Breastplate of Righteousness
July 14, 2019
Passage: Ephesians 6:14

Unable to record audio.  Below is the sermon manuscript.


We began our journey of clothing ourselves in the whole armor of God by first girding up, fastening truth around our waist. This is done to not stray from our north star; to stay the course because the course is determined by God and His truth not our latest whims or emotions, but Him and Him alone set before us our focus, our direction, our purpose, our hope, our strength. This enables us to stand because when the battle is raging around us, we know what to do and the outcome of our fighting. Truth does indeed set us free to live in joy because God has told us who He is and what he has done and will do! So as we turn to the next piece, let's look at it in the context of the entire section. Follow as I read…

Ephesians 6:10-20

The Armor | Breastplate of Righteousness

We encounter the action of "Put on" that we saw back in verse 11, where we are told to put on the whole armor of God. Now here in verse 14, we are told to put on a specific piece, the breastplate of righteousness. By way of reminder to "put on" simply means "to put any kind of thing on oneself, clothe oneself in, put on, wear."[1] The point is that one is to make the whole armor of God a part of who they are, much like clothes. That the things of God become so much a part of who you are that you are clothed, covered in his character and what he has done. This could not be a better describer of this particular piece of armor. We are to put on righteousness and make it so much a part of who we are that we sound, smell, taste (if you will) like God.

What is exactly going on here with righteousness…

To fully understand the breastplate of righteousness, we have to travel back in time in the scriptures to see that it shows up way back in Isaiah 59:17. It states, "He [Lord] put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak." God adorns himself with the breastplate of righteousness long before Paul penned these words. God wore it first, and now it is for us to put on. In Isaiah, God wears it to defend his people and to rid them of their enemies. He puts on righteousness and pushes back their enemies.

So what does it mean for us to put it on?

Well, let's understand righteousness first. It has two major uses in the NT. At its simplest level, righteousness is being upright, having a quality or state of being upright, being right in 1) behavior and more importantly, 2) right standing before God.[2]

If we look at the use of righteousness within Eph. we might get a sense of what Paul is saying here. Righteousness is used 4 times in Ephesians:

4:24, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
5:9, Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)
6:1, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
6:14, the breastplate of righteousness

Just like truth from last week, there are two very important realities Paul is reminding us of here.

One, we must put on the righteousness that has been secured in Christ (forensic righteousness). To be more precise, "God's gracious initiative in putting sinners right with himself through Christ."[3] This is what Paul builds this entire letter on; the gracious act of God putting sinners right before him through Christ! Listen to chapter 2:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body1 and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

There is certainly no greater protection than a righteous relationship with God. To be justified by his grace through faith and repentance in Christ crucified, to be clothed with a righteousness which is not your's but Christ's, to stand before God not condemned but accepted—this is our greatest defense against our conscience and against the slanderous attacks of the evil one. As Romans 8 reminds us, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus … Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us." This is the Christian, our, assurance of a right relationship with God through Christ; it is a strong breastplate to protect us from attacks.[4]

Oh, brothers and sisters, Paul has this in mind and wants us to daily remind ourselves of how we humbling stand right before God, it is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone! Let me be clear, there is no other way. Not our nationality, not our good behavior, not our opinions, not the state of the union, not the size of your bank account, not our exterior appearance, not who you know, no!

But there is a second use of the word at play that builds on this glorious reality. When we think about righteousness, we must consider that we have been made right before God so we can live right before others. So the strong sense here is to put on right living (ethical righteousness). I can say this because of the previous uses of righteousness in Eph, and considering the helmet of salvation, which names plainly our salvation, perhaps the nuance here is putting on daily the ability to do what God has actually called us to do. What a fresh reminder daily that our righteousness has been secured so we can go and be righteous ourselves! We can actually do it, we can live rightly, we can do it…did you hear me, we can actually do it!

Paul is saying here that our defense is our right living. He indicates that the righteousness we declare through Christ in public must be the same we live when no one is around. If it is not, we are in danger! So if we are not putting on righteousness daily, then we are open for major attacks. If you put on anything else to make you right with God, you are open to being deeply wounded.

If you put on a particular soapbox issue of yours ahead of the righteousness of Christ, you will be open for attack and find yourself more passionate about the issue than God's Kingdom.

Whatever breastplate you put on, will be the army you fight in!

If you put on good behavior to make God like you, you are open for attack. The enemy will have an opening and slip in and begin to make you feel that sinking notion of "Have I done enough!"

If you put on unforgiveness rather than the righteousness of Christ that is seen in grace, you will be open to attacks by the enemy and become a bitter person that begins to hate those around them.

The breastplate covers vital organs to keep one from a potential blow that renders us useless for battle. We would be rendered useless for a time if we let down our guard and assume we can do whatever we want. Christ righteousness was given to us so that we would go and live in righteousness!

Our lives are to be a reflection of the righteousness given us through Christ.

The Christian is made right to live right.

How does this become armor? Well, you are greatly protected at the end covered in the righteousness of Christ, being declared right by God through Jesus is a glorious reality we have. But this reality should and must affect the way we live. We will stand firm when we put on our righteousness because we will stand against temptations. Temptations come, but they don't have to win! The final verdict has been declared, we are righteous so we can live righteously. The war is over, the enemy has no power anymore!

It's like the last scene of a movie when the enemy is defeated, and they raise their hand one last time to exert their power to only discover they have none, they have been defeated!

You must put on righteousness and you can because it has been won for you through Christ.

Let us not piddly around with trivial pursuits, but let us with great passion and energy pursue holiness, let our righteousness be seen and felt by the way we live.



[1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 333.

[2]  William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 247.

[3] John R. W. Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (The Bible Speaks Today; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 278.

[4] Section influenced by Stott, 278-79.