There are many temptations to argue with others over scripture. To, in a way, turn Paul’s metaphor of the Full Armor of God (Eph 6:13-17) against one another. Literal and figurative wars have been waged over theological interpretations, each side declaring their side to be righteous and just. I was tempted to enter that battle this week when a Christ-following brother threw a fiery dart at others of the faith. But the Armor of God is not purposed to fight one another.
As a reminder, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13–17, NASB95)
The very first article of armor is perhaps the most mundane and yet the most important – Truth. Without truth, the other pieces are like plastic fakes or cosplay. Without truth, there is no righteousness, no good news of peace, no faith, no salvation, and no word of God.
That may seem a bold statement. But if we aren’t honest and truthful with ourselves about our sin, our need for a savior, our utter helplessness along with the truth of God’s reality, His grace, and the power of His word, then we have nothing to stand on.
The truth is we are not righteous; we are made righteous in Christ by His blood. Our cause isn’t righteous; our faith is in Christ’s righteousness. We don’t need to compete with each other over who is more righteous, moral, and virtuous. If we do, then “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6b).
Without truth, there is no Good News of Peace. If we don’t see our sin, our utter need for a savior, then there is no need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This requires us to look at ourselves with complete honesty and full reliance on the cross of Christ. We don’t march to win; we march to save and bring that good news to others.
Faith requires truth. Our trust is in the truthfulness of God’s revelation to humanity. Paul wrote, “May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That You may be justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.” (Romans 3:4, NASB95) Many see faith as a leap in the dark unknown. Our faith in Christ is a leap into the light of truth revealed in creation and God’s Word.
Our salvation requires truth. We don’t earn God’s favor; it is given as a gift for all who would receive it. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” (Ephesians 2:8, NASB95). Neither is salvation limited by our petty divisions, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:28–29, NASB95)
And lastly, yes, the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God itself – relies on truth. God’s Word is true. How we, in our weakness, interpret and apply God’s Word has been debated since the Garden of Eden. Paul likens the Word to a sword, a weapon designed and honed to cut, wound, and kill. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB95) God doesn’t give us a sword to cut down our human enemies, but to cut away chains, bondages, and every evil device. And that may hurt, but without it, there can be no healing. Yet, above all else, it must be wielded in truth. We must highly value the inner truthfulness of the Word, allowing it to pierce our own lives and remove our bondages as we employ it to free others.
The truth is that while truth sets us free, it can also wound us and others. Sometimes deeply. It challenges our prejudices, preconceptions, and assumptions. It reminds us of our failure and our sin. But truth also declares God’s forgiveness through the brutal reality of the crucifixion and the glory of the resurrection. Truth wounds and heals. It shames us and sets us free. Truth is often bitter yet also the sweetest thing we know. It knows no favorites yet rewards those who seek it.
We may profoundly wish that the Word of God said something else. That a particular sin isn’t evil rebellion or that eternal judgment doesn’t exist or that it doesn’t matter what someone believes – but none of those are true. Before we create a rigid system of law and Spirit-less hyper- literalism, we must also grant the grace of patience. Allow time to pass as the Holy Spirit molds, reveals, and perfects each other in our walk with Jesus Christ. Each step landing on the firm footing of truth.