The Breastplate of Righteousness

“…the breastplate of righteousness.”

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” Ephesians 6:14

“…by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,” II Corinthians 6:7

Understanding figurative references in the Bible requires a bit of study. In the case of Ephesians 6:14 and II Corinthians 6:7 it is easy to see that the Apostle Paul used a military metaphor comparing a believer’s “righteousness” to a soldier’s armored “breastplate.” In these two verses the Greek term thorax is the word for “breast” and the translators rightly concluded from the context of the whole armor of God that Paul referred to the metal armor that covered a soldier’s torso. Whatever the design, whether mesh, small “scales,” plates, or a solid “heroic curiass,” the metal breastplate protected the fighter’s vital organs from arrows, spears, and swords.

How is righteousness like a soldier’s breastplate? Recall that Ephesians 6 began by telling us that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. So how does righteousness protect the believer like spiritual armor? Moreover, what does the Scripture consider our vital spiritual organ(s)?

Ancient peoples had a primitive understanding of the general placement and importance in the body of physical, anatomical organs. They knew that organs in the core of the body had to be protected at all costs to preserve life. They didn’t understand exactly how they functioned or how they depended on other organs. So, to explain the vitality of physical life, they thought of the heart and what they called the bowels (KJV) as the organs that made physical life possible.

According to Strong’s Concordance, the heart was the center of all physical and spiritual life; it was the home of the soul or mind, the fountain and seat of the thoughts, desires, affections, purposes, and the seat of intelligence, will and character.

Strong’s also points out that bowels were regarded by the Greeks as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews, as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion.

The heart is the most vital “spiritual organ” in the believer’s life: “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10

The apostle’s metaphor brings us to two important conclusions:

First, that our most vital spiritual organ must be protected at all cost. “Keep [guard] your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Second, righteousness is our spiritual body armor. Only God’s righteousness that comes by faith can protect us from spiritual attacks. The arrows, spears, and swords of the enemy cannot harm us when God’s righteousness guards our heart. “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;” Romans 3:21-22

Stay alert! Put on your armor! March on!

 

O God of Truth

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6

 [Love] “Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:6-7

O God Of Truth

Attributed to Ambrose of Milan;

born Aurelius Ambrosius, c. 340-397

O God of truth, Whose living Word

Upholds whate’er hath breath,

Look down on Thy creation, Lord,

Enslaved by sin and death.

Set up Thy standard, Lord, that we,

Who claim a heavenly birth,

May march with Thee to smite the lies

That vex Thy groaning earth.

Ah! would we join that blest array,

And follow in the might

Of Him, the Faithful and the True,

In raiment clean and white!

We fight for truth, we fight for God,

Poor slaves of lies and sin!

He who would fight for Thee on earth

Must first be true within.

Then, God of truth, for Whom we long,

Thou Who wilt hear our prayer,

Do Thine own battle in our hearts,

And slay the falsehood there.

Still smite; still burn; till naught is left

But God’s own truth and love;

Then, Lord, as morning dew come down,

Rest on us from above.

Yes, come: then, tried as in the fire,

From every lie set free,

Thy perfect truth shall dwell in us,

And we shall live in Thee.

The Belt of Truth

The Belt of Truth

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth…” Ephesians 6:14a (NKJV)

The Roman soldier girded his waist with what is called in Latin a balteus. This piece of equipment served three vital functions— practical, identifying, and ornamental. It was practical because when worn over a chain mail or solid breastplate, it helped relieve the heavy weight of the armor on the soldier’s shoulders. Rings on the belt kept the soldier’s dagger (pugio) within easy reach. Second, Roman law said that only soldiers could wear a balteus. It immediately identified them as soldiers because they were required to wear it at all times, even when not in uniform. Finally, the belt and the straps hanging in front displayed the metallic emblems, badges, seals, and tokens from the soldier’s various assignments, service accomplishments, and battle campaigns.

The Holy Spirit is the inward mark of the believer–He is bound to the Christian with a permanent seal that cannot be broken or removed. (II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30) The indwelling Holy Spirit is the source of all outward spiritual evidence (fruit).

Truth is one outward mark of the Christian—it is a daily emblem or badge to the world that we belong to Christ because the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) is in us. In the book of Ephesians, where the Apostle Paul speaks about the belt of truth, he also mentions how we are to walk like the new men that we are because we are saved. “…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up [mature] in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (4:15) “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’” (4:25) Like the balteus belts worn by Roman soldiers that identified them as military men, truth should be our characteristic mark wherever we go and whatever we do.

The Apostle John began his third epistle with an observation that nothing made him happier than knowing that his readers had God’s truth inside them (they were saved and the Holy Spirit of truth was in them) and that they were walking (living) in that truth. “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in [the] truth.” (III John 3-4)

As we put on our daily armor in preparation for battle, let’s purpose in our minds to make truth our outward identification and badge! “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…” (I Peter 1:13a) Especially in a day when truth is mocked and under attack, some might notice that our lives are identified by truth and ask us why that is. (I Peter 3:15)

Stay alert!   Grab your weapons!   March on!   SPEAK THE TRUTH!

 

 

Arm These Thy Soldiers, Mighty Lord

“The LORD is my strength…”

“Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them—the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts. You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for Your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 32:17-19

Sometimes we like to think that we are strong soldiers and trust in our armor to protect us, we look to our Might Lord to give us what we need for the battle. The inner strength to win the day is found only in God.

 

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

“The LORD God is my strength…” Habakkuk  3:19a

Arm These Thy Soldiers, Mighty Lord

By Christopher Wordsworth *

Arm these Thy soldiers, mighty Lord,

With shield of faith and Spirit’s sword.

Forth to the battle may they go

And boldly fight against the foe.

With banner of the cross unfurled,

They overcome the evil world

And so at last receive from Thee

The palm and crown of victory.

Come, ever blessed Spirit, come

And make Thy servants’ heart Thy home.

May each a living temple be

Hallowed forever, Lord, to Thee.

Enrich that temple’s holy shrine

With sevenfold gifts of grace divine;

With wisdom, light, and knowledge bless,

With counsel, strength, and godliness.

O Trinity in Unity,

One only God in Persons Three,

In whom, through whom, by whom, we live,

To Thee we praise and glory give.

Oh, grant us so to use Thy grace

That we may see Thy glorious face

And ever with the heavenly host

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

*  Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) – Wordsworth was vi­car at Stan­ford-in-the-Vale, Berk­shire, arch­dea­con of West­min­ster, and bishop of Lin­coln, England. A recognized Greek scho­lar, he wrote the­o­lo­gic­al and oth­er works. Of his hymns, he said, “It is the first duty of a hymn to teach sound doc­trine and thence to save souls.”

 

The Whole Armor of God

The Whole Armor of God

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  Ephesians 6:11-13 (NKJV)

Soldiers, this lesson is essential for our basic training in the use of our spiritual weapons—we must use the whole armor of God in our warfare!

This series will look at the spiritual weapons available to us to fight against our adversary: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8)

The term used by modern armies is “full-spectrum warfare” because it seeks to wisely draw from the full range of weapons available for a specific attack by the enemy. Our enemy is a wily, scheming, deceitful foe. We must make full use of the defensive and offensive arsenal which the Holy Spirit has already given us. It is He who will show us when and how to use those weapons.

 

Be alert! Grab your weapons! March on!

 

The Christian Warrior, See Him Stand!

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,” 1 Timothy 1:18

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Timothy 2:4

Soldiers, this battle hymn begins a new series on military metaphores in the New Testament. Our Christian life is portrayed by writers in the Bible as serious warfare for which we need to be prepared to fight at a moment’s notice. The soldiers in the picture above look tough and battle-ready, You and I should be spirituall tough too and ready to enter the fray!

I trust the exhortations in the next several weeks will encourage you.

The Christian Warrior, See Him Stand!

by James Montgomery *

Behold! the Christian warrior stand

In all the armor of his God;

The Spirit’s sword is in his hand;

His feet are with the Gospel shod;

In panoply of truth complete,

Salvation’s helmet on his head;

With righteousness a breastplate meet,

And faith’s broad shield before him spread.

He wrestles not with flesh and blood,

But principalities and powers,

Rulers of darkness, like a flood,

Nigh, and assailing at all hours.

Nor Satan’s fiery darts alone,

Quenched on his shield, at him are hurled;

The traitor in his heart is known,

And the dire friendship of this world.

Undaunted to the field he goes;

Yet vain were skill and valor there,

Unless, to foil his legion foes,

He takes the trustiest weapon: prayer.

With this omnipotence he moves,

From this the alien armies flee,

Till more than conqueror he proves,

Through Christ, who gives him victory.

Thus, strong in his Redeemer’s strength,

Sin, death, and hell he tramples down;

Fights the good fight, and wins at length,

Through mercy, an immortal crown.

* James Montgomery (1771–1854) – When Mont­gom­e­ry was five years old, his fa­mi­ly moved to the Mo­ra­vi­an set­tle­ment at Grace­hill, near Bal­ly­me­na, Coun­ty An­trim, Ireland. A trip to Lon­don years later, hop­ing to find a pub­lish­er for his youth­ful po­ems, end­ed in fail­ure. In 1792, he became an as­sist­ant to a Mr. Gales, auc­tion­eer, book­sell­er, and print­er of the Shef­field Re­gis­ter. After buying the paper, Montgomery edited it for 32 years. Dur­ing the following two years he was im­pris­oned twice, first for re­print­ing a song in com­mem­o­ra­tion of the fall of the Bas­tille, then for giv­ing an ac­count of a ri­ot in Shef­field. The ed­it­ing of his pa­per, the com­po­si­tion and pub­li­ca­tion of his po­ems and hymns, the de­liv­e­ry of lec­tures on po­e­try in Shef­field and at the Roy­al In­sti­tu­tion, Lon­don, and the ad­vo­ca­cy of for­eign mis­sions and the Bi­ble Soc­i­ety, gave him great va­ri­e­ty of material from which to write more than 400 hymns. In 1833, Mont­gom­e­ry re­ceived a roy­al pen­sion of £200 per year.

The Roman Praetorian Guard

“an ambassador in chains”                  Ephesians 6:20

…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:18-20

 

As we have seen in our study of Roman centurions, the New Testament mentions five centurions and points out the good qualities of four of them. Thus it would be wrong to say that all Roman soldiers were violent, cruel, crude, or without compassion. When it comes to Praetorian Guard soldiers, we need to separate their general historical reputation for ruthless brutality from individual soldiers we read about in the New Testament.

 

We know about the Pretorian Guard from secular Roman writings. They were an elite unit of several thousand soldiers headquartered in a castra or fortress in the middle of Rome. They were not “ordinary” Roman soldiers. They were like today’s SEAL/Delta Force chosen from among the bravest and most skilled warriors in the legions. Praetorians had a reputation in historical writings for being violent, corrupt, greedy, and immoral. They were also the Emperor’s closest bodyguards whom he used to enforce his decrees in Rome and surrounding areas. Their political power often exceeded that of the Emperor and not a few of Rome’s rulers were assassinated by their own bodyguards and replaced by men of the Praetorians’ choosing.

 

Accounts of Praetorians in the Book of Acts and the Epistles surprise us when they demonstrate the power of God at work in the hard hearts of Rome’s toughest soldiers. Centurion Julius, who escorted the Apostle Paul and other prisoners by ship to Rome, delivered Paul to the commander of the Praetorian cohort who assumed custody for the prisoners. Whether Julius recommended it or because Governor Felix commanded it, (Acts 27:43a; 24:23) Paul received favorable treatment from Praetorian soldiers during his two years of imprisonment. Paul had continuous contact with soldiers during those two years. He had his own living quarters and was allowed visitors. (28:16, 30) Secular historians (Tacitus, Seneca) describe how non-violent prisoners, in loose confinement and allowed to move around and have visitors, were chained to soldiers who took shifts so they knew the prisoner’s whereabouts at all times. Paul’s two years chained to guards under “house arrest” were very productive for the Gospel!

 

The Apostle Paul wrote four prison epistles while chained to a guard. Imagine being a tough soldier “forced” to listen to Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon as Paul wrote the inspired texts and possibly discussed them with his many visitors before sending copies to the recipients! Paul, God’s evangelist to the Gentiles, would have spoken freely and openly of the grace of God with any soldier so close to him. We know from two verses in Philippians that Paul’s time in prison was fruitful. People in unlikely places came to know Jesus as their Savior:

All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” (Philippians 1:13)

So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;”  (4:22)