The Breastplate of Righteousness
The Armor of God-The Breastplate of Righteousness
Introduction: The King Is Shot
In 1934, King Alexander of Yugoslavia landed in France for an official visit. Before he left his warship, he dressed in the full uniform of an admiral of the navy. Finding that the uniform’s tunic did not fit easily over his bulletproof vest, he took the vest off. Thus, when he entered the special automobile which met him at the dock, his protective armor was gone. A few minutes later, an assassin’s bullet pierced his uniform and entered the breast of the king. The king died. One of the first assassinations to be caught on film. This didn’t have to happen. If he would have just worn his bulletproof vest. But he was more interested in looking good than in being good.
Without Jesus Christ and his breastplate we are going to be injured and we will not be able to recover. We will die eternally without Christ.
This is a sad story for sure. That bullet proof vest functions in a very similar way to the breastplate of righteousness. As you will see in just a moment, the breastplate is a free gift of God through HIs Son Christ. If you wear it, it can guard you from spiritual acts of violence from Satan. Think about it, if the King would have worn the vest, he would have likely lived. However, he left it off and he suffered death. Friends, that breastplate of righteousness is bulletproof. It is guaranteed to give life to the wearer and the guarantee is given by God Himself. So you can take it to the bank. You can trust it.
The Breastplate Is A Gift, A Guard, And A Guarantee!
When was it written? Around 60 A.D. Some sources say that it was written around the same time as Paul’s letter to the Colossians, since it’s similar in style and purpose.
Where was it written? Possibly from the prison cell where Paul was being held in Rome.
To whom was it written? Ephesians is primarily written to Gentile (non-Jewish) followers of Christ—most likely the church in Ephesus. (Unlike some of Paul’s other letters, it doesn’t begin with individual greetings. For this reason, there is debate about whether it was specifically intended for the church in Ephesus, or if it was meant to be circulated more widely.)
Why was it written? Paul wrote this letter to encourage Gentile believers, and to make it clear that Jews and Gentiles have been brought together as part of one body in Christ. Paul is also concerned that his audience be made aware of the moral laws they may have been lax in following (or that they were unaware of).
What does it say? Ephesians is first and foremost an encouraging letter. Because of Christianity’s strong roots in Jewish history and religion, it was natural for early Christians to wonder if Christ’s gospel was limited to Jews, or if Jewish Christians held a special status because of their ethnic heritage. Paul clearly wants his Gentile brothers and sisters to know that in God’s kingdom, they are first-class citizens alongside their Jewish brethren. To get this point across, he uses a number of phrases and metaphors that imply unity: the “body of Christ” as a description of God’s kingdom on earth, and marriage as a mirror of Jesus’ relationship with the church.
Paul also reminds his audience that since they now belong to Christ, they must start living their lives differently. They need to distance themselves from immorality and strive for spiritual purity. It’s in the context of this discussion that he uses the famous metaphor of the “armor of God.”
Ephesians 6:10-18 ESV
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 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. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…
Before we can understand the use of the breastplate of righteousness, we must first define righteousness. What does it mean to be righteous and how does one become righteous? The Bible talks a lot about what it means to be righteous.
Dictionaries define righteousness as “behavior that is morally justifiable or right.” Such behavior is characterized by accepted standards of morality, justice, virtue, or uprightness. The Bible’s standard of human righteousness is God’s own perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word. Thus, God’s laws, as given in the Bible, both describe His own character and constitute the plumb line by which He measures human righteousness.
So, righteousness is credited to us in our treatment of one another and our reactions to God’s clear commands found in Scripture.
There is just one small problem. Let’s read scripture together.
Matthew 5:20 ESV
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Romans 3:9-18 ESV
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV
Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
Romans 3:20 NLT
For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
So, I think that you are getting the point. It is impossible for humans to be truly righteous. Righteous behavior is essentially being right with God. Scripture clearly tells us that no one is right with God.
So wait! I’m confused. Preacher you’re telling me that no one is righteous. No one. What about Martin Luther King? He was righteous right? Nope. Sinner. Not right with God.
What about Gandhi? He was righteous right? Nope. Sinner. Not right with God.
What about Mother Mary? She was Jesus’ mother so she must have been righteous. Nope. She was human. She was also a sinner and thus not right with God.
What about you preacher? You must be righteous. After all, you are a preacher. Nope. I’m human too and fall short of God’s perfection therefore I too am not right with God.
Friends, being good doesn’t make you righteous. It doesn’t even make you saved. So, now that we know that righteousness is being right with God; now that we know that being righteous means embracing all of God’s commands and obeying them; now what we know that righteousness cannot be fully achieved by humanity, why does Paul tell us to put on the breastplate of righteousness?
Notice that righteousness is something that first must be put on. It is not something that we possess naturally. It is given to us at our rebirth. We trade the dusty dirty rags of our sin for the perfect and righteous breastplate of Jesus. The breast plate of righteousness is not made of our works but the works of the one who gave it to us. We do not put on the breastplate of our righteousness but we put on the breastplate of His righteousness. His being Jesus.
Friends, earthly righteousness comes only through knowing, obeying and trusting Jesus. God does not consider our works. Our works cannot defend us. God sees the work of Jesus covering our bodies.
Paul knew this full well when he discusses the justification of faith in Abraham. Abraham was a sinner. He was not right with God either. However, it was by faith that Abraham was justified and Abraham traded his guilt, shame and sin for the righteousness of God.
Romans 4:1-3 ESV
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Paul again mentions this tremendous exchange of sin for being right, or righteous before God, in 2 Corinthians 5:21.
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
So, before we move into the message, remember that righteousness is being right with God. The problem is that no human is right with God. So, God sent His Son Jesus to trade our sin for His righteousness. So when Paul says to put on the breastplate of righteousness, he is telling us to put on the breastplate of Jesus’ righteousness. It is the work of Christ that protects us and prolongs our lives.
Why Is The Breastplate Important?
Point: A Powerful Guard
A Roman centurion’s breastplate not only covered his front, but it also covered his back. The breast plate was vitally important because it protected…well…your vitals. it protected your lungs, your liver, and your ticker. That’s right, the breastplate gave special protection to your heart. After all, your heart is what gives life and if it stops beating, then you are dead.
Proverbs 4:23 gives us this powerful insight.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Even the Psalmist knew that the heart was important. In the ancient days of the Hebrews, it was believed that the heart contained all the thoughts and emotions of the person. Hebrews believed that it was their hearts that contained all the thoughts and decisions of the body. Certainly their felt emotion stirred in their hearts.
The Hebrews believed that if Satan could attack the heart, then he could control the thoughts, attitudes and emotions of an individual. Yes, we know more today about the physical body today but the principle of what Paul is saying is still true. Haven’t you told your children to follow their hearts? It is because at our core we know that it is the heart that gives us direction and guidance in life. We follow our hearts, not our brains right?
So, we wear the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts from the misguided evils of the Devil. As long as we wear the B of R, our emotions will be stable. Our attitudes will be level. Our eyes will remain fixed on God.
Illustration: A Heart Protected
On February 9, 1960, Adolph Coors III, millionaire head of Coors Company, was kidnapped and held for ransom. Seven months later his body was found on a remote hillside. He had been shot to death. Adolph Coors IV was then fifteen years old. He lost not only his father, but also his best friend. For years Adolph Coors IV hated Joseph Corbett, the man who was sentenced to life for the slaying of Adolph Coors III.
In 1975, almost 15 years later, Adolph Coors IV became a Christian. Yet, his hatred for Corbett, the murderer of his Dad, still consumed him.
Adolph Coors knew he needed to forgive Corbett as Jesus Christ forgave him. So he visited the maximum-security unit of Colorado’s Canon City penitentiary to talk with Joseph Corbett. Corbett refused to see him.
So Coors left Corbett a Bible with the following inscription: "I’m here to see you today, and I’m sorry that we could not meet. As a Christian I am summoned by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive. I do forgive you, and I ask you to forgive me for the hatred I’ve held in my heart for you."
Later Coors confessed, "I have a love for that man that only Jesus Christ could have put in my heart."
Why Is The Breastplate Important?
The breastplate of the Roman soldier was an impressive piece of weaponry. It was made from hard metal and could easily weigh more than 50 pounds. The breastplate itself was shaped by artists and craftsman to look like the muscular chest of a body builder. When the soldier wore the breastplate, he was transformed into a powerful and imposing symbol of the Roman military. Roman breastplates were so unique that no other army in the world possessed the strength of plate, skill or artistry of craftsmanship. When the Roman army rolled into town, everyone knew it. All they had to do was look at the breastplate and know that the Romans were there.
We wear the breastplate of righteousness for much of the same reason. No, we are not taking over but we are representing a greater Kingdom. The Kingdom of God. We wear the righteousness of Christ to protect us but also to give honor and glory to God. That centurion did not represent himself in that uniform, he represented Rome. When we wear the righteousness of Christ, we are strong. When we wear the righteousness of Christ, we publicly and unashamedly proclaim the power of the Gospel to everyone.
Illustration: ISIS Leader Converts to Christianity
I recently read a strange story coming from the Middle East about a man who was once an ISIS fighter. This ISIS fighter was a murderer and even killed dozens of Christians. Oddly enough, he was converted to Christianity and now works trying to share Christ with his former ISIS brothers. He also works to see Christians set free from ISIS strongholds. His name as not listed in the story but the head of the ministry that he works for gave a testimony on Voices of the Martyrs Radio.
The man sharing the testimony is named Gary Fadely. This is what Fadely had to share about this ISIS fighter turned Christian warrior:
“He told this me that he had begun having dreams of this man in white who came to him and said, ‘You are killing my people.’ And he started to feel really sick and uneasy about what he was doing,” Fadely continued. “The fighter said just before he killed one Christian, the man said, ‘I know you will kill me, but I give to you my Bible.’ The Christian was killed and this ISIS fighter actually took the Bible and began to read it. In another dream, Jesus asked him to follow him and he was now asking to become a follower of Christ and to be discipled.”
“So who knows. Perhaps this man will be like Saul in the Bible that persecuted Christians and he turned from that persecution of the early church to become the Apostle Paul who led it,” Fadely added. “God can turn it around.”
So, the central person in this story is not the ISIS fighter who killed the Christian. No. The central person in the story is the believer who boldly wore his breastplate of righteousness, offered this killer a Bible and now this murderer is now working for the Messiah.
This martyr who seemed to be in a weak place really displayed an amazing amount of strength. He represented his Jesus so well. It was this man’s publicity in the face of death that led to his killer’s conversion.
Luke 14:27 ESV
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Why Is The Breastplate Important?
Illustration: Passion For People
There was a front-page article in the San Francisco Chronicle about a metro-transit operator named Linda Wilson-Allen. She loves the people who ride her bus, learns their names, and waits for them if they're late and then make up the time later on her route. A woman in her eighties named Ivy had some heavy grocery bags and was struggling with them. So Linda got out of her bus driver's seat to carry Ivy's grocery bags onto the bus. Now Ivy lets other buses pass her stop so she can ride on Linda's bus.
Linda saw a woman named Tanya in a bus shelter. She could tell Tanya was new to the area and she was lost. It was almost Thanksgiving, so Linda said to Tanya, "You're out here all by yourself. You don't know anybody. Come on over for Thanksgiving and kick it with me and the kids." Now they're friends. Linda has built such a little community of blessing on that bus that passengers offer Linda the use of their vacation homes. They bring her potted plants and floral bouquets. When people found out she likes to wear scarves to accessorize her uniforms, they started giving them as presents to Linda.
Think about what a thankless task driving a bus can look like in our world: cranky passengers, engine breakdowns, traffic jams, gum on the seats. You ask yourself, How does she have this attitude? "Her mood is set at 2:30 A.M. when she gets down on her knees to pray for 30 minutes," the Chronicle states. "'There is a lot to talk about with the Lord,' says Wilson-Allen, a member of Glad Tidings Church in Hayward."
When she gets to the end of her line, she always says, "That's all. I love you. Take care." Have you ever had a bus driver tell you, "I love you"? People wonder, Where can I find the Kingdom of God? I will tell you where. You can find it on the #45 bus riding through San Francisco. People wonder, Where can I find the church? I will tell you. Behind the wheel of a metro transit vehicle.
Now preacher, why are you telling us this story? What does it have to do with the breastplate of righteousness? Well, this is not the only place that Paul instructs believers to wear a breastplate. Flip in your Bibles to I Thessalonians 5:8.
1 Thessalonians 5:8
But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
You see that breastplate is not just good for defense and publicity. It is so much more. You see, when we think about protecting our hearts, we think that we are protecting them from the Devil. This is true. However, when we wear the breast plate of righteousness, we also protect our hearts from ourselves. You see, it is really easy for people to become jaded. People can be very cynical. We can grow very hard hearted towards those who are hurting. Paul knew this and he wanted us to wear that breastplate so that we can be faithful and loving. Faithful to God and people. Loving to God and people. That breastplates wards off negativity and ill feelings. It keeps us tender to people and their needs.
Remember, you look like Jesus when you are loving people.
Are you jaded today? Do you feel the sting of Satan in your life? Perhaps you are not wearing the breastplate of righteousness this morning.
Would people recognize whose kingdom you are standing for today? Friend, tighten the belt and put on the breastplate of Jesus’ righteousness.
So, how do you put on the breastplate of righteousness? Simple, it is prayed on. In just a moment you will meet with Linda Wilson-Allen. You will see how she prepares for all the people that she comes in contact with. She prays.
Put On The FULL ARMOR!