Ephesians 6:14b: Justification and the Breastplate of Righteousness
- Interpreting accusations
- Interpreting circumstances
At different times, with different audiences I have had to adjust how I have preached the gospel. When I was involved in high school ministry I usually started with my testimony sharing something of my background to gain come common ground with the kids and then move towards the gospel usually stating evidences for Christianity.
When I did street evangelism I would encounter those who had no knowledge of Christianity and so not only have to preach Christ as Saviour but God as Creator as well covering the story line of the bible. Recently I have had to do a lot of preaching to those from Gloriavale. Once again I had to suit the message of the gospel to suit their specific needs. I found that the diagnostic question developed by James Kennedy was very helpful to begin with because those in Gloriavale already accepted the bible as God’s word.
So for example when Elijah was speaking to Mordecai on a phone while he was still in GV and he handed the phone to me to speak with him I would ask: ‘If you died today and stood before God and He asked you, ‘Why must I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?’ He answered as all GV people would answer, ‘Because Jesus died for my sins’. No one in GV would deny this, they all agree that Jesus was sent by God to be our Saviour. So then, I move onto a second question: ‘You are walking along the pavement, and a truck is coming towards you, it comes up on the pavement and is about to run you over. You swear just before you are hit. Now where will you go, heaven or hell?’ Here is where their understanding of the gospel is revealed many have said they will go to hell. They think that their salvation depends on their last obedience, perhaps there are some who think in the same way to this here today. If so, you are not equipped with the breastplate of righteousness and will be easy prey for spiritual attack. They are not equipped for death, for suffering and will not know how to recover from sin.
It appears that Paul has chosen the parts of armour very deliberately. He chose the helmet of hope to guard our minds; well here we see the breastplate of righteousness intended to guard our hearts. Today we speak about the vital issue of needing to know our rightstanding before God, our justification and how that protects our hearts when the devil strikes. We have said that the breastplate of righteousness has two inseparable aspects to it, sanctification and justification. We saw last week how embracing and committing ourselves to daily conforming ourselves to Christ’s image is the necessary protection we need from the temptations of sin. That the satisfaction of hungering and thirsting for righteousness satisfies us that we need not entertain the lies of sin’s deceptive satisfaction. Now today we want to view the necessity of our justification and the vital role it plays in spiritual warfare.
These two aspects of righteousness, justification and sanctification, if not properly understood can at worst damn you to hell, and at best rob you of joy and effectiveness in the Christian life. So before we lay out how justification helps us in the fight, let us distinguish justification from sanctification. Let us state some of the similarities before we state the differences.
- Both justification and sanctification are works of God’s grace, neither of them is the fruit of the fallen flesh. Both are the work of God, however, in justification God works alone to declare us righteous, but in sanctification we work with God in cooperation with His Spirit.
- Both justification and sanctification will be found in any saved person, you cannot have person who is justified who is not also sanctified, nor sanctified who is not also justified. We must remember to distinguish them without separating them.
- Both justification and sanctification are necessary to salvation. Justification is necessary as the righteousness by which we are accepted by God, and sanctification is necessary as the way God appoints for all saved people to walk. They are not necessary in the same way but both are essential to any full definition of salvation.
- Both justification and sanctification are wrought by the Spirit using the word in our lives.
Here are some of the differences:
- We are justified by faith alone, but we are sanctified by faith joined with our grace dependent imperfect efforts.
- In justification righteousness is imputed to us; in sanctification righteousness is imparted to us.
- Justification is monergistic, it is an act by God alone and something we receive; sanctification is synergistic, it comes by our partnering with God.
- Justification is a once off unrepeatable act; sanctification is an ongoing process.
- Justification removes the condemnation of the law; sanctification includes fatherly chastening for sin.
- Justification is resting, sanctification is striving.
- Justification is an immediate swapping of my criminal record for Christ’s perfect righteousness; sanctification is an incremental process of conforming my imperfection to Christ’s perfection.
- Justification is concerned with a change in legal status only; sanctification is a change in moral nature.
Let us now apply these truths in two critical areas in spiritual warfare, accusation and difficult circumstances.