Belt of Truth
With the flash of steel, the clash of armour and the dreadful finiteness of war, why would Paul start his “Armour of God” list with the humble belt. It’s not only the least impressive of the set, it’s the least likely to protect the wearer from any injury … at all.
It wasn’t even very useful.
So, what’s with the belt, and why did Paul hitch it to the quality of “Truth”?
Why a belt?
In the Ancient Near East, a belt was commonly used to tuck the flowing fabric of a robe or tunic out of the way for a fight, or hard work. In Genesis, 12:11 we read the Israelites were ordered to eat the Passover with their cloak tucked into their belts for a quick getaway.
Yet Paul was not referring to a common girdle, but rather the Legionnaire’s belt. On my quest to learn more, I found this post, citing Chris McNab, editor of The Roman Army, The Greatest War Machine in the Ancient World.
Apparently, cloaks and tunics worn by soldiers were no different to those worn by many civilians. And since armour was not worn all the time, the item that separated the Legionnaire from the rest of society was their belt.
And, just as soldiers today wear their decorations, awards and medals pinned over their chest, Roman soldiers attached their medals as silver and bronze pieces to the leather straps hanging at the front.
Paul’s “Armour of God” belt was not only a form of identification; it was a badge of honour for soldiers only.
Belt of Truth
Paul may have drawn inspiration for wrapping Truth in a belt from Isaiah.
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.Isaiah 11:5
“But where is the truth in that?” I hear you ask.
Read on and all will become clear.
What is truth?
Pilate is famous for, among other things, throwing out this profound question when presented with Christ and the challenge of what to do with Him.
Not surprisingly, this short question requires a robust answer. However, I shall do my best to abbreviate it and shine a spotlight on the main points.
Old Testament understanding of “Truth”
- The facts: something was either true or false
- An honourable characteristic: dependable, consistent, reliable. Often translated “faithfulness” (makes sense of the Isaiah quote)
A characteristic of God:
- Yahweh is the true God whose truth “reaches to the skies” and who “keeps truth for ever”
- He judges with truth and sends truth forth
- His word is true in that it is permanently established.
We find in the Old Testament higher honour was given to the characteristic of truth over factual truth. For example, the Israelite midwives who lied to Pharaoh, did so in order to be true to their God and for this they were honoured.
New Testament understanding of “Truth”
Whilst Greek thought was not aligned with Ancient Hebrew concepts, there were some understandings that overlapped. We see this in the first definition; character.
- Dependability, truthfulness, uprightness of character: of God and humanity alike
- An absolute; real and complete in contrast to false and lacking: the Christian faith, Christ and the Holy Spirit
- The genuine article rather than a fake or a copy: Jesus was the true tabernacle, the true bread, and the true vine.
Like Pilate, when confronted with the person of Christ, we are all challenged with the question, “What is truth?”
But it’s more.
We need to ask, “Who is truth?”
Our answers require action; to follow Jesus is to live by the truth … in action.
21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.John 3:21
And know the truth … in person.
32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”John 8:32
But in truth, truth is more than a what, a who, or even a set of rules. Truth is God, His word, His nature and His requirement of us.
Belt of Truth
As we put on the full armour of God we start with the Belt of Truth because truth/faithfulness, is the basis of our relationship with God. Or I should say, God’s relationship with us. Because whilst we stumble, He remains faithful.
Standing in God’s truth, we are identified as God’s children.
Standing on God’s truth, we stand firm. Because here the enemy cannot prevail.
5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.1 John 5:5
- Do you see a link between faithfulness and truth?
- How does the world identify God’s truth through you?
- How is this warfare?