Thursday, January 29, 2015

The belt of truth & breastplate of righteousness

Ephesians 6:14 "Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness."

In our last post, we completed our study of the four kinds of righteousness spelled out in the Bible. To review, let the reader be reminded of what those are:
1. God's righteousness
2. Christ's righteousness
3. Credited righteousness
4. Practical righteousness

As we labored to explain these major types of righteousness in the scriptures, we discovered that the first two are absolute and belong to God and then specifically to the Lord Jesus Christ. These first two types of righteousness (which in all reality are equal) is the only type of righteousness deemed acceptable by God. For the Christian, unless they have by faith received the righteousness of Jesus Christ (as so credited or imputed unto them by the Father), no other righteousness (self-righteousness, works-righteousness) will be adequate. We then concluded the series by noting that practical righteousness is the Christian's daily Christian life flowing from Christ's righteousness that was credited unto them in salvation. 

Understanding such truths aid us in in heeding the command to "put on the full armor of God". The spiritual armaments listed in Ephesians 6:10-18 would had corresponded to the accoutrements worn by Roman soldiers. The aim of today's post is to unpack the meanings of two of them: "the belt of truth" and "the breast plate of righteousness". 

What is meant by the "belt of truth"
The phrase "belt of truth" corresponded to the piece of the soldier's equipment that held everything together, which could also be termed a "girdle". Adam Clarke notes in his commentary: "The girdle went to the loins and served to brace the armor tight to the body, and to support daggers, short swords and such like weapons which were frequently stuck in it." 

Christians need to be those who are all about the truth. Whenever we study the necessity of truth in the scriptures, we discover the following:

1. Truth is the priority of the Christian
-Priority in conversion 2 Thess 2:13; Jas 1:18;

-Priority to our walk 2 Peter 1:12; 1 John 2:27;

-Priority for our joy 2 John 4; 3 John 3

2. Truth personified by Jesus
-Isaiah 11:5; John 1:18; John 14:6

3. Truth promotes spiritual health
-Lk 12:35; 2 Cor 6:7; Eph 5:6-9; 1 Pt 1:13-15

So that's the belt of truth. Now let's consider the second piece of the spiritual armor - "the breast plate of righteousness".

What is meant by the breast plate of righteousness?
As we mentioned earlier in this post, Paul's metaphor of the spiritual armor corresponded to Roman armament. Other sources of antiquity describe what a Roman soldier would had worn in terms of a "breast plate". The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, Volume 1, Page 320, has this to say about Ephesians 6:10-18 and the ancient literary evidence that would had been available from the Greco-Roman world:

"Polybius (6,22 and 23) describes the Roman soldier as wearing such a helmet, a breastplate of brass or chain mail (lorica) to cover especially the heart and greaves; and as carrying a javelin, a sword hanging from the right side of the waist, and a shield, either one circular or one about two and a half feet by four feet in length. This description compares favorably with Paul's metaphorical statement (Ephesians 6:14-17) about the Christian armor...".

In thinking back once more on our previous lessons on righteousness, the question is: which type of righteousness composes the breastplate of righteousness? Truly just as the literal breastplate served to guard the soldiers heart, lungs and vital organs, there needs to be a righteousness that can serve to guard the saints heart and vital faith. 

The only type of righteousness that can perform such a function is that righteousness credited to the believer in salvation - namely Christ's righteousness. The New Geneva Study Bible has this insightful comment on this point: 

"Believers are protected by the righteousness of Christ imputed to them (Rom. 4:6–11; Phil. 3:9), and they can stand up to the accusations of the devil; devil in Greek means “slanderer” (Rom. 8:31–34). Simultaneously, Paul sees believers taking on the righteous character of Christ (4:25; 5:9), while their growing conformity to His image gives them confidence in resisting temptation."

Paul himself daily donned the breastplate of Christ's rightousness that had been imputed to him at salvation, as seen in Philippians 3:9 

"and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith."

Closing thoughts
Today we considered the two pieces of the spiritual armor found in Ephesians 6:14 - the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. May we as Christians put on the whole armor of God and be all about the truth and ever in dependance upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our salvation. 

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