Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland

The Armor of God:
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Ephesians 6:14

What is a breastplate?

In some armies, it was a fitted metal half-vest that protected a soldiers vital organs. For others it was a vest of chain mail, which could protect its wearer from the tips of enemy swords and spears.
What is righteousness? ...as our Lord Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: "You must be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) The problem is that we fall far short. The Apostle Paul said, "The good things I want to do, I don’t do. And the evil things I don’t want to do, I do." (Romans 7:21) The prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament said, "Our righteousness is as filthy [literally: menstrual] rags..." (Isaiah 64:6).

In the first confirmation class I taught in the first year of my ministry, I made the statement that God does not let sin into heaven. One seventh grade boy raise his hand, and then with a look of panic in his eyes, he signed: "Why not!?"

We are not righteous, and our enemy loves to remind us of that. There are stories in the Bible where Satan is shown standing before God, trying to convince God that we are miserable sinners. (Job 1 & 2; Zechariah 3)  The fact is that God doesn’t need convincing. He already knows it. And He has done something about it.

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--
9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

2 Cor. 5: 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

So, Christian Soldier, put on the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness. Without it, you are vulnerable and unprotected. But with it, your heart is protected from certain defeat.

Just as there were two aspects of the "belt of truth,"
  • the OBJECTIVE TRUTH of God’s Word, that is true whether we believe it to be true or not,
  • and PERSONAL TRUTH of our own honesty and integrity,
  • so also there the same two aspects of the breastplate of righteousness.
  • First is the OBJECTIVE aspect, that Christ has covered our sin with His holiness, and that we have a right standing before God on the merits of Christ’s righteousness (justification).
  • And the other is the SUBJECTIVE aspect of Christ living His righteous life through us in practical ways (sanctification).
  • We already had a hint of this in the last three verses of the text I just read from Ephesians 2:
    8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--
    9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
    10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. [literally: walk in them]
    And lest anyone accuse Paul of ambiguity, and not being specific in what he means by being "God’s Workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works..." the entire last half of his letter, from chapter 4 to the end, covers just about every area of the Christian life as he illustrates specific ways in which the Righteousness of Christ which God has given to us is lived out through us.

    4:17 - let Christ enlighten your thinking
    4:19 - replace sensuality with purity
    4:25 - stop lying; tell the truth
    4:26 - When anger hits, resolve it immediately; when you simmer, you invite the devil in.
    4:28 - Stop stealing; work for what you get and share with others.
    4:29 - replace your profanity and vulgar jokes with encouraging speech that benefits others.
    4:31 - "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger... Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

    Chapter five gets into applying the righteousness of Christ in courtship and marriage. Chapter six deals with the relationship between parents and children, and the relationship between employers and employees, and finally concludes with our text on the armor of God.

    Are you looking for practical powerful answers? There are plenty just right here. There’s gotta be something in that list that applies to the issues that you are dealing with.

    The matter of being covered by the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness is more important that we sometimes realize. If Satan cannot with a frontal attack get us to compromise in our standing on the Truth of God’s Word (our first piece of armor), than he we will attempt a flank attack on our moral purity, crippling our effectiveness in God’s service with a self defeating habitual sin, or with persistent bitterness against members of our family or a member of the church, or with the distractions of the prestige, power, or possessions of the world. We all take notice when scandal erupts concerning the moral failings of a notable Christian leader, and we grieve that they have cooperated with Satan in bringing public disgrace to the name of Christ.

    As we mentioned last week, one of the functions of a soldiers belt was to hold tight his breastplate. The two pieces of equipment were connected. And the connection between the breastplate of righteousness and the belt of truth in an important one, as well. It is not hard to see that individuals and churches who have set aside and discounted the truth of God’s Word do not recognize the authority of God’s Word in their personal conduct. They don’t even need an excuse to indulge in immorality. And those who would dare to call such conduct sin are labeled as narrow-minded, intolerant bigots.

    But the connection between the Belt of Truth and Breastplate of righteousness works the other way, as well. Many an agnostic, atheist, and New-Ager found their way into unbelief not because of the weight of any evidence against the truth of God’s Word, but because they knew they could not reconcile the Truth with their personal private morality. So they find it easier to change the truth than to allow themselves to be held accountable by the Truth. It’s just a whole lot easier to change your doctrine than it is to change the way you are living.

    Some time ago there was man who sharing with his friends a concern that he had which, in his view, presented a very difficult moral dilemma. After he described his situation, and then started fishing for some affirmation for what he had already decided what he was going to do, I asked him, "What does the Bible say?"

    He sighed and rolled his eyes and said, "What the Bible says doesn’t apply in my situation, because I have to be practical." For this man, the only purpose of his Christian religion was to make him feel good so he could cope emotionally with the many problems he was facing - problems resulting from his own bad decisions, a fact which he was unable to recognize.  As far as he was concerned, the Bible had nothing to say about the nitty-gritty issues of daily life. And the way he lived his life showed it.

    He would complain that his son was perpetually disobedient. Then two minutes later the dad was bragging to me that he could drive from Dallas to Austin in 2 1/2 hours, and that was back when the speed limit was only 55mph. He saw absolutely no connection between his own disregard for civil authority, and his son’s disregard for his authority.

    Years later when the son was grown, the dad told me how he disapproved of his son’s living with a girlfriend and fathering a child without the protection of the marriage commitment. This he told me seemingly oblivious to the fact that the son was doing exactly the same thing the father was doing at that very moment in his own life!

    This man was and still is a living example of 2 Cor 4:4 "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ..."

    How we live out our Christian calling does affect others. The protection of Christ’s righteousness is important to me personally, not simply because preserves me from certain trouble when I run my life my own way. But if I were to carelessly and callously toss it aside, even if only secretly, I would be inviting devastating consequences in the lives of my children, and I would bring grief to the body of Christ.

    One of the notable emperors of antiquity was Alexander the Great. He was the son of Philip of Macedonia, and took over his father’s empire of Greek states at the age of 20. Alexander had his eye on the Persian empire to the east, and in less than ten years he had it. By the time he died at the age of 33, Alexander the Great ruled all the land between Greece and India, including Israel, the western Mediterranean coast, and Egypt. He was famous for his ruthless treatment of those who dared to resist him. He was also famous for the strict discipline and loyalty he required of his armies. He had no tolerance for cowardice in the line of battle.

    The story is told of one young soldier who was caught deserting his post. As he was taken before the Emperor for sentencing, the soldier knew that he would be executed; he could only hope that it would be swift and merciful. Before pronounce sentence, the Emperor asked the soldier, "What is your name?"

    The soldier timidly answered, "Alexander, Sir."

    The Emperor became very angry, and got in the face of the young man, and screamed, "Soldier, either change your conduct, or change your name!"

    The world holds us up to a higher standard than they do for themselves - and well they should, since we bear the name of Christ. What the world doesn’t understand, and this is our great good news for them, is that whatever virtue is exhibited in our lives is not ours, but Christ’s, as He lives continues to live His life on earth through us.

    Colossians 3:
    1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
    2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
    3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
    4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
    5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
    6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,
    7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
    8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.
    9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
    10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,

    12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
    13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
    14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
    15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
    16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
    17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

    Romans 6
    1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
    2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
    3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
    4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
    5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
    6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
    7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

    Part 4 - Shoes for the Gospel of Peace

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