As the soldier heads out onto the battlefield, he carefully puts on his armor; each piece is significant. In the spiritual battle, as we stand against the schemes of the devil, it is essential for us to put on the whole armor of God. We have already considered the necessity of tightening the belt of truth around us daily as we face the lies of the enemy. In Ephesians 6, the second piece of armor Paul mentioned is the breastplate of righteousness. Paul wrote that we are to stand “having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph 6:14, ESV). Only after the Middle Ages was the breastplate changed to metal. In the first century, the soldier’s breastplate was made of heavy, thick leather that protected from the swords, spears, knives, and arrows of the enemy. This thick leather was wrapped around the torso and it covered the soldier’s vital organs – his lungs and heart. Significant damage to either of these organs would bring defeat.
With our lungs we draw in the breath we need to keep living; spiritually speaking, the lungs represent our life in Christ. The heart, which has long been considered the seat of our emotions, spiritually represents our affection for Christ. If we are going to be victorious on the spiritual battlefield, we must wear the breastplate of righteousness to protect our life in Christ and our love for Him.
Identity in Christ
Empowerment always follows a true understanding of our identity. This means that our ability to live victoriously is rooted in the understanding of who we are in Christ. The truth of the gospel is that the moment one trusts Christ as Savior, he becomes a new creation in Christ Jesus. In Romans 5:17 Paul states that we received the “gift” of righteousness, and in 2 Corinthians he says, “For our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor 5:21, ESV). What we learn from these passages is that when we believed in Christ, God gave us a new standing in him. We are no longer viewed by God as guilty sinners but rather as righteous ones in Christ. This is our new position, new standing, and new location. As Paul states in Colossians 1, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:13, ESV).
While most of us cognitively grasp this truth, we often fail to live in the reality of it. We need to remind ourselves daily of our righteous standing in Christ. It is wise to remember what we were in our unconverted days – how that we were guilty, vile, and unworthy sinners – but we cannot stay there in our thinking. We must affirm the truth of the gospel, how God in Christ has made us holy and righteous in Him. How we see ourselves impacts how we behave. Righteous deeds flow from the life of God within. As we allow the Spirit to work in us and through us, His righteousness will be evident in our lives. Let the Word of the Lord settle in our minds – we are righteous in Christ Jesus
The meaning of the word “devil” in this passage is slanderer, or accuser. The devil will do his level best to keep us from understanding and appreciating these precious truths. If he can keep us wallowing in shame about our past, or make us see ourselves as worthless, then he will have succeeded in keeping us in the trenches of sin.
Integrity in Christ
How then does the truth of believers being righteous in Christ affect our daily life? When we are guarded by the reality of our righteous position, the Holy Spirit will enable us to live in the good of that standing. This means that we put into practice what God has already stated to be true. Essentially, this is living by faith. We believe what God says and then we live it out. It’s also a life of obedience, daily righteousness, living and doing what is right before God. It doesn’t mean practical perfection, but it does mean living a life of integrity. Integrity doesn’t mean that we are perfect – none of us is – but it means being true to God and being real. Men and women of true integrity are willing to own up, to face sin, to confess it, and find fresh forgiveness in the blood of Christ. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9, KJV). We are all works in progress, and will be, until God takes us home.
In conclusion, when we appreciate who we are in Christ, and live our lives out of that fullness, we have protection from the attacks of the enemy. Then Christ, Who is our life, protects us. Once we had a strong desire to satisfy the natural sinful cravings of our hearts. Now, with our life in Christ, we have the ability to enjoy what Christ enjoys. The more we delight in Him, the more we will desire to live righteously. This living out of God’s fullness is what Paul stresses in Ephesians 3 when he says, “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19, ESV). “To know the love of Christ” is more than just an academic knowledge of it, but rather an experiential knowledge of living in the wonder and the blessing of it. Solomon advises, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Prov 4:23, NLT). The heart is the inner person – our affections, motives, and intellect. In counselling soon-to-be-married couples, I explain the necessity of not allowing anyone or anything to get between them. Their hearts belong first to God and then to each other. Their love for each other needs to stay strong and vibrant. It is the same with our relationship with Christ. He must have our first affection, and when He does, all other affections will fall into proper order. He will enable us to love others more fully and freely as we live in the good of His great love for us. As we go to war today, may our breastplates of righteousness be fastened tightly so that we may be able to live out the life and love of Christ and “stand firm” in Him.