The breastplate, or lorica segmentata
, was a soldier's protection for his chest and abdominal areas. Crafted of metal bands, the breastplate was sometimes called "chainmail" (lorica hamata
) and it afforded critical protection from powerful blows.
Before battle, a soldier would fasten the breastplate around his chest like a vest to protect his vital organs. If a soldier failed to wear his breastplate, an arrow could easily pierce his heart or lungs.
Every Christian has a vital "spiritual organ" which needs to be guarded above all else. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Keep thy heart
with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
So critical is the condition of your spiritual heart
that the Bible has nearly 900 verses referring to it. Many of those verses describe the kinds of hearts that please God: a pure
heart, a hungry
heart, and a contrite
heart. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise"
God wants your whole heart and nothing less, for a heart sets the course of a person's life.
Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45), and "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also"
(Matthew 6:21). A heart that is not right toward God is like a "deceitful bow"
(Psalm 78:57), like "a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation
that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God"
(Psalm 78:8). If our heart is stubborn, hard, or proud, we will be unable to believe the Word of God.
Why is your spiritual heart so important? Because it is "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation"
(Romans 10:10). God offers us His righteousness on the basis of faith in His Son. "Even the righteousness of
God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe"
(Romans 3:22). None of us can earn right standing in God's eyes by following a list of rules, going to church, or doing good deeds. We are justified and made righteous only
because of our faith
in the Lord Jesus. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost"
The breastplate of righteousness, then, is a gift obtained by faith
(Romans 1:17, 5:17). In the Old Testament, the patriarch Abraham believed God, and his faith counted to him for righteousness (see Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3, 20-22). In the New Testament, Paul desired to be found in Christ
, "not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law,
but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith"
(Philippians 3:9; also see Galatians 2:16). Today, each of us can enter into right standing before God, by faith, on the basis of Christ's merits. It is then that "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus"
Putting on the armor of God involves guarding our hearts
with the breastplate of righteousness. We know that it is not our own goodness that protects our hearts, for "all our righteousnesses
are as filthy rags"
(Isaiah 64:6). Rather, God protects those who are clothed in His righteousness. He says, "No weapon
that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD"
Whenever the enemy tries to bring up your past to accuse you, the breastplate of righteousness is your trusty defense. If the Spirit of Christ
dwells in you, then your heavenly Father receives you as His son or daughter no matter what the devil says. "For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness
of God in him"
(II Corinthians 5:21). The righteousness of Christ in you
is what matters — not your shortcomings and failures.
This does not mean that your heavenly Father is indifferent to your sin or regards it lightly. Rather, as a loving father corrects his child, so the Lord corrects you (see Hebrews 12:5-11). At times His chastening may seem stern and unfair, but He is working to mold you into the likeness of Christ. He desires that "the peaceable fruit of righteousness"
(Hebrews 12:11) be produced in your life.
In Isaiah 59, the Lord put on righteousness as a breastplate and went out to fight evil and corruption. "And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke"
The Lord shares His righteousness with His children, for they, too, must encounter evil and corruption. The world we live in is full of sin and spiritual darkness. People all around us are in desperate need of the light and life of Jesus Christ. Therefore, "let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation"
(I Thessalonians 5:8). We are to let the light of Christ shine to those around us and follow the Lord's leading in doing "good works" (see Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14). Such works may involve standing firm against injustice (Leviticus 19:15), meeting the needs of the poor and fatherless (Psalm 82:3-4), and defending the helpless (Proverbs 31:8-9). These are all practical manifestations of the Lord's righteousness