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The Armor of God

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The Breastplate of Righteousness
The Armor of God: The Breastplate of Righteousness
August 20, 2022
William E. Hughes
The deeper the well, the sweeter the honey
Thus far in our series on the Armor of God, we learned that we are in a very serious conflict of the ages. It involves a battle with the enemy within us and an enemy that is outside of us. In order to gain the victory over the enemy within us – which is our fallen natures, our sinful condition, the apostle Paul teaches us that we must walk in the Spirit, which means we must walk in the things that the Spirit affirms, these are the things that are revealed by Jesus in His Word as holy attitudes, holy thoughts, holy words, and holy behaviors.
Our walk must be a steady gait, a walk that is constant and consistent, a constant, consistent forward advancement.
Given all of the advantages that we have in Christ, as outlined in chapters 1 through 3, Paul says, this is how we cope with the enemy inside of us!!!
We also examined the several avenues through which Satan wages war. Through appetite he controls the whole being. He works through agents who have not been drinking at the fountain of living water. And he works through the crafting of the ideological forces in politics, culture and religion.
We examined the fact that the Bible teaches that in the last days Satan will work through a very sophisticated hierarchy of wicked demons. And through this very sophisticated hierarchy he will develop a scheme to divide the world along ideological lines.
He will craft the ideology of Pharaoh on the one hand and Nebuchadnezzer on the other hand; the king of the South and the King of the North, which is represented in the book of Revelation as the beast that rises from the bottomless pit and the beast that rises from the sea having seven heads and ten horns.
These are of the world, Right Wing and Left Wing, an ideology that is culturally against-God, it is politically against-God; it is religiously against-God, and Satan, like a puppeteer, plays one against the other! And ultimately, he intends that the right wing ideology will prevail! The king of the North will prevail! The beast rising up out of the sea will prevail! Satan is the architect of this world system and his plan is to weaponize it in order to kill, steal and destroy.
Finally we learned and agreed that we are living in the evil day. We learned that in this evil day, in order for us to stop the incursion of Satan into our lives through this very sophisticated ideological worldly system in which we live, we must put on the whole armor of God. We must take it up and put it on, day in and day out until the war is over at the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We learned that our first preparation is to put on the belt of truth. We learned that the belt of truth is about truth as content and truth as character. And the source of truth is Jesus who declares himself to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. To put on the belt of truth is to put on Jesus!
But in order for the belt of Truth to have its full effect it must be backed up by the second piece of armor, also described in verse 14, “And having put on the breastplate of righteousness”
It would be nice if you were a Roman soldier and you got your belt on and you pulled up all the loose ends and you got your mini-tunic going, and you’re serious, you’re committed, but you just can’t run into battle unless you put on one other thing and that’s the breastplate.
Now there’s something about the breastplate that is really, really special because the breastplate covers the most vulnerable part of the soldier’s body.
Sometimes a Roman soldier had a breastplate made of very heavy linen to which were attached overlapping pieces of iron or shell or horn. But more often it was made of metal, sometimes woven chain metal, which would be very, very heavy.
Sometimes the woven chain metal was linked together with rings of metal and sometimes it was a thin pounded plate of metal. No Roman soldier would have thought of going into battle without his vital organs protected.
If you are shot in the leg, arm or shoulder that might not be so bad, but to get shot in the chest - that’s serious. It’s serious because this is where your heart is. This is where your lungs are.
📷 The Jews regarded the heart as the seat of man’s inner life, our will, our thoughts, our feelings. It may be the home of evil desires as expressed in Romans 1:24;
📷
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts…[1]
📷
Also in Mark 7:21–23 where Jesus said,
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts…[2]
And the list goes on…But the heart was also considered the center and the source of our spiritual nature. The heart is the very center of our response to God as expressed in Eph. 6:6,
Not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart[3]
The heart was also considered to be the home of the Holy Spirit as we read in Romans 5:5,
📷
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. [4]
1 Co 6:19–20
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God…[5]
Since God dwells in us as His Temple, then the heart is the inner sanctum, it is the holy of holies where He dwells.
All the issues of life spring from the heart. Solomon declared…..
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart…[6]
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart oh God…
For this reason, we can say that the heart is the center of our relationship with God. The heart represents our relationship with God. That is why we say, “It’s not about religion, It’s about “relationship.”
Now this vital area of our chest cavity is also the place of breathing! Although the Bible does not state it explicitly, it is a basic Christian truth that "Prayer is the breath of the soul."
Where there is communication there is relationship; where there is relationship there is communication. No breath. No life! And so this breastplate will protect our communion with God. That means that our entire prayer life is covered.
Anything protecting the heart, then, influences what we say. It influences our confession. It influences our witness. It influences what we say and how we say it when we speak about our God.
And so the heart and the lungs represent the center of our spiritual experience--our relationship with God, our prayer life, our communion with Him, and our witness and confession of Him before others.
Each is a vital area of our life and it needs protection. And so we are instructed to put on the breastplate of Righteousness! The righteousness of God.
It is Righteousness that protects us. That’s what protects us from the arrows and the spears and the swords and the crushing blows of the hammers that were wielded in battle. We’re protected by the breastplate of righteousness in the most vital areas of our spiritual being.
But what kind of righteousness are we talking about?
Are we talking about the righteousness that brings freedom from guilt or sin, which I believe is the heart of the gospel
Or, are we talking about the kind of righteousness that manifests itself in obedience to the Divine and moral Law of God which I believe is the soul of the gospel?.
If Paul is talking about a righteousness that brings freedom from guilt and sin, he’s talking about a righteousness by faith as he describes in Philippians chapter 3:8-9
…..I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, [7]9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:[8]
Here we FINDthe good news, the glad news, the joyful news! It is a universal headline written in bold letters colored red by the blood of Jesus! It is the news that God has provided a way by which we may be cleansed from our unrighteousness, and be clothed and filled with His perfect righteousness.
Praise Him, Praise Him, Praise Him! Jesus our blessed redeemer! Praise our merciful and loving God!
We find that this provision was made and revealed to Adam as soon as he fell from his high and holy position as ruler of this world.
Unrighteous men and women from the very beginning of this fierce and lopsided battle with sin and Satan have clung to this provision!.
1. We know that Abel embraced it, for Jesus, in Matthew 23:35, speaks of him as "righteous Abel." And Paul declares in Hebrews 11:4, that Abel "obtained witness that he was righteous."
2. Noah embraced it because in Genesis 7:1, God said, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation."
3. Paul says in Romans 4:3, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness."
4. Peter speaks about Lot in 2 Peter 2:7-8,
"And delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds)."
And of Zacharias and Elisabeth, living just before the birth of Christ, it is said in Luke 1:6, "They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless."
In other words, Zacharias and Elisabeth, as husband and wife, agreed to obey God, they agreed to seek out salvation through the means provided, and as a result were accounted “righteous before God.”[9]
Now let me say something that you already know! This righteousness is a gift! It cannot be earned, bought or sold. When we believe and our belief brings surrender of our hearts through seeking forgiveness and repentance; and our belief brings us to trust and obey the will God, God’s righteousness is credited to us; it is accounted to us; it is imputed to us. We are justified!
I use to think that once I had to righteousness of Christ imputed to me; once I was accounted as righteous, once I was declared righteous, I could then focus on the other dimension of righteousness; my sanctification. Because after all sanctification is the work of a lifetime!
But alas- my life experience told me something completely different. It told me Hughes! You need to be justified every day and sometimes multiple times a day. It seems as if my justification is the work of a lifetime!
But not only that! We are also instantaneous sanctified. To be sanctified means to be set aside for a holy use; for a holy purpose.
Thus we read in
In the days of Zacharias and Elisabeth this meant living in harmony with both the moral law and the Law of Moses.
Since all men “have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23; see also 1 John 3:4), all stand in need of someone to “deliver” them from death, the penalty of disobedience (Rom. 6:23; 7:24). The Deliverer is none other than Christ Jesus (chs. 7:25 to 8:4). But until the Saviour came into the world, God ordained a system of sacrifices (Heb. 9:1), which He “imposed on them until the time of reformation,” that is, until Christ should enter upon His priestly ministry (vs. 10, 11). In other words, Zacharias and Elisabeth purposed to obey God, sought salvation through the means provided, and as a result were accounted “righteous before God.”[10]
Paul wrote of Abraham in Romans 4:25
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. [11]
So when Paul says he found a righteousness not his own but that righteousness of God which is given to him through faith in Christ, he’s talking about this gift of righteousness, imputed righteousness.
But is this the righteousness that forms the breastplate? Is imputed righteousness the righteousness that protects us while in the midst of battle?
As we stand in our dressing room and we are preparing for battle, we are standing there already accounted by God as righteous! God has already declared us to be just and righteous before Him! . You don’t put that on; God put that on you when you first believed!!!
Righteousness is Righteousness! There is only one righteousness! But there are different dimensions to righteousness. Here is a board. This board is multi-dimensional. If we talk about what we see on this dimension of the board, it may be totally different from this dimension of the board, but it is still one board.
Righteousness within is testified to by righteousness without. He who is righteous within is not hard-hearted and unsympathetic, but day by day he grows into the image of Christ, going on from strength to strength. He who is being sanctified by the truth will be self-controlled, and will follow in the footsteps of Christ until grace is lost in glory. The righteousness by which we are justified is imputed; the righteousness by which we are sanctified is imparted. The first is our title to heaven, the second is our fitness for heaven.[12]
Imputed, Imparted!
Justified, Sanctified!
Title to heaven!
Fitness for heaven!
I submit to you that what Paul is talking about when he instructs us to put on the breastplate of righteousness is not imputed righteousness, nor imparted righteousness.
Righteousness is Righteousness! Imputed AND Imparted! One does not exist without the other!
“We are saved through the merit of the blood of Christ, but Christ’s righteousness does not cover the sin of transgressing God’s law, without repentance. We must do all in our power to keep the commandments of God, and then he will impute unto us his righteousness, because we believe in Christ and seek to obey the divine law. This is the reason that Christ came to this world, that he might bring his righteousness to man, that man might lay hold of his strength, and make peace with God. God accepts the efforts of man to keep the law, because Christ imputes his righteousness to him. We could not keep the law in our own strength.[13]
But did the Saviour take upon Himself the guilt of human beings and impute to them his righteousness in order that they might continue to violate the precepts of Jehovah? No, no! Christ came because there was no possibility of man’s keeping the law in his own strength. He came to bring him strength to obey the precepts of the law. And the sinner, repenting of his transgression, may come to God and say, “O Father, I plead forgiveness through the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour.” God will accept all who come to Him in the name of Jesus.—Manuscript 17, 1888, Sunday, October 21, 1888.[14]
Yes, we have that. We have that imputed righteousness credited to our account. That’s not what he’s talking about. But we also are commanded to demonstrate righteous behavior.
Philippians 2, verse 12, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
So now God has given you an imparted righteousness, and with that imparted righteousness at salvation He has also given you the Spirit of God, He has given you new life in regeneration, and now you are both capable and responsible to work out the righteousness that has been given to you.
Regeneration, new birth, salvation, conversion makes possible, makes real, the impartation of a practical righteousness in the matter of day-to-day living. That’s what he’s talking about.
He’s saying, if you expect to go into the battle, you have to be ready, you have to be committed, you have to be dedicated and devoted and understanding that you’re a soldier, get the loose ends pulled together, but don’t go there unless you are living in obedience to God.
That’s the bottom line. Holy living is the breastplate of righteousness. If there’s a weakness in your armor, sins, acts of disobedience, wrong attitudes.
If there are sins unconfessed, unrepented, you’re vulnerable, you have a target on your back!!! If you’re courting sins in your life and you get aggressive and you go into the spiritual fray and you go on the offense to rescue souls from the kingdom of darkness and you’ve got some issues in your life that are undealt with, believe me, you are going without a breastplate of righteousness. That’s what happened to some of my friends. That’s what nearly happened to me!
I had friends in college, seminary and ministry, excited and energetic to enter the battle, thrilled to be working to advance the kingdom of God. We played together, we prayed together, we worked together.
But there were issues that I could see in their lives that weren’t being dealt with.
Some fell into horrendous iniquity, disappeared.
Others fell into iniquity and were lost to the advancement of the kingdom.
And it is only by God’s mercy and grace that I have survived the mine fields, the killing fields of ministry!
You can say, “I want to go into the ministry,” but if you want to invade the kingdom of darkness and get aggressive, you’d better make sure you are protected or you are really vulnerable.
It’s not sufficient just to be aggressive, it’s not sufficient just to be committed, you need to make sure that you are following this very clear and simple instruction.
It is not hard to miss what Paul means in 2 Corinthians chapter 7. Listen to his words. Verse 1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
When Satan sees sin, he moves into that crack. You become vulnerable as the world system appeals to that crack in your armor. And the smallest crack can be exploited in a very fatal way. Put on the armor. It starts with commitment and it demands righteousness.
In Romans 13:11 Paul says the same thing in another way,
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. [15]
He’s saying, “Look, we’re closer to the end than we’ve ever been. It’s time to wake up, it’s time to put your belt on and go to battle. The night is almost gone. The day is at hand. Let us, therefore, lay aside the deeds of darkness, put on the armor of light.
The armor of light, putting aside the deeds of darkness, is another way to describe the breastplate of righteousness. What does it mean? Behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.
And when I say put on the armor of light or when I say put on the breastplate of righteousness, the question is “Put on whom?” Jeremiah said it a long time ago,
6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.[16]
12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.[17]
Whom? Put on Whom? Put on the Lord Jesus Christ!
You may have the commitment, you may have the eagerness, you may even say, “I want to go to seminary, I want to train, I want to serve the Lord,” but the breastplate has to be on! And it’s amazing how hard it is to keep it hooked.
It falls off so easily. We go through life picking up the breastplate and trying to get it on before the next attack. Put it on, put it on. Jesus is the armor of light against the darkness. Jesus is the breastplate of Righteousness against the wiles and fiery darts of Satan! Put on the Lord Jesus Christ for He is our example of perfect righteousness.
Put it on! Put it on! Put Him on! Put Him on!
Likewise, it is of no use to consider sanctification in the Christian experience without thinking about justification. The two go hand in hand.
• Both are the work of the moment.
• Both are the work of a lifetime.
• Both are by God’s grace.[18]
Such divided discussion can take place in the abstract, but the very moment a person accepts Jesus in experience, the justified individual is also sanctified. It is nonbiblical to speak of a person as only being justified or only being sanctified. One who is justified is also sanctified, and the one who is truly sanctified is also justified.[19]
This is righteousness and this righteousness is manifested in character and in conduct. This will protect your spiritual life.
However, justification implies more than a mere legal transaction. The righteousness of Christ is a transforming power, “it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 556. Many have too abstract and narrow a view of forgiveness or justification. This led E. G. White to state:— God’s forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation. It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin. It is the outflow of redeeming love that transforms the heart[20]
The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct. Holiness is wholeness for God; it is the entire surrender of heart and life to the indwelling of the principles of heaven.[21]
Satan is working by every deception he can command, in order that we may not discern that love. He will lead us to think that our mistakes and transgressions have been so grievous that the Lord will not have respect unto our prayers and will not bless and save us.
In ourselves we can see nothing but weakness, nothing to recommend us to God, and Satan tells us that it is of no use; we cannot remedy our defects of character.
When we try to come to God, the enemy will whisper, It is of no use for you to pray; did not you do that evil thing? Have you not sinned against God and violated your own conscience?
But we may tell the enemy that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7. When we feel that we have sinned and cannot pray, it is then the time to pray. Ashamed we may be and deeply humbled, but we must pray and believe.
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15.
Forgiveness, reconciliation with God, comes to us, not as a reward for our works, it is not bestowed because of the merit of sinful men, but it is a gift unto us, having in the spotless righteousness of Christ its foundation for bestowal.[22]
Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.”[23]
[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Ro 1:24. [2] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Mk 7:22–23. [3] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Eph 6:6. [4] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Ro 5:5. [5] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), 1 Co 6:19–20. [6] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Pr 3:5. [7] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Php 3:8. [8] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Php 3:9. [9]Francis D. Nichol, ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980), 671. [10]Francis D. Nichol, ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980), 671. [11] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Ro 4:23–25. [12] The Review and Herald, n.d., 2047. [13]Ellen Gould White, The Signs of the Times, n.d., 1200. [14]Ellen Gould White, Selected Messages From the Writings of Ellen G. White, Book 3 (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980), 179–180. [15] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Ro 13:12. [16] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Je 23:6. [17] The Holy Bible: King James Version., electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. (Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995), Jn 8:12. [18]George R. Knight, I Used to Be Perfect: A Study of Sin and Salvation, 2nd Edition. (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2001), 52. [19]George R. Knight, I Used to Be Perfect: A Study of Sin and Salvation, 2nd Edition. (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2001), 53. [20]Ellen Gould White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1896), 114. [21]Ellen Gould White, The Desire of Ages, vol. 3, Conflict of the Ages Series (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1898), 555–556. [22]Ellen Gould White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1896), 115–116. [23] The Review and Herald, n.d., 4796.
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