The Breastplate of Righteousness
Passage: Ephesians 6:10–6:14
There is a reason for each piece of armor! You need the breastplate of righteousness, because Satan will attack you through accusation, guilt, and condemnation. We know this from the Bible. Zechariah 3:1-4 says, “Then he showed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the angel of the Lord and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him”. Revelation calls Satan “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them day and night before God”. Satan relentlessly troubles and accuses God's people. And most all of us know this in our own experience.
FJ Huegel in his classic, Reigning with Christ, wrote, “We are those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness that we might reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ”, therefore “the Christian does not stand on the ground of condemnation. His position is NOT that of a criminal, judged and found guilty, on the way to execution.... And yet how much of the Christian's time is spent secretly in groaning under a sense of guilt and condemnation.....We could almost wish we had never begun the Christian life.....” He goes on to say...”We have listened to the voice of the enemy. It seemed to be our conscience condemning us for our lack of love, our innumerable imperfections, but in reality it was the enemy, aiming to get us down by accusing us.” He described these accusations as “a thousand voices....forever ringing in our ears”.
William Gurnall, in his book The Christian in Complete Armour, William Gurnall said, “It is harder to keep Satan out of your consciences, than to keep the flies out of your cupboard in summer from tainting your food. Many a sweet meal has he robbed the saints of, and sent them supperless to bed; take heed, therefore that he takes not yours away also.” (my paraphrase)
These accusations may come directly from Satan, or it may come through your own thoughts, or conscience, or through other people.
Certainly Satan will attack you when you sin, because you have given him a ground of accusation, an opportunity to work you over. If you spoke angry or ugly words to your husband or wife, or co-worker, the Holy Spirit WILL call you to turn away from that sin and TO Jesus. But Satan will tell you Jesus has turned away from YOU. That he is ashamed of you and doesn't want anything to do with you. Satan will move all hell to get you back on a ground of condemnation, instead of the ground of Christ.
He will cause you to fear that God has rejected you, that you are not welcome in his presence. He whispers that God is not interested in you because of your failures, faults and sins. He will keep you feeling that you do not have peace with God, that God is fed up, angry, displeased, and has turned his back on you. He will tell you, you are not worthy to be loved by God,
He tires to keep your past sins, your failures and shortcomings and faults ever before you. He ties to get you to live with a constant sense of guilt. Guilt is the sub-conscious belief that your sins are not forgiven. It is the belief that you are not righteous, or right with God. He attacks you in this way because you cannot come to God and feel free in his presence with guilt. Guilt for sin is the main hindrance of intimacy and enjoyment of God. So Satan plays upon your human feelings of shame, of guilt, and failure. The very things Christ died to remove from you.
Your sin opens the door to many of these accusations. But Satan will also work you over and tell you, you are a miserable failure, even when you have not sinned. You have enough real faults but Satan will even assign faults to yo that are not truly yours.
Job had been commended by God as righteous, God said “he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil”. Yet his so called friends said, “Job, there is sin and wickedness in your life.. and these calamities have come upon you because of that”. They said, “God is angry at your wickedness and he has brought all this on you”. They accused him of hoarding his riches, mistreating the poor and the widow, when exactly the opposite was true. I am telling you, without this breastplate of righteousness, Satan can make you feel like a sinner for walking across the street! He can hound your conscience to the point some people cannot even function. “You forgot to do this, you failed to do this right, you should have done this better, that wasn't the right time, you didn't use the right words.....”.
He will turn your conscience into an overactive, unrelenting, instrument of his accusations, constantly stabbing you with his accusations. Until there is no joy of of being a Christian, no feeling of what a great thing it is to belong to Jesus, no spiritual happiness. He is working to make you miserable, unhappy, spiritually depressed.
Satan knows that your conscience has been awakened to God, and to his holiness. He knows you now want to please God. He knows how to use this against you.
Satan will not only tell you, you are unpresentable to God because of your sins, but he will tell you, the things you do to try to serve Jesus aren't good enough, or that they don't matter, or that they are pathetic, that you don't have anything good enough to offer. Often I hear people say, right after they have stepped out to do something for Jesus, “I've been beating myself up because....”. One of the guys shared a short talk on one of our men's Colorado trips. I thought it was very good, but later in the day I ran into him and he said, “I've been beating myself up all day for going too long and just didn't feel I did very good”. He did something for God, we were there to enjoy God's creation and Satan has him feeling condemned.
Satan loves to get you to think that God is greatly disappointed in you and would gladly trade you in for someone else if he could.
There is an answer that refutes everything Satan can throw at you. It is called the breastplate of righteousness. It is the righteousness of Christ, the very righteousness of God, imputed to you through faith in Christ. It is credited to your life. This is something that exists outside of you and you put it on. It is the armor of God, not the armor of any one of us.
It is given to you as a gift of shear grace. Romans 10:3 says, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” THIS righteousness is the basis of your standing before God. It is the basis of your acceptance by him. It is the basis of having peace with God. It is the reason you can look forward to seeing God face to face, stand faultless before the throne.
Righteousness means to be right, to be right before some standard or before some ONE. Tim Keller said, it is to be presentable, or that you have passed inspection, that you are well pleasing in someone's evaluation. To be righteous means to be accepted by that person, to be approved by some standard or by someone. That is what you have in Christ!
The struggle to be presentable or acceptable to another person is a struggle that goes to the very core of your soul. There is a deep desire within you to be well pleasing to your parents, to your kids, to your friends at school, to that boy or girl you meet on your first date, to some person or people who are significant to you. It feels terrible to not be right or acceptable in the eyes of the important people in your life.
And it feels infinitely worse to not be right (or not feel right) in the eyes of God. Some people struggle with a deep seated feeling that I am unacceptable to God. I heard an adult Christian woman once say, “All my life, I've thought, what's wrong with me?” What's wrong is that you are trying to feel presentable based on YOU, not on Jesus. Romans 10:3 “Since they did not know about the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.” Your own righteousness can never give you peace that you are right with God and it can NOT hold up against the accusations of Satan.
But God has given you, in Christ, a righteousness, which will pass inspection, which does make you approved and acceptable to God. Satan never wants you to know that or believe that or feel that.
The reality is that sin does produce guilt and shame. Jeremiah 3:25 “Let us lie down in our shame and let our disgrace cover us, we have sinned against the Lord our God..”. The question is how do we get rid of our shame. Romans 10:11 KJV. Whoever believes in him (in Christ) will not be put to shame. Whoever believes in Christ, does not need to fear that they will be unpresentable, or unapproved. We are given a righteousness which MAKES us presentable, acceptable and unashamed.
The Gospel is NOT just telling people, “Don't be ashamed; you just need to see that God loves you just as you are, (period)”. The gospel is that you have real shame and guilt BECAUSE of sin BUT God so loved you, he made a righteousness for you. He made you acceptable! Presentable! This is the breastplate we wear.
1 Corinthians 1:30 “Jesus Christ has become for us...our righteousness”
2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.
Romans 3:21 “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known... This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.....”
Romans 4:23 The words it was credited to him as righteousness were written NOT for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness- for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead”. Not just Abraham or the saints through the ages were credited with righteousness, but God does that for YOU!
Charles Hodge wrote, “Our own righteousness cannot resist the accusations of conscience, the whispers of despondency, the power of temptation, much less the severity of the law, or the accusation of Satan.”.... “This righteousness is an infinitely perfect righteousness, consisting in the obedience and suffering of the Son of God, which satisfies all the demands of the law and is a sure defense against all assaults, whether they come from within or without.”
In our spiritual battles against such a wicked enemy, we have a righteousness that can stand up to the most intense scrutiny. As important as it is to DO what is right. We must also be fully convinced that we have someone else's righteousness to present against the attacks of Satan.
David Guizik said, “The breastplate of righteousness is your best defense against the sense of spiritual depression and gloom that comes upon us”. There is no cure for this feeling of unworthiness, for the fears and depression that comes from non-acceptance, other than the righteousness of Christ.
The devil tries to make you think your relationship with God depends on how you feel at the moment. But God's righteousness never changes. It is infinitely perfect, without any fault. It is the same day and night. It does not fluctuate through all your moods.
Lloyd Jones said, “Thank God for experiences.... But you do not put on the breastplate of experiences, you put on the breastplate of righteousness.”
What does it mean to “PUT ON” this righteousness? You put on this piece of armor by BELIEVING the good news of the gospel, by believing that you are no longer upon the ground of condemnation but upon the safe ground of the blood and righteousness of Christ. The ONLY way to stand against the accusations of the devil is to BELIEVE the greater truths of the gospel.
You can be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, but unless you actively place your faith in that truth, Satan can bring you to despair and ruin. This is something you do in your heart and mind. You look to the righteousness of Christ, trusting solely and completely in it. When you are assailed by Satan, faith will bring you back to where you belong, it brings you back to peace with God, back to the blessing of fellowship and intimacy with God. Then your emotions and heart will be secure once again in this standing with God.
It will help you to learn the logic of Romans 8:33 “Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” The repeated question is: WHO will bring charges? WHO is he that condemns? The answer is: Not God or Jesus! God is the one who justifies! If God declares you right, who can say you are not!! Jesus is the one who died to cancel all the charges against you. Would he die for you and then stand and charge you? Absolutely not! This is how you answer the Devil. This is how you put on the breastplate of righteousness.
When you sin, the Devil says, “Look at your sin, God wants nothing to do with you now. God never wants to see you”. The gospel says, “You should not sin! But when you do, you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous!!” It is his righteousness that stands before the Father in our place. It is his righteousness that made his sacrifice so perfectly acceptable to the Father in our place.
So when Satan tells you, you are a lousy Christian, put on the breastplate of righteousness. It alone will withstand the attacks of Satan's charges.
To put on the breastplate of righteousness is to put on Christ. But there is another aspect of the righteousness of Christ that is an important part of your defense against the schemes of the devil. It is called the imparted righteousness of Christ. It is the impulse or the power to live righteously that comes when you are born again. You would not have this righteousness at all without Christ living in you by the Holy Spirit.
In Ephesians 4 we were told to, “Put on the new self which is created (by God), “to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”. Putting on the breastplate of righteousness involves putting on the righteousness of the new SELF. You have a new self (new life within you), created by God to be like God in righteousness....
As foundational as our unqualified righteous standing with God is, in standing against the devil, there is NO question but that the Bible ALSO teaches that righteous living is a safe guard against the devil. Paul said if you hold on to anger you give the devil a foothold. You will never be spiritually safe from the Adversary when you are knowingly doing something Unrighteous. That is why so much of the New Testament is an exhortation and an encouragement to us to live in a manner pleasing to the Lord.
There is no such thing as having an imputed righteousness and NOT having a new imparted righteous quality in your life. As Paul said “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness”. Romans 6:18.
Satan will tell you it is no fun to wear this armor because it will hinder your pleasures in this life. Others will make fun of you for being too good. They will say, “What's the matter with you? Don't you know how to have some fun? Don't you want to have a good time?” Yet righteousness leads to joy and sin leads to misery and slavery. So “put on Christ and make no room for the sins of the flesh”. Do not harbor any unrighteous thought, attitude, or activity – that opens you up to being knocked down by the devil.
Ephesians 5:8-9 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth....” If the light is in you then you will live in goodness, and righteousness BECAUSE that IS THE FRUIT OF THE LIGHT”. Because Christ is in you, you are now light in the Lord, and the fruit of being light is goodness and righteousness!
You are born of God. You have God's seed in you. You have righteousness indwelling you! You don't have to yell at your wife. You don't have to hold on to anger. You don't have to write that ugly email. You can say I am righteous! I am a slave to righteousness. I live in the righteousness of the Holy Spirit. This is part of your armor!
For the world the word righteousness is a negative word. For us it is the defense of our life. Is it a breastplate of armor to protect our life from the cruel attacks of Satan. We love righteousness – and we hold fast to the gift of the very righteousness of God credited to us, and we hold fast to the righteousness born in us, also by the gift of God. Hold fast to both and you will be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.