Armour of God – Breastplate of Righteousness
by Philip Asselin
I looked at the ‘belt of truth’ in my last seed. This time I want to move on to the second element in the spiritual armour of God, the ‘breastplate of righteousness’. The most obvious piece of protection for a Roman soldier was his shield. That would be his first choice when warding off blows from an enemy. However, potentially fatal blows could come from any direction and be too many in number to be countered with just his shield. Therefore, his breastplate was another essential part of his armour.
For common soldiers it was made of iron, and only wealthier soldiers could afford a more attractive looking one, made of bronze. It was well designed, developed through experience of countless battles across the world. It consisted of pieces of metal designed to overlap, connecting the front and back. Then there were pieces protecting the shoulders. The breastplate usually rested on the soldiers’ hips and was buckled to his belt. This enabled the breastplate to be fitted securely, with most of the weight resting on the hips. It protected the heart, lungs and everything contained within the torso. A blow to this area could well result in death or certainly disable the soldier completely, so every soldier ensured he was well protected.
But what is the ‘breastplate of righteousness’ and how does it protect us spiritually? Proverbs 11:4 tells us that ‘Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death’. This tells us that without righteousness we are open to almost certain death. So, what is ‘righteousness’? Proverbs 119:172 tells us that God’s commandments are righteous and 1 Corinthians 15:34 warns us to ‘Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.’
From this we can gather that to be righteous is to do what is right in God’s eyes and not our own. The opposite of righteousness is sin, and to be righteous is to be obedient to God’s law of love. However, none of us can be or achieve righteousness on our own, and this is borne out in Romans 3:10, ‘there is no-one righteous, not even one.’ Righteousness is only obtained from Christ through His atoning death for us on the cross. We stand protected with the breastplate of the righteousness of God and, by walking in His ways of love and not lies, unforgiveness, slander or gossip, we are fully protected and battle ready 24/7/365.
Usually teaching on the various parts of the armour of God finishes at this point, but it seems to me that, before we can fully put on the ‘breastplate of righteousness’, we need to take off our own covering of righteousness. Our own righteousness is of no use in our battle with the enemy. It is like the cardboard or plastic armour that children can wear in playing battle games.
The basis of our own breastplate of righteousness is the belief that we are accepted by God because of our good deeds or a way of living that marks us out as worthy of God’s favour. It’s the idea that somehow our own good deeds guarantee us a place in heaven. Jesus encountered Pharisees who lived their whole lives with that kind of mindset. Yet they were totally lost, unless they turned to Christ, ditched their own righteousness and fully accepted His.
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