The Epistle to the Ephesians
The Girdle Of Truth: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” In this way we are told there is a girdle called the “truth” which we ought to use. This is further impressed upon us by the Apostle Peter who says: “Gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Pet. 1:13). Thus we learn that the girdle is the truth, and the loins are the mind. Hence, the mind being controlled by the truth will not be open to the wiles of the evil one. Our Lord said, “Thy word is truth.” How necessary then it is that we read the Scriptures much, and in communion with God. In saying this it is not suggested that we should only read the Bible, but that we should not be diverted from it by anything. As to reading other books, we know that the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy as follows: “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13). Doubtless the parchments were Holy Writings which had their distinctive place in Paul’s sense of values; but being in custody and having an exceptional opportunity to read, he wanted the “books.”
We are living in a day when many are alarmed at the hurtful results from what is presented to the public in the “shows.” To this we might add that there is the danger that some who do not attend the shows may be hurt by the “listening in” process. But of late there has been quite an outcry against very hurtful literature being pressed upon the attention of the public, and even Christians may be affected thereby. Christians who read whatever comes to hand, thinking they can throw off at pleasure what offends, discover that this is not so easily done, and that remaining suggestions breed corruption. Our Lord pointed this out long ago when He said: “No man having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, the old is better” (Luke 5:39). He has acquired an appetite which he cannot get rid of “straightway.”
Thoughts are formed by reading, and if the literature is injurious and is persisted in, these thoughts will gradually be translated into actions; and the mind being reduced to slavery, the character becomes “as a gnarled crooked tree which none may straighten.” The tyranny over the will that finally enthrones itself has been pointed out often in alarming fashion. Donald Sage Mackay has written long ago in “The Religion of the Threshold,” that “Henry Drummond once told of a man who had gone to a London physician to consult about his eyes. The physician looked into the man’s eyes with a delicate ophthalmoscope, and then said quietly to the man: ‘My friend, you are practising a certain sin, and unless you give it up, in six months you will be blind.’ For a moment the man stood trembling in the agony of discovery, and then, turning to the sunlit window, he looked out and exclaimed: ‘Farewell, sweet light, farewell!’ “
Perhaps it may be said: Surely Christians do not need to be warned in this way! But let us answer most solemnly, and we trust in all humility: The flesh in the Christian is the same kind of flesh that is in the sinner, and unless we are walking in the Spirit and not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, we are in danger. Let us therefore heed the wise apostolic counsel: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” Where girded loins and practical sanctification by the truth is ignored, the very alert rulers “of the darkness of this world” will ensnare the unwary.
The Breastplate: We are to put on the “breastplate of righteousness.” Those who know that Christ is their only righteousness before God, are called upon to ways of righteousness in every-day behaviour. It is imperative that they realize that ways unlike the ways of God with them are unrighteous. This may assume many forms. The absence of grace and the exercise of harshness is an exhibition of unrighteousness that reveals insensibility to the grace that forgave “ten thousand talents.” The absence of truthfulness indicates unrighteousness on the part of those who believe that at the cross “mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psa. 85:10). These and other forms of unrighteousness need to be avoided or “the wiles of the devil” will ensnare us into a condition of cowardice unfitting us for heavenly warfare. If what is not right is regarded in the heart, God will not heed our prayers (Psa. 66:18). And we shall become aware that we have no breastplate upon us, and are unable to make a stand before the enemy. Such will not stand in the evil day but will be in retreat, they will be “slackers” and not good soldiers, their mouths will be closed as witnesses for Christ. So well aware was the Apostle of such possibilities that he told his examiners and accusers before the Roman governor Felix: “I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward man” (Acts 24:16).
Shoes: “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” This is further equipment to frustrate every device of Satan to weaken our testimony to God by a walk with unshod feet. We remember how Moses speaking for Jehovah said: “I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy feet” (Dent. 29:5). And if this was true literally in the provision for Israel traversing the wilderness and the flinty rock, we may be sure that the spiritual shoes for the warriors of the cross will never wax “old” upon their feet. The need for such care may be illustrated from natural life. An athlete will tell an intimate friend: “I’m slipping, my feet are going back on me!” Large employers of men are known to employ a chiropodist to take care of the feet of their salesmen, believing that in certain positions “a salesman is only as good as his feet.” Similarly, speaking to us in our own language, God reminds us that we cannot wage a good fight unless we are well shod, even with “the preparation of the gospel of peace.” For the peace resulting from the reception of the gospel, the delight in God which accompanies it, gives buoyancy to the movements of the Christian, and often attracts to Christ those who wander in darkness. A deep sense of the grace of God, and the peace that accompanies this, is something that baffles the evil one in his attempts to seduce from the path of righteousness.
Shield. Helmet. Sword. “Above all (over all) taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked.” Even after considerable care in donning armor, one might overlook the defense of some part that remains exposed, and at which the evil one might hurl fiery darts. He might put evil thoughts into the mind, suggesting doubt as to the goodness of God in permitting certain happenings. But “faith” takes everything which God permits directly from Him and not from the instrument active in the matter. Did not the Lord say to Smyrna: “Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). The Lord knew what the devil was about to do, and permitted it in His inscrutable wisdom, but limited it to “ten days.” He was in control of the situation. In the meantime He encouraged those whom He loved, by reminding them that they would “not be hurt of the second death,” the terrible “hurt” awaiting the resisters of the gospel for which the Christians suffered. With the shield of faith these good soldiers of Jesus Christ were enabled to pray for their enemies and suffer death. They were unvulnerable to fiery darts.
“Take the helmet of salavation.” Those who put on this helmet experience the blessedness of these words: “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (2:5, 6). And again: This Man … “is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:24, 25). Such have an every-day salvation from the flesh, the devil, and the world. This forms an helmet that enables them to hold up their heads in battle and make the right moves, never losing what one has called “presense of mind.” A deep sense of saving grace gives confidence, and as delivered from this present evil world, they are enabled to maintain their heavenly position.
“Take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” It has often been said that this is the only offensive weapon furnished in this conflict. The expression “the sword of the Spirit, which it the Word of God,” suggests not so much the canon of Scripture as such, but the special word for the occasion, translated by one: “The saying of God,” which proves to be conclusive in wrestling with wicked spirits; so that one who had been a defender becomes an assailant. In this war victories have been gained by opportune use of the Scriptures through the Spirit’s application to the situation involved. As an example: It is told of Robert Moffat, missionary in Africa, who was to preach in the kitchen of a Boer (where the farmer’s wife and six grown children sat), asked: “When are the working people coming in?” “What,” replied the farmer, “you don’t mean the Hottentots… you might as well preach to those dogs under the table!” But Moffat read, “Yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table!” (Matt. 15:27). This proved to be the sword of the Spirit in action. For now a crowd of blacks thronged the kitchen and heard the blessed word of God from the lips of Moffat.