The Armor of God: Covered by His Righteousness

I’m not a fancy clothes kind of girl. I prefer a pair of jeans, a comfortable t-shirt, and a sweatshirt whenever the temperature drops below sixty-five (or the air-conditioning feels too cold). However, I realize not everyone has the privilege of wearing their favorite sweatshirt from dawn until dusk. Sometimes schools require uniforms, places of employment administer dress codes (like collared shirts with company logos), healthcare workers wear scrubs, and sales associates need to look professional.

Yet as a whole, society has grown more relaxed when it comes to dress requirements. Suits and dresses are no longer the norm for Sunday mornings. Instead, I tell my kids to please find some jeans (instead of athletic shorts) and put on a nicer-looking shirt. Even pastors don’t dress up like they used to, and I’m okay with that. I jumped on the more relaxed dress code train like an expert rail rider. 

But the one place in which specific dress requirements have not changed is the Bible. Spiritually speaking, even after two thousand years, God still commands us to put on Christ daily. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Then verse 14 adds, “Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” 

The symbolic picture is to cover ourselves with Christ like we would if someone gifted us with a gorgeous new outfit—it’s God’s power we’re walking in, rather than our own flesh. Dressed and ready, the last step before leaving the house is to strap our spiritual armor over the top (like Cinderella dressed for battle) to protect us from the devil’s deceptions, intended to persuade us back into our old, sinful rags. 

First, we strapped on the belt of truth, and next is the breastplate of righteousness. 

A Soldier’s Breastplate

A Roman soldier’s breastplate was a crucial piece of armor, protecting the heart, lungs, and organs. It was not small like we might think of a breastplate but most likely went from shoulder to thigh, was made of leather and covered with what, in armor terms, is called mail. (Mail refers to pieces of metal, not envelopes with letters in them. But if you need a good laugh, go ahead and picture a soldier with a bunch of letters glued to his middle. Feel better? Me too.)

Anyway, it’s not an accident that Paul associated the breastplate with righteousness. Just as the breastplate protected a soldier’s heart, so is it righteousness that guards the believer’s heart, making it vital we understand this concept (and put it into practice), or we risk facing life-altering consequences.

Righteousness is right living. God alone sets the standard of right living because He alone is righteous. We’d always—one hundred percent of the time—be aligned with God if we lived in perfect righteousness. But we know that isn’t possible due to our sinful nature. Apart from Christ, we will never attain the righteousness God requires. Our best attempts are like soiled paper towels. 

So God, in His loving-kindness, put forth a different way, crediting righteousness to us through faith in Christ (Rom. 3:22):

  • “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23–24).
  • “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
  • “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). 

In summary, our righteousness is soiled and stained, so Jesus says, “Here, have mine.” (He is truly a friend like no other.)

The Believer’s Righteousness 

As believers, we should strive to live by our imputed righteousness. That’s what it means to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1, ESV). Not only is it good and right to live according to God’s ways, but it’s for our protection. Living by God’s standards guards us like a shield. Any time we choose a different way (whether intentional or not), it’s to the enemy’s advantage.

Here’s the bottom line: when a believer practices unrighteousness (living according to the world’s way instead of God’s way), it’s like standing up before a pack of wolves and yelling, “Hey, I’m over here!” The enemy will fly at you quicker than a toddler runs to a cupcake left unwatched. 

Do you think we can fool the enemy by saying we’re children of God while living like we’re children of the devil? There’s no deceiving the deceiver. But when we focus on what is true and seek to do right, we give the spiritual forces of evil little to work with. 

Though God graciously credits us with Christ’s righteousness, it’s our responsibility to live like it, reminding both ourselves and our adversary who we are in Christ with each new circumstance. When we daily put on our breastplate of righteousness by spending time in God’s Word to live out the truth of God’s Word, it protects our hearts from becoming wayward, deceived, or hardened, and helps us remain tender toward holy living. 

But how much do we care about righteousness? 

Righteousness Protects the Heart 

Proverbs 4:23 says to keep our hearts with all vigilance. That means we carefully watch over our hearts like mamas watch over their babies. The heart in Scripture encompasses the mind, affections, and will. It’s where thoughts diverge and desires grow. It’s where passions are born and paths are chosen, and it’s where right living will or will not make its home.

We make ourselves vulnerable to all kinds of trouble when we shove our breastplate of righteousness deep into the hall closet because, after all, there is grace and God is love. Precious sister, the results are in, and it’s not pretty. Willfully rejecting God’s Word and God’s standard of righteousness to live by our own has allowed the enemy to advance. 

The best way to protect our minds, marriages, and kids against the devil’s schemes is to install godly boundaries:

  • No, we don’t watch those kinds of movies because those things aren’t pleasing to the Lord. 
  • No, we don’t take the Lord’s name in vain because God says not to. 
  • No, I will not give up on our marriage or look at that image or berate my husband because God is my portion and strength. 

My friend, that’s what it looks like to put on your breastplate of righteousness. As Romans 13:14 says, so then, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.” In other words, remember who you are in Jesus— “created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth” (v. 24)—and live like it.

Right Living Is not Legalistic

But I want to clarify something: It’s not legalistic to obey God.Legalism says we must do something in addition to faith in Christ to go to heaven, which is wrong. Salvation is by grace through faith alone. Obedience, however, is the correct response of a thankful heart, protecting us from all kinds of diversions. 

Something will always feel off when a believer lives in discord with God’s Word. Yet we tend to blame our unsettledness on outside sources instead of realizing it’s an inside job. Thus, we accuse our spouse or kids or house or job of making us unhappy. In reality, we’re unhappy because we aren’t living according to the imputed righteousness God has given us in Christ. 

Obedience is not optional for the Christ-follower; it’s crucial. Willfully rejecting God’s standards will leave you open to attack and, likely, emotionally and spiritually wounded, if not completely wrecked.

We must not disengage with God’s purpose and plan to follow our own. To do so is to lower our guard. God’s way is the right way, and the enemy knows it. Jesus alone is the author, administrator, and enabler of all righteousness. So if you find yourself unguarded, please hurry. Find your breastplate of righteousness, and quickly, as fast as you can, put it back on. 

Don’t walk around unprotected any longer; keep your heart with all vigilance. Put on Christ—let His righteousness shine through you—because the enemy’s aim is fierce.


Several of our blog team members will be at Revive ‘21 in Indianapolis October 8–9. We’d love to see you there! 
Can’t attend in-person? Great news: Erin Davis, Portia Collins, and Dannah Gresh from the Grounded videocast will bring the conference straight into your living room with Revive Online.
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About the Author

Stacey Salsbery

Stacey Salsbery

Stacey Salsbery is a farmer’s wife and mother of four. When she isn’t serving a meal on the side of the road, riding in a tractor with her husband, or driving kids to practice, you’ll find her escaping the crazy … read more …

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