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The second piece of our spiritual armor is the breastplate of righteousness.
Ephesians 6:14 – Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.
The first thing we notice is the timing. In the first three pieces of the armor (belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness and shoes of the gospel), the verb is expressed having girded…having put on…having shod. The implication is that these are on our “body” at all times. Before we ever enter a particular spiritual battle, we have already prepared by wrapping our life in the truth, protecting our heart with righteousness, and are walking in the gospel.
I do not want to give you with the impression that our armor is something which exists outside of us, or something we simply choose to put on and put off, or that it is something we ourselves create or do as in a checklist. To me, the armor of God is simply Paul’s way of expressing what the Christian life looks like. He is giving us a visual of what already exists, what is already ours in Christ, so that we can effectively and faithfully walk out our spiritual journey. He is bringing awareness, not giving us a to do list. He is taking things that are intangible, spiritual, and immaterial and personifying them so that we can get our minds around what God has already provided for us, so that the power of God becomes operational in our life. He is helping us to see how the life of Christ indwells us, working in and through us.
Every believer is already empowered with the armor of God. God is truth, and He indwells us. He is righteousness, and He indwells us. We are standing in the gospel which we heard and believed. God has given us faith to believe, and has already provided salvation to us. The Spirit already indwells us. The Word of God is Christ, who indwells us. Our role in spiritual warfare is simply to live out in obedience to what God has already done.
As we have seen, an obedient follower of Christ is a truthful follower, and lives his/her life by the truth of God. When a spiritual battle comes, we seek truth from scripture and align our actions, emotions, thoughts, and will with that truth.
So, let’s take a look at the breastplate of righteousness.
Righteousness [dikaiosynē] (Strongs 1343) is defined broadly as the state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God. It is the essence, or fulfillment, of that which is right or just. Righteousness is conformity to the claims of a higher authority and stands in opposition to lawlessness.
For the believer, God defines the standard of righteousness to which we are held. It is conformity to all that He commands or appoints.
There are two types of righteousnessin scripture:
· Imputed righteousness is what we obtain in salvation: Christ’s righteousness in exchange for our sin. Imputed righteousness speaks of being right: our position in Christ.
· Imparted righteousness is the practical application of Christ’s righteousness in our life. It is the effect that His imputed righteousness has on us. Imparted righteousness speaks of doing right: our practice of the Christ-life.
Here are two passages of scripture that teach us about the righteousness that God has imputed to us.
2 Corinthians 5:21 – He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Romans 3:21-26 – But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
God exchanged our sin for Christ’s righteousness. The death of Christ paid our sin debt, and He became our propitiation, a big word that means He satisfied God’s wrath in our place. God did not simply “forget” our sins. Our sins are paid for. They were placed on Christ, and in return, we received the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
This is the first aspect of righteousness that we must remember: we have the righteousness of Christ, if we have believed on Him and surrendered our life to Him in salvation.
So how do we experience the imparted righteousness of Christ?
1 John 3:7-10 – Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious; anyone who does not practice righteous is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
The word practices(Strongs 4160) [poieō] means to do, expressing an action as continued or not yet completed, what one does repeatedly, habitually, like prasso, to practice. All uses in the verses above are present tense in the Greek, which indicates continuing action. This is not referring to a “once in a while” sin, but a way of life. We all will occasionally sin because we are human beings, transformed souls living in a fleshly, natural body that has not yet been redeemed. But the child of God practices righteousness; it is our way of life, our habit, as opposed to a person whose way of life is habitual sin.
Who we are (righteous in Christ) becomes what we do (righteous behavior).
So how do we “put on” this breastplate of righteousness?
Paul tells us in the same letter to the Ephesians which describes the armor of God:
Ephesians 4:23-24 – …and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Ephesians 5:8-9 – …for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Light consist in all goodness and righteousness and truth.)
We put on righteousness by allowing God to renew our minds, putting on the new self, and walking as children of light. Daily, moment by moment, we choose to obey God. We do the right thing, and the right thing is always found in the Word of God.
How does righteousness help the child of God in spiritual warfare?
Revelation 12:10 – Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.
Our enemy is an accuser. One of his tactics is to bring to mind sin from our past, remind us of our failures, stir up our insecurities. All of these attacks are through the mind, and aimed at our emotions. The breastplate of righteousness covers our heart – our inner being from which all of our affections, will, emotions rise.
When we sin, as a believer, we accept by faith that that sin has already been paid for by Christ – He paid the penalty of sin for us on the cross. We must repair the broken relationship between ourselves and God through confession, because we love Him and we want nothing to hinder our communion with Him, but we cannotbe separated from Him. From God’s perspective, our position of righteous is secure, because we have been given Christ’s righteousness. We are secure in our salvation; accepting that we are righteous in Christ even if we sin gives us assurance and confidence and ammunition to extinguish those thoughts our enemy would send our way to distract or discourage us.
By striving to walk in righteousness, renewing our mind, putting on the new self, we grow stronger and stronger in faith, and we give no ammunition to our enemy to torment us with distracting or discouraging thoughts. He has nothing to accuse us for, even if we do sin, because we are covered with the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness!
Just a few last thoughts, as I considered the physical construction of the breastplate of armor on the Roman soldier.
The breastplate was the piece of armor which covered the body from the neck to the thighs. It consisted of two parts, one covering the front and the other the back. God’s righteousness covers us completely. He has dealt with our sinful past, present temptations, and future spiritual battles. We can confidently walk in the righteousness of Christ, because He has covered it all!
The Roman soldier was responsible to provide his own armor. He could purchase what the army offered, or he could provide his own armor from a private source. Obviously, the wealthier soldier was able to obtain higher quality armor, which would in turn provide better protection. This speaks to me of our “practical” righteousness. We make choices every day as to whether we will walk in obedience, keeping our lives, our minds, our hearts, free from sinful influences and actions, or if we will allow the influences of the ungodly world we live in to encroach in our lives. The practical choices make have a direct effect on the “strength” of our day to day righteous walk. How strong is your spiritual armor? What are you doing today that protects you from the enemy’s attacks? Or are you walking around unprotected?
From what I read in research, early versions of the armor were heavier and bulkier, but provided almost impenetrable protection against missiles and strikes against the chest. However, they were uncomfortable to wear, even causing pain and shock, unless the soldier wore a padded undergarment to protect his body from the shock of attacks. The Holy Spirit is our “padding” in this visual. Often, in our desire to control the behavior of either ourselves or others, we become legalistic in our life, creating rules for one another that God never intended. We attempt to create an outward righteousness, without the grace and love of God’s Spirit. We do it as parents, with a good heart and motive, but until the Holy Spirit indwells us in salvation, trying to be righteous just by our actions is painful and heavy. But something happens when God’s Spirit comes into our lives. He creates the desire for righteousness and a hatred for sin. He begins to work out Christ’s life in us, and our outward appearance and behavior changes, but it comes from an inner transformation.
Outward righteousness does not protect us from our enemy. It is the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us by the grace of God, overflowing into our life in practical application, which becomes our breastplate of righteousness.