You have put on righteousness like a breastplate when you believe that your right standing before God is not based on your performance but on what Jesus did for you. The breastplate of righteousness is the righteousness of faith that Paul preached. God sees you as righteous in Christ. There is no condemnation to you who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) God is not angry with you and does not hold your past against you. He longs for you to spend time with and pray to Him on good days and when you fail (when you need Him most). Once you are in Christ, your failures no longer have the power to separate you from God. (1 John 1:9)
The Breastplate of Righteousness Scripture
Having put on the breastplate of righteousness…
Ephesians 6:14 (NKJV)
Though this is only the second piece of the armor of God, many Christians have yet to securely fasten it over their hearts and rest in the perfect work of Jesus.
The Active Element in the Breastplate of Righteousness
The righteousness of faith. A state of righteousness received by faith in Christ that keeps you eligible to fellowship with God, pray, and receive answers to prayer. (Hebrews 4:16)
What Does the Breastplate of Righteousness Protect Against?
The enemy's voice of accusation and condemnation, feeling rejected or condemned by God, and lacking the confidence to pray.
Why You Need the Breastplate of Righteousness
The breastplate of a Roman soldier protected his heart and internal organs. Our spiritual heart also needs protection, but from what?
Think about your heart for a moment (not your blood pump). From your spiritual heart you communicate with God. From your heart proceed praise, worship, and prayer.
The worst spiritual heart attack pierces your confidence toward God, like a spear or sword thrust. Why is that the most severe? Anything that shakes your confidence toward God damages your prayer life. If you are afraid to pray to God, you won't call on the Almighty to protect you from an evil assault.
1 John 3:21-22 If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
When we are confident in God, we pray boldly and in faith. But if our heart condemns us, we pray weak prayers or not at all, leaving us vulnerable to further attack.
We need heart protection to feel confident and free to pray to God in times of need, especially after we have failed. Christ's gift of righteousness functions like a breastplate, keeping us in right standing with God, so we never have to feel too ashamed to pray.
The Enemy Targets Your Confidence toward God
Your spiritual adversary works hard to disrupt your heart's confidence in God to hinder and stop your prayers. He is known as "the accuser of the brethren." (Revelation 12:10-11) He whispers thoughts of accusation and condemnation in your ear to shake your assurance of God's favor.
"Look at what you just did (said, thought), and you call yourself a Christian. God wants nothing to do with you right now." Sound familiar?
Personally, I depend on God's love, acceptance, and grace. If I feel I've forfeited that because of something I've done, I'm lost and undone. If God condemns me, whom can I turn to? It makes me feel like giving up.
That's the frame of mind the enemy wants you to have. He wants you to give up and say, "What's the use in trying? This Christian life is too hard. I can't do it. I might as well go get a drink or get high or..."
The Lord Does Not Turn Away When We Fail to Do the Right Thing
That's why we need to know we have on a breastplate of righteousness. God does not condemn us when we make a mistake. (Romans 8:1, 31-39) He is not disgusted with us, but loves us as one of His children. He is proud that we have accepted the gift of His Son Jesus and realizes that, even though we are born again, we will not do everything right every day. Children are not perfect.
So, when you blow it, confess to God quickly and call out to Him for wisdom not to err that way again. Ask for help in cleaning up the mess you made and making it right with whomever you have offended.
Heartfelt Prayer Is Your Lifeline to God
When you pray in faith, God sends reinforcements to strengthen you. But if you feel too condemned to pray, He cannot answer, and you are subject to the enemy's bombardment of accusation and condemnation.
Fortunately, God has given you the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness to protect your spiritual heart from this attack. Let’s learn more about this.
Two Kinds of Righteousness
Paul counseled us to put on righteousness as a breastplate. But the Bible talks about two kinds of righteousness. Which one do we put on?
Sometimes, people teach that we put on righteousness by living a righteous life. This was the Old Testament approach, and much can be said about keeping the law. By obeying the Word of God, we avoid sin’s damaging and messy consequences.
But only Jesus lived sin-free and could use His righteousness as a breastplate. If my protection depends on my imperfect righteousness, my breastplate has holes in it.
So what can we do? Is there hope? Do we repent continually, beat ourselves up, and try harder to do better? The idea of overcoming my imperfections through willpower alone is not only overwhelming—it’s impossible. (Thank God for the Holy Spirit's help!)
Putting On a New Kind of Righteousness
Fortunately, Paul preached a second kind of righteousness, the righteousness of faith. Here are some verses explaining it.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be a sin offering for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Philippians 3:8–9 …that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.
Romans 4:2–3 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
Romans 4:5 But to him who does not work [the works of the law] but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes [on Christ] unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Romans 5:1–2 Therefore, having been justified [declared righteous by God] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
We have access by faith in Christ into this state of grace. The “we” refers to all believers, even though all of us are imperfect and still capable of sin. (See also Romans 5:17, 20-21, 6:1-2, Ephesians 4:24)
The Righteousness of Faith
Because of what Jesus did for you, God sees you as a righteous person. He has forgiven your sins and forgotten them. (Hebrews 8:12) As a born again Christian, you live in a state of righteousness before God as though you had never sinned. You have every reason to be fully confident that God desires to hear your prayers, wants to bless you, and will answer exceedingly abundantly above all that you could ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Because Jesus bore your sins for you, you have become the righteousness of God in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21) You are no longer “just an old sinner saved by grace;” God has declared you righteous. In your new birth, God re-created your spirit "in righteousness and true holiness." (Ephesians 4:24) Because the righteousness in your spirit is the workmanship of God and sealed by the Holy Spirit, it can never be contaminated. By one offering, Jesus has perfected your spirit forever.
Hebrews 9:12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
Other people may not know you as God knows you. They may remember your past and say ugly things about you. But God sees you as His son or daughter, innocent, blameless, and a new creation in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 1:21-22)
You have put on righteousness like a breastplate when you believe that your right standing before God is not based on your performance but on what Jesus did for you. Therefore, you are always worthy to come into God’s presence. Your understanding of righteousness and grace protects your spiritual heart so that you may pray confidently in times of need, especially after you have messed up.
Your Behavior Cannot Change Your Righteousness
Your state of righteousness does not change based on your behavior. Whew! Christ’s righteousness, not yours, established it. Good or bad, your behavior cannot add to or take away from the righteousness of Christ God has given you.
Sin can no longer separate you from God because Christ’s blood is stronger than sin. (Romans 8:31-39) If you have sinned, repent, ask for forgiveness and wisdom not to sin that way again, and God will forgive you and cleanse you. He is eager to work with those willing to repent and change. (1 John 1:9)
It's Important to Become Righteousness-Conscious, Not Sin-Conscious
Though sin cannot separate you from God, seeing yourself as unrighteous and unworthy will hinder your ability to receive from God. A consciousness of sin damages your confidence in God and interferes with your prayers until you learn to “reign in life” through Jesus.
Romans 5:17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Hebrews tells us to come boldly to the throne of grace to find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:15–16 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
One of our greatest times of need is right after we have failed. That’s when we are vulnerable to giving up and possibly doing something worse. But if we know we are righteous in God, we will come quickly to the throne of grace for help, even in the humbling pain of failure. God will teach us through our mistakes, help us make amends, and show us how not to sin that way again.
Two Layers of Righteousness
The breastplate of righteousness we put on has two layers. My personal righteousness forms the outer layer as the Holy Spirit empowers me to live right before God and men. The inner layer is the righteousness of Christ, received by faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. That inner layer of protection is not based on my performance but on Jesus’ performance.
Any failure in my personal righteousness creates a hole in the outer layer through which the enemy will try to attack my heart. But the inner layer, based on the righteousness of Christ, has no holes, and it repels the attack. It protects my relationship with God so I can repent, turn to Him, and find grace to help.
There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) With the inner layer of God’s grace protecting me at all times, I don’t have to put up with the enemy’s accusations and condemnation. As a result of grace, I don’t run away and hide from God like Adam and Eve, but I run toward Him to find mercy and grace in times of need.
A Grace That Captures My Heart
God’s grace melts and captures my heart. I am so thankful for His forgiveness that I want to change and live a holy life for God. When your heart has been melted by undeserved grace, you no longer wish to offend Him who loves you as no other. (Ephesians 2:7)
Should I practice sin because God’s grace forgives and accepts me? Certainly not! When I sin, I open the door to the devil, and he steals, kills, and destroys. Inviting the destroyer into my life is never in my best interest!
God Loves Like a Good Parent
Parents encourage their children while they are learning to walk. Does condemning them for falling inspire them to try again? Probably not! Condemnation usually has the chilling effect of making people not want to try again. Good parents tell their kids they can do it. They encourage them to dust themselves off and give it another shot.
God loves you in the same way. He does not focus on your failures because His eyes look ahead to your future joy when you have learned to walk, run, and leap. Therefore, He encourages you in your next steps.
Life Is a Messy Process
Learning to live a holy life is a messy process of trial and error. But God is with you and on your side even though you don't do everything right. He wants you to know that you are loved and accepted through the entire learning curve of the Christian life.
At the end of your life, heaven will welcome you because you believe in Jesus even though you have still not attained perfection. You’re in good company. Paul never claimed to be perfect either, but he kept pressing toward the mark. (Philippians 3:12-14)
You have put on the breastplate of righteousness when you are convinced that God accepts and hears your prayers even when you make mistakes. You are loved through your failures, so admit them and run to Him for help. Your sins are forgiven, past, present, and even future sins have been forgiven by Jesus' one sacrifice.
It’s incredible how secure our relationship with God can be when we know His grace covers us. It takes the pressure off so we can smile and breathe. It defeats the harsh spirit of religious legalism, which condemns us when we’re down.