Summary: 58th in a series from Ephesians. Why truth matters in the church and how to put on the belt of truth.
Last week, we focused on the idea that all of us who are followers of Jesus are enlisted in a spiritual battle against the devil. And, as we discovered, our foe is a powerful enemy, one that we cannot vanquish on our own. The only way that we can defeat him is to make sure that we are properly prepared for the battle by being strengthened by God and by putting on His armor. Although one of the ways that we prepare for the battle is by understanding our enemy, the Bible makes it very clear that once we are engaged in battle, we stand firm, not by concentrating on what the enemy is doing but rather by concentrating on what we are doing. Although God makes His power and His armor available to us, we need to take the steps to actually put it on and use it properly.
This is such an important issue that I’m going to spend the next six weeks focusing on each individual piece of the armor. But before I do that, let me make one general observation that must be the foundation for everything else we’ll talk about for these next six weeks:
The armor is a symbolic description of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
We saw that in part last week, when we looked at a couple of passages from Isaiah that described the armor of the Messiah warrior, Jesus. And we discovered then that the armor of God is not only the armor that is supplied by God, but that in a sense, it is actually Jesus Himself. Paul makes this even clearer in another of his letters:
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Romans 13:14 (NIV)
The command “clothe yourselves” in that passage is exactly the same command that is translated “put on” in Ephesians 6:11 when we are commanded to “put on the full armor of God”. So I am quite confident to suggest to you that the command to clothe ourselves with Jesus is actually a direct parallel to the command to put on the armor of God. Therefore, in describing the full armor of God, Paul is actually describing to us how to put on Jesus Himself.
With that in mind, let’s read our passage this morning from two different versions. First, let’s read from the NIV:
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist...
Ephesians 6:14 (NIV)
Although that translation accurately renders Paul’s thoughts, in order to understand more completely what he is writing, I want us to also read the more literal rendering of the NASB:
Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth...
Ephesians 6:14 (NASB)
It’s pretty obvious why the translators of the NIV rendered this passage the way they did. We don’t use the phrase “girding the loins” a whole lot in our culture today. People would look at us pretty funny if we said, “I’m going to gird up my loins now.” But Paul’s readers would have had a very clear picture of what he was communicating. In his day, men normally wore long, flowing robes. Even the Roman soldiers wore a long tunic. And when they got ready for some kind of vigorous action, they would take and tuck their robes or tunics into their belt so that they wouldn’t get in the way and impede them.
As we prepare for the Summer Olympics to start this month, we’ll see just how far many of the athletes have carried this same idea. For instance, in this photo of Jesse Owens, you’ll notice that in the 1936 Olympics, he wore a uniform that certainly didn’t impede him as he ran and jumped. But you’ll notice that when Tyson Gay ran in the Olympic Trials last month, his uniform is designed to make sure that it does not create any kind of drag whatsoever as he runs. And you’ve probably read about the swimmer’s new high-tech swim suits that enable them to swim much faster.
So the idea of girding the loins would have conveyed to Paul’s readers the idea of preparing for battle by getting any impediments out of the way. In fact, the phrase “girding the loins” came to be used in the New Testament as a picture of preparedness:
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind...
1 Peter 1:13 (NKJV)
Peter is writing here about preparing the mind for action. In fact, the NIV actually translates this same verse:
Therefore, prepare your minds for action...
1 Peter 1:13 (NIV)
In Luke 12, Jesus told a parable to teach his disciples to be prepared for his second coming and he used that same phrase:
Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning