“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth,” Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:14. How does the belt of truth serve as a defense in the armor of God?
The apostle Paul lists the belt of truth as the first element in a Christian’s armor against evil. But does absolute truth really exist?
The very idea of truth as an absolute—as a constant—is becoming less and less popular. For many people, truth has become a subject for philosophical debate or a concept that changes as the world changes around us.
“What is truth?”
The idea of absolute truth is inseparable from the life of Jesus Christ and from the Bible. Jesus defined Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He also defined the Word of God as truth: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). In a world that drifts without absolutes, these words are an anchor! Jesus Christ and the Bible (the Word of God) represent absolute truth!
The doubts and debates about the existence of absolute truth existed in Christ’s time also. When He was put on trial for His life, Jesus was asked by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate if He was indeed proclaiming Himself to be a king, as the Jews claimed. He answered that He came to bear witness to truth. “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).
Pilate’s response was a question: “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
That’s a question we need to be able to answer today.
Why is truth such an important part of the armor of God? And what does it have to do with a belt?
Why did Roman soldiers wear a belt?
The belt—known as the cingulum or balteus—held the Roman soldier’s scabbard and sword. The belt provided a place to house the sword and carry it into battle effectively. The spiritual sword is the Bible, the Word of God, as shown in Ephesians 6:17. This is another piece of the armor of God.
The Roman military belt was also a status symbol in the first century. Roman soldiers wore their belts on or off duty, and so the belt itself became a badge of identification. In fact, it became such an important part of the soldiers’ identity that their superior officers would sometimes deprive them of their belts as a public, humiliating punishment.
Jesus explained, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” If the belt was a central part of the Roman soldier’s identity, then taking up the belt of truth tells us that truth ought to be a central part of our identity.
Here are three things the Bible reveals about how truth can change our lives:
1. The truth will set you free
“The truth will set you free.” This is a commonly quoted Bible phrase, but what does it really mean? Telling the truth could certainly set us free from the guilt that might come from lying to a friend or loved one, but that falls short of the full meaning of the original statement.
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
These are once again the words of Jesus Christ, spoken this time to His disciples. The disciples, in turn, thought He was referring to physical bondage (John 8:33). Jesus’ response was to tell them that truth—following His words and example—would free them from the bondage of sin. “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin’” (verse 34).
Sin is a weight that can entrap us and prevent us from following the life that God intended for us. The author of Hebrews described it in terms of a race: “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
James continued the thought, reminding us that the truth of God’s Word only brings us freedom when it is coupled with action:
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:21-25, emphasis added).
Following truth—the Word of God and the example of Jesus Christ—frees us from a great burden of sin and allows us to move forward in the path of obedience to God’s ways.
2. The truth allows you to be prepared
The belt “girds on all other pieces of our armor, and therefore is first mentioned.” Similarly, without truth girding us, a Christian is unprepared.Matthew Henry’s Complete Bible Commentary states that the belt “girds on all other pieces of our armor, and therefore is first mentioned.” Similarly, without truth girding us, a Christian is unprepared.
In Jesus’ day, the belt allowed a man to gather up his robe and tuck it in for swift movement. Being grounded and girded in the truth does the same for a Christian.
Notice the words of the apostle Peter as he compared a belt with spiritual preparedness: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).
Jesus Christ Himself made a similar analogy when He admonished His disciples to be ready for His coming: “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for your master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately” (Luke 12:35-36).
The belt of truth offers us freedom of movement in difficult situations. When the media spotlights the latest social issue, or we’re faced with a moral dilemma in our personal lives, or a friend comes to us for advice about a tricky situation, we don’t have to redefine right and wrong to make sense of things. We can rely on God’s truth to show us which way is up and which way is down, and then act accordingly.
3. The truth guides you into safe paths
As noted earlier, the Word of God is truth (John 17:17), and that truth can show us how to avoid danger. The psalmist compared it to a light, guiding him through the darkness: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Having the ability to avoid dangerous situations is a tremendous defense!
This thought is expanded a little later in the same psalm: “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).
When Jesus was preparing for the end of His earthly ministry, He advised His disciples that He would be leaving. One of the disciples (Thomas) asked: “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (verse 6).
The world is full of spiritual pitfalls and traps. Our adversary loves to “call evil good, and good evil,” to “put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20), and often disguises himself as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Following truth helps us to see past his deceptions and focus on the safe paths provided by God.
What better defense can there be than following the safe and rewarding path?
Are you wearing the belt of truth?
The belt of truth is designed to encircle us. As a support for the scabbard that holds our sword, the Word of God, it protects us and keeps us safe.
Truth allows us to follow God without deviating from the right path.
When God spoke of the historic nation of Israel, He used a belt for illustration: “‘For as the sash clings to the waist of a man, so I have caused the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to cling to Me,’ says the LORD, ‘that they may become My people, for renown, for praise, and for glory; but they would not hear’” (Jeremiah 13:11).
The ancient nation of Israel had a choice: to be encircled by the truth of God’s Word, or embrace the deception. They chose poorly, and their nation fell to pieces as a result.
But that wasn’t just a decision for Israel—it’s a choice we each have to make. Putting on the armor of God means dedicating ourselves to truth—and trusting God to guide our steps along the way.
Will you put on the belt of truth?
Read more about the protective armor God commands us to put on in “Put on the Armor of God” and related articles. Read more about truth in the article “What Is Truth?”