Ephesians 6 v 14a
We have reached in our studies in Ephesians Chapter 6 a list of the pieces of the armour of God. Paul has identified our enemies and his strategies in warfare. He has also told us that we must ever be ready to take the fight to the enemy wearing the armour and standing firm in this spiritual battle.
So in verse 13 we were told to take hold of the whole armour of God so that we may be able to stand, firm like Martin Luther and countless others who stood up for Jesus Christ against His enemy Satan. We are told when this battle will happen – right through our lives - described as the evil day.
As we come to these items of the Christian Armour supplied for the Soul’s defence and attack of the enemy let us notice this – that the first 3 pieces – the belt, the breastplate and the shoes - were worn continually on the battlefield. Whereas the last 3 – the shield, the helmet and the sword - were kept at the ready for when the actual fighting began. Each piece has a function and a part to play. Each piece on its own is not sufficient to fight effectively – together they afford effective offensive and defensive capability for any solder in conflict. Paul makes this point by emphasising that we must take up the WHOLE ARMOUR – every piece of it. As we examine each piece one by one and notice its uses and value we must not be fooled into having a favourite piece – that is not how the Lord would want it – we need it ALL.
And we are introduced straight away to the pieces of the armour with the words “STAND THEREFORE.”
For the third time Paul calls Christians to take a stand – a firm position in the spiritual battle against Satan and his minions. And we cannot ignore or skip over this third call to stand. So we take time to consider first this morning
1. The Christian’s Posture.
Standing is so important. There is a progress in these words about standing.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Here is the introduction to the progressive standing – BEGIN YOUR STAND! It is against the wiles of the devil and the heavily armed foot soldier rushes into the battle to make progress and stand firm once progress is made as verse 13 makes plain –
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
This second stand is a standing in Christ with the enemy defeated and the battle won. TAKE YOUR STAND as a member of the Lamb’s army. This of course is true in the sense that the Lord Jesus Christ our great captain has been victorious on our behalf and we come to enjoy His victory with Him – having done all to stand!
Now in verse 14
has the meaning STAND ONCE FOR ALL – be constant in your standing, this is the Christian’s Posture – and for this the armour is your necessary equipment.
But what good will the armour be for us if we do not stand in valiant opposition to the enemy? The six pieces are only effective when they are protecting and equipping a living and active soldier, a living and active Christian.
There are implications for us in this posture of standing as Christian soldiers.
1. We must not run away from or give in to the enemy.
To stand is the opposite of surrender. God’s command to us is to STAND! To steadfastly resist Satan and never yield – as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5 v 8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
Have you ever thought about Uriah the Hittite and his obedience to Joab, David’s commander, who sent him to his death at the front of the battle? Do you think that Uriah did not know of the danger that he faced? He only knew too well what his commander was telling him to do and he did it without question even though it meant certain death. And just as an earthly soldier represents his country’s honour in battle, the Christian represents God’s honour whenever called to face temptation. Every time we are confronted with one of Satan’s enticements we are being tested to see how far we will go in defending our Sovereign’s reputation. This was the kind of high regard that King David had from his troops. They valued him as worth 10,000 of their own lives and would do anything; they would die rather than endanger their sovereign. And if men can do that for an earthly king surely God deserves much more from His subjects?
God’s armour is adequate for the battle against sin. We should not be surprised when an unregenerate person falls headlong into this sin and that sin, because they promise stimulating pleasures or some kind of perceived gain. Those without Christ, who do not know Him as their saviour, do not have any armour with which to protect against the enemy. If you are not a Christian this morning then do not be surprised at how easy it is for you to sin – you simply do not have any protection or even the will to resist Satan.
But a believer is instantly equipped at conversion with all that is needed to resist the devil steadfastly. The sad thing is that we can all probably testify to the fact that we have not used the armour as we should. We have behaved like Adam in the garden, who was created with the equipment to resist Satan, but when Satan came with his subtlety, yielded to him. Cast your mind back to the garden of Eden. God said to Adam, in Genesis 3 v 11
Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
God emphasised the word THOU – as if the Lord God was saying, “I know that you did not eat of the forbidden fruit because you were hungry – because you had the whole of the garden to choose from! So how could YOU fall when YOU had the equipment to withstand?”
In the same way the Lord God can say to us who believe, we who have fallen into sin, “ Have you been eating the devil’s treats when you have in your pocket a key to my rich and well stocked treasure chest? Are your Heavenly Father’s provisions and supplies so meagre to you that you prefer to go and taste the devil’s scraps that will only do harm to your soul?”
Tasting what the world, the flesh and the devil has on offer is surrender and defeat – being satisfied with Christ and His holiness, resisting the sights that dazzle and the tempting sounds we hear is standing for Him.
And while we think of standing, mention must be made of an area of the body that is not provided for in the battle – and that is the back! God provides armour for the Christian who is fighting, not to protect him while he is retreating! It is a very simple formula – Stand and you win – runaway or yield and all is lost. There is no retreat in this battle my friends.
There are examples of earthly Generals and Kings who have made no provision for retreat. William the Conqueror, as soon as his army set foot on English soil, sent his ships away in the sight of all his men – because he made no provision for cowardice.
For the Christian there is an awesome truth in Hebrews 10 v 38
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
No armour for the back – we have no choice but to fight. Is this why so many appear to start well as Christians – but when the battle gets hotter they are nowhere to be seen – they go back – and prove that they never were one of the King’s soldiers at all.
And yet my dear fellow Christians, we need to be reminded that at heart Satan Himself is a coward! He dislikes being resisted. He is like a burglar who is disturbed at his wicked activity by someone in the house putting a light on – he is startled to find a soul who is awake and ready to resist him. He trembles at our faith. He trembles to see us on our knees speaking to our Sovereign Master. So we need to remember this when he comes to us. Our courage can be so much increased when we receive good intelligence from our Commander in chief about the state of the enemy. This is the vital information that our Sovereign tells us –
“If you resist the devil he will flee from you!” James 4 v 8.
He cannot hurt you unless you let him! Shut your door against him, my friends. Do not encourage him by giving him opportunities to have a go at you. I think Brother Peters used an excellent illustration last Lord’s Day when he called us to be like bottles with a narrow neck rather than a wide brimmed bucket, ready to receive anything that the devil may cast at our souls. Make no provision for him – we should all have that Notice on the door of our souls – FULL UP – NO VACANCY. The Lord lives here and there is no room for you, Satan!
2. We should stand and not go to sleep.
We should stay alert and keep watch. In military terms a lazy and sleepy guard endangers the whole garrison. Our problem is that whereas in earthly warfare the soldiers on both sides need to sleep, the Christian’s enemy, Satan, never goes to sleep. He is active day and night – so we put ourselves in great danger if we SPIRITUALLY go to sleep. What is going to sleep spiritually? It is becoming self assured and secure which can lead to carelessness. We can get overconfident. We can revel in past victories and times when we have overcome him and believe that we will manage equally well next time.
But Satan is devious and full of strategies – and one of them is to let us go to sleep. In fact he will deliberately withdraw from us for a while lulling us into a sense of false security – then wham! He comes at us again and we are not ready – we do not have time to draw our sword and hold up the shield before he is upon us and overpowers us. May the Lord help us in this my friends. One of the ways of keeping awake is to be regularly kept awake with the reading of God’s word and His challenges to us to duty and godliness. Another is attention to the means of grace – listening to God’s word preached and expounded. And yet another is our Christian service – working for His Kingdom. Neglect of any of these things lulls us gently to sleep and leaves us susceptible to fierce attacks! And they are attacks that will eventually drive us from the Lord’s house, his people and the joy of our salvation – for that is the devil’s plan – to knock Christ’s soldiers out of action. Often he succeeds through their own sleepiness of soul. Are you asleep this morning my friend? Can you feel that drowsiness of soul coming over you? Other voices are calling you to follow them; other desires are challenging your desire to put Christ first in everything?
My brother – my sister – STAND UP! Stand up for Christ and stand up to Satan! STAND THEREFORE! Your work and witness for the Lord Jesus Christ is too important to be done while half asleep. The way of life is too narrow for you to stray and lurch off the path through drowsiness. Wake up – or in the Lord Jesus’ words
“Watch – that ye enter not into temptation.” Matthew 26 v 41.
King David was spiritually sleepy when he got out of bed, walked on his roof and saw Bathsheba bathing. Satan was waiting on that rooftop to trap him – and Christ’s soldier was wounded very badly that night.
Now, before we come to look at the first piece of armour, we need to say something arising from the warnings given about failure to stand and assume the Christian’s Standing posture.
Even though we sometimes fall, our gracious Commander in Chief the Lord Jesus Christ is ready to forgive and pardon His precious warriors. He knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust. He knows what we are like and he is always ready to forgive. And we can come to Him, when we have tasted defeat, and we are lying with our faces on the ground, bleeding and sore from Satan’s wounds and use the words of Psalm 130 v 1-4
1 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
Or Psalm 86:5
For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
Or Psalm 103:3
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
Let us not be discouraged when and if we fall – rather let us constantly be in a spiritually standing posture – awake- alert and ready to resist the devil and fight him with all of our might. There are so many precious promises to help us. For instance Isaiah 41 v 10 to 13
10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. 11 Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. 12 Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. 13 For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
These words are turned into verse in a well known hymn and they point us to Christ our helper –
Fear not I am with thee, O be not dismayed, I, I am thy God and will still give thee aid, I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to STAND, Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand! (K in Rippon’s selection Christian Hymns no 574)
Now to the first piece of the armour.
2. The Christian’s Possession.
Piece Number 1 – The Belt or Girdle of Truth.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth,
The Belt of Truth is one of the most important parts of the armour and it is listed first because it holds the other pieces of the armour together. Truth is the integrating force in the life of the believer. A Christian with a clear conscience can face the enemy without fear. The girdle also held the sword – the sword of the Spirit – the word of truth. The language here that Paul uses is interesting – having your loins girt about with truth means to brace ourselves for action.
Physically the soldier that Paul thinks about and uses for an illustration is an infantryman who wore a short tunic. The belt was buckled around the waist to keep the folds of the tunic secure and to strengthen the muscles of the midriff by holding them firm. Today in the services the equivalent belt is wide and firm made of strong webbing. It has a simple fastening and is adjustable to suit the various sizes of soldier. Various pieces of equipment can be attached to the modern belt such as a bayonet holder. When fastened it firms up the lumbar region of the back, the location of the loins the upper regions of the hips.
The breastplate was attached to this belt in Paul’s example – so the belt was important.
Having understood the location and the nature of this belt let us consider its spiritual meaning.
W.E. Vine says that
“Having our loins girt about with truth is bracing up oneself so as to maintain perfect sincerity and reality as the counteractive feature of Christian character against hypocrisy and falsehood.”
The physical action of doing this girding up is seen elsewhere in scripture.
In Matthew 3 v 4 John the Baptist is described down to what he wore. Included in John’s clothes was a leather belt –
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins;
One of Isaiah’s descriptions of the Messiah is in Isaiah 11. In verse 5 he says this
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
It is often used as a metaphor for being READY for something –
1 Peter 1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Sincerity then is the key to the belt of Truth. As Christian soldiers we need to know the Truth and show the Truth.
We need a subjective experience of truth in our hearts. The truth must have an effect in our lives. Then it will show in the way that we live. It is not merely a matter of being truthful – but living a godly and holy life that does not have a shred of hypocrisy or deceit about it.
Wearing the belt of truth enables us to counter the attacks of the evil one. Let us consider some of his attacks.
1. He tries to get us to distrust the Lord God.
He suggests that God does not care about us, that we are just numbers or tiny dots on the surface of the earth that he could not possibly be interested in. He tries to get us to trust ourselves more than the Lord.
However we answer him as we wear the belt of truth, with the truth of scripture bracing ourselves for this kind of doubt-sowing – with such scriptures as Isaiah 43:4
Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee : therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.
and Jeremiah 31:3
The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
2. He tries to produce doctrinal confusion and falsehood.
He comes to ministers, and church members and suggests doing things differently in order to attract people to the services. He suggests changing the church rules so that no one is excluded from membership. He comes to individuals with lies in his mouth dressed up with a sugarcoating of the truth so that it sounds like the truth.
But he must be shown the truth of the word of God –
Psalm 119:30 I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.
Psalm 145:18 The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
Proverbs 8:7 For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
Proverbs 12:17 He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.
3. He tries to persuade us to forsake Biblical obedience.
His first recorded lie was in Genesis 3 v 1 – “Hath God said?” The next was in Genesis 3 v 4 “You shall not surely die.” But God had said that if Adam and Eve disobeyed they would die. He does the same to us suggesting that forbidden things are not as forbidden as we think! Our answer to him is this –
(Deuteronomy 10:20) Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.
4. He tries to hinder service to God by our serving him in a fleshly way and not in the Spirit.
How easy this is to do. We embark on a task for God but our hearts are not in it. It is a chore, it is tedious, we don’t really want to do it. But we do it grudgingly although outwardly we look willing. But the Lord sees our hearts and knows whether we are serving Him with a spiritually light and active heart. And the Lord is not pleased – Satan has tricked us. We need the belt of truth –
Psalm 100 v 1 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. 2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Satan is so subtle. He knows how to attack God’s people in a psychologically hideous way. Let us notice how he did it in the days of King Hezekiah. The city of Jerusalem was under siege – Isaiah 36. Sennacherib King of Assyria had sent Rabshakek his general to challenge the city with psychological words. His words bear all the hallmarks of the evil one.
1. Satan used propaganda in the making of a speech. Look at verses 11 – 12. He used the Jews’ language to strike widely and deeply into the hearts of his hearers. Everyone understood his blasphemous words – he used perjury – such as verse 10 claiming that Jehovah had sent him.
2. Satan used the truth. He quoted the failure of the Egyptians (v6) and the destruction of the numerous gods of the other countries which they had conquered. How effective this is – truth defies all arguments. We should always use the truth – but use it in a truthful manner.
3. Satan used ridicule v 8 – 9. But it was merely a prelude to his own downfall – pride caused him to count his chickens before they were hatched!
4. Satan used perversion – by comparing the Most high God with the false gods of the heathen – v 18 – 20.
The people of Jerusalem needed the belt of truth to resist Satan. In the event they said nothing. King Hezekiah told them, Answer him not.
What would we do in such a situation? Would we seek to negotiate with such propaganda, ridicule and perversion? And how do we deal with an enemy that uses the truth for his own ends?
The answer is this – the same as the example of our Saviour in all of His dealings – the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Not our own opinions – but the truth. Not our own speculations or theories – but the truth. Truth counteracts perversions and propaganda.
And as the Lord Jesus Christ showed in his encounter with the devil, when Satan quoted scripture, the truth of God out of context, the Lord replied with scripture truth in truthful context. Nothing but the truth of God, firmly secured in our hearts and clearly understood, will enable us to keep standing upright as spiritual soldiers in the battle. Are we all wearing the belt of truth this morning my friends? Is our strength and confidence in Christ and His word? Let none of us indulge in reason, tradition or dead orthodoxy. These have been described as “Girdles of spider’s webs.” They hold nothing in; they hold nothing up and never enable anyone to stand! Only the truth, living in out minds in the form of Divine knowledge – scripture – can give us confidence in the battles we face.
May we all know the truth as it is in our Lord Jesus Christ and His wonderful word!