Summary: 59th in a series from Ephesians. The breastplate of righteousness requires us to live out the righteousness we have in Jesus.
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then whether you know it or not, you have enlisted in a spiritual war against Satan and his demons. And the only way that you can possibly be successful in that war is to be strengthened continually by God as you allow Jesus to dwell in your life and then put on the full armor of God. Before we continue looking at the individual components of that armor this morning, let’s take a moment to review the overall principle of putting on the full armor of God. We’ll begin by looking once again at this verse from another of Paul’s letters.
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Romans 13:14 (NIV)
As I pointed out last week, it is absolutely crucial that we recognize that the armor is a symbolic description of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. To put on the full armor is to be clothed with Jesus Himself. And since that is the case, what we find is that spiritual warfare is actually more about getting closer to God than it is about battling the Devil! Although I certainly need to understand my enemy, I assure myself of victory, not by focusing on the enemy, but by focusing on Jesus Christ and how I can cloth myself with Him continually.
With that in mind, let’s read our passage for this morning. As we did last week, we’ll read from both the NIV and the more literal NASB translations:
...with the breastplate of righteousness in place
Ephesians 6:14 (NIV)
...and having put on the breastplate of righteousness
Ephesians 6:14 (NASB)
The breastplate of the Roman soldier was typically made of bronze or iron, backed with leather, but some of the more affluent officers wore a coat of chain mail. The leather backing would attach to the belt to keep it in place. That’s why, as we discovered last week, that the belt was actually the first piece of armor the soldier would put on and why we need to begin by putting on the belt of truth. Truth holds everything together. The breastplate covered the soldier’s vital organs, including his heart and his bowels, in much the same way that many policemen use a bulletproof vest to protect those same vital organs today.
The symbolism of the breastplate would have been very noteworthy to Paul’s readers. The first vital area it protected was the heart. To Paul’s readers, especially those with a Jewish mindset, the heart represented the source of their thoughts, or what we would commonly refer to as the mind. We see that in the words of Jesus:
For out of the heart come evil thoughts...
Matthew 15:19 (NIV)
The breastplate also protected the bowels, which represented the seat of one’s emotions. We don’t see that very well in many of our English translations, but both the Hebrew and Greek words for deep compassion literally mean “bowels.” Even today, our emotions can give us a “gut feel” or we can ache in our stomach as the result of some emotions.
We need the breastplate of righteousness because those are the two areas where we are most vulnerable to the attacks of Satan. He wants to cloud our minds and our thinking with false doctrine, lies and deceit. And he wants to manipulate our emotions and twist and pervert our affections. So Paul makes it clear that the way that we defend against those attacks is to make sure we have the breastplate of righteousness on at all times. So let’s take some time this morning to make sure we understand exactly how to do that.
We need to begin by defining the word “righteousness”.
• Root word = “straightness”
• “conforming to a standard or a norm”.
In Washington D.C. there is a building called the "National Institute of Standards and Technology." This facility is responsible for storing perfect samples of weights and measurements. They have what are called “prototypes” of pound weights and kilograms and measuring rods for feet, yards and metric measurements like meters. For example, they have a “Meter Standard” a reinforced bar of platinum alloyed with exactly 10% iridium. When they want to know the exact measurement of a “meter” they cool this bar down to 0 degrees Celsius at a sea level of 45 degrees latitude then they know they will have the exact tip to tip measurement of a meter.
When it comes to righteousness, that authoritative standard is God Himself. Therefore Biblical righteousness means to live a life that conforms to the holy character of God. I’m not sure who the author is, but I really like this definition of righteousness that I ran across this week: