Breastplate of Righteousness
In the days when sword fighting was a way of settling disputes, suffering defeat tended to equate with suffering mortal injury.
Enter the breastplate.
I don’t know if Paul placed Breastplate second on “full armour of God” list because it’s the largest item, or because, apart from the helmet, the most vital.
But he did, and so shall we.
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.1 Thessalonians 5:8
So, what’s the story?
Is the breastplate made of righteousness, faith and love, or a titanium-ish mix of all three?
Before we start unravelling this mystery we need to go back to the beginning.
What does the word mean?
Righteous is a relationship word. In essence, it means right behaviour towards another. In practice, “Righteous” looks like this:
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37-40
Which results in “Righteousness”:
And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”Deuteronomy 6:25
In Armour of God, I mentioned the effectiveness of analogies. And, since since we no longer employ swordplay as a means of arbitration, I’d like to merge Paul’s analogy of a breastplate into a more contemporary analogy of a parachute.
If I applied the Deuteronomic requirement for my righteousness as a parachute, I can guarantee I would not be launching myself out of aa plane. Because my “parachute of righteousness” would be as effective as a fishing net.
But thankfully, we are putting on the full armour of God.
The “of God” bit is the gold. It is not our righteousness, it’s Christ’s.
But how do we get hold of Christ’s righteousness and make sure we’re jumping with His holy parachute, and not our holey parachute?
Righteousness requires perfect obedience of God’s perfect law. Christ is the only one who could, and did, meet this requirement. And, not only that, He is the fulfilment of the Law, and therefore by definition, truly righteous.
But wait, there’s more!
Christ didn’t pay our fine, earning us a “get out of jail free” card, to pass them out as vouchers as we go on our merry way. There are strings attached (parachute pun intended).
If I were to receive my voucher and leave Christ at the prison gate, on my next jump I would still be wearing my holey parachute.
The transaction between us and Christ is a binding one. For the Father to look at me and see Christ, I need to be in Christ. And to be in Christ I need to stay with Christ … all the time. It is only then His righteousness can be my righteousness. Because my righteousness is not worth much at all. Whereas His saves lives.
When we jump out of plane with Christ’s parachute of righteousness, it’s a tandem jump. I don’t need to bring anything. He supplies the suit, goggles, harness and most importantly, the parachute.
And thankfully, Christ’s parachute is more like a hand glider … with a cabin … an engine … landing gear … and seatbelts.
Scripture makes it pretty clear not to come before God in a state of unrighteousness. It would be similar to entering battle, or jumping out of a plane, in a state of undress. It is an argument we are guaranteed to lose.
But then we’re all doomed.
None of us can fulfil the requirements of righteousness; to obey all of God’s law.
1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbour,
and casts no slur on others;
However, if we, by faith, in love, accept the gift of holy relationship, we have a titanium-clad seal of God’s protection in Christ’s righteousness.
- If Christ is our righteousness, do we need to obey the law?
- If we’re doomed to fail, what is the point of the law?