Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:14c (cont.) “. . .with truth,. . .”
In addition to loving Scripture inwardly, Christian soldiers must live it outwardly. Embrace it first in the innermost self, and then portray it in outermost conduct. Thought must be consistent with deed, belief with behavior. A Christian whose loins are girt “with truth” is a thinking Bible and a walking Bible, one who ingests the written page and then fleshes it out in actions.
Such a one is able to live a sincere life of straightforward candor. Having integrity, he can risk transparency, “nothing concealed, nothing hollow, nothing false, nothing surface” (Vaughan, in BI). A believer anchored in the Word is genuine like Nathanael, in whom was no guile, no deceit (JN 1:47).
Truth must gain such mastery of our essence that it dominates our every deed. Willingly accept its guidance for every act of our lives. “Our minds are to be controlled by what God has spoken, not by what we think” (Ironside).
We need to confront the issue, do we accept the Bible as God’s Word, as the sole authority in all matters of faith and practice? We should. Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (JN 10:35). Paul said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 TM 3:16). The Bible is a divine book, God-breathed. The Holy Spirit breathed it into the writers, and wants to breathe it into the readers. He seeks us to make it part of us, but Satan tries to hinder the attempt.
Satan says Scripture is hard to understand, yet generations of American children learned to read using one of the most difficult translations of Scripture (King James Version). Satan says the Bible is archaic, insufficient for today’s complex problems, and instead of studying God’s relevant, helpful Word for themselves, many blindly let the disseminaters of such lies lead them astray.
For security and foundation, build life on the Word. Base your behavior on the Bible. “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” Position yourself on “the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture” (Gladstone).
Eph. 6:14d “. . .and having on the breastplate of righteousness;”
A “breastplate” (Gk, thoraxa) was a sleeveless metal piece which covered the thorax. Hammered to conform to the torso, a “thoraxa” protected the chest and abdomen, thereby securing the heart and other vital organs. The “thoraxa” staved off the fatal blow, the mortal wound, so that a soldier, if jabbed by a sword, spear, or arrow, might not be stricken down without chance of recovery.
Christian warriors have in their armor a “breastplate” which staves off the fatal blow. This protective plate is “righteousness,” which in this context refers to moral rectitude. “The breastplate of righteousness” is a life of outward purity. This is not self-righteousness, but rather the righteousness which God imputes to us and which works itself out in our daily conduct. The new birth gives a positional righteousness which produces a practical righteousness.
Our practice must rise to the level of our profession. Godly conduct is of paramount importance. To fail in deeds is to fail indeed. A person weak in leadership may make up for it by being strong in mercy. A weak teacher can compensate by having a strong gift of giving. Some shortages in a Christian’s life can be offset, but nothing can compensate for the lack of godly living.
With reckless abandon give yourself to the relentless pursuit of a holy life. A saint clothed in outward righteousness is impregnable, for the holy life protects. The benefits of “the breastplate of righteousness” are manifold.
First, “the breastplate of righteousness” enhances our spiritual union with Christ. It perpetuates the flow of spiritual empowerment. God can pardon sin, but cannot bless it. Sin leaves the sinner wide open to Satanic influence, for the Holy Spirit cannot empower someone in open evil. In the day of conflict, sin is a fatal wound, for it is the beginning, not the end, of temptation.
Yielding to temptation makes one vulnerable by opening the floodgate to other evils. Therefore, when we do sin, we must repent immediately. Otherwise, we leave the breast exposed by a gaping hole in the middle of our armor.
Any Christian who abides in unrepentant sin attracts more and worse wickedness. Sin multiplies sin; evil rouses evil. Not all sins should be blamed on Satan. Much evil is induced by our own outward disobedience. Satan preys on people whose lives and lips bespeak a huge flaw in their armor. The devil knocks over such people with a mere breath. “A habit of righteous conduct is itself a defence against temptation. Untilled fields bear abundant weeds. The used tool does not rust, nor the running water gather scum” (Maclaren).
Outward righteousness can save us much trouble. It captures the attention, plus musters the compassion and companionship, of good people, and at the same time discourages the advances of evil men. The wicked are less likely to tempt a person who is outwardly and obviously against what they practice.
To neglect any act of righteousness leaves a glaring hole in our armor. A woman on the make looks for a man who outwardly acts like things are bad at home. Jehovah’s Witnesses have had great success using Sunday morning visitation. They know that people who stay home on Sunday mornings are weak in the faith. They look for people with a hole in their outward profession.
Open, outward, straightforward godliness is a potent antidote to Satan’s poison. Jesus, due to His perfect life, could say Satan “hath nothing in me” (JN 14:30). Living a godly life leaves the devil no handle to grasp us easily by.
Second, “the breastplate of righteousness” makes the enemy tremble. The metal on a soldier’s breastplate was highly polished to reflect light. This dazzled eyes and struck terror in the enemy’s heart, as a classic writer noted:
Dressed in his glittering breastplate he appeared,
Frightful with scales of brass.
Outward righteousness makes the ungodly uneasy. It causes them to feel, as Luther said, the hound of heaven breathing down their neck. A person made conscious of their wrong melts into a coward. The presence of holiness makes a sinner uncomfortable. Adam hid from God. During Finney’s revivals, sinners would often flee when they saw the preacher approaching on the street.
Kent Hughes tells of a pro golfer who once played a round of golf with Billy Graham. The pro later told a friend in disgust, “I don’t need Billy Graham stuffing religion down my throat.” The pro unleashed a torrent of cursing as his neck turned crimson. The friend asked, “Was Billy a little rough on you out there?” The pro admitted, “No, he didn’t even mention religion.”
How can a person not say a word about God, Jesus, or religion, and yet be accused of ramming religion down someone’s throat? By being so identified with God, and exuding such moral righteousness, that one’s very presence stirs the conscience of a sinner who knows he is wrong.
Brothers and sisters, the lost are asleep in the arms of Satan. Let’s try to wake them up by crying out the Gospel message and by a dazzling “breastplate of righteousness.” Rattle their cages. Rescue the perishing from Hell.