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The Breastplate of Righteousness

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 6:14b

  • 2010-11-07 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons

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This week as we anticipate celebrating Veterans Day, our minds and hearts go out to the families as well as to the soldiers who are currently in active duty. We understand only a little I'm sure of the pressures that they feel, of the sheer terror that can often be theirs as troops in harm's way because we're not in active duty, at least not physically. It's very hard for us as Christians to remember, to remind ourselves, that spiritually we are locked in a war. We're in a battle. If we believe what our Lord Jesus Christ taught; if we believe what His apostles taught, then right now all around us there is literally an army of God's enemies - spiritual beings, supernatural beings who have one mission in life and eternity and that is to destroy God's purposes and to destroy ultimately your soul if that were possible.

You are in a battle whether you feel like it or not. And we don't often feel like it. We go to our jobs. We, we enjoy entertainment. We enjoy our families. We go to school. We do the things of life, and it's easy for us to imagine that really there's nothing but the people around us. That's not at all what the Bible describes. If we're going to believe our God, if we're going to believe our Lord Jesus Christ, then we are locked in a life and death struggle, a battle that is raging for our souls.

And in Ephesians 6, Paul makes that point. That's the presupposition that lies behind his instruction about the believer's armor. It is that we are in a battle, and we'd better be prepared for that battle. It is happening all the time around us. The Word of God is attacked. Satan is bringing temptations personally tailored to our lives, circumstances that he brings in that appeal to our own set of lusts as James says. He's doing everything he can to trip us up, to make us fall, to enable us to follow him and to disable our walk in the world in a way that pleases and honors God. That's the point Paul's making.

And we find ourselves in Ephesians 6 in the section where Paul gets to the armor itself that we ought to put on. Let me read it for you. Ephesians 6, beginning in verse 14,

"Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."

Now we're looking at a section, a paragraph, a unit of thought that begins back up in verse 10 and works its way all the way down through verse 20 - learning to use God's armor. In verse 10, Paul begins by saying,

… be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might [how? Verse 11]. Put on the full armor of God [why?], so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. [against our enemy].

And in verse 12, Paul expands that to include Satan's army of supernatural forces, the angels that fell with him and are, now do his bidding.

The point is the enemy that you and I face every day, whether we sense it or not, is a powerful enemy. And none of us in our own strength can overcome that enemy. You don't have the resources in yourself to fight against that enemy nor do I. We can only stand in Christ's strength. But how is it that you and I can receive the strength of Christ? Well, Paul answers that question in the form of an extended metaphor about the soldier's armor that I just read for you. This is his answer for how you and I can gain Christ's own strength. We can put on God's own armor.

Now, we began this middle section here, verses 14 to 17, by making some general observations which I'm not going to review now. If you weren't here, I encourage you to go back and listen to that. But we've begun to look at the specific pieces of the armor. Last week, we looked at the very first piece – the belt of truth. Look at verse 14, "Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth."

When a Roman soldier started to prepare for the battle, the first piece of armor he put on was a belt. It was typically made of either metal or leather or a combination of the two. And he would put on the belt, and then he would pull up the loose tunic that they usually wore up through the belt. And when he got the tunic to the desired height, he would cinch the belt tight. By the time he was done, this tunic would fall just above his knees. This enabled him to have free motion. It made sure that in the midst of the battle his movements weren't restricted in any way.

We too are to put on a belt. And we're to put on the belt of truth. What is the belt of truth? Well, we discovered it last time. It is a growing knowledge of biblical truth. That will prepare us for action against Satan. It will serve as a kind of anchor point for the rest of our armor. You see, the truth of God's Word, that's really what he's talking about, a growing knowledge of the biblical truth of God's Word, is absolutely crucial for our spiritual protection because it frees us from slavery to sin as our Lord taught.

It also serves as the primary means to our sanctification, our spiritual growth in holiness, and it guards us from Satan's lies and deception. So, we need to put on the belt of truth. That means we need to read the Bible; we need to study the Bible and its truth; we need to meditate on that truth. We need to apply that truth to our lives. The bottom line, folks, is as a believer you can never be exposed to too much biblical truth. That truth becomes the beginning piece of your protection. It is the piece to which the other pieces of armor will anchor.

Today, we come to the second piece of armor, and it too is absolutely critical. It is the breastplate of righteousness. Look again at verse 14, "Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS…."

For thousands of years, soldiers have understood the risk of leaving their trunk or torso exposed during battle. Of course, that's because our chests and our abdominal cavities contain all the major organs in our body that support our lives. The heart and the lungs and the kidneys and the liver and the pancreas and the intestines are all crucial to life. And especially before modern medicine, if one of those organs was pierced or damaged during a battle, then death was almost certain for the soldier.

So, armor dates back millennia. In fact, back in 2006, archaeologists in Greece found the oldest surviving breastplate, the oldest surviving piece of armor, and it goes back some 1,400 years before Christ. But we know that armor existed even before that. Body armor to cover the trunk existed among the Egyptians at least a couple of hundred years before that.

You can trace body armor like this through biblical history as well. Probably the most famous example would be the body armor of Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17, we're told that he wore a coat of mail - scale armor, kind of fish scale armor is what it would've been like in his day. And we're told there that it weighed more than 125 pounds. Can you imagine? He's going to fight, doesn't know who's going to be sent out against him, but presumably another warrior. And he's wearing, and just one piece of his armor, just the part covering his torso, weighed 125 pounds, kind of a fish scale tunic made of metal.

King Saul had armor as well. You remember David tried on Saul's armor, but it didn't fit, probably because Saul was (we're told) head and shoulders higher than any other man in Israel. So, he went into the battle with Goliath without that armor. But we're told at the end of 1 Samuel 17 that David got his own personal, personally fitted suit of armor.

Israel's army was usually equipped with armor. In 2 Chronicles 26, we're told that Uzziah prepared, for all the army, body armor. Go to the end of the Old Testament. Nehemiah in Nehemiah 4 says that while some of the people were working on the wall, the other half of them had on breastplates. They had on body armor.

So, of course, it's no surprise that when you come to the Romans, you discover that they always wore body armor. It began in the centuries before Christ with what we sometimes call chainmail. That's really not an appropriate name for it, but we, we call it that. Don't think internet here. Think interlinking pieces of metal. "Mail" comes from the Latin word meaning the mesh of a net. It's like a fishnet but made out of metal and more compact. Mail is usually a symbol of interlocking iron or bronze rings that were riveted together.

And it was very effective. In fact, it was used for a period of history of almost 1,600 years up to the 1600's A.D. It has many applications in which it's still used today. In fact, those of you who occasionally frequent the Feedstore Barbeque, you will see that sometimes the man who's cutting the meat back there will have on a glove made of mail, metal links woven together to protect his hand from the knife as he cuts the meat.

Very effective, however mail had a couple of serious problems as armor, body armor. One, it was very heavy. Goliath's was 125 pounds, but a typical coat of mail armor weighed between 20 and 40 pounds. Can you imagine marching 20 miles a day with that plus all of your other weaponry? Also, it required great skill and many hours to produce so it was expensive both in time and materials. But the real problem with chainmail or mail armor was that it protected against swings of the sword and against blunt weapons because if the sword was swung, it struck off of the mail and didn't pierce, but it wasn't very effective when it came to pointed weapons, either arrows or the thrusts of a sword.

And so, early in the first century A.D. during actually the life of our Lord, the Roman army began to change its armor. We aren't sure what the Romans called their new kind of body armor, but historians call it "lorica", which means armor, "lorica segmentate", meaning segments – armor made of segments, "lorica segmentate". This new armor was made of a system of some forty segments of thin metal plates. So, picture it like this.

There was a series of two-to-three inch thin metal plates that started at the soldier's belt and were woven all the way around his body; then the next piece of (or segment of) metal and then the next, all the way up from his waist to just under his arms, covering his entire torso. They were overlapped, something like roofing shingles, so that there was no way to get between them or to pierce into them. Then there was another series of metal strips that started at the upper arm and the strips crossed the shoulders and went to the neck. The same thing on this side, from the upper arm over to the neck, across the chest and over the back. These strips of thin metal covered the entire upper body.

Under this body armor, but over that wool tunic the soldiers wore, they wore a leather vest usually to sort of protect them from getting gauged by the metal, also to prevent the armor from rusting from their body's sweat. Picture something like modern football shoulder pads, but not quite as bulky, not quite as extending so far from the body, but covering the same basic parts of the shoulders and then another piece woven with it that covered the belly, back and sides. Then that breastplate, once he put on the leather shirt, the breastplate was put over him. All of that armor was put over him and was fastened together with hidden leather straps and external buckles and hinges. Very important, the bottom of the breastplate was anchored (guess where?) to the belt (why?) so that in the middle of swinging his sword, this breastplate didn't begin to ride up on his body and make him unable to engage in the battle.

The primary function of the breastplate is obvious. It was to shield the trunk of the body and its major organs from injury. Although there were cracks and crevices that left the soldier exposed here and there, the breastplate completely covered the shoulders, the chest, the abdomen, the sides and all of the back.

Now, I mention the back explicitly because if you read some older Puritan works, they make a big point that the believer's armor has no covering on the back. In fact, if you've read Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan says you know, there's no, there's no armor for the back so that the Christian soldier doesn't retreat. Well, that makes for a good book. It makes good preaching, but that's not exactly true. If you were in hand-to-hand combat with your enemies, they didn't always have the courtesy to come from the front, and so you wanted something covering your entire torso. You needed complete protection.

The breastplate was essential for protecting your life, for guarding those organs that sustains your life. And Paul tells us that if we're going to be spiritually prepared for battle against Satan and his forces, then we must put on a spiritual breastplate. Notice verse 14, "Stand firm therefore … HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS." The Greek word for breastplate is "thorax". It's a word that's sometimes used in English. It's used either for the chest or for the piece of armor that covers it. Paul says here that our breastplate is not "lorica segmentate", not what the Roman soldiers wore, not thin strips of metal covering us, but rather righteousness. Our breastplate consists of or is made of righteousness.

Now, of , course that invites the very important question. What does Paul mean by righteousness? This is absolutely crucial because this is our protection. Paul's arguing that this is how we're protected against Satan and his spiritual forces. So, what does he mean? Well historically, evangelical Christians and commentators have taken one of two views of what this righteousness is.

The first view argues that it is personal righteousness - in other words, that the thoughts and actions of the believer conform to God's standard or righteous living. And if you live righteously, if you do what's right to put it a different way, it will guard you from Satan's attacks. The only real protection from Satan's attacks, they argue, is a righteous life. And certainly, there's an element of truth to that. The arguments they extend for this view are primarily two. Those who hold this view say it has to be this for two reasons.

First of all, because the other two uses of the word "righteousness" in Ephesians 4:24, 5:9 - both of those other occurrences of righteousness refer to righteous living. And I think that's true. I think that's right.

The other argument they use is that if you look at the other New Testament passages in which Paul uses the armor metaphor (where he talks about breastplates and helmets and all of that), they all seem to speak of ethical behavior, of something we do, some virtue we manifest. And that's true as well.

But I still don't believe this is the right interpretation. Let me give you the arguments against this view, why I don't think this is the proper view.

First of all, it doesn't seem to fit the context of Christ's strength and God's own personal armor. I'll come back to that in a little bit.

The second argument that I would say renders this first view null and void is that my personal righteousness is not an adequate protection against Satan and his forces. In fact, the verse that comes to my mind is Isaiah 64:6. You remember what Isaiah says? "All our righteousness is as filthy rags." I don't know about you, but filthy rags don't make a very good breastplate.

The second view, and you can obviously already tell this is a view that I hold and have come to, is that this is imputed righteousness - not personal righteousness, not my own righteous living, but imputed righteousness, someone else's righteousness. This view interprets the breastplate not as our own personal righteous deeds, but as the righteous status or standing that God gives the sinner. It's understanding and applying our justification. This is what I believe Paul is saying here.

Now why? And, and I want to belabor this because I don't want you to just take my word for it. Why do I believe this is true? What are the reasons for embracing this second view?

First of all: there are several other pieces of armor here that are clearly not some virtue we manifest. They're not something we do, but they are gifts of God that we have to understand and apply and use. Take for example the helmet of salvation. Nobody argues you need to save yourself. Nobody argues that that's something you do. Instead, they say that is something you need that God has given you that you need to understand and apply. It's the same thing with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God - we'll get to that one as well. Obviously, that's not something we do. That's something God has given us that we learn to understand and to use and apply. So, I think taking righteousness in this same way fits what Paul does with the rest of the pieces of armor.

A second reason I think this view is the appropriate view is: it fits the overall emphasis of the apostle Paul. Romans is a book about (what?) righteousness by faith alone, justification. Galatians is a book about defending justification by faith alone. There's a large section in Philippians about justification by faith alone. This is a huge issue with Paul.

A third reason is: that in a letter Paul dictated at the same time he dictated Ephesians, there is a huge emphasis on justification. It's Philippians 3:1 - 11.

Now if you're not yet convinced, I understand that because I think the final reason for me is the one that seals the deal. It fits, taking this righteousness here as imputed righteousness, fits the point Isaiah was making. Remember? Look back at verse 14. It's in all caps – THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. That means it was quoted from the Old Testament. Specifically, it was quoted from Isaiah. Understanding this as imputed righteousness better fits with the overall emphasis and point Isaiah was making.

So, let's turn back to Isaiah. I want to show you this. I want to spend a lot of time on the application of this, but I want you to understand why this is a reasonable view, why it is what I believe the correct interpretation of this passage.

When you look at Isaiah, you see this theme of righteousness come up again and again. And I'm not going to take you to all the references I even have in my notes, but let me just take you to a couple. Look at Isaiah 45:22. In fact, go back to verse 20 because that's really where it begins. Isaiah 45:20,

"Gather yourselves and come; Draw … together, you fugitives of the nations; [those who basically worshipped idols, the nations] … [and] carry about … [a] wooden idol And pray to a god who cannot save." [He says I am the true God, verse 21.] "… There is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. (So, verse 22). Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness. And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. [Now watch verse 24]. They will say of Me (God says), "Only in … [Yahweh] are righteousness and strength" [the only place to find righteousness is in Me, God says]. Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. In the LORD all the offspring of Israel Will be justified [will be declared righteous by faith] and will glory." [So, he brings this theme in in a huge way. This is central to what Isaiah's doing.]

But let me show you the context of the quote itself. Turn to Isaiah 59. Isaiah 59, and look at verse 12. Here Isaiah is talking on behalf of the people, confessing their sin. He says in verse 12 of Isaiah 59,

For our transgressions are multiplied before You, … And our sins testify against us; our transgressions are with us, … We know our iniquities: [we're] Transgressing and denying the LORD, [we're] … turning away from our God, [we're] Speaking oppression and revolt…." Verse 14, "Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands far away; ..." [There's no righteousness to be found anywhere close.] Verse 15, "… Now the LORD saw, And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. And He saw that there was no … [intercessor, there was no] man, … [He] was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head….

This is the Messiah. This is our Lord Jesus putting on righteousness like a breastplate to come to the rescue of transgressors and sinners as well as, verse 17, dealing out judgment ultimately on His enemies. But look down in verse 20. This Messiah who will come with righteousness on like a breastplate bringing it to those who have no righteousness is called a Redeemer for those who will turn from transgression, those who will repent.

So, the context here is the Messiah putting on His righteousness to bring righteousness to people who have none. And so that perfectly fits the context then of why Paul would quote it in Ephesians 6. Turn back there now. So, what is the breastplate we must put on? Let me put it very simply. The breastplate is the practical application of justification. The breastplate is the practical application of justification.

Now, I don't want to assume that everyone here knows what justification is. Although it's central to our faith, it's rarely taught in evangelicalism. So, let me just really briefly summarize it for you. God declares the sinner who repents and believes in Jesus to be right before God's law even though he's not. You say wait a minute. How can a righteous God declare somebody right who's not?

He does it by imputation. Don't be scared of that word. It's key to our faith. Imputation is a financial word that means to post something to a ledger or a record. It's like the accountant putting a number in a particular column. God imputes or credits the sinner's sins to Christ, and then, on the cross, God punished Jesus for those sins. Then God imputes or credits, He puts in our records, the perfect record of Jesus. That's justification, and it's the heart of the gospel.

In Romans 3:24, Paul says we are "… justified [we are declared right before God] as a gift by His grace through [the work of Christ] the redemption which is in Christ Jesus…." In Romans 4:5, Paul says to the one who does not work, there's no way you can get this right standing on your own. There's no work you can do. "To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who … [declares righteous] the ungodly [you say what do I have to do to qualify to be justified? You have to be ungodly because God declares righteous the ungodly. He who believes], his faith is credited as righteousness."

Philippians 3:9. This is what Paul believed and taught. He says I want to "… be found in … [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own derived from the [things I do] …, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God [solely] on the basis of faith…." It's this imputed righteousness that Paul has in mind when he talks about the breastplate of righteousness.

Now again, just in case you've not heard this, you think I'm sort of flying out there on my own, listen to none other than the great American commentator Charles Hodge. He writes,

What is that righteousness which is the spiritual armor that answers to the breastplate? Many say it is our own righteousness, but this is no protection. It cannot resist the accusations of conscience, the whispers of despondency, the power of temptation, much less the severity of the law or the assaults of Satan. What Paul desired for himself was not to have his own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith and this doubtless is the righteousness which he here urges believers to put on as a breastplate.

Now how does this work? How does our justification function like a breastplate in our spiritual armor to protect and preserve our spiritual lives? Well, just like the Roman soldier's breastplate shielded his crucial organs and thereby preserved his physical life, in the same way the practical application of justification shields and protects our spiritual life. It protects us against Satan's false gospels.

Listen, you ask the average American how are you going to get to heaven, what will be the answer? "You know, I'm just doing the best I can." In other words, what I do is going to get me there. Folks, that is a false gospel, but it's widespread. Then you throw in the cults and the false religions. It gets more complicated, but it's still the basic bottom line answer.

Satan's counterfeits always have one thing in common - something you have to be or to do to gain a right standing before God. Strip away the veneer, and you'll always find that part of your acceptance with God is based on what you do, some personal righteousness in you. But when we understand and apply the biblical truth that our righteousness is solely because of another, knowing that, knowing the true protects us from the false.

Another way that applying justification protects me is it protects me from Satan's temptations of all kinds. Practically applying the truth of justification will protect you from despair about your sins. You ever tempted to despair about your sins? If you're a Christian, you are. You ever tempted to let a trial become a source of temptation? You ever tempted to doubt God's love? You ever tempted to fear in the middle of Satan's intimidation through fear and persecution? Listen, nothing is more important to your spiritual life than understanding and applying this truth to your circumstances.

Thomas Watson said, "This one truth of justification is the pillar of Christianity." John Calvin called it "the main hinge of the Christian faith." Martin Luther said, "This doctrine (speaking of justification) is the head, the cornerstone. It alone begets (that is, gives birth to) Christian life, nourishes, builds, preserves and defends the church of God. And without it, the church of God cannot last for one hour."

Now you say, okay, I understand how important it is, but how do I do this? How do I put on the breastplate of righteousness? Show me how this works practically. Well, I want to do that. I want to drill down a little bit and try to be very practical with you. How can we practically apply the truth of justification in our lives in a way that it truly protects us from Satan's attacks? How can you put on the breastplate of righteousness? Well, it's when Satan comes to you, we oppose him with the truth of justification. And when we do that, when we remind him and ourselves of the truth of justification, his arrows ring off our armor and fall harmlessly to the ground.

Let's take the most common occasions when Satan comes and tempts us to despair; when Satan comes and tempts us to doubt our standing before God. Now I say the most common. These are the most common for me. They may not be for you, but I expect they are. Let's talk about how to put on the breastplate of righteousness or how to practically apply the truth of justification in the really hard times. Satan often comes to tempt us, to doubt God's love and to spiritually despair, first of all, when we are being tempted, when temptation comes. Now again, maybe you don't experience this, but I do because when you're being tempted, when you're, and we're all tempted, our Lord was tempted. There's no Christian that's exempt from this. When you're in the middle of temptation, Satan comes to you, and he says something like this,

"So, how long is it that you have supposedly been a Christian? And you are still tempted by that? What does that say about you? What does that say about the true condition of your heart? You can't be a Christian. And think about how many times in the past you gave in to that temptation? And that temptation is still here. You thought you'd gotten over it, but you haven't. You've made no real progress after all these years. What a failure you are spiritually."

That's what the devil will try to get you to think. I see some smiles and nods. I see you've faced the same onslaught.

We can be tempted to despair. So, what do you do? What do you do when he brings that temptation into your life? You put on the breastplate of righteousness. You respond to yourself and to Satan with something like this:

"Listen, my hope is not now and never has been in who I am or what I've done. My hope is in Christ alone. You're right. I've been tempted and given in far too many times, but I stand clothed in the righteousness of One who never did. He was tempted His whole life, and He never gave in once. He never once yielded, and God has credited Jesus' perfect record against temptation to me. My record in the book of heaven shows that never once has Tom Pennington ever given in to temptation because I am clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ."

Remind yourself and Satan of Hebrews 2, that Jesus Himself was tempted, and therefore He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Remind yourself of Hebrews 4, that our High Priest can sympathize with our weaknesses. "He was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, we can draw near with confidence to the throne of grace." Did you hear that? It's a throne of grace. We can draw near with confidence in the middle of our weakness and our temptation and receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. You're putting on the breastplate of righteousness - His righteousness, not yours.

There's another time that Satan comes to tempt us to despair. It's not only when we're being tempted, but it's when we've sinned. You've been tempted, and you've given in to that temptation. Satan comes to us and again, maybe this is just me, but he says something like this:

"So, how many times have you committed this sin before in your life? Listen, don't even think about going back to God right now. He, the last thing in the world He wants to see right now is your face. He's fed up with you and your sin. In fact, you're just being a hypocrite. You may not even be a Christian."

How do you respond to that? You put on the breastplate of righteousness. You say to Satan and to yourself,

Listen, it's true. I have no right to approach a holy God. I have no right to come before a loving Father and seek His forgiveness yet again for the same sin. My sins are an affront to His holy character. They stain the family name. He has every right to turn His back on me both now and forever. But because I am in Christ, His righteousness is mine and He has adopted me into His family. And now when I sin, I could run to Him like the prodigal, repent of my sin and the Father immediately opens His arms. He runs to meet me and accepts me to Himself - not because of me, but because of Him and because of Christ.

Romans 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God…." Romans 8:1, "[There is] Therefore (what?) … no condemnation (no guilty verdict, no execution of the sentence)." Romans 8:33-34, "Who … [can] bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who … (declared us righteous)." If God declares you righteous, who's going to declare you guilty? Now this is no excuse for sin. As Paul's dealing with the wonderful joys of justification, he says in 6:1 there's going to be somebody out there who says, "Oh, great. Then I'm going to sin all I want with easy remission." He says that's not how a true believer thinks. "Shall I sin that grace may abound?" May it never be, he says. God forbid. That isn't how a true Christian thinks at all.

Remind yourself of 1 John, 1 John 1, where we're reminded that "… God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." There's no sin with our Father, not one shadow of sin. He is all blazing holiness. And those who claim to know Him but as a pattern of life are walking in (what?) the darkness, they're lying. They don't know God. If your, if your life is a pattern of unrepentant sin, you don't know God. That's what John says. But on the other hand, if you say you don't have any sin, then you lie and don't do the truth, he says. So, we're to confess our sins and "… when we confess our sins, He is (what?) faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

God has now made a way where He can be faithful to His Word and just to forgive our sins. Can I say the opposite is true? If you as a repentant sinner who has believed in His Son comes to Him to seek His forgiveness, it would be unfaithful and unjust of God not to accept you and forgive you (why?) because chapter 2 of 1 John, verse 1 says, "… if anyone sins, (I've written to you that you not sin, but if anyone sins, what?) we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the (One who is) righteous…." and who was the satisfaction of God's wrath on our behalf. You put on the breastplate of righteousness.

The same thing happens when we find ourselves in difficult trials. Some of you here this morning are in the middle of serious trouble and difficulty. I don't know all that that might mean. I know for some of you. Let me tell you what Satan does again, at least to me in the middle of serious trials. He comes and he says something like this,

"You know, you probably brought this on yourself. You probably deserved this. There must be some terrible sin in your life even though you're not aware of one. God doesn't love you. If He loved you, He wouldn't let this be happening to you. He doesn't treat those He loves like this. God must be angry with you. Maybe this is just a little taste of what you're going to get someday."

What do you do? You put on the breastplate of righteousness. You say to yourself and to Satan, "It's true. If I got what I deserved, I'd get hell. I don't deserve God's favor. I deserve none of His blessings here and none in eternity, but I am in Christ, and God has imputed His righteousness to me." And even Christ faced trials in this life. Hebrews 5, "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." And now, like Jesus' trials, that I'm in Christ, my trials have a purpose like we read in Romans 5. We rejoice in our trials (why?) because they're doing something. They're producing spiritual value.

We quote Romans 8:28 all the time, and we should. "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose." But don't forget to read the next two verses (why?) because God has this great eternal plan; He chose you; He's now called you; He's justified you; He's declared you righteous. And someday, He will glorify you all for the sake of His own Son. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.

There's one other occasion when Satan particularly assaults us with temptation to despair and to doubt God's love for us. It's when we draw near to death. When we face the reality of death, Satan comes to us, and he says, "What about that? It's a pretty ominous thing, isn't it? You're going to die. It may be soon. What if you're not a Christian? What if you think you're a Christian, but you're not? Your life, after all, doesn't look like the life of Moses or David or Peter or Paul. Why should God let you into heaven? You're not really that much better than unbelievers." Listen, many of the greatest believers in the history of the church have faced this temptation when they approach death. Read some of the biographies.

So, what do you do? What do you do? Listen, you will never argue Satan out of that temptation. You put on the breastplate of righteousness. You remind him of John 5:24: "Truly, truly, I say to you, He who hears My word [Jesus says], and believes Him who sent Me, has [today, not in the future, has] eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." Remind him of John 11 where our Lord says,

"… I am the resurrection and the life; … [if anyone] believes in Me … even if he dies, [he'll live]. And no one [who], who believes in Me ever truly dies," Jesus says. Remind yourself and him of Romans 8 where Paul says, "I am persuaded that not even death will separate us from the love of God (which is) in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Respond in all of those circumstances with the practical application of the truth of your standing in Jesus Christ. That's how you put on the breastplate of righteousness. You apply the truth of justification to your soul in that circumstance. Maybe there's no better way to put it than in a song we sing. We're going to sing it in just a moment. You remember "Before the Throne of God Above"? That second verse says,

"When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within." [That ever happen to you? The songwriter says,]

"Upward I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free.

For God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me." [That's our hope. Put on the breastplate of righteousness.]

Let's pray together.

Father, we thank You for this amazing truth. Only You could have created such a plan. Only You could have done something so gracious and amazing. Father, we bless You that we stand in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Father, help us to put that on as armor to protect our souls.

I pray, Lord, for the person here this morning who's never come to know Christ in that way – knows about Christ, maybe made a profession at some point in the past, but has never truly turned from sin, turned from all they know to be sin in their lives and believed in Christ as Lord and Savior. Father, I pray that this would be the day when they would give up the fight, they would bow their knee to the captain of their souls.

We pray it for His glory and in His name. Amen.

Ephesians