Summary: A presentation of the armor of God given to the Christian.
June 15, 1775 – the newly formed Continental Congress appoints a Virginia plantation farmer to serve as Commander-in-Chief of a ragtag army made up of disparate colony regiments. His assignment was to fight against the most powerful army of the day, that of the British Empire.
Washington was an experienced soldier, but not the only one. There were other men with experience and seemingly with capability. Two noteworthy candidates thought they should bear that position; another would so prove himself in battle that he could have been a candidate. The three men were Charles Lee, Horatio Gates, and Benedict Arnold.
Charles Lee was a popular general. Washington even renamed a fort in his honor, and he was assigned to lead northern troops in an effort to bolster Washington’s troops who had suffered a string of losses. Lee was supposed to lead the troops under his command to meet up with Washington, but he unaccountably dawdled. Meanwhile, Lee was sending letters to members of congress expressing his dissatisfaction with Washington. Perhaps he was writing one of those letters, when he was surprised by a small British guard, while still in his dressing gown. Inexplicably, Lee had taken a dozen of his officers on a night outing to a tavern and inn, leaving himself exposed to capture. Lee would eventually be returned to the colonial army, but it was later revealed that he had been treated royally by his captors and had even drawn up attack plans for the British. In the Battle of Monmouth, he was given command for the attack but botched it miserably (or intentionally?). Only Washington’s quick action turned imminent defeat into a standoff with the British.
The other general was Horatio Gates. Gates started out as the first adjutant general of the army and did well. Both he and Lee were key leaders in organizing the army in its early days. Gates had the further knack of being in the right places without also being in the line of fire, and thus receiving credit for the heroic deeds of other officers. He, even more boldly than Lee, led a campaign among congress to replace Washington as Commander-in-Chief. His downfall came at the Battle of Camden (SC), where the troops under his commander were routed, though Gates himself escaped.
Then there was Benedict Arnold, who proved early on to be the most capable and daring of all the commanders. Washington promoted him to the rank of general. One biographer noted that if Arnold had died in the Battle of Saratoga, where he was wounded, he would be remembered as one of the greatest heroes of the American Revolution. But Arnold was the victim of slights and character attacks. Twice he was denied credit for his courageous role in American victories. He was discredited by enemies for his service as military commander of Philadelphia. Embittered, he betrayed his country by trying to turn over a fort to the British. He successfully escaped to the enemy and served as an officer against the American army.
Three soldiers – men who had proven their worth as military leaders. Each of them ended their careers in disgrace. Why did they fail? Though in the beginning they were eager to fight against the enemy, none were prepared with the armor – that it, the traits of character – necessary to stand against the battle of the real enemy. They were ready physically and mentally to fight British dragoons, German Hessians, and even Scottish Highlanders. It was their hearts that were woefully ill-prepared to withstand the temptations that would beset them.
It is this battle that the apostle Paul warns his readers about in verses 10-13. It is for this battle that he now displays the armor of God, of which they may avail themselves.
having fastened on the belt of truth,
The apostle Paul starts with the basics. The Greek phrase here reads, “gird the loins.” The soldier is to gather the undergarments on him and tie them with a belt so that he can fight unencumbered. He is to get himself prepared for battle. In Luke 12:35, Jesus is giving instruction about being ready for his return. He tells them to “let your loins be girded.” The ESV translates the phrase as “stay dressed for action.”
The belt that we are to use so as to be properly prepared for action is truth. The term could mean the objective truth outside of us, namely the truth of the gospel, or of God’s Word. That certainly is of great value in being prepared. Most commentators agree, though, that Paul is speaking of truthfulness, as in having integrity. We are to be persons who highly value the truth – both in knowing it and in communicating it.
and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,