Continuing on with the Armor of God, the next piece of the armor is the Breastplate of Righteousness.
…with the breastplate of righteousness in place…
Obviously, the breastplate was designed to protect the vital organs. The heart and lungs were guarded by this piece of armor; without the breastplate, a soldier would unquestionably meet their demise. With the utilization of a breastplate, attacks to the main sources of life would become ineffective and futile. The blows of the enemy would bounce back. The breastplate would deflect it, rendering the weapons and attempts of the opposing side virtually useless.
Without fitting ourselves with the breastplate, we leave ourselves susceptible to certain death.
…but righteousness delivers from death. -Proverbs 11:4
Often, when the word “righteousness” is mentioned, my mind wanders to the idea of self-righteousness. I tend to think of doing good things for others, for myself, for God. The concept of works is emphasized in my mind. If I don’t do X, then I will be considered “good” in the eyes of others and God, or if I do do X, then I will have a better reputation, I will feel better about myself. It is easy to slip into this mindset. Righteousness isn’t just doing good deeds, though! It lies at the heart, the very thing the breastplate defends.
As I mentioned in my previous post (and will probably keep mentioning), the breastplate is a gift from God. If this is something given to us, then how can it be our own? The righteousness that we put on is God’s, not ours. With this in mind, consider what Isaiah says regarding self-righteousness vs. godly righteousness.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. -Isaiah 64:6
Not super encouraging at first glance, is it? Our own attempts at being good are like a filthy rag, we cannot do it on our own. Imagine readying for battle, enemy arrows are flying, blood is being shed, havoc is everywhere. Here you are, preparing for the war of your life. You look at yourself in the mirror, putting on the belt, the helmet, the shoes… the rag? On your chest, you confidently wrap around a dirty piece of flimsy fabric, and confidently run out into the battlefield, screaming a war-cry, inviting the enemy to attack. It would be insane to do this, in a matter of minutes, the soldier with the rag would be impaled. They were not guarding their heart and leaned on their own understanding of righteousness – on their own independent nature. Dependency on God’s gift is key. Only through His power can we gain the strength and durability of a well-crafted breastplate. Isaiah points out that God clothes himself with the breastplate of righteousness, too.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head… -Isaiah 59:17
This is the kind of stable and dependable armor that we should strive to clothe ourselves with. With this breastplate, the very one our Lord and Savior wears and graciously offers us, we are able to defend ourselves against the enemy’s attacks. This breastplate is crafted with love and protection, not pride and worldly standards.
Alright, so we’ve established that our own righteousness is not sufficient for battle, but how do we strive for godly righteousness? How do we fit ourselves with a pure and blameless breastplate?
In Romans 9:30, it is made clear that righteousness by faith is crucial. It is not by our own works that His breastplate safeguards us, but by an unadulterated confidence in the One who protects. In order to gain a better understanding for righteousness by faith, establishing what faith even is would be essential. (Side note: I will definitely delve into the idea of faith more when we get to the Shield of Faith!)
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. -Hebrews 11:1
So a true righteousness is by faith alone, confidence and hope. Faith in God compels us towards a righteous lifestyle, towards striving for sanctification. And the promise of the Lord is what establishes our faith – his promise of coming back, of being who he says he is, of loving us. Throughout Psalm 119, the author of this chapter continually declares their love for God’s just law, their trust and hope in God’s word, and their delight in God’s commands. The image of cherishing and treasuring God’s word and promises is evident in this passage. It is clear that adoring God and his ways is true faith that comes from a pure trust in the love God has. We only trust because of love, and we only love because God first loved us. Loving the Word of God and his law is the example we must follow if we desire to become faithfully righteous through God’s power. This may get a little confusing. I feel that I have just thrown everything at y’all and it has become redundant or messy in organization, so I have taken the liberty of including a chart to explain what I mean.
(God’s love, not ours, compels us to love back and trust) 1 Corinthians 13:7, 1 John 4:19
(Because trust and hope are what fuel faith) Hebrews 1:11
(Faith in who God is, in his character, in his coming back, promises, and ultimately his love for us result in a desire to be prepared and pure in the sight of such a loving and faithful God) Romans 9:30
(Preserves us from death, life given to us from God) Proverbs 11:4
LIFE IN GOD
(The ultimate gift given to us, only acquired through a love, faith, hope, trust, and righteous lifestyle that deflects death, ultimately bringing life)
Hopefully that helped a little more to understand the pattern and beauty of how righteousness works! In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, the breastplate is also compared to faith and love, proving the chart above to be accurate. It is only by faith and love that righteousness can even be attained!
8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. -1 Thessalonians 5:8
Ultimately, it is not just righteousness that act as a way to guard our heart and our source of life, it is more than a few nice acts or avoiding sin – it is a complete and total trust in God’s love and law.
1 Kings 22 provides a great example of what it is like to be bereft of a breastplate in the heat of battle. Though this is a long and super interesting story, I will just get to my main point. King Ahab, the main dude in the passage, had not completely secured his breastplate during the war. He actually left it open slightly, ultimately leading to his untimely death. A stray arrow, of all things, pierced King Ahab where the armor did not cover, thus killing him slowly and painfully. He wasn’t even targeted! A mere wandering arrow had led to his downfall. Don’t leave your armor half-way on, vulnerable to the projectiles of temptation and worldliness. Put the breastplate of righteousness fully in place, securing it to deflect the deadliest of arrows!