Summary: Righteousness is at the heart of our relationship with God and given through the sacrifice of Jesus
Standing in Righteousness
Series: Armed and Dangerous
July 8, 2007
Some time ago a scientific magazine published an article concerning a certain species of alligator. Being lazy beasts, they seldom hunt for their dinner but just wait for their unwary victims to come to them. They lie near the bank with open mouths, acting as if they are dead. Soon flies begin to light on their moist tongues, and several other insects gather. This crowd attracts bigger game. A lizard will crawl up to the alligator to feed on the bugs; then a frog joins the party. Presently a whole menagerie is there; then there is a sudden "earthquake" -- WHAM -- the giant jaws come together and the party is over! Here’s the lesson: don’t be lured by large groups of people. Remember, the crown is always found on the "broad way." The "narrow way" of life admits only individuals, one by one. Most people take the easy, downward path. You as a Christian must follow Jesus on the upward road; it is the only safe way.
Stand firm then, with the breastplate of righteousness in place Ephesians 6:14
Paul referred to the Breastplate of Righteousness. As Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians, he was under arrest by the Roman government. Near the end of the letter Paul says that he was an ambassador, in chains, for the gospel. This likely refers to Paul being chained to a Roman guard. The Roman government often kept prisoners under a house arrest. This made the prisoner pay for rent on the house, wages for the Roman soldiers, all personal needs and all the food for the entire house. Paul was very familiar with seeing Roman armor.
The breastplate was the largest piece of the armor and covered from the neck down over the legs. The breastplate was formed with two central pieces. One formed the covering for the front and the other connected covering the back. The armor would have been composed of metal either in rings, scales or plates. Most Roman soldiers had plate armor usually of bronze or iron. The breastplate was used to protect the heart, the lungs and all other major body organs. In essence, the breastplate was seen as protecting the life of the soldier
Paul specifically connects the breastplate with the spiritual concept of righteousness. The Greek word Paul uses here is diakaiosune which is the character or quality of being right or just. The implications were clear. Believers are made right with God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Webster defines righteousness as acting in accordance with moral or spiritual law, to be free from guilt or sin. Our English word righteous was once the word rightwise, which comes from two Old English words riht and wis, which had the meaning of having the right wisdom.
Paul combines these two concepts together beautifully. Just as the breastplate gives protection for the soldier’s life, righteousness protects the spiritual life of the Christian. Our spiritual life rests in the reality of righteousness. This is the pursuit of being made right with God.
Seven Realities of Righteousness
1. Righteousness must begin with God
For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. Psalm 11:7
God has the ultimate quality of being right or just. The concept of righteousness is that we have been given a right standing with God. Even when we are in the wrong God wants us to live in a manner that is right.
The standard for righteousness is God Himself. There is none righteous in the entire world. God is always right and we are not. A person becomes self righteousness when they insist that they are right when they are still in the wrong.
2. Righteousness does not come from ourselves
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20
Jesus singled out two specific groups the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The Pharisees were a Jewish sect that rigidly followed the Law and set up a system of traditional laws to keep God’s commands. The concept was to follow the law with complete exacting accuracy to ensure righteousness.
The teachers of the law were likely also the scribes. In the Old Testament the scribes were the group responsible for making copies of the scriptures. In the New Testament, the scribes had developed into an elite group of specialized scholars trained in the Law. They also acted as both teachers and as lawyers in the Jewish religious court system.
The Pharisees and scribes focused on an outward obedience to the Law without an inner life change. The way of true righteousness is through change of the heart. The only way to change the heart in a real manner is to accept and follow Jesus.