God’s Word. After all, Jesus prayed for us as His disciples to the Father, saying, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Indeed, if Christ is truth and the Scriptures are His revelation to humanity, then the Bible is the means by which we are able to know the truth of God.
A readiness to embrace truth must, therefore, mean clinging to, knowing, and obeying the Scriptures. Psalm 119 directly applies God’s Word to our constant war against sin:
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!Psalm 119:9-12
All of sin is predicated upon a lie. Idolatry is based upon the lie that God is not sufficient. Murder is rooted in the lie of believing that something else is more important than taking the life of an image-bearer of God. Adultery stems from believing that greater satisfaction can be found outside of the marriage covenant. Theft begins with the belief that we need something badly enough to take it by any means necessary. All sin is built upon either a false view of God Himself or a skewed view of what His desires for us.
Cling to the truth of God’s Word is how we guard ourselves against the lies of sin. When tempted to steal or covet, we remind ourselves of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-11,
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which of you, if his son ask him for bread, will give him a stone? Of if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
And a passage like James 4:1-3,
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that you passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
From here we are able to remind ourselves that God delights in giving good gifts to His children, the problem is often that we desire God’s gifts more than God Himself. We want blessings from God in order to “spend it on your passions.” Thus, the LORD often withholds what are otherwise good things from us because they would actually be to our own harm. For example, while cars are marvelous invention, I rightly forbid my three-year-old daughter from driving, and while she often likely thinks this is merely an arbitrary rule crafted by adults, both I and the law are protecting her from herself.
Speak the Truth
Finally, we should note that fastening upon ourselves the belt of truth is the preparatory step to speaking the truth in love to one another, as we were commanded to do twice in chapter four. Jesus warned the Pharisees that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). The first step to speaking the truth to others, therefore, must be to fill our own hearts with truth. We are able to store up God’s Word in our hearts through two means, and neither is easy to do.
First, we must actively memorize Scripture. Many believe that, first, the invention of writing and, second, the invention of the printing press dramatically decreased our ability easily memorize large portions of texts at a time. We will probably never know for certain to what degree those forms of media impacted our cognition; however, we are able to witness firsthand the effects of outsourcing our minds onto our phones and other devices. With Google being only a touch away and Siri and Alexa waiting for our command, the reasons for memorizing anything at all are dwindling away. God’s Word, however, should be different. The skill of navigating Bible software will never replace actually committing the Bible to memory. In fact, one scholar notes that for the ancients “rote learning was seen not as a merely mechanical exercise but rather as a part of the formation of human character.” The focus and repetition required to commit anything to memory should support that claim. How can we not be shaped by what we give our attention and commit to heart? Resolve, therefore, to memorize God’s Word.
Second, we must saturate ourselves in Scripture. If memorization is the active commitment to store up God’s Word, we should also gird ourselves with its truth through simply saturating ourselves within its pages. If Scripture is indeed perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true, we should, then, long for them to be the lens by which we view everything else, and there is no shortcut to forming such a biblical worldview. We must spend time immersed with the Scriptures. Read them again and again until they become your dear friend and your most trusted counselor.
If we do these two things, which are simply fastening on the belt of truth, speaking this divine truth to others will be a natural occurrence. We speak of what we know and love, and the truth of Scripture should be seated in the chief seat. Girded with truth, we are then ready to pierce through the lies and “wisdom” of the world around us. For example, take the worldly wisdom of cohabitation. Silently preparing Christians’ hearts to receive homosexuality was accepting the just as sinful but less overtly so act of living together outside of marriage. The platitude of the world is frequently not that one should forsake marriage entirely but that it is important to drive the car before buying it. Too many, without being rooted in truth, happily bought this lie, and the slope just keeps getting more slippery. Through Scripture, we have the truth that pierces those lies. Marriage is not like buying a car at all; it is a solemn and sacred covenant made before God. If you act like you are married without that covenant, there will be no foundation to sustain through the days of difficulty that will surely come. Although cohabitation is often packaged as opposing the patriarchy of marriage, the lack of a covenant does little more than provide the man with an escape hatch.
Brothers and sisters, the world around us knows no truth. The ground beneath their feet is made of gelatin rather than stone. If we will stand against the lies of the devil, the world, and even our own hearts, we must be girded with truth, fastening it upon us as a belt. Each day we must put on the truth in Christ that we may be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
 Iain M. Duguid, The Whole Armor of God, 26.
 Of course, through the incarnation, Christ placed Himself within the very world that He made, and so my emphasis upon the wonder of His divine nature is not meant to subtract from the gracious beauty of His human nature.
 Rainer Reisner, The Synoptic Problem: Four Views, 92.