Los Alamos Church of Christ
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Sometime between Noah and Abraham some smart guy realized he could protect himself from clubs and stones by making… armor. From that point on there has been a race between weapons and armor. Every time a new weapon was invented someone would make a piece of armor to counter that weapon…. Shields, helmets, chain mail, plate armor on knights, Riot shields, Kevlar body armor… throughout history personal body armor has been popular if someone was attempting to chunk something in your direction. From the smart guy before Abraham till the modern soldier… every warrior appreciates body armor.
Paul is no different. Paul advocates that the warrior of God must put on personal body armor.
ESV Ephesians 6:10-14 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the (body armor) breastplate of righteousness.
This morning we are going to explore the breastplate of righteousness.
Right off the bat, before we can begin our Basic Training with the breastplate of righteousness, I have a problem. The word righteousness in the New Testament has multiple meanings. Before we can put on the body armor of righteousness we need to decide how Paul is using the Greek word…
dikaiosu,nh di-kai-o-sun’-e… meanings: what God requires; what is right, righteousness, uprightness, justice; righting wrong; God's putting humans in a right relationship with Himself; religious duties or acts of charity.
What? Those meanings are all over the map. Let’s break dikaiosu,nh into 3 groups of meanings.
1) God’s Justice
First, there is the idea of justice. God is going to act with righteousness; with rightness; being just; setting everything to right. We know God is just. We know God brings justice. I believe, when all is said and done, there will be justice brought to the world. I believe one day everything will be made right. Evil will be punished. Right will be rewarded. We know one day God will balance all the legers.
Is justice what Paul means by telling us to put on the breastplate of righteousness? Are we to protect ourselves from the cosmic powers over this present darkness by putting on the armor of justice?
In favor of this interpretation is Isaiah 59. This is fascinating.
ESV Isaiah 59:15-19 The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He 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. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment. So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives
Paul, in Ephesians 6, is obviously quoting from Isaiah 59. Isaiah 59 is talking about the justice of the LORD. The LORD, himself, puts on the breastplate of righteousness; justice and sweeps across the land in wrath and repays His enemies. Paul, quoting Isaiah 59, makes me think the breastplate of righteousness should be the breastplate of justice.
This would mean, as we stand against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, we would know that evil will one day pay the full price. The fact that God will one day sweep across this land in judgment, keeps me standing firm. The breastplate of justice keeps my vital organs safe, as I know that one day evil will catch it. I can be strong in the strength of his might because I am counting on the justice of God!
That is the first of three meanings of righteousness which may be what Paul is meaning in Ephesians 6. I like it. I like it a lot. Let’s see what the 2nd meaning is.
2) God’s Grace
One of the main ways Paul uses the word dikaiosu,nh means those who have been made righteous; those who have been justified by the cross. Those, who have been declared right by God, live in that righteousness. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus those who have faith in that sacrifice are declared righteous. We are right with God by grace through faith. Paul uses this meaning of righteousness all over his writings.
ESV Romans 3:21-25 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
ESV 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Paul has already taught us about this concept of being right before God in Ephesians 2.
ESV Ephesians 2:1-9 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 body 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, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
We are given the breastplate of righteousness. We are given life as a gift. We rule above the prince of the power of the air by sitting on the throne above him with Christ. That has to be what righteousness as a breastplate means; maybe. I have the breastplate of grace over my internal organs so that I can rule over the prince of the air. God says to the Accuser, “Tim is right with me!” What better body armor can there be than ruling over my enemy. “You, satan, can’t touch this!”
I like it. I like it a lot. But there is one more potential meaning…
3) Our Purity
The third way righteousness is used by Paul is right living. It has the flavor of living with a righteous lifestyle. It means… holiness; faithfulness; integrity; sanctification… my very purity is the breastplate that guards my innards.
Listen to some verses which support this meaning…
ESV Ephesians 4:20-24 But that is not the way you learned Christ! - assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
ESV 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for (basic) training in righteousness,
ESV 1 Thessalonians 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
This would mean that my very life; the way of love; living as a new creation; my manner of life… protects me from the schemes of the satan, who would destroy my life with perversion. I wear the breastplate of a pure life as my protection against satan. My lifestyle of light reaches into the darkness to destroy satan.
That sounds correct. I like it. I like it a lot.
So, which of the three meanings of righteousness are we going to assign to our verse?
ESV Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.
--Is it the breastplate of justice? God’s is coming in vengeance to make everything right. I like it. This meaning certainly has the flavor of armor. I stand for justice!
--Is it the breastplate of grace? I am ruling above the devils by the gift of Grace. I can withstand the evil one as long as I know I rule from the throne. I stand justified.
--Is it the breastplate of purity? My right living is my defense against satan. Sin opens my heart up to evil. Purity is a powerful guard against satan. I stand in cleanliness.
I really can’t decide. So, let’s don’t. Perhaps, Paul means all three. Sometimes the writers of the 2nd Testament are slick. Perhaps, Paul is clever enough to convey multiple meanings. Perhaps, Paul wants us to roll all three meanings into our breastplate…
We put on the breastplate of God’s justice which He gives us in grace so we live in purity. Wow. Let me say that again. My purity is a shield because I have the grace of God within his justice. That sounds good. I am wearing the body armor of the God who will sweep away my enemies with justice, but I will not we swept away because He has declared me right. Therefore, I use my sanctification as body armor! I like it. I like it a lot.
Now, we can get to our basic training. How do we handle the whispers of the devils with the breastplate of righteousness?
Scheme 1) Injustice
One of the most discouraging things in the world is innocent people suffering. One of satan’s most powerful weapons is to convince us that God cannot be love because people suffering.
The devils whisper…
--How can you believe in a God that let’s babies die of cancer? How can you believe in a God who let’s women be raped? How can you believe in a God who is so calloused? “That’s terrible.”
--Your life is miserable… Why does nothing ever work? Why is everything so hard? “Life sucks, I think I will quit.”
--Through the news. Every newscast is full of injustice… tragedy… misery… why did that happen… “I can’t fix anything. I will just give up.”
--The whole world is going to hockey-sticks in a hand basket… there is nothing you can do about it… People killing people… Ebola… climate change… domestic abuse in the NFL… breast cancer awareness everywhere. “I can’t change the world. I might as well resign.”
When faced with the discouragement of injustice, all around us, we say… “God will make it RIGHT.” We face the evil of a broken world with the faith that God will make it right. We wear the breastplate of righteousness.
Scheme 2) You are special
When the devils are faced with the grace of God in our lives, they attempt to pervert it. If they can’t discourage us with injustice, they push us toward callousness. They seduce us into arrogance… superiority… exclusiveness... prejudice.
The devils whisper…
--Boy, God really does love you. You are such a noble person… You have your act together… God is lucky to have you as a follower… “I am pretty special.”
--Because you and God are like this (fingers crossed)… You are obviously better than all of them… God treats you better than all the rest. “God loves me way more than all the…others.”
--All those other people are disgusting. God could never love them; not like he loves you. They are worthless. “I’m glad I am better than them.”
You say… Grace is not my doing. We put on the breastplate of righteousness which we know was given to us… a gift. Righteousness is given freely to all who have faith. Grace is a gift of God.
Scheme 3) Sin doesn’t matter
When we live in God’s Grace the devils push us towards indulgence.
The devils whisper…
--The rules don’t apply to you. The commands of God are for all those others. You can do whatever you want and God is going to love you anyway. Live any way you want, God will forgive you anyway. “I am special.”
--Come on don’t you remember how much fun it used to be… For old times’ sake… It won’t hurt… “Maybe, I will dabble.”
--Rules are for legalists. Grace lets you do whatever you want. You can get forgiveness later. “Maybe, just this once.
You say… “I am a new creation”
Protection of my heart comes from living holy. There is protection within the armor of purity. Satan has no foothold to attach to us if we live in purity. Satan can’t get any traction in our heart when we put on the breastplate of righteousness.
Triple protection… justice, grace and purity. We stand against the devils with the breastplate of Righteousness. Three for one!
Let’s close by reading this verse out loud together.
ESV James 4:6-7 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Los Alamos Church of Christ
October 12, 2014