“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 1:10-18
“With the breastplate of righteousness in place” Righteousness is one of our spiritual weapons.
“…The Lord Our Righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:6 Jesus is perfect righteousness. Everything He does or thinks or is, is right.
All our righteousness is as “like filthy rags”: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6 “As it is written, “There is no one righteous; no, not one.” Romans 3:10 Psalm 14:1-3 Psalm 51:5 53:1-3 Ecclesiastes 7:20
Nothing we do without Jesus guiding us is righteous; it is useless. Our conscious actions to do what is right in our own eyes and for our own glory is “like filthy rags”. These are the actions of those in a cult. Even the devil does what is “right” if it suits his purpose. Jesus can use even the acts if those who do not know Him to accomplish His will, but no credit is given except to Jesus. I can look back and remember times when my actions accomplished God’s will (as we all can) even though I wasn’t serving Him, and I find joy is remembering those times.
Jesus told this parable to explain what He considers righteous: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
The tax collector was doing what He knew God wanted him to do, while the Pharisee was doing what would exalt himself even though it was “right”.
So how can we use the weapon of righteousness if our own righteousness is “like filthy rags”? By obeying God and doing His righteousness. It is a powerful weapon. The power of the weapon of righteousness/obedience is shown in this Scripture:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 God will punish every act of disobedience” when we completely obey.
One time I was in a difficult situation, much more dangerous than I realized. I didn’t even think there was any way to change the situation. Then God spoke to me. I was memorizing this scripture at the time and suddenly I knew that these words were for me:
“If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways, how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever. But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Psalm 81:13-16
I wondered who my enemies were. The only ones I could think of were the devil and his demons. How was I not listening to God? I remembered I was not following my husband’s advice – advice that he had given me some time ago. I had just been reading Me? Obey Him?: The Obedient Wife and God’s Way of Happiness and Blessing in the Home by Elizabeth Rice Handford. I obeyed my husband, and the whole situation changed miraculously. It was surely the Lord’s plan in all the circumstances. I learned how important it is to obey God fully:
“You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obey.” Psalm 119:4
Most of the time God’s will is evident: For instance, the Ten Commandments give general principles of what God expects. These are summed up by Jesus:
“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35-40
No one should question them, although those still in their sins might want to eliminate them. They don’t want God’s light to shine on their dark deeds. Sin hides God’s will, even for the Christian who is sinning:
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” John 3:19-20
If we obey God in all things, we will clearly see His will:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2 His “good, pleasing and perfect will” is evident to those who desire to please Him in every way. What we watch, listen to, the places we go or the friends we choose can influence how clearly we see His will.
God has a specific plan for each person who has faith in Him. For instance, Rahab obeyed him by hiding the Israeli spies:
“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Hebrew 11:31
“In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” James 2:25
Her story is told in Joshua 2 & 8. She became an ancestor of Jesus: she was the mother of Boaz who married Ruth – their son Obed was the father if Jesse the father of King David (Ruth 4:21-22 Matthew 1:5 Luke 3:32).
We are considered righteous when we obey God. We are righteous if we believe in Jesus. If we believe in Jesus, we live by faith:
“For in it is revealed God’s righteousness from faith to faith. As it is written, “But the righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17
Those who belong to Christ are “the righteousness of God”:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus paid the penalty for our sin so that we could have His Holy Spirit within us if we choose to believe in Him. We put on the breastplate of righteousness” by obeying His Holy Spirit.
“if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” Deuteronomy 6:2
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Romans 8:14