When we’re going into spiritual warfare, we need spiritual armor. As we talked about in last week’s post on the Girdle of Truth, God is the one who gives us this armor. He doesn’t invite us to do battle and then leave us defenseless.
take up the full armor of God, in order that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand therefore, girding your waist with truth, and putting on the breastplate of righteousness. (Eph. 6:13-14, LEB)
The second piece of our armor is a breastplate of righteousness. In a physical soldier’s armor, this is the part of the armor that protects the front and back of the torso. It’s keeping your spine, internal organs, and especially your heart and lungs safe.
Keeping Your Heart
For us, righteousness serves much the same protective function. In a broad sense, the word dikaiosune (G1343) means being in a “condition acceptable to God.” It also refers to “the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved by God” (Thayer’s Dictionary). Righteousness involves the condition of your heart and state of your character.
Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever! (Deut. 5:29, WEB)
God has always been interested in wining His people’s hearts. That desire is at the core of Him asking us to follow Him in righteousness, which is why Jesus didn’t destroy the Law when He came. Rather, He revealed the full expression and intent behind God’s law — that we might develop His character and become like Him (Matt. 5:17-20, 48).
Armor God Wears
Speaking of becoming like God, the Breastplate of Righteousness is a piece of armor that He actually wears.
He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head. He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a mantle. (Is. 59:17, WEB)
The breastplate we’re talking about isn’t just something God gives us to wear. It’s also something that He wears Himself. This is truly armor of God what He’s sharing with us.
God doesn’t need to guard His heart against sin, so what is He doing with a breastplate? Yahweh Tsidkenu (“the Lord our Righteousness,” Jer. 23:6) is righteous to the core of His being. It’s one of His essential character traits. My guess is that He wears the Breastplate of Righteousness because He has the right to it. It belongs to Him, as it does to no one else. If we’re at all righteous, then it comes from Him.
Finding True Righteousness
Living in accordance with Godly principles has received backlash in recent years, even in some churches. Such churches say that we don’t need to live righteously because God covers us with Grace. And while it’s true that God’s grace is the only way to put away our sins, Jesus told us that “unless your righteousness greatly surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt. 5:20, LEB).
That doesn’t mean we become even more legalistic than the Pharisees. It means we need to find what the legalistic and the permissive sects are both missing. We need to understand God’s purpose for and definition of righteousness. Righteousness involves doing what God says so that you can become like Him and walk in relationship with Him. It’s not about earning salvation or trading works for God’s favor. It’s about following and obeying God because we love Him.
Wrapped Up In God
Righteousness is essential in us because it’s part of God’s character and we need to become like Him. And it’s part of our armor because our lives depend on it. Adam Clarke writes,
This righteousness, this life of God in the soul of every man, defends every thing on which man’s spiritual existence depends. While he possesses this principle, and acts from it, his spiritual and eternal life is secure” (commentary on Eph. 6:14).
The Breastplate of Righteousness deflects the enemy’s attacks because it wraps us up in God’s character. The more we become like God, learn what He expects, and do His commands from the heart, the less easily we’ll be deceived. We start out girded with truth, then we live in that truth as the next piece of armor.