By Martin Morrison
My brother who loves the Cape, lives in Stanford, on the other side of Hermanus. He hates going into Hermanus, because as he says, he hates cities! We are exact opposites! When I question him about the somewhat variable weather in the Cape, he answers by saying that in the Cape on average, one day is terrible, one day is half-half and one day is brilliant. The first two days are worth enduring for the sake of the third!
Paul reminds us that certain days are more evil than others, “Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm”, Ephesians 6:13. I think we can all testify that there are certain days when temptation seems much more intense than normal; certain days when the opposition we face from the world seems more extreme and painful than usual; certain days when our faith is tested, almost beyond endurance. It is in those days, when all we can do is stand. We are unable to move forward, we are unable to make progress. All we can do is stand. But at least we haven’t fallen; we haven’t drifted asleep; we haven’t gone backwards.
“Sometimes we feel like we should achieve some great goal, but what God wants is that we should simply endure. Three times Paul repeats the idea he has already introduced in Ephesians 6:11, namely stand, stand, stand. While Paul’s favourite metaphor for living the Christian life is “walk”, his picture for the Christian under trial is “stand”. David Seccombe.
What do we need to do in “the evil day”? We need to take up the whole armour of God. Let us look at the first two pieces of armour.
“Stand therefore. Having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breast-plate of righteousness”, Ephesians 6:14.
John Stott informs us that the Roman soldier’s belt was made of leather and normally belonged more to his underwear than his armour. Yet it was essential. It gathered his tunic together and also held his sword. It ensured that he was unimpeded when marching. In a sense it held the whole armour and clothing together. Without a belt, the entire wardrobe and armour fell apart!
The Christian soldier’s belt is “truth”. William Gurnall writes, “Some by truth mean a truth of doctrine; others will have it truth of heart; I think it comprises both, as one cannot do without the other”. So on the one hand, it refers to objective truth. Christian truth refers to the truth of the Gospel. The truth of the revelation of God in Christ in Scripture. The doctrinal truths of the Christian faith, without which there is no faith! This truth is the same as, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”, Jude 3; the same as “guard the good deposit entrusted to you”, 2 Timothy 1:14.
We live in a secular world that hates any form of claim to exclusive truth. Especially the exclusive claims of Christ. We should not be surprised nor buckle under the attacks. We should expose their sheer hypocrisy, as they claim that there is no absolute truth, except their statement that there is no absolute truth! If you depart from the absolute truths of the Gospel, in the end you will most certainly drift from Christ and how lost will you be without Christ! To my mind, there is no greater horror on planet earth, than to be God-forsaken, or Christ- forsaken! Any deviation from the truth of the Gospel can have far reaching, even eternal consequences.
On the other hand, it also refers to subjective truth, in the sense of sincerity or integrity. “You delight in truth in the inward being”, Psalm 51:6. “Speak the truth in love”, “Put away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with his neighbour”, Ephesians 4:15, 25. To be deceitful, to lapse into hypocrisy, to resort to intrigue and scheming, this is to play the devil’s game, and we shall not be able to beat him at his own game. What he abominates is transparent truth. He loves the darkness; light causes him to flee. For spiritual as for mental health honesty about oneself is indispensable. (John Stott)
Secondly, the breast-plate of righteousness. A heavily armed Roman soldier would wear a tough leather skirt to protect his waist and thighs, and leather and metal protection for his chest. These could withstand sword-cuts to the most exposed parts of the body.
As with the belt of truth, there seems to be both an objective and subjective aspect. Objectively, “righteousness” in Paul’s letters more often than not refer to “justification”. Justification is God’s gracious initiative in putting sinners right with himself through Christ. Certainly there is no greater spiritual protection than having a right standing with God. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, Romans 8:1. To have been justified by his grace through simple faith in Christ crucified, to be clothed with a righteousness which comes from Christ, is an essential defence against an accusing conscience and the slanderous attacks of the evil one. This is the Christian assurance of righteousness, that is, of a right relationship with God through Christ; it is a strong breastplate to protect us against Satanic accusations.
The objective righteousness will inevitably lead to a subjective righteousness, “… and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of god in true righteousness and holiness”, Ephesians 4:24. Objective, legal righteousness, will lead to subjective behavioural righteousness and holiness.
Not only should your life match your lip, but your life should match your legal standing!