Welcome to this week's armor Monday - on Tuesday! Sorry for the delay; I spent half of yesterday trying to conquer a migraine. This week's post is about the second piece of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6, the breastplate of righteousness. If you missed the start of the series you can read the intro by clicking here or last week's post about the belt of truth by clicking here.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Remember that the reason Paul draws the analogy of a Christian putting on armor like a soldier is because a battle is raging, not in the physical realm, but in the spiritual realm. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood," he says, "... but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." The Christian must be prepared for that kind of encounter and needs more than mere brawn to stand firm. We need God-given armor.
Today's piece on display might be my favorite! Without this, we really are doomed. The breastplate is like an exoskeleton that protects all of a soldier's vital organs, front and back. Going into battle without this piece would be beyond foolish! So what does it mean for a Christian to put on the breastplate of righteousness?
Commentaries suggest it means two things, either being covered by Christ's righteousness or acting morally righteous. I believe the first is of most importance for our defense, though the second cannot be ignored, because it is a byproduct of the first.
Christ's Righteousness, Our Breastplate
The Breastplate of Righteousness is God-given righteousness through faith in Christ, i.e. THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL! Not only are our sins forgiven when we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, but Christ's righteousness is also given to us. We are disrobed of our sinful identity and re-robed in Christ, or as the Bible says, the old has gone, the new has come! We put on the breastplate by placing our faith in Christ or, one might say, by taking God at His word. There is that amazing verse in the story of Abraham that says, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.
We put on the breastplate of righteousness by waking up in the morning and putting our faith in Jesus and His works: our sins are completely forgiven and that the Lord sees Christ's beautiful perfection when He looks at us. No matter how we feel our righteousness in Christ does not ever change once we have placed our faith in Christ. Theologians call this justification. So I guess the true truth is that once we are in Christ, the breastplate is stuck on us! See, I told you it was good news!
The Protection of Righteous Living
The best of the best news we will ever hear is that we are made righteous in, by, and through Christ. Trying to stand on our righteous acts alone and saying that what Paul means by putting on the breastplate of righteousness would be a hopeless proposition. Nevertheless, John Stott points out, in his commentary on Ephesians in the series The Bible Speaks Today, So the Chrsitian's breastplate may be of righteousness of character and conduct. For just as to cultivate 'truth' is the way to overthrow the devil's deceits, so to cultivate 'righteousness' is the way to resist temptations. (p. 279) Being protected by the breastplate of righteousness does not eliminate our need to also pursue righteous behavior. I love what The New Bible Commentary says on this, even if they did completely ignore the aspect of God-given righteousness! Paul is saying that the church's basic equipment in the spiritual battle is integrity and righteous living, and they are effective because these qualities bear the stamp of Jesus and the new creation He brings. (p. 1243) Being made righteous will motivate us to live righteously and even help us to do so, because we have been made new!
The battle is not easy. The Lord knows that standing firm is impossible for us alone. Not only do soldiers go into batter properly protected and armed, but also together. Paul doesn't talk about that specifically in Ephesians 6, but he does talk a lot about the church other parts of the book and in other letters. We, as individuals, need to clothe ourselves in the armor God has given and we need to spur one another on in the battle. Remind a friend today about truth and righteousness, our call to live in them and especially how God has given them to us.
You have been made new, dear friend. You are clothed in righteousness!
Walk in His way.