Breastplate of Righteousness





Believers Stand Firm by Putting On the Breastplate of Righteousness

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, (Ephesians 6:14)

The Roman soldier wore a tough, sleeveless piece of armor that covered the whole torso, front and back, from neck to waist. It was often made of leather, metal, or chains. The primary purpose of the armor was “to protect the heart, lungs, intestines, and other vital organs.” 8

The apostle Paul makes another comparison between the Christian life and warfare in one of his letters to the Corinthians: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

The enemies of the Christian described in these verses are numerous, and could come at us unexpectedly. Paul lists “arguments,” “every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” and the need for “bringing every thought into captivity.” These are things we can encounter in everyday life. The breastplate of righteousness is one of our primary defenses against these unexpected and dangerous intrusions.

How important is the breastplate of righteousness? God promises great rewards to those who follow the path of righteousness: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright, but the wicked will fall by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the unfaithful will be caught by their lust” (Proverbs 11:4-6).

How do we put on this breastplate?

God’s commandments are righteousness (Psalm 119:172), and we can put on this breastplate by obeying God in our lives. How can we begin such a large task?

There is an ancient proverb that says the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In a similar way, the journey to put on the breastplate of righteousness begins with a single choice. Life involves a series of choices; and we can work at this one day at a time, choosing, with God’s help, to make our next choice a righteous one.

Notice again Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

Every action begins with a thought, and our thoughts need to be brought in line with God’s words and commands. Correct (righteous) choices in life flow from a mind dwelling on God’s Word. The time to start this process is now!

1.The breastplate of righteousness represents recognition of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

As a Roman soldier’s breastplate reminded us of how a Christian needs righteousness as a defense of the heart and inner organs.

Example of Abraham

Abraham believed in God. What was God’s response to Abraham’s faith? Scripture says that righteousness was credited to his spiritual bank account (Genesis 15:5-6). Imputed righteousness puts us in right standing before God, allowing Him to come and live within us by His Spirit. Our right standing with God is not due to our efforts; it is given as a gift when we believe (Romans 4:1-8). That’s why we love Him so! God has been so generous and kind toward us in dealing with us in this way. God treats each of us as Christians in the same way He handled Abraham. 

Abraham began with an unwavering belief (faith) that God would do what He said. But he didn’t stop at a simple belief. Abraham based his actions in life on that faith in God!

Hebrews 11 gives a further account of the relationship between Abraham’s faith and his actions: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (Hebrews 11:8-9).

Abraham backed up his faith with obedience to the commands he received from God.

The Lord imputes the righteousness of Christ to us

The good news contained in the part of the Word of God addressed to the believers after the day of Pentecost is that Jesus Christ met all the required conditions so that by confessing Him as Lord and by believing that God has raised Him from the dead you are righteous and saved. This is really good news, is not it? Ephesians tells us:

Ephesians 2:8

“For BY GRACE you are saved through faith: and this not from yourselves: it is the GIFT of God: Not by works, so that no-one can boast”

Also Romans 10:9-10

“That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

And Acts 16:30-31

“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Also: Romans 3:20-24, 28

“Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his [God’s] sight by the works of the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin. But now the righteousness of God, apart from the law has been made known, to which the law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. For there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus ……Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law”

The above passages state that our salvation and our right standing before God, i.e. our righteousness, are not based on how many good works we did, do or will do but on the grace of God. According to the above passages, even if you kept all the law you could not be righteous before God; for as we read: no-one can be righteous before God by the works of the law. And it also says that “all have sinned”. Even if you had never sinned in your life (which I’m sure it is not true) there is still Adam’s sin which passes down from generation to generation. But praise God, another way has been provided by which we can be righteous before Him. This way is called grace. Yes, someone had to work for all these gifts to be made freely available to us. However, this was neither you nor I but the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 3 tells us about the accomplishments of Jesus Christ:

Romans 3:23-26

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

The redemption is IN CHRIST JESUS, not in what you and I achieved. This is very important if we want to understand the relationship we have with God. Our relationship is based upon the grace of God and the accomplishments of Jesus Christ, NOT upon our worth, works or achievements. We are righteous before God twenty four hours a day. The reason is that this right standing was given to us by grace. It was given to us as a result of the unmerited favor and love that God has for us. It is “righteousness of God”, NOT righteousness from ourselves i.e. self righteousness. This “of” denotes the source of this righteousness. This source is neither you nor I but God. Galatians 2:16 also tells us:

“know that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law no-one will be justified.”

Once more we see that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ! If it was by works, I could say: “Look I did more than you. I deserve it more than you.” No-one deserved something from God. It was God who, motivated by His love for us, sacrificed His Son so that by believing in Him we can be righteous and saved. That’s really grace! Amazing grace!

The Lord imputes the righteousness of Christ to us as a gift when we believe in the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross. He died for you and as you. By this, I mean that He hung on the cross for your sins, bearing your sins in His body (1 Peter 2:24). When we believe God’s testimony about the finished work of His Son on the cross, He credits righteousness, i.e., the righteousness of Christ, to our spiritual bank account:

Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God” Essentially, Christ took our sin at the cross and gave us his righteousness. This is the very reason we can come into the presence of God and worship him. When he sees us, he sees the righteousness of Christ. This is probably symbolized in Zechariah 3:1-7, where Joshua, the high priest, comes into God’s presence wearing filthy clothes. Satan stands by Joshua’s side to accuse him—and no doubt to declare him unfit to be in God’s presence. 

However, God rebukes Satan and places clean clothes on Joshua, which probably represents imputing to him the righteousness of Christ. The Angel of the Lord says, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he says to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you” (v.4).

It’s the same for us. Our clothes—representing our character and works—are unclean to God. Even our righteousness is like filthy rags to him (Is 64:6). Even our best works are full of bad intentions—to be known, exalted, etc. However, God rebukes the devil and gives us clean clothes—the righteousness of Christ. This is the only reason we can stand in the presence of God. Because the imputation of Christ’s righteousness happens at salvation. 

Many believers, though they assent to salvation by grace, think it is their daily works that continue to justify them before God. When they fail to fully satisfy God’s righteous requirements, the enemy quickly comes to condemn them and pull them away from God. By not recognizing Christ’s work, they are agreeing with the devil. “I should not go to church; I should not read my Bible—that would be hypocritical.” They agree with the devil’s lies—opening the door for him into their hearts and minds.

However, we must not do that. We must continually declare the righteousness of Christ. “I am justified by grace—the unmerited favor of God—through Christ’s righteousness. I can do nothing to justify myself before God. Every day I must throw myself upon God’s gracious provisions. He provided the perfect Lamb that was slain so I could come into his presence.”

Are you still depending on the perfection of the Lamb? If not, you will accept the lies and condemnation of the devil and allow him to pull you away from God. We must daily recognize the perfect righteousness of Christ to put on the breastplate of righteousness.

When the enemy comes to you with accusations of what you have said and done wrong, we can reply that Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

The Greek word translated “finished” is an accounting term, which means paid in full. He has paid my debt of sin. There is nothing that can be done to add to the righteousness that Christ imparts to us upon believing. It is not ninety-five percent of Jesus’ work and five percent of our work. It is all of Jesus! Christ has fully paid the debt. The believer who knows what Christ has done for him can laugh at the enemy’s vain attempt at saying that the believer is not good enough. Christ is our righteousness.

Application Question: 

  1. How does one recognize the difference between condemnation from the devil and conviction from the Holy Spirit?
  2.  How can we practically apply the righteousness of Christ in our warfare?

2.The breastplate of righteousness represents our practical righteousness.

But the breastplate is not just imputed righteousness; it is also practical righteousness. When we are living a righteous life, we are protected from Satan. However, when we fall into sin, we give Satan an open door to attack and defeat us. Again, Ephesians 4:26-27 indicates this, as it says, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18 also represents this truth. In the parable, a master forgave a servant a great debt, but the servant did not forgive his fellow servant a much lesser debt. Because of this, the master handed the servant over to torturers. Matthew 18:32-35 shares the master’s judgment:

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Obviously, the master reflects God and the servants reflect believers, but who are the torturers? No doubt, they are Satan and his demons. We see this throughout Scripture. When Saul was in unrepentant sin, who did God hand him over to? A tormenting spirit (1 Sam 16:14)! In the Corinthian church, when an unrepentant man was fornicating with his stepmother, who did Paul call for the church to hand him over to? Satan (1 Cor 5:5)! They would do this by putting him out of the church.

Sin opens the door for the devil into our lives. No doubt there are many Christians who, as a result of unrepentance, have psychological problems which are demonic in origin. There are Christians being tormented in their minds, bodies, emotions, work, and relationships because they have been handed over by God to the enemy until they repent.

Ephesians 2:2 says Satan works in those who are “disobedient”; however, a righteous life is a protection.

7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9).

Living in God’s forgiveness calls for a life of vulnerability before God and others. The enemy’s darts of accusation and condemnation cannot lodge in the heart if one is living a life of obedience and right living before God and his or her brothers and sisters in Christ. However, when we sin, we need to be open and vulnerable to God about it and talk to Him about our sin. Ask Him for forgiveness, and if something was done to someone else, to get it right with that person. Sometimes, restitution is needed. If so, don’t delay in paying it.

​​ Here is what James wrote concerning being vulnerable to other Christians:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:16).

As our Father, God will at times discipline His people. By His discipline, we see that we are His children (Hebrews 12:7-8).It will be more comfortable on us if we have a short account with God and we think of the day’s affairs before going to bed at night. Be sensitive to keep your heart clean before God by daily confession and repentance of sin. God’s power to say no to sin and temptation has been given to us when we believed and received the Spirit. We are empowered to live a righteous life because we have right standing with God.

Example of righteousness

It isn’t surprising that Abraham was listed in the Bible as an example of righteousness. His faith and willingness to obey God in whatever he was commanded are well documented. Let’s look at another man who was called righteous in the Bible—whose righteousness isn’t obvious at first glance. Let’s consider Abraham’s nephew Lot, who is listed as another righteous man.

Lot’s story is recorded in Genesis 19. He lived with his family in a city named Sodom—one of the cities later destroyed by God for the great wickedness that took place there. In the first part of the chapter, two angels (appearing in the form of men) came to visit Lot. He fed them and gave them a night’s lodging in his house (Genesis 19:1-3). When men of the city came to the house and demanded that he send the men out to them to be sexually abused, Lot actually offered to send his daughters out instead!

The angels struck the men of the city blind to protect Lot and told him he needed to take his family and flee the city immediately. Lot initially lingered, but when the angels took him by the hand and told him to flee without looking back, he did so (Genesis 19:4-16).

How is it that Lot came to be called a righteous man? Notice 2 Peter 2:6-7: “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed with the filthy conduct of the wicked.”

Though Lot had his shortcomings and human failings (as we all do!), God considered him to be a righteous man. Verse 8 sheds a little more light on why he was righteous: “For that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.”

Rather than adopting the sinful ways of those around him, Lot continued to obey God and was deeply disturbed by the lawlessness and sin going on around him. And when God commanded him to flee the city at a moment’s notice, leaving behind his life as he knew it, Lot did so without looking back. His obedience to God’s commands and his desire to follow God’s way of life made Lot a righteous man. And that “breastplate of righteousness” saved Lot from destruction!

Application Questions: 

  1. What doors are still open in your life for the enemy? 
  2. In what ways is God calling you to turn away from sin so you can put on the breastplate of righteousness?

3.The breastplate of righteousness represents guarding our mind and emotions.

As mentioned, the Roman soldier’s breastplate was used to protect the vital organs such as the heart and intestines. In the Hebrew mindset, the heart represented the mind and will. The bowels, or intestines, represented emotions and feelings (cf. Col 3:12, KJV).9 Therefore, the breastplate probably represents guarding our mind and emotions. Solomon says, “Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” (Prov 4:23, NIV 2011.)

Satan realizes that if he can get our minds and emotions, that will affect our worship and our obedience to God. That’s why he always works to implant wrong teachings and lies into our minds through books, music, TV, and conversation. Our minds affect our walk—how we live. But he also wants to get our emotions. Many Christians are emotionally all over the place, and part of that is a result of spiritual warfare. Satan stirs up people to criticize and condemn. He stirs up little romances with the opposite sex to distract us from focusing on God. He works to make believers worry and fret about the future so that they lose their joy. The enemy is cunning and keen. Therefore, we must guard our hearts above all else.

Believers guard their hearts by recognizing wrong thoughts and emotions, taking them captive, and making them obedient to Christ.

Second Corinthians 10:4-5 says,

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Here we see that a major part of our fight is recognizing wrong thoughts and emotions, taking them captive, and making them obedient to Christ. For example, Scripture teaches us to “be anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6) and to “give thanks in all things” (1 Thess 5:18). When we are struggling with anxiety or complaining, our hearts and minds are not being obedient to Christ. We need to confront wrong thoughts and emotions with the truth, confess them to God, and submit them to Christ.

Are you taking your thoughts and emotions captive? Scripture calls us to control our emotions. God says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4.) I must choose to obey even when I don’t feel like it; I must bring my heart into submission to Christ.

Believers guard their hearts by filling their minds with Scripture.

Philippians 4:8-9 says this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

If we fill our minds with truth and righteousness, then the devil will have less opportunity to tempt us. Every day we must fill our minds with truth by thinking on Scripture through our reading, worshiping, and even entertainment, if at all possible.

Are you putting on the breastplate of righteousness? 

Are you recognizing Christ’s imputed righteousness, living a life, and guarding your heart and emotions? Without these practices, you are opening the door to the devil.

Application Question: 

  1. Which aspect of the breastplate of righteousness stood out most to you and why?
  2. How can believers put on the breastplate of righteousness by guarding their hearts? 
  3. In what ways does Satan commonly attack your mind and emotions? How do you take rogue thoughts and emotions captive and make them obedient to Christ?