What is the Breastplate of Righteousness?
Well, I’m glad you asked. The breastplate of righteousness is part of the armor of God that the Bible talks about in Ephesians 6:10-20. Verses 13-14 speak specifically of the breastplate of righteousness:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” ~ Ephesians 6:13-14
Notice that the breastplate of righteousness is the second piece of armor we are to put on, right after the belt of truth. To understand this, we also need to know what the belt of truth is. The belt of truth is the word of God; the Bible. In order to be righteous, we need to know what the Bible says about righteousness.
What is Righteousness anyway?
Righteousness is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt.” In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for righteousness was tsedeq. In the Hebrew language, which was spoken in Old Testament times, words were used more as a picture to describe an idea.
So tsedeq was a term that painted the picture of balanced scales. For example, having an even amount of good to balance out evil; in other words, justice. And when we look at the word righteousness in the New Testament language of Greek, dikaisunē, it is defined in a broad sense as the “state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God.”
The Bible speaks frequently of righteousness. It teaches from the Old Testament to the New Testament that God is righteous in all his ways, and that we are to pursue that righteousness. It even calls us the righteousness of God in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
We are righteous not because of anything we can do, but through Christ and his perfect and complete work. He took our sin and thus imparted his righteousness onto us through his crucifixion and resurrection. So, righteousness begins and ends with God. It is not something we can muster up ourselves.
Why do I need the Breastplate of Righteousness?
We need the breastplate of righteousness for a couple of big reasons as a Christian.
When we look at the full passage in Ephesians 6, it tells us that we are to be strong in the Lord, and stand firm against the devil. It reminds us that our battles are not merely physical, but even more so, spiritual:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:12
So, in order to stand firm against evil and fight spiritual battles, we need spiritual armor, right?!
When we know the truth of what the Bible says, thus fastening the belt of truth, then we can act on it by putting on the breastplate of righteousness.
If you think in terms of a battle, what is the purpose of the breastplate? It is to protect the heart, right? The same applies here. When we put on the breastplate of righteousness we are doing so to protect our heart. When we take in scripture, we want it to renew our minds and transform our hearts. And why is the heart so important? Because it is what keeps us alive in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense it is from where our desires come. Thus, if our desires are for the Lord and his will, then we make decisions that are good and right. And the opposite of this is true as well:
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts (desires) of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. ~ Romans 1:24-25
So what else do we need the breastplate of righteousness for? We need it to help us flee temptation. When our heart is protected and pursuing righteousness, then it is easier for us to flee temptation because our desires are not for the flesh. 2 Timothy 2:22 tells us to
flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. ~ 2 Timothy 2:22
When we are actively pursuing righteousness, thus putting on the breastplate of righteousness, we are equipped to flee “youthful passions”. The Lord takes sin seriously, and so should we. When we know scripture and the good commandments of God, we are able to see temptation ahead of time and be able to flee before it overcomes us. But we must arm ourselves with the breastplate of righteousness to protect our heart!
How do I get the Breastplate of Righteousness?
We’ve already touched some on how we get the breastplate of righteousness through knowing scripture. However, there is an important part that must happen first. We must have received salvation through Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us that
the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing (unbelievers), but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18
So, in essence, if you are not a believer in Christ, then your ability to understand scripture and apply it will be greatly hindered. You can’t expect to understand something you don’t believe. Upon salvation, God grants us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and reveal the truth of God’s word…
…these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also, no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:10-13
Salvation through Christ is not difficult. You must admit you are a sinner and unable to do good on your own, that you believe there is no way to be righteous apart from Christ. Then you must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who lived a perfect life, died on the cross for sins committed by all humanity (including you), and rose again on the third day, defeating death, hell, and the grave. That He is the only way to forgiveness and freedom. Finally, you must confess that belief to God and those around you and begin to live out what you believe. God will begin to change your heart through the Holy Spirit, and you will begin to understand things that were once “folly”.
Now life isn’t a bed of roses once this happens, hence the need for spiritual battle armor! There is work to do! Which is another way we get the breastplate of righteousness. James 2:18 says,
But some will say, ‘You have faith and I have works’. Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works. ~ James 2:18
Works do not save us, Christ is the only way to salvation. But we are to live out our faith in action! Prior to this scripture, James gives us an example of faith without works. He asks what good is it to see someone that is lacking food and clothing and simply say to them “go in peace, be warm and filled”, without supplying the need. It is imperative to live out our faith in action, such as in this example, giving them some food and clothes.
So, to get the breastplate of righteousness does not just take the initial act of salvation, but we continue to put it on by pursuing righteousness, by living out our faith and taking action. Not only hearing what the Bible says, but doing what the Bible says!
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ~ James 1:22-25
The breastplate of righteousness is a wonderful piece of armor that, as Christians, we desperately need in order to persevere and fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12). I hope that now you have a better understanding of what the breastplate of righteousness is, and how to put it on. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to be intentional about how we live our lives. We are ambassadors of Christ, and we are in a very real battle. So put on the breastplate of righteousness each morning and keep your eyes on Christ.