Protecting Your Heart

© E. E. Perry 2001
"Stand then... with the breastplate of righteousness in place" (Ephesians 6:14)

A police officer stops a speeding car along the highway. Getting out of his patrol car, he slowly and cautiously approaches the stopped car. The driver rolls down his window. The officer asks to see his driver's licence and registration. Instead, the driver pulls a gun and shoots the officer in the chest and speeds away.

The bullet wound could have been fatal, if not for the body armor the officer wore. The vest was designed to slow the impact of a bullet. Instead of being dead, the officer comes away with only a broken rib and multiple bruises. A good trade-off, when you consider the other outcome had he not wore his body armor.

God provides us with body armor for our spiritual warfare. The Apostle Paul calls it "the breastplate of righteousness."

Roman soldiers wore the most innovative armor of the time. The segmented armor was made of overlapping, curved iron bands fastened together with leather straps. The leather straps either tied or buckled to loops fastened to the plates. The armor protected the soldier's torso and shoulders. The breastplate protected the vital organs, including the heart. Our spiritual heart needs protection, too. Paul tells us our spirit and soul, the essence of our nature, are protected by righteousness.

But which type of righteousness is Paul talking about? As I study, I find the "experts" divided on exactly what Paul meant. However, I discovered Paul did leave clues in his other epistles about his meaning of righteousness.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, he wrote: "But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate" (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Here Paul describes the breastplate as faith and love. Therefore, when Paul writes to the Ephesians about the breastplate of righteousness, he speaks of a righteousness gained through faith and love.

I believe the type of righteousness Paul is referring to is the righteousness we gain through faith in Christ. Paul, writing to the Philippians, says, "...not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ -- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Philippians 3:9). Because of what Christ has done for us, God sees us as righteous. The righteousness of Christ covers us like a breastplate, protecting our hearts and souls from the destruction of sin.

I don't think Paul speaks of a righteousness of good works. Through our good works, we combat Satan; however, our good works do not protect us from Satan. The breastplate is protective armor. A breastplate of self-righteousness is full of kinks: pride, arrogance, envy, prejudice; just to name a few. If we count on our own righteousness to carry us through, we will fail.

The scriptures are filled with examples of how being right with God comes through faith. "What does the scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness'" (Romans 4:3). Abraham gained righteousness with God by believing the promises of God. "God made him [Christ] who had no sin to be sin [or be a sin offering] for us, so that in him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Only through faith in Christ, can we reconcile ourselves with God.

Through putting our trust in Jesus to make us righteous before God, our heart and soul is protected from Satan. When we wear a breastplate of self-righteousness, we leave ourselves open to Satan's attacks of doubt, pride and arrogance. Only the breastplate of righteousness in Christ can protect our heart and soul from these attacks.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.

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