When you shop for a car, truck, van or SUV, at some point the salesperson will tantalize you with all the features of that particular vehicle: internet capability, safety features, sound system, comfort package, etc. All this is an attempt to convince you that particular model will be perfect for you. All believers are in union with Jesus Christ, and so we already have the perfect spiritual protection package. In this section the apostle Paul uses the illustration of the armor an ancient soldier to help us grasp all that we have in the Lord Jesus. However, the apostle is not trying to sell us this spiritual protection. Like a good salesperson that shows you how to use all the features of your new vehicle when you pick up the vehicle, Paul shows the various features of our spiritual blessings in Christ, in order that we might engage in spiritual warfare successfully.
What spiritual reality is represented by the phrase “the armor of God”? There are three alternatives:
- The parts of armor signify various aspects of a godly character or lifestyle developed in a believer.
- The parts of armor stand for various spiritual blessings that we have in Jesus Christ.
- The parts of armor represent both of these ideas.
Here are some reasons for choosing the second alternative. First, it best expresses the idea that these are parts of the armor of God. I find it difficult to see how they could be character traits or way of life actions that we develop, because then they would only be as protective as far as we mature in godliness. Second, it best maintains the consistency of thought, because some of them, like the sword and the helmet) are clearly direct blessings from God. It seems rather arbitrary to take the others as characteristics of a believer. Third, it best conveys the certainty of victory. For example, consider this remark by Hodge about the breastplate of righteousness. “What is that righteousness…? Many say it is our own righteousness, integrity, or rectitude of mind. But this is no protection. It cannot resist the accusations of conscience, the whispers of despondency, the power of temptation, much less the severity of the law, or the assaults of Satan. What Paul desired for himself was not to have on his own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith; Phil. 3:8, 9. And this, doubtless, is the righteousness which he here urges believers to put on as a breastplate.”
What spiritual blessing does the “belt of truth” symbolize? Let’s begin with two general comments about this picture. The belt was important to a soldier because “it gathered his tunic together and also held his sword. It insured that he was unimpeded when marching” (Stott). Putting on the belt also prepared a person for action, or as here, it was the first step in getting dressed for conflict. Compare 1 Peter 1:13.
Truth does not refer to objective truth, the Scriptures, because that is the sword that we are to take. “But it means truth subjectively considered; that is, the knowledge and belief of the truth” (Hodge). This blessing was given us at the time of salvation, when by the Holy Spirit we were taught the truth that is in Jesus (Ephesians 4:20-21; cf. Matthew 16:17; John 6:45). When by grace we receive Jesus the Lord, we also receive the knowledge of God, one of the basic blessings of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:11).This is the reason Christians ask people, “Do you know the Lord?” By this we do not mean knowledge of the facts about Christ or knowledge about worship skills, but knowledge of the Lord himself. This is where the essence of our protection in spiritual warfare begins. You cannot be strong in a Lord that you do not know. You cannot find protection from one to whom you are a total stranger. Does the Lord know you? Do you know the Lord?
“This is the first and indispensable qualification for a Christian soldier. To enter on this spiritual conflict ignorant or doubting, would be to enter battle blind and lame. As the girdle [belt] gives strength and freedom of action, and therefore confidence, so does the truth when spiritually apprehended and believed. Let not anyone imagine that he is prepared to withstand the assaults of the powers of darkness, if his mind is stored with his own theories or with the speculations of other men. Nothing but the truth of God clearly understood and cordially embraced will enable him to keep his feet for a moment, before these celestial potentates. Reason, tradition, speculative conviction, dead orthodoxy, are a girdle [belt] of spider webs. They give way at the first onset. Truth alone, as abiding in the mind in the form of divine knowledge, can give strength or confidence even in the ordinary conflicts of the Christian life, much more in any really ‘evil day’” (Hodge). Compare Colossians 2:1-10. So then, we ask again, “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?
Grace and peace, David