The piece of armor that protected the organs of the Roman soldier was the breastplate. This comprises the second piece of armor discussed by Paul in Ephesians: “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness….” (Ephesians 6:14 NKJV)
Scripture talks about both imputed righteousness and behavioral righteousness. Imputed righteousness refers to our righteous record in heaven which has been ascribed to us through faith and based on the payment of Christ for our sins. Behavioral righteousness refers to our living according to God’s righteous standards.
As believers we need not put on imputed righteousness since it is already in place. Therefore, Paul must be referring here to behavioral righteousness, living according to the standards prescribed in Scripture.
In the day in which we live, unfortunately the point must be made that such standards exist. I have heard well-known preachers asserts that God does not give us a list of rules which we must obey. In response, I started highlighting in the New Testament the various rules that have been given to us, and there are hundreds of them. I wonder what these preachers do with passages such as Ephesians 4:28-32,
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
I become puzzled with such pronouncements, wondering how seriously many evangelicals take Scripture these days.
The breastplate of righteousness is essential for protecting vital organs because unrighteousness makes us vulnerable on many counts.
- It generates guilt that Satan can use to make us feel like failures, unworthy of serving the Lord. Such discouragement can create other problems. Guilt can also cause leaders to not deal with certain sins knowing that they themselves are guilty.
- Unrighteousness can also deface our testimony before the world. In Titus 1:6-7 in describing the characteristics of the Christian leader Paul writes that they must be “blameless.” The Greek word literally refers to someone who “cannot be called out,” the idea being that he cannot be called to trial for misdeeds. In other words, he must have put on the breastplate of righteousness. This is necessary not only for Christian leaders but for all of God’s children so that God’s name cannot be besmirched because of our unrighteousness.
- Unrighteousness can provide an environment in which the Holy Spirit is unable to work. I believe that a major cause of weakness within today’s church is found in the viewing of ungodly movies and television programming, which prevents the Holy Spirit from ministering in those lives. The Holy Spirit cannot function in that environment, not just while we are watching but even after the fact with the pollution embedded in our hearts and minds. It is essential not to take off the breastplate of righteousness when you turn on your television. This tool of Satan provides a special temptation in the day in which we live because culture, including Christian culture, conveys that watching sexually explicit material and other ungodly programming is okay, that everyone is doing it.
- Satan can also destroy us through the practical outcomes of unrighteousness. Sin has consequences, and often they are severe.
Of course, none of us live perfectly righteous lives, but how good of the Lord to make provision for forgiveness through confession. We must also to the best of our ability make confession and provide restitution to those who have borne the brunt of our unrighteousness.
What a blessing to be able to face life with a clear conscience, living each day according to God’s righteous standard, when failing, quickly confessing it to God and making it right with others. This provides us with the necessary protection from the assault of Satan and the confidence needed to serve the Lord.
In the day in which we live we frequently hear that we don’t have to “perform” to please God. Of course we don’t have to perform in terms of acting, pretending to be something that we’re not, but we must perform in terms of living righteously in order to keep from being decimated by Satan and to serve God effectively.
Therefore, I urge you to deal with any unrighteousness that might pollute your life and to maintain a lifestyle characterized by righteousness so that you might ward off the attacks of Satan and bear fruit for eternity.