GNB 2.92

April 20, 2023


Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you. There you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (Revelation 2.10)


Yesterday, I reflected on a connection, merely for our instruction and construction, between “putting on the belt of truth and keeping it in place” with the charge of Christ to the Ephesian faith community which said “return to your first love.” I indentified that “first love” as that season in life when we first came to know and accept publicly Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and profess Him as our only Lord and Savior who lived, died and was resurrected affirming we who believe in Him and on Him might not die but have eternal life. It would seem that the entire Ephesian community of faith had forgotten when they first became that Christ-following community and what it meant, felt like and compelled them to be and to do. As time passed, and undoubtedly it wasn’t a long time since Paul was writing to them and had brought that community into being possibly within a decade, they forgot the awe and wonder of being one with Christ and as well as the joy of their salvation through Christ. I have no doubt their heart and soul was in the right place as they became more pharisaical in their faith implementation. Paul would have certainly been able to relate to that himself. He would have also related to the danger of such an attitude as it displaced him from the truth which only God can reveal. I would suggest their zeal had transformed to “be like us” with a “do as I say and not as I do attitude.” It had transformed from “be like Christ” with a “do as He says and did attitude.” I believe you can easily discern the difference between the two. I also believe that when confronted with that truth you are able, as I am for myself, to hold accountable your thoughts and actions. The paradigm of “our” truth has “us” on one end and “Jesus” on the other. Where do we fall? Or have we, like the Ephesians, fallen back loosening the belt of truth we had first cinched up as we took to the world with intensity and integrity for the cause of Christ?

Today, I invite you to consider the “word” given to the Smyrna community of faith and the suggested alignment with “putting the breastplate of righteousness in place.” In place did not mean “set to the side” or “hung over the mantle like a treasure.” In place means “put on over your chest so as to protect the vital organs, especially the heart.” If we turn back to read the way the High Priest was clothed, we would hear about the Urim and Thumim. I doubt you have ever heard much taught or preached about those two articles. There is much debate as to what kind of articles they were or what they were made of. Some have suggested they were parchments on which were scribed discerning truths in order to determine the authenticity of prophecy and the utterances of God in spiritual language. In human form, without the Holy Spirit, who would be able to make such determinations with accuracy and boldness? They were “hidden” in the breastplace of righteousness. So, it would seem that keeping “the breastplate of righteousness” in place not only protected one from harm in a literal battle but from making a serious spiritual error when representing God before the people and the people before God. Of course, Jesus was able to do this and do so perfectly. Paul writes to the “Hebrews,” those Jews from any and all nations who had become Christ followers, of Jesus being the culmination of the line of Melchizadek. Melchizadek was the King of Salem (later Ur-Salem or now known as Jerusalem). He was also the High Priest of Salem and the people under his supervision. He ruled both flesh and spirit under the guidance and authority of God. Yes, that means he preceded Abraham in coming to the Promised Land. His place there would be the confirmation of Abraham’s faith and God’s provision. As good as Melchizadek was, however, Jesus was better. He was “without sin, blameless and whole.” He gave His life as a sacrifice for all. He gave His all as a sacrifice for us. He was the perfect priest who laid down His life in love for God and humanity. He offered no other sacrifice to effect salvation by grace, mercy and faith. He was able to enter into the inner sanctuary of God and live. In doing so, He represents us personally before God and is our intercessor by personal experience. We, who are believers, share a same Spirit, a same baptism, a same faith, a same hope, a same truth and a same purpose: to bring glory and honor to God by being His people in spirit and in truth.

Keep that “representation” idea in mind as we turn to the Smyrna community of faith. In Revelation 2. 8-11, we hear of that community under fire. They are being called into accountability accused of falsehoods by those who say “I am Jewish and therefore I know what is true and what you should do to be real followers of the Messiah.” The falsehoods would be that the believers were not following the “rules and regulations” of Judaism. We heard of such thinking from the Gospel of the Church: The Acts of the Apostles, at the council in Jerusalem where Paul went to defend his calling to minister to the Gentiles. The debate was about dietary laws and circumcision. I have little doubt there were other caveats discussed as well because everyone has “an issue,” but these were the two overarching concerns. Even today we can see such “radicalism” in the Church as to what is “necessary behavior” to be a Christian as far as life practices. We hear this continuing debate which raged in the 19th century American frontier church movement as to “essentials and non-essentials.” One such debate was over the playing of musical instruments within the church building for worship or not. There were many other such debates. The conclusion was “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty and in all things charity.” Another word for charity is love. Where else does love come from, as we would say, but from the heart. The heart would be protected by the breastplate of righteousness in which “the Word of God,” like the Urim and Thumim, would be hidden. It is the Word of God which stands as the evidence and the defender of the innocence of the believer. Refer to Psalm 119.11 to make the point, “The word of God I will hide in my heart that I might not sin against Him.” Of course, if the “breastplate of righteousness” is not in place then the heart is exposed to all kinds of information which can permeate, infiltrate, dilute, pollute and turn what is living into stone-cold death. Little wonder why there is such division and derision in the world today. Somehow the word never made it to “the sticking place” of our hearts. We have forgotten that in faith we are a priesthood of all believers following after the line of Christ.

And what does Christ say to those in Smyrna but to hold fast to their faith. Keep it “close to the vest” we might say today. They would be accused in the court of Satan and thrown into prison for their faithfulness to Christ over against faithfulness to those “who call themselves Jews but are not.” They might be defenders of the faith but it was not a faith which Christ proposed, promoted and established with His own life. Those in Smyrna were promised that if they kept the faith, even to the point of death, they would receive life as the victor’s crown. Do not think here that they were receiving a crown to wear on their head. Rather, they were receiving life which would be hidden in their heart. It would beat for Christ alone. He is the cornerstone of their faith and ours. He is the solid rock on which we stand, the “stone which the builders, the Jews, rejected.” While they may stand accused in the court of humanity, they will stand affirmed in the courts of the Almighty. Let those with eyes to see- perceive. Let those with ears to hear- listen for understanding. Let those with a heart for life- stand firm and live!


Thank You, Father, for loving us in the Son of Man and God. Thank You for showing us so great a love as that so we, too, might walk in its light of truth and find our lives bounded as with a belt of truth and protected by the breastplate of righteousness. We go now into our spheres of influence girded with truth and fitted for service to bring the word to others and glory to You in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

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