Breastplate of Righteousness
“…and having on the breastplate of righteousness…” – Ephesians 6:14b
Although Christians are to put on the armor of God to withstand their enemies, far too often the modern church thinks it can improve upon God’s design. They wish to aid the saint by putting on plays, puppet shows, ball games, coffee pots, and even lectures on landscaping. When you look at the schedule of many churches you would never know that there is a war going on.
Paul demands that the saints at Ephesus put on the whole armor of God “having on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:14b). He said nothing about putting chicken breasts on a plate at the church’s restaurant. Christians need to have this piece of armor, because it is the armor God wears. “For He put on righteousness as a breastplate” (Isaiah 59:17).
Roman Soldier’s Breastplate
The breastplate of the Roman soldier was “a tough, sleeveless piece of armor that covered his full torso. It was often made of leather or heavy linen, onto which were sewn overlapping slices of animal hooves or horns or pieces of metal. Some were made of large pieces of metal molded or hammered to conform to the body” (MacArthur 351). Sometimes its was decorated with a “six-pack” to show a strong muscled soldier. In Medieval times they used chain mail and heavy suits of armor. By the time of the American Civil war soldiers had nothing to protect their vital organs. However, they used flak jackets in Vietnam. Today’s soldier has light weight armor called Dragon Skin.
Christian Soldier’s Righteousness
The Greek term for “righteousness” is used some ninety-two times in the New testament. A third of those are found in the Book of Romans. Vine defines it as: “The character of quality of being right expresses the meaning. Righteousness embraces the idea of the right knowledge of the mind, leading to the right actions of life.” It refers to moral conduct and character or being made right before God
Three Types of Righteousness
The Bible condemns self-righteousness. Which is a man’s futile efforts to earn God’s approval through his own efforts. Isaiah warned, “but we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). Filthy rags make for a flimsy breastplate. Our own righteousness is insufficient as protection against Satan’s attacks.
□ Righteous Via Justification
Man cannot attain righteousness on his own. “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’” (Romans 3:10,23). How can a man be righteous? Paul goes on to explain sinners can be made righteous (right) by God through the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:21-26). Justification is by faith. One is righteous when he obeys by faith the Gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17). When I was justified by faith it was “just – if – I’d” never sinned.
□ Practical Righteousness
In Titus 2:12, Paul is addressing those who are in Christ. They are to live righteously. A practical righteousness of a life lived in obedience to God’s Word. After being justified the saved must live a righteous life by faith in Christ.
✓ Right Relationship
No one can maintain righteousness apart from a continued faithful, obedient relationship with Christ.
✓ Right Standard
Man’s thoughts and ways are not the standard of what is right. Jeremiah admitted, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). Jesus warned His would-be disciples “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
Living righteously demands a standard. Since God is truly righteous, He is the rightful standard of righteousness. Only in His Word can one find out how to live righteously. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,…” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
✓ Right Action
To be righteous involves being active in doing what is right. “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7). During the time of the flood “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord …Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:5,8,9). How? “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:4). When God told Noah what to do: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Gen. 6:22).
A Christian cannot be righteous without doing what is right. A good soldier of Christ must attend the worship services (Heb. 10:25); study the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15); give as he has been prospered (1 Cor. 16:1-2); abstain every form of evil (1 Thess. 5:22); shun evil companions (1 Cor. 15:33); restore the erring (Gal. 6:1-2); withdraw from the disorderly (2 Thess. 3:6); etc.
✓ Right Thinking
The name of the breastplate was pectorale “heart guard.” In battle, the heart is the target of the attack. Jesus warned, “but those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:18-19). With the heart man thinks, feels, decides and believes. Simon was in a sinner not because he had money but because his heart was not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:21). Even today, we speak of having a “gut feeling.” We must keep our emotions in check. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).
✓ Right Living
After one is baptized and righteous before God, he cannot live anyway he wants. “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God…- I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” (Romans 6:13,19). To be righteous requires just dealing with others opposed to lying, cheating, and stealing.
Benefits of Righteousness
Righteous behavior is a protection from attacks on one’s personal integrity. Being righteous protects us against Satan’s accusations. Satan is the accuser, but he cannot accuse the believer who is living a godly life. God does not hear the prayer of sinners, but “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16b). Furthermore, “riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4). In fact a crown of righteousness is the final reward. At the end of his life Paul wrote, “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4;8).
– Daniel R. Vess