The Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)

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By Benjamin I. Simpson
in Ephesians — Big Greek Idea Series

οὖν: The Greek word οὖν is a conjunction that means “therefore” or “consequently” (BDAG, s.v. “οὖν” 1b, p. 736). Syntactically, οὖν introduces an independent conjunctive clause: “therefore stand” (στῆτε οὖν). Semantically, οὖν is inferential: “therefore” (esv, rsv, nrsv, net, csb, hcsb, nasb, nkjv, kjv) or “then” (niv). The conjunction draws out the implications for Paul’s previous command. The believers should strengthen themselves so that they can withstand the attacks from the evil one (Hoehner, 837; Arnold, 451).

στῆτε: The Greek word στῆτε is a second-person plural aorist active imperative from the verb ἵστημι that means “to stand” or “resist” (BDAG, s.v. “ἵστημι” B4, p. 482). Syntactically, στῆτε functions as the main verb of the independent conjunctive clause introduced by οὖν. The subject is implied by the verb: “you,” referring to the Ephesian believers. Semantically, στῆτε is a constative aorist, describing the action as a whole: “stand” (esv, rsv, nrsv, csb, hcsb, nkjv, kjv) or “stand firm” (niv, net, nasb). The nlt offers a more interpretive translation: “stand your ground.” The aorist tense describes the action of the verb as a whole (W, 557–58). The aorist imperative gives the command a sense of urgency (W, 720). Paul uses a form of this verb three times in verses 11–13, each describing the purpose of the main verb: the believer is to be strengthened in order to withstand attacks from evil. At this point, “standing” becomes the main verbal idea (vv. 14–16). The following participles describe how the believer withstands these attacks.

περιζωσάμενοι: The Greek word περιζωσάμενοι is a masculine nominative plural aorist middle participle from the verb περιζώννυμι that means “to gird oneself.” The idea of “girding suggests preparation for some activity” (BDAG, s.v. “περιζώννυμι” 2c, p. 801). Syntactically, περιζωσάμενοι introduces a dependent participle clause. It functions adverbially, modifying the main verb: “stand” (στῆτε). The direct object is “your waist” (τὴν ὀσφὺν ὑμῶν). Semantically, Hoehner classifies this participle as expressing cause: “because you have girded your waist” (Hoehner, 838). But it probably best expresses means: “by girding your waist” (W, 629; Arnold, 451; Merkle, 214; cf. net). Since the participle modifies an imperative, the participle itself carries an imperatival notion. The prepositional phrase “with truth” expresses means.

Lexical Nugget: What does “truth” mean? The idea of “girding your waist with truth” is parallel to Isaiah 11:5: “and he will be girded around his waist with righteousness and truth” (καὶ ἔσται δικαιοσύνῃ ἐζωσμένος τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ). Even though there is no object in the Greek text, several English translations insert “belt,” such as the niv: “with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (cf. esv, nrsv, net, hcsb, csb, nlt). This is the first in a series of objects that describe the “full armor of God” (cf. v. 13). Truth is an important theme throughout the letter of Ephesians. Paul commands believers to put away falsehood and lead a life of truth (Eph. 4:25; cf. 5:9). But he can refer specifically to the gospel as “the word of truth” (Eph. 1:13). In Ephesians 4, he reminds the believers that they have learned the truth as it relates to “putting on the new self” (Eph. 4:21–24). He certainly has the broader meaning in mind, but he most likely refers to the more general idea of the gospel (Arnold, 452).

καί: The Greek word καί is a conjunction that means “and” (BDAG, s.v. “καί” 1bα, p. 494). Syntactically, καί introduces a dependent conjunctive clause: “and put on the breastplate of righteousness” (καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι τὸν θώρακα τῆς δικαιοσύνης). Semantically, καί is a coordinating connective: “and” (esv, rsv, nrsv, nasb). Because Paul gives several participles, each separated by καί, most English versions omit the conjunction (csb, hcsb, nasb, niv, net).

ἐνδυσάμενοι: The Greek word ἐνδυσάμενοι is a masculine nominative plural aorist middle participle from the verb ἐνδύω that means “to put on,” “wear,” or “clothe oneself” (BDAG, s.v. “ἐνδύω” 2a, p. 333). Syntactically, ἐνδυσάμενοι introduces a dependent participle clause. It functions adverbially, modifying the main verb “stand” (στῆτε; v. 14a). The direct object is “the breastplate of righteousness” (τὸν θώρακα τῆς δικαιοσύνης). Semantically, like the previous participle (vv. 14–16) it is best understood as a participle of means: “by putting on the breastplate of righteousness” (net). Since the participle modifies an imperative, it also carries an imperatival notion. Paul most likely draws this image from Isaiah 59:17, and the prophet’s description of a divine warrior “putting on righteousness as a breastplate” (καὶ ἐνεδύσατο δικαιοσύνην ὡς θώρακα). The concept of righteousness refers to the objective relationship between the believer and God. Because of Christ’s death, believers are righteous before God (cf. Rom. 3:21–24; 5:1). Paul most likely refers to a subjective understanding as well. Throughout the second part of the letter, he encourages believers to pursue righteousness as a response to what God has done (Witherington, 2007, 352; Schreiner, 2001, 304).

This post is adapted from Ephesians: An Exegetical Guide for Preaching and Teaching by Benjamin I. Simpson. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets.

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About Author

Benjamin I. Simpson is assistant professor of New Testament studies and associate dean at Dallas Theological Seminary. His other books include Jesus the God-Man.

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