Excerpted from Chapter 13 of Boot Camp: Equipping Men with Integrity for Spiritual Warfare:
The soldier’s breastplate protects the upper half of his body, from the neck to the thighs. In the times of Roman rule, breastplates were usually made of rings or plates of brass. Like the scales of a fish, the brass pieces were fastened together so that the armor was flexible in battle, while still guarding the soldier’s vital organs from swords, spears, and arrows.
It’s no mistake that the Spirit’s instruction to “fasten on the belt of truth” is followed by the encouragement to “put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph 6.14). In the word of his truth, our Creator has defined that which is right and that which is wrong. He has established the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable for his creation. He has provided wisdom so that his image-bearers might “walk in the way of the good and keep the path of the righteous” (Prov 2.20). Those paths have been traveled for thousands of years by men of integrity, moral uprightness, holiness, and character. The way of the good is the way of virtue—in quality and in practice.
Remember that our Creator desires to stamp his own image deep on our hearts. His intention is that godliness and integrity would become a natural part of who we are. When we, in humility, allow God to define the standard by which every thing will be measured as “right,” we arm ourselves with holy vests that cannot be penetrated by even the strongest of the Enemy’s weapons. Once again, Satan cannot rip the breastplate of righteousness from you, but you can decide to rebelliously lay it down and willfully walk into the camp of darkness.
To put on the breastplate of righteousness, therefore, is to dedicate yourself to a life of self-control. Like the soldier who accepts the weight and constraints of bulky armor, the disciple of Christ consents to live within the boundaries of self-denial and submission to God’s standard of righteousness. The soldiers of this world do so to protect themselves from the outward dangers of battle. The Christian does so protect himself from himself.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 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. (Rom 6.12-13)
Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God. (1 John 3.7-10)
Just as wicked King Ahab was killed by an arrow that struck him “between the scale armor and the breastplate” (1 Kings 22.34), a lack of honesty and integrity leaves soldiers of Christ critically exposed to the assaults of Satan. There is no earthly substitute for humble obedience in the sight of God. He expects practical, daily righteousness on the part of the redeemed. He calls us to live in harmony with what is right in his sight. Each image-bearer is summoned to mold his own beliefs, opinions, attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors into a living imitation of the Creator’s expectations.
If we are to successfully survive the attacks of the wicked one, we must recognize and address the breaches of personal weakness and compromise. We don’t stand a chance against the cosmic powers of darkness while selfishly clinging to the lusts of the flesh. As long as sin reigns in our mortal bodies, there are gaps in our panoply. We may describe ourselves as fully-devoted followers, but we have been deceived. We are continuing to tolerate sin in our lives and the devil has us right where he wants us.
Remember the call! It is time to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Leave no unguarded place! Recognize and address the weaknesses of your character. “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5.5). Seek our the strength which only he can supply. Reform your standards of living so that they reflect his. And having done all, washed in the atoning blood of the Lamb and clothed in accordance with his righteousness, you can resist the advances of Satan, standing firm in your faith.
Other posts in this series on the armor of God: