The Breastplate of Righteousness:
Protecting the "Heart" of the Matter.

William J. Brown

What is the Breastplate of Righteousness, you may ask?

God has provided armor for every aspect of battle for the Christian soldier. The Breastplate of Righteousness fits perfectly into this "security system" we call the Armor of God.

In this passage, Paul made reference to the breastplate of a Roman soldier. This piece of armor fit over and around the soldier's midsection, just above the belt. The first breastplates were no more than just pieces of leather with chunks of horn or other hard material sown on.

As warfare became more advanced, so did the breastplate. Later "models" were constructed of metal and were polished to a sensational shine. Copper breastplates made in such a fashion would gleam a brilliant red color, the perfect color for war, striking fear into opposing armies.

But the importance of the breastplate lay in its protective qualities. You see, this piece of battle equipment protected the most important parts of the soldier, the heart and lungs.

Think about it...

Someone who loses an arm or leg may be impaired, but can still function albeit to a lesser degree. Studies have shown that even people who have sustained serious injuries to parts of their brain sometimes recover surprisingly well.

But shove a sharp object through a soldier's heart and he's done for in a matter of minutes. Human beings just can't function without those "vital" organs. And that's why the breastplate was so important. It protected those important areas of the Roman soldier's body.

So we know the Breastplate of Righteousness must be a really important piece of equipment. But we still don't know exactly what it is. To figure this out, we need to know what "righteousness" Paul speaks of in this passage.

We have three options. Paul is writing about...

1. Self-righteousness...

2. God's righteousness...

...or...

3. Christian righteousness.

Self-righteousness is a fake "righteousness" like what the Pharisees of Jesus' day had. Christ condemned them for such a superficial righteousness in Matthew 5:20. So it can't be that kind of righteousness. That would give no protection at all for the Christian soldier.

It could be God's righteousness. This kind of righteousness has been given to everyone who has put trust in Jesus as Savior. If you want to know more about this kind of righteousness, read Galatians 3:6 and what Paul says about what this kind of righteousness did for Abraham. This is saving righteousness.

So this legitimate form of righteousness could be what Paul is talking about. The only problem with this kind though is that Paul is speaking to those who are believers already. They didn't need this kind because they already had it.

The last kind is Christian righteousness. This righteousness flows from the second kind. But it isn't the same thing. This is the righteous living and deeds that come from a life changed by God.

With God's righteousness, we are given it as a free gift. With Christian righteousness, we give a little of God's gift back to Him. Philippians 1:9-11 says this...

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. (Emphasis mine)

Notice the action in this verse. We are commanded to do. But then Paul explains that these are nothing more than "fruits of righteousness." Did Paul make a mistake here?

No!

Paul was simply instructing the Philippians to practice righteous deeds because of the righteousness they were given "by Jesus Christ." A Christian life is a changed life...a life filled with righteousness.

So how do our righteous deeds protect us?

Righteous acts or acts of Christians righteousness come from a life that obeys God's command. When we do what God tells us, we in essence strap on that Breastplate of Righteousness. If we're obeying the voice of God, we can't obey the wooing of the world, the flesh and the Devil.

Obedience to God is what gives us success on the battlefield of life. And the righteousness we display when we are preoccupied with obedience to God's commands will overwhelm the enemy every time.

But we must obey God. That's all there is to it. We must strap on that Breastplate of Righteousness...righteousness that comes from a changed life in Christ...and fulfill the orders of our heavenly Commander, Jesus Christ!

God bless!


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