Peninsula Community Church
Ephesians – Breastplate of Righteousness – Getting To the Heart of the Matter
May 24, 2015
Ephesians 6:14-15 – Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
Last week we looked at the belt of truth and the need to be have the truth of God in our lives so as to establish the security that comes from having the belt of truth firmly secured. This week we will look at the breastplate of righteousness. In this study, in regard to the breastplate, there are three elements that must be considered. First, we must consider the breastplate itself and how it is used. Secondly, we must consider the idea of righteousness and what that means to us. And, thirdly, we must consider the idea of the heart and its relationship to this discussion.
In regards to the breastplate itself, the breastplate was a defensive weapon that guarded and protected the vital organs of the warrior. The heart, the lungs, the diaphragm, and the major arteries were all protected by the breastplate. In particular, the breastplate covered and protected the heart. In essence, you might say that the breastplate protected the very life of the warrior because if a sword or spear were to penetrate this area of the body, or an arrow was to find its way around the armor, it would mean certain death or at least it would mean a serious wound that could disable the warrior. Without the breastplate being properly secured, the warrior would be vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. The fact is no self-respecting soldier in his right mind would ever go into battle without his breastplate being securely fastened.
For the warrior, the breastplate was usually a suit of mail, metal, or heavy cloth that was layered to provide the necessary protection he needed in battle. In our modern day, we would think of a bullet proof vest or an umpire’s vest as a comparable piece of protective gear. It is also noteworthy that while some have suggested that the breastplate only covered the front area, the reality is that the breastplate most often covered the front and the back of the body.
For the believer, Paul states that their breastplate is the breastplate of righteousness. This would mean that righteousness is a necessary element that is required for our spiritual protection. But what is righteousness? Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, suggested that in regard to understanding righteousness mixed messages are often presented. One such message which is presented by today’s media is that righteousness is a negative attribute. It is something to be avoided. It is perceived to rigid, unbending, and out of touch. But the Biblical definition of the word means something so different. In fact, two words are used for righteousness in the Hebrew which is carried over into the Greek. The first Hebrew word means to be straight. This word carries the idea of meeting the specifications of another person. In other words, it is to measure up or to meet a standard. The second Hebrew word means to be right with someone. It means to be presentable. It carries the idea of passing inspection by someone who is significant in our lives. It is to be pleasing and to attempt to please that person so as not to be ashamed. Specifically the word righteousness means to meet the specifications that God calls us to which pleases the one who calls us.
With that in mind let us look what righteousness means for us today. First of all, to understand righteousness, we must understand the righteousness of Christ. On the cross, two things were accomplished on behalf of the believer through Christ’s death. First of all, the believer received forgiveness of sin. On the cross, Christ took the penalty of sin for us and placed it upon his shoulders. He died that we might live. Through the cross we are forgiven. We all know this aspect of the cross, but, sometimes we miss the second aspect of the cross. Not only do we have forgiveness of sin but He also gives us righteousness positionally. In other words we are accepted as righteous even though we are not perfect because of the work of Christ and our faith in that work.
Paul in Philippians 3:8-9 speaks to this reality. Hear Paul’s words. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. You see it is not our righteousness that matters, it is Christ’s work on the cross that fulfills the righteousness requirement in me. While I may not be perfected yet, Christ sees me as righteous. I trust that you can grasp these two powerful truths. I am forgiven by Christ and I am seen as being righteous because of what He has done.
Secondly, we must understand the Christian’s righteousness. Though we are positionally seen as righteous, we must also work out Christ’s righteousness in our lives. This work is known as sanctification. David Jeremiah stated that someone has defined the work of sanctification as becoming in practice what we already are in position. In other words, it is not enough to be positionally righteous but we must also live righteously. We must understand that the act of living righteously is not some automatic pilot that we turn on and off. While we can be in a state of righteousness positionally but fail to live righteousness out practically. It is like being a pastor positionally but not live or act like one. For this reason, we can be a believer and still struggle with addictions. We can be a believer in Christ and struggle with anger and truthfulness in our lives. But, this is not the reality that God seeks or desires of us. The goal of pursuing righteousness is to align our positional righteousness with our practical righteousness.
John understood this when he penned these words. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. The determining factor of our pursuit of righteousness is evidenced in how we practice our righteousness. Paul states in 1 Timothy 6:11 that we are to pursue righteousness. We pursue righteousness so that there is a balance between what He has done on our behalf and what we are to do. We live as righteous people because we are not longer sinners but saints. Because we are not perfect we continue to pursue righteousness.
The third aspect of righteousness is that it is a consistent righteousness. The wording of this verse proposes the idea that we are to continually put on the breastplate of righteousness. If we are to effectively battle against the forces of the enemy we must not forget to put on the breastplate of righteousness. To fail to do so is a formula for certain failure and spiritual injury.
The fourth idea is that we must make it a habit to be righteous. What we practice we become. What we strive for we will accomplish. We begin to change the course of our lives by practicing the art of righteousness. Our nation can begin to change if we begin to practice righteousness and right living. We can see our families change if we begin to understand our righteousness not only positionally, but also practical righteousness.
There is one more element to the breastplate to be considered. It is just as important to know what the breastplate is as it is to understand why it is worn and what it protects. The breastplate as noted is specifically worn over the heart. The warrior knows that if the enemy can reach the heart with his weapon that he can snuff out the enemy’s life. Biblically and physically the heart is the seat of our emotions and the seat of our affections. Jeremiah knew this when he proclaimed that the heart is wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 19:7). What Jeremiah was saying is that the heart cannot be trusted. That is why we need the breastplate of righteousness. It is protect our emotions and affections. The writer of Proverbs understood this when he wrote Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). The heart must be protected because it is the life spring of everything we do.
To walk in righteousness we must fall in love with Christ all over again. Our affection must be squarely focused on Him. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). How is your love for God? The sad indictment of the Church at Ephesus was that they lost their first love. They abandoned the very principles that caused them to be great church. As we walk in true righteousness, we understand that our affection must be on Him. If we do not set our affections on Him we will perform and act to look righteous, but our hearts will be far from where they need to be. It is here the idea of legalism is best evidenced and if we are not careful legalism will trump righteousness.
How important is it to protect our emotions? It must be a priority in in our life. Why is this? The Bible tells us that where our treasure is there our heart will be also. The treasure of our hearts determines our priorities. What we treasure will motivate us to action. For those that golf, you may be tired and weary but your love for golf will motivate you to play the game no matter what. It will motivate you to spend money on nice clubs and the right attire. We need the breastplate of righteousness to protect and guide our hearts toward the right actions in our lives. We are in a battle for our souls and wearing the breastplate of righteousness is one of the steps we must take to secure our history.
On this Memorial Day let me close with a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Let us resolve that Christ did not die in vain. Let us resolve that we will have a new birth of freedom that transforms us and positions us for great things in God because we are dressed for success.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom