For this, the third part in our series on the Armor of God, we will be looking at the Breastplate of Righteousness. As mentioned previously, the people Paul addresses in Ephesians would have been familiar with the armor worn by the Roman soldiers. Front and center, worn by all of the sodiers, was a breastplate. Similar to modern body armor and bullet-proof vests, the purpose of the breastplate, which also protected the backs of the soldiers, was to protect the vitals.
But like modern body armor, that used by the Romans was not impenetrable. It had weaknesses. Usually, the breastplates were made of metal, but sometimes from thick leather. In order to keep the weight down, the breastplates were not made very thick. They could protect from some wounds, but not all of them. A blow with a sword, or perhaps an arrow would be rendered relatively ineffective if the angle was glancing, or the force low. But the force of the impact was still felt. But a hard enough blow would still be able to get through. Also, there were gaps in the armor that left the soldiers vulnerable. There, the slightest blow would still inflict damage.
Okay, so if the breastplates weren’t complete protection, why would Paul tell us that we needed to put it on? We need to keep in mind that the breastplate is only one part of the armor. Paul told us that we need to put on the “whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11, ESV). It is not enough to put on the Helmet of Salvation. It is very important, but we will never be able to live up to our potential if we lack the tools necessary for success.
The Breastplate of Righteousness is the second piece of armor Paul mentions. Righteousness, or right standing with God, is what protects our spiritual vitals. Now, we obtained righteousness apart from anything that we could possibly do or say. That said, we cannot hope to retain righteousness without develping our relationship with the Father. Putting on the Breastplate of Righteousness requires action. It requires a life spent walking in the truth and reality of the Gospel. It requires an effort toward holiness. But, as mentioned, armor is imperfect; it has gaps. We will fail in our efforts to be like Jesus. This is a given. But when we repent, God repairs our armor and restores us to righteousness! But even if we were to live blamelessly, righteousness alone cannot protect us from attacks from the evil one.
To see this, we only need to look at the life of Job. “There was a man…whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1, ESV). Job was a righteous man. Yet Satan killed all of his children and his livelyhood, and, to add insult to injury, took his health. The Bible tells us that God gave the devil permission to do these things so that He could prove Job’s righteousness to him. Job maintained his righteousness through all of these things. While the Breastplate of Righteousness didn’t protect Job from suffering and difficulty, it did hold him together through these things.
Paul encourages Timothy, “Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, ESV). He further tells him, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eteral life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:11-12, ESV).
We will always have battles. We will face times where we feel as though everything has been taken from us. Let us hold fast to our righteousness and emerge from the other side justified and vindicated.