First century Roman armor could be beautifully ornate or. . . not so much. Rank and financial status had much to do with the armor worn by the soldiers. The concept of uniformity was not yet in play. Armor could be handed down in families, purchased from soldiers who had completed their service, or outdated armor was acceptable, too, if it was all that the soldier could afford. And some armor offered more protection than others.
The belt was used for multiple purposes (none of which were to hold up pants!). The belt usually had straps of leather and/or metal that hung from the front to protect the groin area. Some belts had such straps that went all around the waist. In addition, the belt held scabbards for a dagger and a sword. The belts also served as a place to tuck loose clothing so that it didn’t interfere with mobility. We don’t often think about belts, but for the Roman soldiers they were pretty important.
The sword was a go-to weapon. They also used javelins and short daggers. The Sword of the Spirit is being included in this discussion because of it’s close association with the Belt of Truth, as the Roman soldier’s belt and sword were like a hand in a glove.
It’s easy to see why the belt and sword were so necessary for a soldier, but what does that have to do with Christians? “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…” (Ephesians 6:10-12a, ESV, emphasis mine). We who have found our peace in Christ don’t always realize that the very decision that brought that peace concurrently declared war on the devil! Yes, the devil is real. Yes, he wants to destroy you and every other human being that’s ever lived. Paul wasn’t just flapping his gums when he spoke of the Armor of God!
Paul’s audience would have understood, all to well, the armor of the Roman soldiers. So we must understand God’s armor and put it to use.
To understand the Belt of Truth and the Sword of the Spirit we must look at truth itself. In John’s Gospel Jesus is praying for His disciples. He says, “Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth” (17:17, ESV). He had already told them that He is the truth (John 14:6). John had even opened his Gospel by telling everyone that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1). Then, in his first epistle, he writes, “I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” (1 John 2:21-22a, ESV).
When Jesus stood before Pilate, He told him that “‘Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice'” (John 18:37c).
The Belt of Truth is our defense. The integrity of the Gospel is squarely hinged on truth. Without truth the devil stands unopposed. As the belts worn by the Roman soldiers protected the groin area, the Belt of Truth preserves our spiritual reproduction, ensuring that the truth will be forwarded and entrusted to others. The weapons we wield are held securely in place by the Belt of Truth. Without truth we have no weapons.
The Sword of the Spirit, “which is the the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17, ESV), is always at the ready, attached to the Belt of Truth. Having ensured that the first piece of armor, truth is securely in place, leaves us poised to draw the Sword of the Spirit, to rightly use God’s word, to fight off the schemes of the devil, and cut away the bindings that have held people captive in the darkness of lies.
So, how do we utilize this information? First and foremost we need to dedicate our lives to God’s word. We need to read it. Memorize it. Speak it. Proclaim it. Remember that before the Sword of the Spirit (our offensive weapon!) can be drawn it must be securely attached to us on the Belt of Truth. We find our security in God’s truth, His Word. This needs to become an inseparable part of who we are, and something which we never cease to feed into our spirits.
Second, we need to be ready to strike down the lies that the devil spreads with the truth of God’s Word. Again, if we don’t know the Word we will not be able to use it. And if we can’t use it, we are not the only ones who will suffer for the failure. Others will be unable to hear the reason we believe (1 Peter 3:15). Paul told Timothy, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV, emphasis mine). Note that “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” are offensive words, not defensive. This is how we wield the Sword of the Spirit.
Next week we will look at the Breastplate of Righteousness.