Ephesians 6:14a: The Belt of Truth
The belt of truth that the Christian is to employ in order to stand against the devil and his schemes is under attack. In particular it is under attack from two fronts, both from within the church and from without. The two main attacks against the truth we are up against are the experience based approach to truth within the church, and the postmodern scepticism of 21st century Western culture. The experiential approach to truth has an interesting history as it has been influenced by Liberalism and Pentecostalism. Since the time of the Enlightenment many Christians lost their confidence in the Bible as the inerrant word of God. This loss of confidence was due to science progressing and apparently debunking the various teachings of Scripture. Many accepted these findings as facts and sought a way to preserve Christianity against being totally eradicated and irrelevant. So they retreated from the bible as the source of truth, having lost their confidence in Scripture and they sought some other ground to base it on. In an atmosphere of Romanticism experience became a ground for truth. So much so that faith, which was once a belief in the person and work of Christ as a sufficient provision of God’s grace for salvation for unworthy sinners was replaced with ‘a sense of utter dependence.’ The object of faith was removed for the act of faith. This became a basis upon which many believed all the religions could unite because they all had this experience in common.
Add to this the rise of Pentecostalism at the dawning of the 20th century where an emphasis on a second baptism in the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues was taught along with an expectation of a return to the intense time of miracles of the book of Acts. You can imagine how Christians felt about this in an age of modernism where science had trained the western mind to base truth on observable facts. This was seen as a sought after sure for the growing unbelief in the western world and was pursued with vigour.
The casualty in all of these trends and movements was the bible as the basis for truth. And even today you will hear Christians looking down on those who insist that all things must be tested by the Bible, or that the Bible must regulate how we worship. Christianity nearly as a whole has moved away from objective word based truth to a subjective inward truth. You will encounter many who speak of God telling them things, who function by means of having a witness in their spirits, many who know nothing of the teachings of God’s word on things like justification, propitiation or union with Christ yet who claim direct revelation from God and to be taught by Him. Think of something as simple as knowing God’s will. Christians are no longer confident that a trusting God glorifying obedience to the principles of Scripture is enough. They need something more certain than God’s word to tell them what to do. This is a crying shame and indicates that we have a real crisis going on in Christianity. Our forefathers fought hard to teach us Sola Scriptura, that the Bible is the communication of God’s truth; that the bible is sufficient, necessary, perfect, and our only authority. I fear that the Christians of our generation are ill-equipped to put on the belt of truth because of this moving from the objective truth grounded in God’s words to a subjective experience based truth. We desperately need a return to a proper confidence in God’s word as the truth or we will be unable to put on the belt of truth.
The second major danger that we face is Post-modernism. What is post-modernism? Let me give a layman’s definition, it is our modern day scepticism to truth claims. We usually encounter in this form: because there are so many religions in the world, and no one can have all the truth, or at least know that they have all the truth, we must not be dogmatic and claim to have the truth or judgemental and criticise others as not having it, but live and let live. Western Christianity is facing an attack on truth like it has never faced before. In centuries gone by Christianity was the dominant narrative in western countries. You could say Jesus is the only way to heaven and you would be surrounded by people who would agree with you. It was not hard to hold the truth of God’s word in that situation. But now, secularism and scienticism have marginalised and mocked Christianity. We are no longer the majority but waning and increasingly hated. Traditional views of God, sexual ethics, views of the universe and many other things have been rejected as outdated and wrong. With the growth of technology and information we are now aware of billions of people who believe differently. People who have had thousands of years of religion long before our country has existed. To stand up now and say that Jesus is the only way to heaven is a very different thing. Do we still have the confidence of knowing we have the truth? Let me suggest that Christians are having a crisis of confidence, they are not sure in light of these odds and developments that they have the truth. And it is for this reason that Christians are giving in on issues like gay marriage, ordination, sex before marriage, the exclusivity of Christ, no eternal punishment etc.
Paul reminds us that there is a belt of truth, there is an objective truth from God that we can use to help us stand against the lies and temptations that face us in every age. We are provided for by God sufficiently and abundantly to stand against the devil’s attacks. Ephesians 6:14a, ‘Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth.’
Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter to the Ephesians. He was in chains v20 which probably indicates that his imprisonment included being chained to a Roman soldier 24 hours a day. So when Paul begins to speak about spiritual warfare and armour he has a ready illustration before his eyes. We can picture with him then a Roman soldier and his armour as the teaching tool for making his point. The armour has often been divided up into the defensive armour of the belt, breastplate, shoes, shield and helmet, and the offensive parts of the sword and prayer. Another division of the armour that presents itself and seems to add to Paul’s emphasis of having on the whole armour is v14-15 which assumes certain basics of the armour that have already been put on. These would have been the bare essentials that a soldier would be wearing if he were not on the front-line. But then Paul stresses that we are also in all circumstances to take up the shield, helmet, sword and prayer implying that we are always to have the whole armour of God on. But as we proceed we must stress that the items are more important that the armour, the truth more important than the belt, etc. This is a teaching tool, an analogy and we must be careful not to take the analogy too far and put too much stress on what is merely there to illustrate the truth.