“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.”
Beginning in verse 14, the apostle calls our attention to the Christian’s panoply, or armor. Paul also calls attention to this armor in I Thess. 5. Here, however, we have a complete description of it.
The apostle writes this epistle while in prison at Rome. Is it possible that the Roman legionary, while guarding him, is sitting here, although unaware of it, for his own portrait?
This Christian armor is almost entirely defensive. The only offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit. Indeed, the Christian’s warfare is primarily defensive, not to gain the whole world, but to hold fast what we have.
The girdle, although properly speaking not a weapon at all, is mentioned first because of its primary significance. It was a military belt, fastened around the soldier’s loins or waist, with which he bound in his undergarments that there be nothing loose or trailing behind him; and it braced up his limbs for action. The soldier did not wear a long garment but a short tunic. The belt held this tunic in place. Also, to the belt were attached the sword and the thorax or breastplate. The girdle, therefore, was designed to keep the whole armor in place.
It is obvious from the text that this girdle represents the truth. Some would interpret this truth subjectively, our knowledge and belief of the truth of the scriptures. This interpretation is based upon verse 17. It is claimed that the Word of God in verse 17 is the Bible, and that therefore this girdle cannot refer to the Bible because then we would have two weapons meaning the same thing. We must surely distinguish between this girdle and the sword of the Spirit.
We cannot accept this interpretation. First, it rests solely upon the assumption that the Word of God in verse 17 is the Bible. Should this interpretation of verse 17 fall away, this entire argument would fall away. It is surely better to explain verse 17 in the light of verse 14 than to explain verse 14 in the light of verse 17. Secondly, we must not interpret the truth here merely in the objective sense. After all, we must gird our loins about with the truth. And this surely implies that this truth must also live within us. Otherwise we have nothing else than cold dogmatism and intellectualism. And, thirdly, we cannot accept this interpretation in the light of Scripture. According to Ps. 119:105 God’s Word is a lamp before our feet and a light upon our path. Also pertinent is surely the word of God of II Tim. 3:16-17. In this text the underlying thought is that of the Christian soldier who must be thoroughly furnished. How is this man of God thoroughly furnished or equipped? And then we read that all of Scripture is inspired unto this end.
Indeed, we must believe the truth of the Word of God. However, there is no spiritual knowledge, belief of the truth in the consciousness of the Christian warrior, except as in constant contact with the Bible, the written Word of God. Indeed, the Bible is the truth.
The world lives the lie. We are engaged with the world in mortal combat. Of this struggle we read in our context, as in the verses 10 through 12. What is the issue here, the real cause, the underlying principle and motive of this hatred of the world against the church of God? Christ suffered the same opposition—why? Surely, the world does not hate us simply because it would take from us the things of the world. Fact is, the world offers us all the riches and kingdoms of the world. The issue here is: GOD! This was the issue in Paradise. Man would be as God. It was also the issue as it involved the Christ. The world is anti-God, hates God and all that is connected with Him. The world loves sin, lives in rebellion against the Lord, seeks to establish its own kingdom, without God, in which it can live unmolested its own life, without God, in the midst of the world. The Church is pro-God, loves and seeks the Lord, would live unto His glory, and knows that this kingdom of God, established in and through Christ Jesus, will not be realized ultimately until we have new heavens and a new earth. Hence, the world lives the lie. They seek a righteousness of their own, and this righteousness does not exist. They seek life apart from God, but apart from God is death. They seek happiness and peace in the way of sin, but the wages of sin is death. They live in a dream world; their wisdom is folly, their glory is shame, their life is death. They live the lie, are enemies of God and of His kingdom.
The Bible is the truth. The Bible is the Word of God. And God is the God of truth. All these weapons of the Christian’s armor are real, will never put us to shame. In our struggle we live, not in a dream world, but in a world of reality, characterized by the living God. The breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, etc., are the salvation of God, wrought for us in Christ Jesus and by His Spirit in our hearts. To Him we cling; in His kingdom we have a name and place and in His battle we are engaged; the Lord will never put us to shame.
How important it is that we gird our loins about with this girdle of the truth! Negatively, this text warns us against two dangerous errors. First, it denies all Rationalism. Now the scriptures are surely rational. The Word of God is not in conflict with our reason. Just because something is above my reason, cannot be comprehended by me, does not mean that it is in conflict with it. It is surely not irrational, contrary to my thinking, that God can do and does things I cannot understand. Rationalism is that sin of the natural man which exalts the natural mind above the scriptures. It does not subject the mind to the Bible but it exalts the mind above the Bible. Rationalism believes things, not because the Bible sets them forth, but because it can understand them. It is sin’s most abominable conceit, also because, in reality, the natural man never accepts things because he can understand them, as in the world of harvesting.
This Rationalism is surely denied by this word of God. We must gird our loins about with the truth, the truth of the Word of God. If we fail to do this, we will never be able to cope with the wiles of the devil. Fact is, as far as my natural mind is concerned, all things appear to be against us.
Secondly, this scripture is also the denial of all false Mysticism. Indeed, there is a certain sound mysticism. God surely speaks in our hearts and soul; He convicts us of sin and grants us the assurance and joy of salvation. False Mysticism, however, emphasizes this inner speaking of the Lord at the cost of His Word and testimony. It drives a wedge between this inner speaking or voice of God and the holy scriptures. It and Rationalism have this in common: both deny the scriptures. False Mysticism views the Bible to be a dead letter; everything depends upon the inner voice. Now this, too, is surely denied in this word of God. We must gird our loins about with the truth. The Bible alone is and must be our constant strength in the battle.
Positively, we must gird our loins about with the truth. According to the translation, we must have our loins girt about with the truth. The idea, then, is passive. Literally, however, we must gird our loins about with it. We must put on this belt.
This does not mean that we must simply do this theoretically, dogmatically. We must not simply know all about the scriptures, however important this theoretic knowledge may be. But, mere intellectual knowledge will never enable us to fight and suffer and persevere; then we will surely flee from the struggle as soon as we are personally in danger. Indeed, we must gird ourselves spiritually, experientially, by faith. That Word must be our strength in the battle; upon it we must rely and trust; to it we must cling in the midst of the fight; it we must know and appropriate unto ourselves; it must carry us, by faith and through prayer.
This girdle is one of the utmost importance. It is the first “weapon” mentioned by the apostle Paul. In this girdle are included all the other weapons that follow. If this girdle falls away, everything falls away. Indeed, the natural man trusts in an arm of flesh, in horses and chariots. But the Christian warrior puts all his trust and confidence in the Word of God.
Let us gird ourselves with this girdle of truth. Let us equip ourselves thoroughly with the scriptures. This implies that we read them, study them, always be near them. This we will do if we love the Word of God.
Are we girding ourselves with the truth? This applies to all of us. What an abundance of spiritual literature we have! What a rich access to the scriptures! O, we have money and time for so many things that are of the world, its amusements and pleasures, etc. We have so little time for the Word of God. Do we read? We surely read. But what do we read? How much do we read? Do our young people and children read? And what do they read? Where are they when they are not at home? Think of all the spiritual literature that is available, such as our Standard Bearer, Beacon Lights and so many books and pamphlets! How often do we discuss with our children the Battle of the Ages, this struggle against the wiles of the devil and the spiritual powers in high places? How often do we discuss our weaknesses and the need of the truth, the Word of God, to lead and guide us?
Let us, therefore, put on this belt, this girdle. Let us know the scriptures. That is the calling of everyone of us. Indeed, there is none exempt; we all, young and old, are so desperately in need of. the Word of God. May we study them, with the prayer that they may more and more be a lamp before our feet and a light upon our path, that we may know them, intellectually and spiritually. Study them, personally and also collectively, in all our society meetings, in all our social visits, ever comforting, edifying, and strengthening one another, in order that we may put on the whole armor of God, may live out of His entire arsenal.
Gird yourselves with the truth.
Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
And the victory is sure, only because of God’s sovereign grace.