“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…”-Ephesians 6:14a
Paul, begins his list of the panoply of the armor of God with the “belt of truth.” The belt—known as the cingulum or balteus—played a crucial role in the effectiveness of a soldier’s armor. The belt that Paul’s talking about here isn’t meant to hold up a soldier’s pants. A Roman soldier wore a loose and floppy shirt. It was called a “tunic.” And the tunic was meant to be loose, so that when the soldier was marching, or exercising, or doing his daily work, he wouldn’t get too warm. But, if the soldier ever had to fight with someone, his loose and floppy tunic could get in the way. It could give his opponent something with which to pull him down. This is one reason why a Roman soldier wore a belt. The belt was also there to help provide protection. The belt protected the mid- section, from the waist to the knees. Roman soldiers didn’t go into battle wearing leather skirts because it was fashionable. The leather and metal strips of the belt were for protection. The belt also kept the breastplate tight and secure around the soldier, and kept it from banging against his chest when in battle, and the belt also held a sheath for his sword or dagger. So if a soldier got rid of his belt, his breastplate wouldn’t be secure, his tunic would trip him up, his sword would drop to the ground. In short, he wouldn’t be much good in battle.
There’s a reason Paul mentions the belt of truth first. The belt was essential to help hold all the other pieces of armor together. The Matthew Henry Commentary says, the belt “girds on [secures] all the other pieces of our armor.” Truth should cleave to us as a belt cleaves to our body. The belt of truth Paul mentions refers to the teaching of Scripture. Jesus defined truth in John 17:17 when he prayed for the church, “Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth.” As Christians we use the truth of Scripture to test all things. As Paul commands us in 1 Thess. 5:21, “Test all things, hold fast that which is good.” The writer of Proverbs reminds us to “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4
What this all means is that as the belt encompasses our waist so the belt of truth of the Word must surround and permeate us and be written on our hearts. This is why we must immerse our minds in the Scriptures. As Methodists, we have something called the Quadrilateral of Scripture, Reason, Tradition and Experience which we view as avenues through which God conveys God’s truth to us. But the teaching of Scripture has primacy over all the others. The truth of Scripture, embodied in the life and teachings of Jesus, is to be our guide and criterion for life. To wrap the belt of truth around is to give Christ and his examples and teachings the final say in our lives, rather than our feelings, or our culture, or our comfort. The belt of truth is indispensable because it’s what holds all the pieces of the armor as well as the sword in place.
Gracious God, help us to put on the belt of truth by being grounded in your Word as revealed in the Scriptures and the life and teachings of Jesus. May we learn and live in your word so that your Word might live through us in our world. In Jesus name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
- What is it that has final say in our life?
- Our feelings?
- Our culture?
- Other people?
- Our comfort?
- Is Jesus’ life and teachings the ultimate standard by which we determine what is truth in our world, in our life and in our circumstances?
- What are some ways in which we can make Christ the final say in our life? How specifically, would that change our current decision making and behavior?