|Volume 3||March 15, 2004||Issue 3|
The Devil, His Tricks And The Armor — Part Three — Continued
In this issue we are continuing our discussion of how Christians should prepare themselves to stand against the evil schemes of Satan. In the last issue we looked at the "belt of truth" spoken of in Ephesians 6:14. We discussed how very important the belt was to the Roman soldier, what it's function was and why Paul related the belt to "truth." We recall that the belt was the first thing the soldier had to put on since it not only held all of the other armor in its proper place, it also held his garments up and out of the way so he wouldn't trip on them. It is the Truth of the Gospel that keeps us from tripping and falling. If we as Christians, don't make the belt of truth the first step in our battle against Satan's schemes, we will trip and fall. Missing the belt of truth makes us an easy target for the Devil.
Ephesians 6:14 also lists another piece of armor that the well protected Christian must wear in order to engage in battle with the Devil and overcome his evil tricks. Let's read verse 14 once more.
"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place," (NIV)
From what we've already discussed we can see that the breastplate of righteousness is held in place because it is connected to the belt of truth. To comprehend exactly what it is that Paul wants us to understand from his words "breastplate of righteousness" we need to start with two questions. First, what is righteousness? Second, why does Paul compare righteousness to the breastplate of the soldier's armor?
First, what is righteousness? The Dictionary defines "righteousness" as "The state of being right with God" or "Morally upright; without guilt or sin." The Greek word used for "righteousness" in Ephesians 6:14 is defined by Strong's in this way:
a) the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of by God.
b) integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting.
Notice that both the Dictionary and Strong's indicate two different aspects of righteousness. The first involves "the state of being right with God or "the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain" God's approval and the second is an inward righteousness — or a righteousness within man's own heart.
When God created Adam and Eve they were completely without guilt or sin. Their hearts were in complete unison with God's law. They were indeed "right with God" in every sense of the word. But then Satan beguiled them — they broke God's law, and they were no longer "righteous" or without guilt or sin.
The state of being right with God had been lost. Man could never again measure up to God's perfect character by his own righteousness. There was no way he could ever fashion his own breastplate of righteousness. It is only because of the perfection of Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection that mankind has a way to be right with God again. Jesus made a breastplate of His righteousness and He offers it to mankind as a gift. This is where the belt of truth becomes very important. For without the belt of truth firmly fastened around our waist, it would be quite possible to not accept or to fail to understand exactly how we are to put on the breastplate of righteousness offered to us through Jesus Christ.
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27 NASB)
It's impossible to receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ unless we first believe and accept God's Truth as it is revealed in His Word. If we fail to have confidence that God's Word is Absolutely True, we would have no reason to feel it was absolutely necessary to follow whatever it tells us to do to receive the breastplate of righteousness. We must first take God at His Word (buckled up in the belt of truth) and accept the method He reveals to allow the righteousness of Christ to become our breastplate. That righteousness is available only through the blood of Jesus Christ. No one ever received the breastplate of righteousness offered through the perfection of Jesus Christ without believing the Truth about Jesus Christ. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God provided a way whereby man could once again "attain a state approved of by God." Mankind must learn of that way with the belt of truth around his waist or he may be easily influenced by man's persuading rather than be persuaded by God's teachings.
"For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness." (Romans 10:2-3 NIV)
Where do we find how to submit to God's righteousness?
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (II Timothy 3:16 KJV)
Being secured in the belt of truth will make it clear to us that the breastplate of righteousness is attainable only through putting on the perfection of Jesus Christ by immersion in the watery grave of baptism. (For more discussion about baptism see Diligence Volume 2 Issues 9 & 10 online at http://www.gorfsystems.com/diligence/)
While the breastplate of righteousness is available to every individual (through accepting Christ in baptism), there is more required of the wearer than simply putting it on for the first time. That brings us to the second definition of "righteousness" — morally upright, integrity, virtue, purity of life, etc. So we can now determine that there are two kinds of Christian righteousness — the one bought by the blood of Christ and available only through and because of Him and the other within ourselves or within our hearts. Such inner righteousness consists of the daily practice of Christian virtue. In other words, we must daily live according to the moral code or ordinances of one who has been consecrated to God through the blood of His beloved Son — and those "ordinances" are revealed to us in His Word. James 2:19 tell us that even the "...devils...believe and tremble." It's not enough to simply know the truth. We must also obey it. It is said of Zacharias and Elisabeth, "...they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." (Luke 1:6 KJV) Paul's exercise was "to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16 KJV). Truth and holiness go together.
"Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him." (I John 3:21-22 NIV)
Even the Devil knows truth from error. He just refuses to be ruled by it. We can't expect to have the protection of the breastplate of righteousness while displaying open hostility to the truth in God's Word by living an ungodly life. William Gurnall, in his Treatise entitled The Christian In Complete Armor stated that the fire of God's wrath is kindled into a flame, "when He sees men put scorn upon His truth, by walking contrary to the light of it, and imprisoning it from having any command over them in their lives, and yet own it to be the truth of God..." For the Christian, the breastplate of righteousness must be firmly anchored to and held in place by the belt of truth. Truth matters!
Now, if you recall from the first page, there were two questions asked to better understand Paul's phrase "breastplate of righteousness." We hope that the preceding discussion has given us a grasp of the answer to the first question — what is righteousness? So let's take a look now at the second question — why does Paul compare righteousness to the "breastplate" of the soldier's armor?
Again a bit of research into the breastplate that the Roman soldier wore reveals that it served a two-fold purpose. First, the breastplate protected the most vulnerable part of his body, or that part that housed many vital organs. A stab to this part of the body is more deadly than to other parts that are remote from organs such as the heart. A man may easily survive many wounds received in the arms or legs, but a stab in the heart or other vital part is generally a certain messenger of death. Paul probably chose to call righteousness the breastplate of a Christian because the righteousness of Christ coupled with the righteousness of a virtuous life will also preserve the most vital parts of a Christian — the soul, the conscience and the heart.
The second of that two-fold purpose of the soldier's breastplate was that the very security it offered by protecting the most vital parts of the body, made him fearless of danger; and that is as necessary in the fight as is the protection itself. "A dead soldier...will do, in a manner, as much good, as a dead hearted soldier that is dismayed with fear — his heart is killed while he is alive and a naked breast expose(s) the unarmed soldier to a trembling heart; whereas one otherwise cowardly, having his breast well defended....will the more boldly venture up on the pikes. Thus, righteousness, by defending the conscience, fills the creature with courage in the face of death and danger; whereas guilt — which is the nakedness of the soul—puts the stoutest sinner into a shaking fit of fear. ‘The wicked flee when no man pursueth; but the righteous are bold as a lion,' Prov. 28:1. They say sheep are scared by the clatter of their own feet as they run. So is the sinner with the din of his guilt....Never can we truly recover our courage, till we recover our holiness" (William Gurnall)
So what kinds of tricks might Satan use to prevent Christians from protecting themselves with the breastplate of righteousness? Well first of all, he may attempt to convince Christians to throw away or leave off their breastplate of righteousness by presenting it as something that will hinder the pleasures of life or restrict activities or practices in which they may want to engage. Satan may also tempt Christians to throw away or leave off the breastplate because of fear — fear of the opposition and criticism that it will most likely bring from those who would oppose them. Whatever his tricks and schemes are, remember that the strength Christians have to stand against them is not in ourselves but is "...in the Lord and in his mighty power." (Eph. 6:10) Christians can no sooner battle against spiritual enemies with their own righteousness than a soldier could effectively fight without his breastplate. Christians will be paralyzed with fear unless they have the protection of the proper armor.
As we conclude our discussion of the breastplate of righteousness and in the next issue, move on to another piece of the Christian's armor, it might be worth noting that through all of the verses in Ephesians that describe the Christian's armor, there is no armor for the back. Turning our back on the enemy will leave us completely exposed to the attack. Apparently God intended for Christians to face the enemy head-on — with an offensive attack — not turning and running away in fear of confrontation. The armor is sufficient for the fight. Satan's swords, darts and arrows, can't penetrate the breastplate of the righteousness of Christ and the righteousness of a virtuous life of a faithful Christian. So —
"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (NIV)
Next issue — The Devil, His Tricks And The Armor — Part Three Continued