Therefore put on the full armor 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:13-17, NIV)
In-Place. Before discussing (1) breastplates and (2) righteousness, Paul reminds us of the critical role of the Belt of Truth. The Belt of Truth binds breastplate armor in place. Paul’s point? As the belt anchors the breastplate in place, so God’s truth (i.e., character) secures right-living. Truth supports practical righteousness.
Practical Righteousness. Instead of the righteousness given when we first accept Jesus forgiveness, “breastplate righteousness” is about our ongoing righteousness. This is sanctification. Sanctification is daily, imputed, practical righteousness.
Paul probably had Isaiah (Is 59:7) in mind as he described the believer’s armor. Isaiah speaks of God’s frustration and direct involvement to protect Israel when he writes,“The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice… He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” With overtones of Calvary, God personally intervened. He avenged the innocent and protected the upright. To do this, he shielded himself with the breastplate of His righteousness and helmet of His salvation. God’s armor was His righteousness and His salvation!
Paul, in Ephesians, exhorts believers to put on the breastplate of this same godly righteousness. Like the tortured Jews under attack in Isaiah 59, the breastplate of God’s righteousness protects the believer today. We are shielded and delivered in combat, today, because of God’s virtue and honor. Our own self-righteousness doesn’t cut it! God imputes His righteousness to believers, day-in and day-out, to thwart Satan’s efforts. This is practical righteousness.
Breastplate armor guards vital organs in combat. The Greek word for breastplate (thoraka) is where we get our English word thorax, or chest. Symbolically, man’s heart is safeguarded from Satan’s probing jabs by the breastplate of his godly practices. Daily scripture reading, devotion to prayer and his interaction with other believers re-enforce his combat readiness. Paul writes, “I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the calling you have received.” (Eph 4:1)
Why does Satan target a man’s heart? In the Bible, a man’s “heart” is the critical center for his (1) thoughts, (2) ambitions, (3) feelings and (4) conscience. Spiritually, Satan targets the heart because “injury” derails balance in each area. For example, “injured thoughts” may distort how we think about God, His Word and Christlike values. “Damaged ambition” may impact decisions, long and short-term goals. “Bruised emotions” may affect feelings, reactions and relationships. A “wounded conscience” may compromise perspective on right and wrong.
For Christians, spiritual combat is inevitable. Equipping ourselves with the breastplate of “practical righteousness” is about the combat-readiness that comes from a Christlike lifestyle. May God strengthen us with His righteousness as we study His word, practice prayer and engage in faithful fellowship!