The Roman breastplate covered the chest and those hard-to-live-without organs — heart, lungs, etc. Lacking advanced medicine, a blow through the ancient breastplate usually proved fatal. Obviously, if you wanted a long career, insuring your breastplate could defeat the enemy’s weapons was more than a good idea — it was survival itself.
What does Paul mean by righteousness? Many people interpret the breastplate of righteousness to be the righteousness God imputes to us through a saving faith in Jesus Christ. But that righteousness is given to us when we are saved, so that can’t be what Paul has in mind.
Return to chapter 1, verse 1, and notice Paul already assumes you are saved. Thus, since Paul exhorts us to put on this armor, it must be something you don’t have (yet).
While it’s true we have the righteousness of Jesus imputed to us, and our own righteousness cannot cover us, what Paul really gets at here is the practical righteousness of day to day living.
An example from the book of Daniel should explain.
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. (Daniel 6:1–5)
After Daniel rose to prominence, other administrators became jealous and wanted to remove Daniel from his position so they desired to find some dirt on him.
Imagine modern politics — you hire an investigator to search a person’s past, and eventually you come to a “youthful indiscretion” you can exploit to your advantage. That’s exactly what these administrators attempted.
Only one problem with their plan — Daniel didn’t have any skeletons to dig up so they conclude the only way to get Daniel is by creating a conflict between the law of government and the law of God. Daniel would follow the law of God, and they would have him.
Daniel examples the breastplate of righteousness. He lived his life so that no charges could be leveled against him. Compare with many in the “ministry” who steal, lie, and live contrary to the law of God. It becomes easy for the enemy to take them out by piercing their breastplate, proving fatal to their ministry.
Consider the complete lack of ethics and responsibility in today’s society — not only do we tolerate sin, we promote it. Read the list at the end of Romans 1 and Galatians 5:19–21 and consider what most popular movies contain.
As we’ve covered in the belt of truth, truth does not change, sin is always sin, wrong is still wrong, yet how many times do you hear the following:
- It’s not your fault, you have a disease
- You were born that way
Where has responsibility gone?
Our society spends considerable time trying to blame others for our own problems. Very few people even live a “moral” (whatever that means) life anymore. People devoted to their spouse and honest on their tax returns are the butt of comedians jokes.
Consider what passes for TV — the guy everyone laughs at is the honest, hard-working father who provides for his family. Hollywood prefers to portray dads as a stupid, inept, drunk.
Hollywood is nothing more than a mirror for society, as most people consider loyalty and personal integrity an outdated concept applying only to old-timers.
Paul has a different idea.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1–3 NKJV)
Worthy of the calling. How often do you think of that? Do you need a daily reminder of moral codes?
LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. (Psalm 15)
He that lives up to his word, and changes not?
We come to those words nobody likes to hear anymore.
Those old-fashioned ideals come straight from the Bible — it’s the breastplate of righteousness. It’s no coincidence as society throws out God and the Bible those ideals have vanished.
How’s your breastplate doing? Does it have a few holes? If it does, the time to repair it is now.
Don’t worry about what you’ve done (past tense), concern yourself with what you’re doing (present and future). As Zig Ziglar says “failure is an event, not a person.” It matters not what your past contains since you can’t change it, it matters what you do with what lies in front of you.
Focus on what you’re doing, not what you’ve done.
… Because it’s 2:59AM.