Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Truth and Righteousness
This week we get into the actual pieces of the ?full armor of God? that Paul mentions in Chapter 6 verse 13. As we discussed last time, the armor of God is taking up the character and life of Jesus in order to stand your ground as a soldier of God, fighting against an enemy who wants to neutralize your effectiveness for the gospel in this age. He wants you to stop trusting Jesus, he wants you to stop representing Jesus and he wants you to stop living like Jesus. We?re going to see how that works particularly in the next verses.
But to begin, let?s look at where Paul likely gets this imagery.
Turn to Isaiah 11:1-5. This passage is clearly about the Messiah. Notice the power of His words ? this is later echoed in Revelation 19 when it talks about Messiah coming and using the sword from Him mouth to strike the nations and destroy His enemies.
But look especially at verse 5:
Isaiah 11:5 ?Righteousness will be a belt around His loins; faithfulness will be a belt around His waist.?
Jesus said in: John 20:21 ?Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.? So in a very real way, we wear the armor of the Messiah as we go into battle.
- 1.Truth like a belt around your waist
This is full of imagery and significance. Though the Holman translates it ?truth? and the Isaiah passage uses ?faithfulness? the Greek word for truth can also mean ?faithfulness?. This reminds me of:
- 89:14 ?Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; faithful love and truth go before You.?
The soldier most people living in the 1st century knew was the Roman soldier. The ?belt? of a Roman soldier was a leather apron worn under the armor that protected the thighs rather than a belt to hold a sword. (Show on Screen. Find http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71upJULNQRL._SL1134_.jpg">image.)
Paul describes this as a belt of truth. So what is this truth? Paul?s talked a lot about truth in Ephesians.
- 1:13 ?When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit?
4:15 ?But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head?Christ.?
21 ?The truth is in Jesus?
24 ?you put on the new self, the one created according to God?s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.?
25 ?Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.?
5:9 ?for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.?
Peter O?Brien puts it this way: ?The truth of God, revealed in the gospel, has its outworking in the lives of believers who are members of the new humanity.?
The belt for the Roman solder was a defensive weapon that passively protected the soldier?s vulnerable thighs. A cut to the femoral artery in the leg would be fatal. Truth is always a good defense. Jesus said: ?I am the way the truth and the life.? (John 14:6). The core of our armor in this spiritual battle is the truth of the gospel and the expression of that truth in everything we say, think, and do.
The Devil is the father of lies and his lies have permeated this age. Those lies include ?God does not exist or if he does, you have to work hard to please him and you may never be able to do that.? Also: ?if it feels good, it must be okay? and ?did God really say?...?
To be properly fitted as a soldier we must know and exercise truth?that God exists, that He is pure, and that no one can approach Him apart from Jesus. This age wants Christians to back away from the truth of God?s character, to create a relative morality that adjusts as the culture changes its values.
- 13:8 ?Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.?
Jesus said that God?s character, as exhibited in His Law will never cease.
- 5:18 ?For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished.? Which means that Jesus is the living embodiment of God?s character and He lives forever?giving us that character, not changing it to fit the current moral ?fads? of the culture. The apron was the first piece of amour the soldier put on and it goes under everything else. Truth for the Christian must undergird everything we do as well.
- 2.Righteousness like armor on your chest
The Holman translates the Greek word thorax here to ?chest?. It means ?breastplate.? In English the thorax refers to the chest area. There were basically three types of breastplates worn by Roman soldiers. They changed over time but were the Lorica Segmentata (on the left: what we normally think of) the Lorica Squamata (center: most flexible), and the Lorica Hamata (right: heavy chain mail-this type was most commonly used). See http://www.squidoo.com/roman-soldier-armor">here for more on this. The breastplate protected the soft parts of the soldier?s body from attack by sword blows and arrows.
To get an idea of Paul may have in mind for the spiritual application of the breastplate, we go back to Isaiah 59:17.
Let?s go back and read from verse 15:
Isaiah 59: 15 The LORD saw that there was no justice,
and He was offended.
16 He saw that there was no man?
He was amazed that there was no one interceding;
so His own arm brought salvation,
and His own righteousness supported Him.
17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on His head;
So in order to stand our ground as Christians, we need God?s own righteousness to protect us.
There are two schools of thought here:
- This righteousness is what would be called ?forensic? righteousness. That is, Jesus died for our sins and gave us His righteousness (Romans 10:10). We are positionally righteous before God and therefore the enemy, who is the ?accuser of the brethren? (Rev 12:10), can no longer accuse us of unrighteousness because we have Jesus? purity.
- Because of Paul?s previous use of ?righteousness? in Ephesians (4:24 ?put on the new self ? in righteousness? and 5:9 ?fruit of light ? results in righteousness?) what he may be talking about is moral righteousness. Paul tells us to ?put on? the new person, made in Christ?s image (4:24). So as we reflect the righteous, or pure character of Christ it is our breastplate of righteousness. So in this case it is more what you do that helps you stand your ground.
Think about it this way: Paul has already encouraged us in 5:1 to be imitators of God. If you continually act in unrighteous ways, you will find it harder to stand your ground because the accusations of the enemy will land square on. I?m not talking about losing your salvation or anything, but the more you live like this age, the less of an effective ambassador you will be, which is what standing your ground is all about.
I think the simplest way of looking at this is that we represent the truth of the gospel and the purity of God?s character. Today so many denominations have watered down the gospel and watered down the righteousness of God to the point that it is unrecognizable. This is a victory for the enemy. This makes ineffective soldiers who have lost ground.
So let?s make it our aim to never back away from the reality of the purity of God and the truth of the gospel?that salvation is found in no other than Jesus Christ.
 The Letter to the Ephesians, O?brien, Peter, Eerdmans 1999, pages 473-4