Ephesians 6:14. …and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
No smart Roman soldier would enter battle without his breastplate. Fitting nicely over the girdle, the breastplate offered further protection from arrows and spears and swords that would seek to pierce the vital organs. Our breastplate of righteousness fits nicely over our girdle of truth. What truth? The truth that we have Christ’s righteousness.
Put on Righteousness
Look at Paul’s language again – having put on the breastplate of righteousness. It’s already been put on. Just like the girdle of truth, and the rest of the armor, we are being told what we are already wearing, which allows us to “Stand therefore.”
There are many Christians who simply don’t accept the truth of their righteousness in Christ. But is there any greater reality than this for protecting the heart and mind? Righteousness alone can protect us from both the Enemy’s assaults and the wrath of God himself.
“Earn this.” This is how many of us see our salvation. Something done for us by grace that we must then “earn” in response. But thank God Jesus never said “earn this” from the cross. Our righteousness can never be earned.
Righteousness is a favorite topic of Paul’s. Just think about the book of Romans alone. We are righteous apart from the law (3:21). Jesus’ death for us was the righteousness of God (3:25). God is the justifier (same root word) of the one who has faith in Jesus (3:26). Our faith in Jesus is counted as righteousness (4:5). Righteousness is a free gift (5:17). Grace reigns through righteousness, leading to eternal life (5:21). Now there is no condemnation for all that are in Christ (8:1). We now have the Spirit of life because of Christ’s righteousness (8:10).
So righteousness is kind of a big deal. And wearing righteousness is what protects us from the schemes of the Devil. His lies. His accusations. His shaming. His guilt trips. His manipulations.
Simply put, Christ’s righteousness guards our hearts. It keeps us from despair and hopelessness. No matter what you’ve done. No matter how far you’ve fallen. No matter where you’ve wandered. The righteousness of Jesus protects your eternal destiny.
Oh what great assurance that our righteousness is never our own. Where ours would fail, his will always succeed. Where ours would fall short, his will always excel. Where ours would leave us condemned to Hell, his leaves us seated next to God in Heaven.
Live in Righteousness
Christ’s righteousness is something we have (we are IN CHRIST), but Christ’s righteousness is also something that we practice and live out (CHRIST is IN US) each day. We have put it on and now we must stand in it. Using it to repulse the fiery darts of the Devil.
In Romans 6 it’s said this way:
Romans 6:13. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
Romans 6:18. and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
We present our lives to righteous living. We live as slaves to righteousness.
The great danger, however, of trying to live in righteousness is that suddenly we find ourselves living in our own self-righteousness. This is a huge problem. A problem that almost every Christian has faced. It’s a very subtle shift. One day your trusting Christ’s righteousness alone while trying to live righteously, and the next thing you know you’re thinking and hoping in your own righteousness way more than in Jesus’ righteousness. You start comparing your life to other Christians. You are proud of how you are winning at righteousness. Or you are discouraged by your failures. Everyone else’s sin either really bothers you or really tempts you.
The paradox of our faith is that to grow in righteousness we must always keep our hope stayed upon Christ’s imputed righteousness alone. Never our own. It must be an act of faith, not works. Trust not self-effort. Living in righteousness means living in HIS righteousness. Which will, in turn, begin to destroy our need to prove ourselves or improve ourselves. How can you improve upon what God has already done? Self-protection will shrink, and self-promotion will too. And selfishness just won’t be necessary anymore.
Rather, trusting Christ’s righteousness will create self-compassion, self-awareness, self-honesty, and self-forgetfulness. This will, in turn, naturally produce righteousness in our lives. As our Flesh gets out of the way, the Spirit will take its place. And righteousness will grow. Now you will act rightly in relationship to God and others. You will do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly (trusting not your own righteousness but Christ’s).
“To live is Christ” has placed upon us the breastplate of Christ’s imputed righteousness. Do NOT try to stand without appropriating this greatest of gospel truths. You will fall. Let this knowledge of the gospel, the girded truth that it is Jesus’ righteousness and not your own, be what actually produces righteousness in your life.
Now you can stand.