NOTE: There is an updated and revised version of this study here: Putting on the Belt of Truth (Ephesians 6:14a)
It has been said that truth is stranger than fiction. Well, listen to the following true facts to see that this is the case.
Most animals don’t eat moss because it’s hard to digest and has little nutritional value. But reindeer fill up with lots of moss because it contains a special chemical which helps keep reindeer warm in the icy arctic temperatures. Moss, for the reindeer, acts like antifreeze in a car.
A lightning bolt generates a temperature five times hotter than the sun.
One cup of neutron star weighs about 480 million tons.
Maybe as some of you fill out your taxes, you might be interested to know that if you lived in Virginia 300 years ago, you could have paid your taxes with tobacco.
If you are scared of spiders, you will be happy to learn that you are more likely to be killed by a champagne cork than by a spider.
Here’s one I found for me: 1000 years ago, the Grand Vizier of Persia had to make a long journey. But he was an avid reader, and couldn’t stand the thought of being away from his books for so long. So, he had his 117,000 books loaded onto 400 camels, and had them trained to stay in alphabetical order as they followed him around.
Yes, some strange, but true, facts.
But probably, most of us, when we think about truth and fiction, want to be able to know the truth in areas that are more important than trivia. You want to know when your kids are telling the truth or not. You want to know when you’re being lied to at work. When you watch the news, or read about debating politicians, you want to know who is telling the truth. Maybe among your friends, people are spreading lies about you, and so you want your friends to know the truth. You want to know the truth about God, what He is like, what happens after death, what God’s requirements are for getting to heaven.
But the way things are today, there is so much fiction out there, and some of the truth is so strange, that it is frequently quite difficult to distinguish between truth and fiction. Part of this is due to the devil. A couple of weeks ago, in looking at Ephesians 6:11, and then last week, when we looked at Ephesians 6:12, we talked about the wiles of the devil. We saw that his main activity consists of telling lies and deceiving people into believing that what is false is actually true. Satan, as the father of lies, in one way or another, is behind all of this deception.
So it is with good reason today, as we turn to look at the spiritual armor which God has given for us to use in this spiritual war, that Paul begins his discussion with the belt of truth. With the very first piece of armor, he tells us that God has given us something to help us break through all the dark lies of Satan, and his deceptive twisting of the truth. And we find this item in Ephesians 6:14. Paul says there, stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth. In other words, having put around you the belt of truth.
Today we begin to look at the spiritual armor by talking about the belt of truth. And I want to do this in three ways. This will be the general pattern that we use for each piece of armor. With each piece of armor, we will look at how the soldiers in Paul’s day used that particular piece of armor, then how we are supposed to use it in our spiritual battle, and then finally, how we can put on this piece of spiritual armor.
So let’s begin first of all with what the belt was, and how the soldiers used it in Paul’s day.
A Belt for the Soldier
Obviously, you all know what a belt is, but to help us picture it on a soldier.The picture on the left is a drawing of two Roman soldiers all geared up in their armor. You see that they have the belt around their waist.
The picture on the right is of the actual belt. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the belt was about 6-8 inches wide, and was made of leather. You see it has a buckle just like our belts do, and it has the sheath for the dagger, and then it has these metal straps with metal disks that hang down in front of the man. I imagine these were for some sort of protection, but in all honesty, I can’t comprehend how they provided much in the way of protection.
After all, when we think of the armor of a soldier, we immediately think of the breastplate, which covered their vital organs. We think of the helmet which protected their head. We think of the shield which helped fend off the attacks of the enemy. Maybe we think of the sword, a vital part of the armor for defense and counter-attacks. But few of us ever think much about the…belt. I mean, come on, a belt? How important is that?
But curiously, in this list of spiritual armor here, Paul puts it very first on the list! Right at the top of the list. This means it is one of the most important pieces—yes, the belt! That is because, if you understand what it was for, you also understand why the belt was one of the key components to the soldier’s armor. Why? Because on a Roman soldier, the belt held everything in place. They had these big, baggy tunics which they wore under their armor, and the belt kept the tunic cinched in close.
In battle, if they had a longer tunic, they would take the four corners of the tunic, and fold it up underneath the belt to keep their legs free and to keep from getting tangled. This was called “girding up the loins.” In fact, here in Ephesians 6:14, probably the most literal translation of the verse would be “Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth.” We don’t use the word “loin” much, so just so you know, your loin is your thigh. But nobody wears their belt on their thigh. Paul, by phrasing the first piece of spiritual armor in this way, is referring to that practice of getting the robe up out of your way.
In fact, they still do this in countries in the Middle East where men wear robes instead of pants. When I was in India, most men wear pants, but a high percentage of men do wear robes. But when these men needed to run, or to do some sort of manual labor, they would bend over, take the back edge of their robe, and fold it up into the front of their belt. It was a quick and convenient way to turn a robe into a pair of shorts. I sometimes thought it looked like a baggy diaper…but the point was that it got the robe up out of the way, so that the person could run faster or work better without having the robe get in the way. So with this in mind, we can see why Paul, although talking about a belt which is worn around the waste, tells us to gird up the loins. He has in mind both the belt, and getting the robe out of the way for movement.
The belt also had other purposes beyond just girding up the loins. It also kept the breastplate tight and secure around the soldier, and kept it from banging against his chest when in battle, and the belt also held a sheath for his sword or dagger.
So if a soldier got rid of his belt, his breastplate wouldn’t be secure, his tunic would trip him up, his sword would drop to the ground. In short, he wouldn’t be much good in battle.
Because of all of these things, the belt was one of the most important pieces of the soldier’s armor. I am sure that if you asked almost any police officer today what the most important piece of their uniform is, most of them would say the belt. It carries the gun, extra bullets, their handcuffs, the radio, keys, a flashlight, the night stick or billy club, mace or pepper spray, if they carry it, and finally, a little holder for their doughnut…I’m just kidding about that last one…pastors probably eat more doughnuts than policemen. For soldiers and policemen, the belt is very important. And belts are important for the rest of us too.
When I was going to school in Chicago, I had a friend who was a security guard, and one day before class, he told me that the night before, he and a fellow guard had caught some hoodlum stealing from a car, so they started chasing him down the street. But this hoodlum was one of those who seemed to think it was cool to wear baggy pants and no belt. My friend said it was so funny. Here was this young man trying to carry stereo equipment with one hand, and hold up his pants with the other. Well, they ended up easily catching this guy, and they made some wisecracks to him about if he had just worn a belt, he might have been able to run faster.
Belts have always been and always will be important. They are important today to help keep our clothes fitting, they are vital for the policeman since they are his portable arsenal, they’re even vital for the carpenter—as a portable toolbox—and they were vital for the Roman soldier. The belt helped the soldiers keep the rest of the armor snug and tight around him. It helped keep his tunic from getting in the way.
So this is what Paul has in mind here in verse 14 when he calls us to put on the belt of truth. But why does he equate the belt with truth? What analogy between a belt and the truth is Paul trying to make? How is the belt of truth helpful for Christians who finds themselves in spiritual battle?
A Belt for the Christian
To talk about the belt for the Christian, let’s just take the way the soldiers used the belt and try to discover what similarities there are between it and truth. Paul says this is the belt of truth. Therefore, this first and vital piece of the armor for the Christian in spiritual warfare is truth. To stand strong in this battle, we must know the truth, and live by the truth. Only in this way will the rest of our armor stay on, and only in this way will we be protected in this battle. This is because the belt of the truth keeps the breastplate tight, it keeps the tunic up and out of your way so you don’t get tripped up or slowed down. It provides you with a place to keep your sword. Without truth, we are easily tripped up by Satan’s lies. Lies, no matter how big or how small, are the things that destroy lives and relationships and futures. One little lie was what Satan used in the garden of Eden to destroy the future of all mankind.
You cannot afford to have areas of deception in your life, just as, with a belt, you cannot afford to have a broken belt, or a belt with weaknesses. Truth, like a belt, to be effective, must be able to completely surround you—front, back, right and left, and must be strong enough to hold everything together.
So how do we do this? How can we put on the belt? Paul does say several times, after all, in the previous verses to put on the armor of God. So how do we as Christians, put on this first piece of the armor—the belt of truth? How do we know the truth and live by the truth?
Putting on the Belt
To understand how to put on the belt of truth, let me first just point out a few things. First of all, this belt of truth is God’s belt. In Isaiah 11:5, we read that righteousness will be the belt of God’s loins and faithfulness the belt of his waist. Paul, undoubtedly, was reading from the Greek translation of this verse, which says that truthfulness is the belt around God’s waist.
So we first need to understand that however we put on the belt, it is first of all not our belt. It is God’s belt. The truth that we are to surround ourselves with is God’s truth. And what is this? Simply put, God’s truth is the Bible. We are told in Psalm 119:160 that God’s Word is truth. Jesus says the same exact thing in John 17:17. In praying to God, He says, “Your Word is truth.” In Colossians 1:15, Paul calls the Bible—specifically the gospel message—the “word of truth.” Similarly in 2 Tim. 2:15, we are told as Christians to correctly handle the Bible as the Word of truth.
Here’s what it boils down to. If we want to put on this first piece of spiritual armor, we need to surround ourselves, dive into, dig into the Bible. In Proverbs 6:21-23, we are told by the wisest man who ever lived, that the good life comes from taking the truth of the Bible and binding it on our heart, tying it around our neck, think about it when we walk, when we sleep, when we wake up.
We put on the belt of truth by putting on the Word of God.
So in Paul’s picture here, putting on the belt is surrounding yourself with the Bible. This is done by reading the Bible. Listening to sermons from pastors and teachers who teach the Bible. Regularly and faithfully attending a church where the Bible is taught. Attending a Bible study. Memorizing passages from the Bible. Putting on the belt of truth is putting on the truth of the Bible. Getting it close by. Understanding what it says. Knowing what it teaches. Then, and only then, when you have put it on, will you be able to use it as a sword in battle.
Do you remember when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days? What did he use to defend himself? Satan came and told him to make bread from the stones because Jesus was hungry, told him to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple, told him to bow down to Satan, and Satan would give the world to him to rule. And Jesus, what did He say? “Hmm. Those are really good offers. Do you think it would be God’s will? Hmmm…maybe I’ll pray about it.”
No, what did Jesus do? He used Scripture. Three times for three temptations, he quotes passages out of the book of Deuteronomy. And He obviously could only quote those passages which he had memorized and which he knew. Putting on the belt is putting on the Word of God. Wrapping it around us. Cinching it tight. Getting it close. Tying things down. Getting our life under control so nothing is flapping loose.
“The reason many Christians today are ineffective in their Christian life and in spiritual warfare is because they have not committed themselves fully to the Word of God, which alone is sufficient to prepare them for every situation in life.” 
And it must be the Word of God alone. Too many Christians today are falling into the trap of mixing the Word with other forms of so-called “truth.” “Rather than taking the Bible alone, many people today are merging the divine viewpoints of the Bible with the human viewpoint of psychology or sociology or self-help techniques. They are trying to solve the problems in their lives [whether it’s health problem, marital problem, job problems, parenting problems—or whatever] not by Christ alone [and the Bible alone] but by Christ plus something else. [The Bible plus something else.]” 
You see, Satan has sought for centuries to destroy, undermine, or nullify the Word of God. But when the believer has the truth of the Bible around him, he will not fall prey to the wiles of the devil. 
As we put on the Belt of Truth as found in the Word of God, answers to many of life’s problems will be found. Do you want to learn about how to talk to God? Go to the Bible. Do you want to improve your marriage? Go to the Bible. Do you want to be a better parent? Go to the Bible. Do you want to get along better with others at your job? Go to the Bible. Do you want to know what will happen to you when you die? Do you want to know how to get to heaven? Go to the Bible.
The devil has set his trap. And everywhere, both inside and outside the church. He is like a fisherman, reeling in ignorant people, people who do not believe in teaching, people who prefer to have interesting stories and jokes, people who prefer the newest fad from psychology, people who prefer mostly music and feelings, and lights and action.
I read of a church that was trying to streamline it’s morning worship service, and so it had to get rid of something. It had the music, and the drama skits, and the fellowship time, and the prayer time, and the sermon. But it had to get rid of something, to shorten the service. So they took a poll, and guess what they got rid of? The sermon! Now very likely, a church that is willing to get rid of the sermon is not a church that is teaching the Word of God anyway, so it probably didn’t really matter. But the truth is that, without the Word of God, we’ve got nothing.
Without the Bible, we can’t know anything for sure about God, we can’t know about ourselves, we can’t know about heaven or how to get there. We wouldn’t know anything about Jesus. If the Word of God is not true, then there is no such thing as truth. And if, as a Christian, you are not putting on the Word of Truth, you might as well lay down and die right now. You might as well give it all up. You might as well become a Buddhist or a Muslim, or an Atheist. For without the Word of God, they’ve got just as much truth as we do.
You know what? All the troubles of the church today, and most of the troubles of the world today are completely due to a departure from the authority of the Bible.
Here is the ultimate question: Do we accept the Bible as the Word of God, as the only source of authority on all matters about which it speaks, or do we not? Is our whole thinking governed by Scripture, or do we come with our reason and pick and choose out of Scripture what we want, and reject the rest? The issue is crystal clear. Do we accept what God says as the truth, or do we trust in the latest New York Times best seller, or our favorite radio psychologist?
Paul has told us to put on the truth, and where can we go to find the truth if we cannot find it in the Bible? Either the Bible is your foundation, or you have no foundation. You either take all your authority from the Bible, or you have no authority at all.
Do you know where you stand? What you are fighting with? How to face the future? How to deal with temptation and face the devil, his deceptions and all the uncertainty in life today? Here is the only answer. Gird up your loins with the truth. Buckle the “Bible Belt” around you, so you can stand secure in the promises and truths it contains.
 Thomas Ice & Robert Dean, Overrun by Demons/the Church’s New Preoccupation With the Demonic (Eugene, OR: Harvest, 1990), 140.
 Charles Cunningham, Simple studies in Ephesians, 69.