Ephesians 6:14b: Sanctification and the Breastplate of Righteousness
- Counterfeit holiness
- True holiness
Western Christianity, of which we are a part, can best be described by Christ’s words to the churches of Sardis and Laodicea,
Rev. 3:1b-5, ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.’
Rev. 3:15-20, ‘”‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realising that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.’ The devil in the first century was waging war against the churches. He was employing three main tactics, persecution through government powers waging war upon the saints bodies and possessions seeking to intimidate them motivating them by fear to abandon the faith; false religion using lies to wage war on the minds and beliefs of the saints seeking to deceive them into leaving Christ; and seduction using the materialism and the sexual immorality of the ancient world to lure and charm the Christian from Christ. The churches of Laodicea and Sardis are casualties of the devil’s tactic of seduction. And so are we!
The next part of the armour we want to consider which is directly relevant to our weakness as the Western Church is the breastplate of righteousness, ‘Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.’ Almost all commentators when commenting on this part of the armour emphasise the double nature of the breastplate, righteousness in justification as well as righteousness in sanctification. I agree with this double emphasis but am going to reverse the order and deal with sanctification before justification.
The devil hates our holiness and is waging war on our holiness, why? Because when we are holy as He is holy, when we walk as image bearers of God and put on display the character of God, we are diametrically opposed to the nature of Satan and sin. The devil hates God and His image. When we are holy and walk in holy deeds, other see our deeds and glorify our Father who is in heaven. The devil hates God to receive praise. Walking worthy of the gospel adorns the gospel and proclaims Christ as well as highlights the state of the unbeliever. The devil wants to keep the unbeliever in the dark. When we are walking on the highway of holiness we also know the true joy of holiness finding satisfaction apart from sin. The devil wants to keep up the rouse that sin satisfies. So when it comes to putting on the breastplate of righteousness we are now faced with a problem, which breastplate? The devil hates true holiness and constantly uses counterfeits and false notions to bog the Christian down in false versions of righteousness. Before we look then at the true breastplate we must make sure we are not putting on the false.