Ephesians 6:14 (NKJV) 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
This week we are continuing to look at Ephesians 6. We have come to verse 14 where Paul exhorts us to stand with our armor in place. Yesterday we tied verse 13 and verse 14 together. In verse 13, we find that the words withstand and stand lead us to a conclusion as to the meaning of the verse that is different than what I had before. Instead of these words meaning we simply had to “hold out” against the devil until God did something to help us, they mean just the opposite.
Withstand means to resist. Paul is telling us to put on our armor and resist the devil when he comes against us. The result of our resistance will be that we are left standing. This does not mean we are left battered and beaten but intact, in our place and strong. Verse 14 begins with “stand therefore”. This ties the two together. The picture is of the Roman battle strategy.
Rome would form their lines with shields making a wall. The enemy would attack against that wall and the Romans would withstand them stabbing through the line with their short swords. Finally, the enemy would tire and the Romans would move forward. They would then stand again and the process would continue until the other army was driven from the field and defeated. That is the picture Paul wants us to see.
When we stand against the devil and resist him, we will win skirmishes that leave us in victory. However, that does not mean the battle is over. We must reform our line, get our armor in place and be ready to withstand the attacks again. In this way, we will overcome the enemy just as the Roman army overcame theirs.
There is one more important element I want to remind you of before we move on. This tactic would not work if the Roman soldier were alone. No matter how strong the individual soldier is, it took the army working together. The soldier could not be part of the universal Roman army; he needed to know his unit. We need to be part of a local expression of the body of Christ, a local church. We need to know our place in that church so we can fight together and help each other win the victory.
In verse14, Paul begins to describe our armor and tell us how it works. The first piece he says we must put on is the belt or girdle of truth. A belt or sash was a very important part of ancient clothing. In the case of the Roman soldier it had some important functions in the makeup of the armor. First, it held the rest of the armor, especially the breastplate, in place. This is similar to how we use belts today; especially men.
Women have a higher waist and wider hips than men do. Now, do not think I am being chauvinistic. This physical characteristic goes to the fact that women give birth. The male body’s narrower hips mean that a garment with a waist tends to fall down if it is not securely fastened. Women may wear a belt for decoration but men wear them so their pants do not fall down.
One way captors keep their prisoners from trying to escape is to take their belts. It is hard to resist or to run away when you are holding your pants up with one hand. In a similar way, the belt of the Roman soldier held the other elements securely in place. He could move freely and fight effectively only if the belt was doing its job.
The second function of the Roman belt was to provide a place to hang his weapons and other tools on. He could not go into battle carrying his sword, dagger, water bottle, and whatever else he might need in his hands. Instead, he hung them on his belt so they were out of the way but ready when he needed them.
We have some carpenters in our church and they use tool belts. Some of them are quite heavy with all kinds of tools. When the carpenter needs one of his tools he simply puts the one he is using in its place in the belt and picks up the one he needs. The Roman soldier’s belt filled this same function in his day.
A third function of the belt extended beyond the military uses. In that day, long flowing robes were frequently worn. If you were going to work or fight these robes would get in the way. You could not run without tripping over them. If you were in battle, the robes would get in the way of your fellow soldiers. If you were walking through the woods or any close conditions, the robes would snag on things and hold you back. The solution was not to have different kinds of cloths for work and other uses. Even if they had fine clothes and everyday clothes, they were of the same type. The solution to this problem involved the belt.
When the ancient man was preparing for some kind of strenuous exercise, he “girded his loins.” He would take the back hem of his garment and pull it through his legs. He would then tuck the hem in his belt. This turned his flowing robe into a type of pantaloon. This would enable him to move more freely and keep him from being entangled in his environment.
The final use of the belt involved protection. It is common today in movies for one of the main characters to be a petit woman who is proficient in martial arts. She takes on the male martial artists and defeats them all. The truth is that a man with the same training will usually defeat a woman of equal skill. The reason is that male bone and muscle density is higher than a females. Men are stronger and harder to hurt. Once again, do not get mad at me, it is a matter of biology.
There is one way a women or even a child can bring down a man far stronger than they are. The groin is an area of great weakness. One strong blow there and the biggest man will have to stop and recover. This area must be protected in battle. The belt contained protection for the groin much as athletes wear such protection today.
The need for protection goes beyond just protection against blows. The male is also vulnerable to strain if that area is not supported. Again, we have an athletic equivalent today. The ancients would bind the cloth of their garment tightly around their groin to provide protection against strain whenever they were going to do something that required great effort.
The soldier as well as the common man understood how important his belt was to the success of his work. What is the belt that is part of the armor of God? Paul says the belt is truth. More tomorrow.