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Belt of Truth, Ephesians 6:14 by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Mar 6


Raging Culture Wars

Amidst the raging culture wars, a profound struggle unfolds—the battle for truth. Reflecting on John 18:38, we find Pilate's jesting inquiry directed at Jesus, a seemingly rhetorical question, "What is truth?"


Presently in the United States, an intense conflict revolves around the very query Pilate posed to Jesus during his trial: "What is truth?" The focus has shifted from the definition of truth to an exploration of its origin. This is not a new battle!


Within modern culture, it has become commonplace to encounter expressions like "What is your truth?" This implies that truth is a subjective determination—something you personally define as "your truth."


Traditional sacred texts no longer retain their status as legitimate wellsprings of truth. Should one seek guidance from the pages of the Torah, Tanakh, or New Testament for fundamental life principles, they are often branded as contributing to the problem and afflicted with one of the numerous phobias disseminated through contemporary media channels.


There are many sides to the current cultural wars. On the religious sphere of the battle there is a scrimish between the "woke" proponents against the adherents of faith, often referred to as the "soldiers of the Lord."


Both factions command sizable volunteer forces, engaging in skirmishes across the nation. From urban centers to rural landscapes, the concept of "safe spaces" has eroded. It won't be long before the battle for truth compels everyone to forsake their comfortable sidelines.


Situation at Ephesus

During the period when the Apostle Paul composed his letter to the Ephesians, around 60-62 AD, Ephesus emerged as a city characterized by both liveliness and unrest. Set within the broader context of the Roman Empire, a diverse fusion of cultures encompassing Greeks, Romans, Jews, and others. Ephesus was marked by bustling trade and impressive architectural achievements like the esteemed Library of Celsus.


Ephesus had always been the epicenter for the worship of the goddess Artemis aka Diana aka Ishtar aka Astarte, the most famous and most worshiped Mother Goddess in the ancient world for over 1,000 years. She was a fertility goddess and is sculpted with many nourishing breasts cascading down to her abdomen. Many idols, large and small, of this ancient Mother figure have been found all over the Near and Middle East over the centuries. (1)


However, Paul's impassioned preaching had a striking impact. His message triggered a spiritual awakening that clashed with the city's deep-rooted devotion to Artemis. The nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts captures the clash of cultures Paul created in the city of Ephesus. Paul's promotion of a new “Way,” an early title for the emerging Christian faith, led to significant upheaval.


This cultural melting pot of cultural diversity found itself at a pivotal moment, navigating the transformative undercurrents of Paul's teachings while wrestling with the conflicting traditions centered around the multi-breasted depiction of Artemis.


The Assignment of the Soldier 6:10-14

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;


We are not just contending or struggling with people. Our fight isn't really with flesh and blood, relatives, coworkers, or the people at our house of prayer! Many times there is a spiritual dimension to our battle that we overlook (v. 12).


All soldiers are given orders or instructions to follow before they engage in battle. Paul offers the Ephesians three general orders to conquer the attacking army.


1.) Be strong in the Lord - don't try and do it in your own strength (v. 10).

2.) Put on the full armor of God - equip yourself with all of God's resources (v. 11)

3.) Stand in place - don't run or retreat . . . deal with the problem until you have defeated it (v. 14).


To better understand the armor God provides for the personal struggles we encounter in our daily lives; it will be necessary to explore the military use of each piece of equipment Paul describes.


Belt of Truth and the Tunic

All Roman soldiers wore a linen undergarment directly against their skin. The subsequent layer consisted of a one-piece woolen tunic. This "T" shaped garment was stitched together on both sides, featuring a top opening for the head. The sleeves extended to cover the elbows, while the bottom reached down to the knees.


In general, the tunic retained the natural color of the wool. If it underwent dyeing, it would turn red and be reserved for officers. Over the tunic, the soldiers would don a breastplate. Attached to the lower part of the breastplate was a thick leather belt adorned with multiple metal-studded straps, providing protection to the soldier's groin.


Military Significance of the Belt

Let's delve into the practical and strategic role of the soldier's belt, also known as the "baltea." This essential accessory served a multifaceted purpose within the military context.


The term "baltea" finds its origin in the Latin word "balteus," which translates to a girdle or belt. Crafted from durable leather, the baltea belt was skillfully fastened around the waist. Its primary function was to secure the soldier's tunic and provide a repository for various essentials, including crucial weapons like the sword and dagger.


Beyond its utilitarian aspects, the baltea belt played a pivotal role in the tactical maneuvers of the Roman army. Proficient in organized combat, Roman soldiers required quick access to their weaponry even while standing in tight formation. The baltea belt facilitated this by keeping weapons within arm's reach, allowing the army to promptly counter any threats and uphold their formation amidst adversarial advances.


Moreover, the baltea belt contributed significantly to safeguarding the soldier during combat scenarios. By encircling the waist, it furnished an extra layer of protection to this vulnerable area, particularly in close-quarters combat. The belt's robust leather composition effectively absorbed impacts, thereby mitigating the risk of injuries sustained by the soldier.


In addition, the baltea belt assumed the task of preventing hindrance caused by the loose tunic during confrontations with the enemy. It secured the breastplate firmly in place, while its design accommodated agile movements and vigorous activities.


By confining or cinching the tunic, the belt averted any impediments that could lead to stumbling. Notably, the lengthy leather straps hanging downward were deftly maneuvered between the groin area, securing the tunic steadfastly. These straps were then tucked into the rear portion of the belt, achieving a secure and practical arrangement.


Symbolic Significance of the Belt

Let's explore the additional layers of significance inherent in the baltea belt, extending beyond its utilitarian function. The belt carries profound symbolic meaning that holds instructional value.


Beyond its practical role, the baltea belt assumed a symbolic mantle of considerable importance. This accessory bore the weight of signifying a soldier's rank and standing within the army, with the specific belt type corresponding to the soldier's hierarchical position.


To illustrate, centurions, occupying a distinct rank, donned a distinct variant of the baltea belt, setting them apart from the common soldiers. Elevating the symbolic essence further, higher-ranking officers adorned their baltea belts with intricate brass emblems, visually underscoring their esteemed status.


The baltea belt transcended its material form to encompass ideals of honor and bravery. Soldiers who displayed exceptional performance on the battlefield were often bestowed with special baltea belts, an emblematic token of acknowledgment and distinction.


Moreover, the baltea belt held a pivotal role in the realm of religious ceremonies. Roman soldiers frequently offered their baltea belts to the gods, using this act as a tangible representation of their unwavering devotion. This practice was rooted in the belief that such offerings would usher in favorable fortune and extend protective blessings to the soldiers in the midst of battle.


Cultural Significance of Truth

As Paul observed his Roman capters during his first imprisonment (Acts 28:16-31), he sees the balteas of his jailers he exhorts the Ephesians to consider "truth" as their spiritual baltea. He uses the Greek word Aletheia.


Aletheia may be translated as truth, truthfulness, and sincerity not just in the moral sense. In Greek culture Aletheia "was synonymous with 'reality' as the opposite of illusion, i.e. fact" (1).


I realize this flies in the face of the culturally and politically correct language of today but Paul indicates, along with the Greek culture of his day, that "Aletheia" is not relative truth, "your truth" as you see and feel it, but there is an absolute!

Spiritual Application

The soldiers of the Lord can protect themselves from the lures and deceptive schemes of the enemy by remaining true to their convictions and moral compass.


In Ephesians 4:25 Paul exhorts the believers to put away all lying and falsehood. We cannot stand firm against the culture of this world without first being honest about our own moral bankruptcy.


Our truth has always been counter-cultural. We need to know what the truth of God's word says about our behavior. The truth will keep us from stumbling and the truth will set us free (John 8:31).


In the heat of temptation or personal struggles, we must stand firm on what the truth is. When we face ethical dilemmas in business or on the job we must allow truth to be our guide and not what is status quo. Remain true to God and be genuine. Avoid scheming and scamming your way through. Stick to your convictions.


There is a danger that Paul reports in his letter to the Romans - exchanging or changing the truth.


Exchanging of the Truth

The idea of changing or exchanging the truth for lies is a concept present in the Bible, specifically in the New Testament. This concept can be found in Romans 1:25 (KJV), which states:


"They changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen."


The Apostle Paul describes how society had spiritually drifted and morally degraded themselves by turning away from genuine worship of God in exchange for a lie. They have abandoned their understanding of the true God and instead embraced false beliefs and practices, often focused on self-centered devotion and what their truth is - swapping the truth for lies.


This act of turning away from the truth and embracing falsehoods is labeled as a "change" or an "exchange," signaling a shift to a conscious decision to abandon what was, in reality, true in favor of what is false or an illusion.


"Changing the truth for lies" can be interpreted as a metaphor for situations in which individuals or societies discard moral, ethical, or spiritual truths in favor of falsehoods, misunderstandings, or distorted beliefs.


It serves as a cautionary reminder about the perils of deviating from what is genuine, fair, and honorable.


Conclusion

The battle for truth is not a new battle. From a biblical perspective, truth is not "your truth" or "my truth." There are some principles that are plain black and white or in the Greek thought of Paul's day, "reality or fact" not some illusion someone has made out to be the truth because it aligns with their cultural, political, philosophical, or religious belief.


Where is this truth found? Truth is found in the Bible. For those aligned with the Lord's cause, you are not left defenseless. Paul's exhortation to "Put on the whole armor of God" ensures protection.


What is the first line of defense? The answer resounds: Truth. The Apostle Paul writes a pastoral letter while under house arrest to encourage the young gentile church to gird up their loins with the belt of truth. The truth was their faith. There is another question that we need to consider. Which army do you belong to?


References


(2) "Greek Lexicon: 225. ἀληθής." Bible Hub, biblehub.com/greek/225.htm. Accessed 28, August 2023.

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