Ephesians 6:14 "Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness."
This week is vacation Bible school at our church. The theme is centered around Ephesians 6:10-18. The occasion of Paul's letter to the Ephesians occurred during his house arrest at Rome in Acts 28. The author, Luke, writes the following in Acts 28:16 -
"When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him."
Paul had ample time to carefully observe the soldier guarding him. Imagine finding yourself in the same prison situation as the great apostle! Paul undoubtedly shared the Gospel with the soldiers guarding him, as explained once again by Luke in the closing of the book of Acts, Acts 28:30-31 -
"And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered."
Paul's metaphor of the spiritual armor corresponded to Roman accoutrements. Other sources of antiquity describe what a Roman soldier would had worn in the day of Paul's incarceration. 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...".
The word-picture of Roman armament picturing the need to "fight the good fight of faith" is rooted in history and Paul's travels. As we will see below, the rich spiritual truths associated with "the belt of truth" and "the breastplate of righteousness" lends to the wealth of spiritual lessons applicable to daily Christian living.
What is meant by the "belt of truth"
What is truth? "Truth" in its most basic definition has to do with anything that "corresponds to reality". Truth "holds together" everything else in life. 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 are those people who, by nature and belief, ought to make truth their priority. 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?
What is meant by the breast plate of righteousness?
The breastplate of righteousness has rich meaning in light of the whole Bible's teaching on the subject of righteousness. Whenever we study the scripture's teaching on "righteousness", we find the general sense referring to "being in a state of rightness". Further study of the Old and New Testaments gives four types of righteousness:
1. God's righteousness
2. Christ's righteousness
3. Credited righteousness
4. Practical righteousness
The first two types of righteousness are absolute and belong to God and then specifically to the Lord Jesus Christ. God's righteousness and Christ's righteousness are equated with one another (since Christ the Son is "Immanuel", "God with us"). Both God's righteousness and Christ's refer to how God alone is right morally, spiritually and judicially. God's character is the standard of what constitutes "right" and "wrong". Hence, the only type of righteousness deemed acceptable by God is His own "rightness" (and thus Christ's righteousness, since He Himself is God in the flesh).
For the Christian, unless they have by faith received the righteousness of Jesus Christ (as so credited or imputed unto them by the Father and applied by the Person of the Holy Spirit at conversion), no other righteousness (self-righteousness, works-righteousness) is adequate.
One can think back to Genesis 3 in the wake of Adam and Eve's treason against God. Whenever God sought them in the garden, they hid themselves and attempted to cover their nakedness (or shame) with fig leaves. Any attempt to render ourselves pleasing to God outside of His prescribed course of salvation in Christ is nothing more than a "fig leaf" salvation. Such manufactured efforts won't cover the sinner's guilt, shame and alienation. As God provided "coats of skin" from two innocent animals to cover our original parents upon their inferred professions of faith in his salvation (Adam acknowledging his wife as "Eve", the mother of all living, Genesis 3:15, 20), so too the sinner needs "covered" by Christ's credited righteousness which is reduplicated in the sinner's life at saving faith. This third type of righteousness - "credited righteousness" - is judicially credited and declared unto the sinner by the Father at saving faith - otherwise known as the doctrine of justification by faith (see Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1-6; Galatians 3:23-24).
Once Christ's righteousness is credited at saving faith, the Christ-follower begins living for Him in a lifestyle characterized by the fourth type of righteousness we find in the Bible - "practical righteousness". Practical righteousness is the Christian's daily Christian life flowing from Christ's righteousness that was credited unto them in salvation. The "breastplate of righteousness" listed in the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6:14 is highly important indeed.
Understanding such truths aid 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 armaments worn by Roman soldiers.
So, which type of righteousness composes the breastplate of righteousness? 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 righteousness 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."
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 depend upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our salvation.