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The Breastplate of Righteousness

The Real War We Wage  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  53:43
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Congregation recite together Eph. 6:10-12 (w/ motions?)
10 Finally, be strong(power arms) in the Lord (point up with both hands)and in the strength of his might(hit the fist of one hand into the palm of the other hand)11 Put on the whole armor of God, (pretend to put on a shirt) that you may be able to stand (hand on hips) against the schemes of the devil. (wag your finger)12 For we do not wrestle (shuffle fists) against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, (place a crown on head)against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, (hands over eyes) against the spiritual forces of evil(wag your finger) in the heavenly places. 
For next week add on
Ephesians 6:13 ESV
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.
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, (pretend to put on a shirt) that you may be able to withstand(hand on hips) in the evil day, and having done all, (draw check mark in the air) to stand firm.
August 23, 2017 was a memorable day for our family. That morning, Zack and I arose early and drove a little over 2 hours to Ft. Indiantown Gap, PA. Zack had passed his written exam. This was his final opportunity pass the physical test for entry into a specific unit in the Air National Guard. They began with a run. He and one other recruit, Nate, had to run 1.5 miles in less than 10:45 minutes. After a 10 minute break, they had to do at least 6 pull ups in 2 minutes. After a short break, they had two minutes to do 48 sit ups. Finally, there they had to do push ups - at least 40 in 2 minutes. Each of these exercises were critiqued and examined for form. A push up, sit up or pull up that was not exactly right did not count.
Surrounded by several of the other men from this unit, Zack and Nate had completed the tasks. Some parts more easily than others - but they made it. They met the minimum requirement for this unit.
With the ranking officer observing, Zack and Nate raised their right hands and repeated the oath of an airman of the US Air Force. He was officially an airman!
He didn’t have a uniform or an ID card yet - but he was a part of the Air Force Family.
Over the next year, he would show up for his weekend training - one weekend a month. During this time the unit was preparing Zack and his fellow new-comers for basic training and tech school.
In November of 2018 - Zack and several other Airmen finally got to go San Antonio Texas for basic training. During this time, he received the uniforms of an Airman. He was instructed in the ways of the Air Force - how to march, how to respond, how to be an Airman. In January of 2019 - we got to go to see him graduate. What a beautiful time that was.
He is still an Airman - still participating in monthly training and is still waiting for his next set of orders to further his education in the Air Force. He has a few different uniforms. He wears them well - walking the walk, talking the talk.
Zack worked hard to get in and has persisted in the face of adversity and trials. His journey in the Air Force has not been what he dreamed it would be, but he is remaining true.
I tell you that, in part because I am a proud father, but also because I think Zack’s journey in the Air Force has some parallels to our journey with Christ and the Real War We Wage the the spiritual battles that we encounter.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve discussed:
the reality of spiritual warfare - that we are fighting an unseen enemy and need to engage in this war with weapons that are not of this world. We also discussed...
The Armor of God - as some of the tools that God has given us to engage in this battle. Last week, we considered
The Belt of Truth - as we reflected on the truth that we know (the Gospel), the truth we live, and the truth that we speak in love.
Today, we’re going to look at the breastplate of righteousness.
Ephesians 6:14 ESV
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
The Apostle Paul urges us to stand - something that he has repeated several times in just the previous few verses - with the belt of truth and now with the breastplate of righteousness.
As with the belt - Paul is using a metaphor to help us understand more fully how this armor protects us.
For first century soldiers, this breastplate would be a metal covering that is designed to protect a soldier’s vital organs. It would cover not only the front, but also the back. This breastplate might be a bit restrictive, but it would also protect a soldiers internal organs from a potentially fatal attack.
As we look at this today, it seems best to focus on the righteousness aspect. What is this righteousness? What does it mean to be righteous? How does righteousness protect us like a breastplate?
Now - in thinking about the word righteousness, The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible defined it this way:

Conformity to a certain set of expectations, which vary from role to role. Righteousness is fulfillment of the expectations in any relationship, whether with God or other people.

Another resource describes righteousness as:

The establishment of a right relationship—primarily between God and people, secondarily between people themselves.

There is this bi-directional element to righteousness - vertical - between us and God - horizontal - between us and others.
In considering how righteousness is discussed elsewhere in the book of Ephesians and in the New Testament, it seems that this righteousness refers to the righteousness we receive and the righteousness that we reveal.
Let’s begin by reflecting on...

The Righteousness We Receive

Theologians sometimes refer to this as “imputed righteousness” - or “infused righteousness.”
Because of what Jesus did in living a perfect life and then taking our sin on Himself - he essentially fulfilled all of the requirements of the Law. Through faith in Him, we receive his righteousness or his righteousness is imputed, infused, or imparted to us.
As we have done over the last few weeks, let’s consider the broader context of the book of Ephesians.
Ephesians 1:3–10 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Look at all that we have “in Christ:”
chosen - so that we would be holy and blameless - not because we already are.
adoption - as his children - sure, from birth we are all image bearers of God and are His creations - but to be adopted as his child is something different, something more, something special - in fact - next week in the new Virtual Kids Connection - we’re going to reflect on our adoption as his people.
redemption - forgiveness of our sins (in this we truly have his righteousness) - his redemption is exchanging his life for ours, his holiness for our sinfulness, his payment in full for our insufficient funds.
Beyond this, in chapter 2, we learn...
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
We are saved by His grace - not by our own works. Think about it like this, when Zack sought get into the Air National Guard unit - he had certain minimums - so many pull ups, sit ups, push ups, and a certain run time. Some might see those as low bars, others as high - after knowing what he went through - it’s certainly too high a bar for me.
In order for us to receive Jesus’ righteousness - our minimum requirement is that we recognize we are dead in our sin - that we are far from God - that we are eternally helpless.
As we saw God working throughout the Old Testament - it seemed that he had a special place in his plan and in his heart for the Jewish people. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that now Jews and Gentiles have equal access to God through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:11–16 ESV
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
Let’s zoom out a bit and consider some other parts of the New Testament as we consider what the imputed or received righteousness entails.
2 Corinthians 5:17–21 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This righteousness that we receive in Christ is not because we deserve anything but because God chose to redeem us, to impute his righteousness on us.
I love that last verse - for our sake - he made Him (Jesus Christ) who knew no sin (he was perfect) to be sin (take our sin on himself) - so that in him (in Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God (we might take on His righteousness).
Let’s consider one more passage as we reflect on the idea of this imputed righteousness, or the righteousness that we receive.
Romans 3:21–26 ESV
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
When you and I come to grips with the fact that we are dead in our sins, that we are separated from God, that we are hopeless in our quest for holiness - then we can come to the foot of the cross and by faith receive have the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We can receive his righteousness as our own because of what the did on the cross. Our faith in Jesus becomes counted to us as righteousness.
Let me hopefully explain this in a bit more of a tangible way. At the beginning of the sermon I talked about the experience that Zack went through in order to join a specific unit in the Air National Guard. He met the minimum requirement and then pledged to uphold the duties of the ANG. At that moment, he was imputed with a title as Airman - he received that. At that moment, he was identified with the guard as a member of that unit.
The same is true for us, when we meet the minimum requirement - admitting that we are sinful and fall short of God’s glory - and by faith trust in what Jesus did on the cross, taking our sin and punishment on himself - we too are imputed or we receive His righteousness. We are at that moment - fully identified with Christ, an heir with all of the rights and privileges of a child of God.
I receive Jesus’ righteousness as a five year old - when my dad led me to Christ.
Danielle received Jesus’ righteousness as a child as well.
My children - each at different ages - were imputed with Jesus righteousness.
Have you?
Now - part of this breastplate of righteousness is the righteousness that we received in Jesus. In the spiritual warfare that we wage - Satan cannot attack us here. He may try to cast doubts, but because this righteousness is wrapped up in the finished work of what Jesus did on the cross - from the moment we receive it - we are sealed with Him for eternity!
But I think there is another element to this breastplate of righteousness and that is...

The Righteousness We Reveal

Zack was an Airman from the moment he passed the test and pledged to uphold the expectations of the ANG, but he didn’t yet exhibit all of the characteristics, or skills, or qualities of a member of his unit. He still had a lot of training to do. He had to sort of grow into his title.
Let me illustrate this another way with Zoe.
(bring Zoe up with a big coat - talk about her growing and maturing in Christ, she has his righteousness but doesn’t yet exhibit all of the qualities. Eventually, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit she will reveal she will fill out Jesus’ righteousness - she will still be covered in His righteousness, but her righteousness will more closely mirror his).
Just as Zack has to go through training and Zoe has to mature - so we, as we are sanctified, gradually made more holy, we begin to reveal the righteousness of God more and more in our lives. We talked about this a bit last week as we considered the truth that we should live out - putting aside the ignorance of our former way of living and being transformed.
Paul, in chapters 4-6 gets quite practical with how this we reveal this righteousness. Let’s consider just a few...

Righteousness revealed with one another (Eph. 4:1-3)

As members of the body of Christ - there is a part of this that we must live out in how we relate to one another.
Ephesians 4:1–3 ESV
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is so much we could unpack here - but just consider briefly the first couple of attributes - humility and gentleness. When you think about the life of Christ, this is so much of what he showed. He willingly humbled himself to be like us. As he encountered people who were in need or frail or even some who were stuck in sin - He directly, but gently addressed them and led them toward righteousness.
How are we doing in how we are walking? Do we exhibit humility and gentleness with patience? Can the world around us see that?
The next element we should consider is...

Righteousness revealed in our new way of living (Eph. 4:20-24)

We considered this passage last week as well, but I think it’s worth considering again. Last week, we looked at it from the stand point of truth and ignorance or deception. This week, when we consider how we put on the righteousness of Jesus and then begin to exemplify that in how we live, we will recognize that there are certain things that will need to be removed.
Ephesians 4:20–24 ESV
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Some of the maturing process we go through in Jesus Christ entails things that we must add to our lives - adding humility, adding gentleness, adding patience, and more. But these don’t co-exist very well with their counterparts - pride and harshness and impatience - somethings must be cut away. It’s these things that must be put off - sort of like a weight-loss program that is working to remove excess fat - this old way of living must go through a process of removal - it won’t always be easy.
As you look at the things you reveal - are you revealing your old self, your old way of thinking and living - or are you revealing your new self that is being transformed?

Righteousness revealed in how we speak (Eph. 4:29)

Jesus, as he was teaching his disciples about good fruit said:
Luke 6:45 ESV
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
The Apostle Paul, here in Ephesians makes that even a bit more practical by stating:
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
But corrupting talk is so enjoyable. That’s where the juicy gossip lives. That’s where we can talk poorly about our neighbor or co-worker or political candidate.
And that, I think, is the point that Paul is getting to. Corrupting talk, gossip, poking fun - tears down - but the speech that Jesus demonstrated, the speech that should be revealed our righteousness is speech that builds up.
How is your speech? What dominates your topics of conversation? What is the heart behind what you are saying - are you building you up (pride) or are you building others up (humility) - even if they can’t hear you?
There is one final element that we’ll consider today - but this is a big one as it gets practical to the roles in which we live...

Righteousness revealed through mutual submission (Eph. 5:21)

Last week, I challenged you to go back and re-read Ephesians 5:1-20 - were you able to do that? If not, let me reiterate that challenge. You see in these verses, Paul talks a lot about how we should imitate God, how we can reveal righteousness in so many ways. He addresses matters of sexual immorality - stating that it should not even be named among us. He addresses walking in wisdom (as we discussed some last week). He talks, in many ways about matters of personal holiness and life together. (consider reading from the bible (Eph. 5:15-20).
But he closes this section with this admonition:
Ephesians 5:21 ESV
submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
This little statement becomes the both the summary statement for verses 1-20, but it also becomes the umbrella under which the next few admonitions exist as he talks about the various roles in which we live.
husbands and wives (Eph. 5:22-33)
If you are a wife or a husband, let me encourage you to go back to read this section, ponder it, meditate on in. This section of scripture gets a bad wrap in our society today because it seems to promote a sort of patriarchy - wives submitting to husbands, husbands loving wives. There are people who take this completely out of context and don’t seek to fulfill all that it communicates.
Husbands - this charge from Paul for wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord - and then summarizing it by saying respect (Eph. 5:33) - is not a power card for you to tell your wife to do whatever you want.
Wives - this doesn’t mean that you are less important or subservient to your husbands. God simply established an order in creation, in the home.
Beyond that husbands - Paul charges us to love our wives and Christ loved the church - and gave himself up for her. Paul is talking about sacrificial love. Jesus laid down his life for us. He sacrificed His comforts in Heaven for us. How are you doing loving your wife sacrificially?
(Fletcher and Nancy, Jim and Anabel, Bryan and Karen)
Look in your bible’s real briefly at the last verse in this section -
Ephesians 5:33 ESV
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
I think part of why God had Paul write these words is that it’s geared a bit toward how we are wired - women for securing love - men for respect. It’s not that men don’t need or want love and women don’t need or want respect, but we’re each wired uniquely by God to receive love and respect differently.
Next Paul talks about...
children and parents (Eph. 6:1-4)
Again - the apostle Paul gets right to a practical way of revealing righteousness by talking to children and parents - or specifically here - fathers.
Ephesians 6:1–4 ESV
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Children - God has given you your parents for a reason. He fashioned them to be God’s instruments to help you mature and grow. Honoring and obeying your parents - whether you still live with them or not, is a means of honoring God and it becomes a blessing for you. Now, no parent is perfect. In fact - in many ways, God uses Children as a means on shaping and molding parents - helping them understand more and more just how much God loves and cares for them.
Parents - especially dads - let me encourage you to take this verse to heart. As a dad, I realize that there are so many ways that I can exasperate my children - all of them - setting expectations that are too high, expecting them to read my mind, acting impatiently, and so much more. Be mindful that you don’t provoke your children to anger by being unrealistic in your expectations,
Next...
employers and employees (Eph. 6:5-9)
Finally - the apostle Paul addresses masters and servants - or for us - employers and employees - which is probably the most similar relationship. Here - the thing that we need to see is that as we express the righteousness we are to reveal - this will affect how we treat our employers or bosses and employees. Paul writes:
Ephesians 6:5–9 ESV
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
Our actions and attitudes toward our employers or employees reflects our righteousness. We are expected to serve our earthly masters as we would Christ and lead our earthly servants/employees with the grace the God leads us.

Closing thoughts

Our enemy wants to attack and debilitate us at every possible point in which he can. The good news for us is that when we receive Jesus Christ as our savior - we receive His righteousness - God sees His righteousness in us. Satan may try to undermine that, but we are sealed in God - there is nothing the enemy can do to us in that regard. Be reminded of that truth and rest in the fact that you have been made eternally righteous because of Jesus.
As we mature in Christ, growing into the righteousness that God has imputed to us, we will gradually look more and more like him - not in physical appearance, but in character, in holiness. The righteousness that he has imputed does not give us a license to sin or do whatever we want, but our failings also need to be taken with grace. Satan can attack us in our revealed righteousness. Be mindful and watchful - but don’t beat yourself up when you stumble. Pray and seek forgiveness, ask God to help you, and seek the assistance of a brother or sister in Christ. That’s part of why God gave us the church that we might spur each other on to holiness.
Lord’s Supper.
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