Spiritual warfare 3: The breastplate of righteousness

Outline notes from sermon preached on 27th May 2012


Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Eph 6:13

Imagine Paul writing these words from a prison cell, quite possibly chained to a Roman soldier.  He was living in a culture hostile to the message of Jesus, yet incredibly hungry for spiritual reality – like ours.   Paul’s exhortation for the saints of God to put on the full armour of God to stand on the day of evil is probably more relevant to us today than it ever has been.

The Roman soldier’s breastplate was probably a piece of metal which covered the front of the body, though some have argued it was chain mail since that is what the best soldiers of the day wore.  Whatever it exactly was, we know it protected the vital organs, especially the heart.  Paul uses this piece of armour as a metaphor for righteousness.  Like a breastplate, righteousness protects our heart, the spiritual centre of our inner being.

Every good commanding officer makes sure his soldiers are well equipped for the battle.  Every good parent provides clothes for their children.  In the same way, God provides for his children.

This idea of being clothed with righteousness was not original:

Job: I put on righteousness, and it clothed me. Job 29:14 

Psalms: Let your priests be clothed with righteousness. Ps 132:9 

Isaiah: for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.   Isa 61:10 

This righteousness is not our own; it is not self-righteousness; it’s righteousness from God; it’s a gift which we as sinners need to be clothed with.

The book of Romans teaches about the righteousness from God.  The righteousness which was known about in Old Testament times has now been made fully known to everyone and anyone who has faith in Jesus.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are freely justified by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  Romans 3:21-25

I woke up at 6am to a radio program called “Something Understood.”  It’s a multi-faith program which I don’t usually listen to.  But it caught my ear this morning because it was about “saying sorry”.  The presenter commented that we find saying sorry more difficult these days because it damages our self-esteem and self-esteem is prized above everything for mental well-being in our society.  Yet, we live in a blame culture where there is great demand for people to say sorry – we have to blame someone.  So we live with the paradox that we demand others say sorry, but we find it harder to say sorry ourselves.

To put on the breastplate of righteousness, we have to acknowledge we have sinned against God, and we must be able to say sorry to Him.  However, in society these days there is little awareness of sin.

It was similar for Jeremiah, who spent much his time trying to convince the people of their sin and idolatry,

My people have exchanged their Glory for [that which doth not profit] worthless idols.  Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and shudder with great horror, declares the LORD.  For my people have committed two sins; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Jer 2:13-11

Using the analogy of a cistern, Jeremiah was showing the people that instead of joyfully depending on God to pour his blessings into their lives, they had become proud and self-righteous.

As a result of their sin they became vulnerable to enemy attack, since God had withdrawn his protection.

Is Israel as servant, a slave by birth? Why then has he become plunder? Lions have roared; they have growled at him.  They have laid waste his land; his towns are burned and deserted.  Jer 2:14-15

The breastplate of righteousness which would have protected them was no longer in place; they were unable to stand against the enemy.

Jeremiah was not constructing a theodicy, but showing them the terrible consequences of their sin. He was trying to show the people they were sinners and that they urgently needed to repent before it was too late, before the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem.  They didn’t see it or they didn’t want to see it.

Yet in spite of all this you say, “I am innocent, he is not angry with me.”  But I will pass judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’ Jer 2:35

God gently called them back to himself,

“‘Return, faithless Israel’ declares the LORD, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will not be angry forever.  Only acknowledge your guilt – you have rebelled against the LORD your God … and have not obeyed me,’” declares the LORD. Jer 3:12-13

The prerequisite to being clothed with the righteousness of God is to acknowledge our guilt; to acknowledge we are sinners in need of God’s righteousness.

The people of Jeremiah’s time wilfully refused God’s message to them, as in our day.  Jeremiah’s ministry was a failure in human terms, yet God gave him a prophecy of hope,

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land … this is the Name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.” Jer 23:5-6    

This was a prophecy concerning the coming Messiah.  He was the one who would be their King and their Righteousness.  His name is Jesus!  Jesus is our breastplate of righteousness.

Christ Jesus … has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  1Cor 1:30

All have sinned and there are no exceptions.  Being good isn’t enough; being religious isn’t enough.  We all need this breastplate of righteousness which comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus told a parable about two people who went to church to pray.  They went to the same place to do the same thing, but their heart attitude was very different:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Luke 18:10-14]

Our sinful human nature defaults to a position of self-righteousness.  We cloth ourselves with good works or religious works to make ourselves look presentable, but God is not fooled.  Even our good works are like filthy rags to him.  When the Holy Spirit shows us and convicts us of our sin, then we will cry out to be clothed God’s righteousness, and He will lead us to Christ who is our righteousness.

Have you put on the breastplate righteousness?  Without it you are open and vulnerable to attack from the enemy.


4 Responses to Spiritual warfare 3: The breastplate of righteousness

  1. evanlaar1922 says:

    Clothing could take up a couple of sermons couldn’t it?

  2. cindyhfrench says:

    since you brought me here with out a comment, I am not sure what you meant except that I love the writing and all of the scriptures…as I looked over your site, i did discover more I wished I had used last night, but was honestly so tired, I kept falling asleep at the computer.

  3. nicodemus says:

    Thanks for your comment!

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