Check Your Panoply
THE PANOPLY OF GOD as described in Ephesians 6:10-17, consists of various parts which we have either to put on or to receive. The first part of our spiritual suit of armor is the girdle of truth, according to the apostle’s exhortation, “Stand, then, girded about your loins with truth!” This reminds us of a similar appeal which our Lord Jesus once pronounced during His earthly ministry: “It ever you should be remaining in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will be making you free” (John 8:31,32). Though these words were spoken to believing Jews, the fact still stands today that it is truth alone which can liberate mankind; everyone who harbors delusions is in bondage, and is caught in a net from which truth alone can free him. When Paul exhorts us to pray for all mankind, for kings and all those in a superior station, he does so because God wills that all mankind be saved and come to a realization of the truth (1 Tim.2:1-4).
All saints have a measure of truth. At least they believe that Christ died for their sakes while they were still sinners, even though they may not see that they are justified in His blood, and will be saved from God’s indignation (Rom.5:8,9; 1 Thess.1-10;5:9).
BE CONCILIATED TO GOD!
The most important truth for today is God’s present attitude toward mankind. Only those who have peace with God are reconciled to Him; nevertheless God is conciliated to all mankind. The estrangement between man and his Creator is a one-sided enmity. It is all on man’s side. God is not at war with mankind at all. This glorious truth, however, is denied by most of those who seek to preach the gospel; they usually picture Him as a distant and angry god, who must be sought, who must be implored, who must be entreated for the smallest favor! It is this distorted gospel which conceals the grace God displays in seeking and beseeching the sinner to be conciliated to Him. We find this glorious truth in 2 Corinthians 5:20,21, “For Christ, then, are we ambassadors, as of God entreating through us. We are beseeching: ‘For Christ’s sake be conciliated to God!’”
GROWN UP WITH ERROR
Since Paul’s day, apparently no one has been free from all error, be it ever so small. Hence most of the saints harbor a measure of error. Many are ardently seeking the truth; but even among these there are quite a few who run from the truth when it is presented to them. They fear truth while they are professing to love it. To them truth is the belief that is in vogue in the Christian world into which they were born. Their associations and affections are closely allied with their inherited beliefs which have shaped their habits of thought. Thus, the beliefs with which we have grown up have become part of our lives. This is why Paul sets up the following rule when dealing with error among the saints: “Now a slave of the Lord must not be fighting, but be gentle toward all, apt to teach, bearing with evil, with meekness training those who are antagonizing. For at some time God may be giving them repentance to come into a realization of the truth. And they will be sobering up out of the trap of the Adversary, having been caught alive by him, for that one’s will” (2 Tim.2: 24-26).
KNOW THE TRUTH AND REMAIN IN IT!
Only the truth can make free those who are caught in some kind of “trap.” But, by the word of the Lord they have not only to know the truth, but must remain in it as well. This is the idea which Paul has in mind when he exhorts the readers of the Ephesian circular letter, “Stand, then, girded about your loins with truth!”
Hence there is nothing fundamentally new in the apostle’s appeal, since Jesus had also expected His audience to remain in His word in order to know the truth. The difference lies in the aspect of truth that is under consideration. As we shall see, Paul could have concluded his letters to the Thessalonians, or his epistle to the Romans with much the same exhortation that we find in Ephesians 6:14a.
The apostle wanted his brethren to know that the dead in Christ shall be rising first and that we, the living, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess.4:13-18). In addition, Paul wanted the Thessalonians to remain in this knowledge. He wrote them, “Stand firm, and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether through word or through our epistle” (2 Thess.2:15). He might just as well have said, “Stand, then, girded about your loins with the truth which you were taught up to now!” In their case, truth would have pertained to everything they had learned from Paul up to that time, be it through the apostle’s word or his letters.
It is generally accepted that Romans was written a few years later than the early epistles to the Thessalonians. It brings out the fundamental facts of justification, conciliation, and God’s sovereignty. These truths are so important for the saints that Paul refers to them as the teaching which they learned (Rom.16:17). The brethren in Rome were not supposed to simply read the letter addressed to them and thus know what it said, but rather they were to learn the teaching contained therein and thus remain in it. The apostle might also have written them, saying, “Stand, then, girded about your loins with the truths you have learned up to now!”
Again a few years passed before Paul wrote the circular letter to his ecclesias, which is now known as the epistle to the Ephesians. Ephesians was written when the apostle was no longer able to travel around and visit the brethren and talk to them, for he was held as a prisoner in Rome. In this circular letter he revealed what had previously been kept a secret; namely, that, in spirit, the Jewish believers and those out of the nations were to be joint enjoyers of the same celestial allotment, and form a joint body, and become joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.
What once pertained to those living in Paul’s day, pertains to us as well: God wants us to enjoy our celestial allotment now, and be aware that, in spirit, we are seated together in the celestial realm at God’s right hand, in Christ Jesus, since He knows that such an awareness of our celestial status will re-orientate our outlook toward things on the earth. But the powers of darkness are alert, never ceasing in their efforts to drag us down from the realization of our celestial status. Hence the exhortation is most appropriate today: “Stand, then, girded about your loins with truth!” Or, in other words, “You need to know the Word of God, and especially the latest truth, and remain in it!”
THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH
When we discussed Paul’s prayer with a promise (Col.1:9- 11), and the divine sequence of requests which Paul includes, we were impressed by the fact that the apostle first asked for the realization of God’s will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Only then did he plead that the saints walk worthily of the Lord, and bear fruit in every good work.
Now we have a similar sequence in Ephesians 6:14; we are required to know the truth, before we are enabled to act accordingly and thus walk in all goodness and righteousness and truth, as Paul puts it earlier in his letter (5:9). Everything pertaining to such a walk (which includes speaking the truth, and putting off lies, 4:25) is expressed by the fine figure of the “cuirass of righteousness” which, the Lord willing, will be discussed at a later occasion.
Hence the figure of girding the loins stands for the knowledge of the truth. That nothing else is in view here, may be gathered from the following quotation from UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, volume XXVI (excerpts from pages 116-120):
“In order to enable us to understand the part we play in our warfare with spirit hosts, we are compared to a warrior of ancient times clad in a full suit of armor. Each part represents some aspect of our spiritual defense. As a matter of fact, we are protected by truth (Eph.6:14), and righteousness (v.14), and fended by faith (v.16). But how much more vivid to represent these by the figures of the girdle, the cuirass, the shield! Still more graphic is the thought that we have a complete suit of armor, a panoply, which covers us from head to foot, in our conflict with the spirit world.
“Truth gives strength, stability. Hence the fine figure, girded about your loins with truth. Here is the weakness of the saints today. The powers of darkness have succeeded in covering up the truth, and substituting error. With the book of God in their hands, His people cannot find the truth. Much of what passes as truth must be false, for it is both denied and defended by multitudes who should bind it about their loins. Satan’s subtle strategy is apparent when those who ought to oppose him, gird themselves with his lies, and find themselves faint in facing his attacks.
“Most of the saints hold that man is sovereign in the realm of his will and that God is forced to accept his choice. This is no girdle at all. It gives no strength to meet the powers of darkness. It is weakness. The sovereignty of God, however, is strengthening. What a sustaining girdle is found in the great truth that God is able to consummate His original intention with the aid of creature opposition, and will reconcile all to Himself when the eons end!
“Truth is one. We should be clear on all truth. Yet the special strengthener for those engaged in this celestial warfare is the truth contained in the Ephesian letter; it is the only safeguard against the stratagems of our wily Adversary! Strength to stand depends much upon our knowledge of the celestial allotment we are defending. Few of the Lord’s soldiers know where to stand. They hardly realize that they have aught to defend. Not having this vital and fundamental knowledge, how can they stand firm? Hence few are fixed. The allotment has almost been relinquished. There is need today for a bugle blast to recall the soldiers of Christ to their stations on the celestial allotment which the powers of darkness have taken from them.”
GOD’S POWER OPERATING IN US
It is God Who operates in us to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight (Phil.2:13). This divine declaration should always be kept in mind when we consider the keywords on the chart of the panoply, as given in a former article in this series, in volume LI, on page 228. For our celestial strife, God wants us to be invigorated in the Lord and in the might of His strength. Hence, we are exhorted to put on the panoply of God, beginning with the girdle of truth. Let us never forget that truth is not made by man. All truths are of God and are divine. Man may discover truth, yet, even then he may ignore it. We, however, as members of Christ’s body, with a celestial status, are supposed to know the truth and remain in it.
In addition, let us never forget that man, by his own power, is not able to remain in the truth; he can only cooperate with the Lord with a view toward a permanent knowledge of it. Cooperation on our part means to constantly hear, or read and remember, what God has said. And a special spiritual revelation is required in order to understand the Ephesian secret and be aware of our celestial status; this is the new truth which is added to the others in Paul’s earlier epistles. But such a revelation will be ours only as long as we pray for it along the lines indicated in Ephesians 1:15-23.
This has been fully discussed in the article “Praying for a Spirit” (UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, Volume XXI, pages 179-192) which we highly recommend for intensive study. It may help us to grasp, in some degree, what is the transcendent greatness of God’s power for us who are believing. During this secret administration of grace (Eph.3:3a,9) this tremendous power is operating in us and for us; it is the same as the mighty strength which operated in Christ, and roused Him from among the dead, and seated Him among the celestials, at God’s right hand. This power does the same for us today, in spirit!
Now to God, Who is able to do superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending, according to the transcendent greatness of His power that is operating in us, to Him be glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus!
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