In the first blog on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20), we began looking at the Old Testament allusions that help us make sense of what Paul had in mind when writing to the Ephesians. After looking at Isaiah 11:1-5, we concluded that to put on the belt of truth (Eph. 6:14) was to put on Christ himself. This will be a continuing theme throughout the Armor of God.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Today, we are going to look at the breastplate of righteousness in Ephesians 6:14. Grammatically, it is tied to the belt of truth but there is nothing special about the usage of the words Paul uses. However, Paul does have a specific context and imagery in his mind when he commands the Ephesians to put on the breastplate of righteousness as they stand against the Evil one and his devices. Paul has Isaiah 59 in mind, a chapter that is a devastating reality exposing the heart of God’s people. They are deaf to God’s Word (59:1), they are separated from God due to their sin (59:2), they speak lies and are wicked (59:3), and they give birth to iniquity (59:4). Isaiah goes on to use some helpful word pictures to explain the depth of their wickedness:
“Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. 7 Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways.” (59:5-7)
The people of God have become so wicked and so separated from God that they are most clearly defined as those that give birth to sin and iniquity. In fact, like and Olympic runner sprinting feverishly after the gold, God’s people lunge without a conscience towards sin. As Isaiah puts it later, they are like blind people groping around in darkness even thought the sun is at high noon. Left to themselves, they will produce nothing but evil while walking aimlessly in the darkness. In short, the Evil one has had his way with them and they need a Warrior to defend them.
The Divine Warrior
The question arises in the mind of the reader of Isaiah, “What will God do?” The people deserve death and have produced wrath and vengeance for themselves. But in the great kindness and loving mercy of God, he is on a rescue mission to defeat his enemy and give sight to his blind people trapped in darkness. In Isaiah 59:16-17 we see the Lord’s initiative to kick in the door of darkness and oppression and flex his might as the Divine Warrior:
“He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. 17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.“
God himself has dressed himself in the breastplate of righteousness and is at war against the enemy that has so blinded his people. The Divine Warrior himself has broken in to be the light in the darkness proclaiming that all who turn from evil and cling to him in faith will be Redeemed and made new:
“’And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,’ declares the LORD.” (59:20)
Those that cling to the Redeemer for rescue experience salvation from the darkness and oppression of the Evil one. Not only that, the mouths that once produced iniquity and lies (59:4), are given new hearts that so delight in this Warrior King that they are able to use their voice and tongue for the Divine Warrior’s glory for all of eternity:
“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.” (59:20)
The Armor of God Applied
With all of this background helping us understand the allusion Paul has in his mind gives us a great hope and assurance in the person of God himself. If he is able to so mightily put on his Warrior garb and rescue us our of darkness and the grip of the Evil one, then our trust does not have to be in our own strength. The same Warrior King of Isaiah 59 that Paul has in mind in Ephesians 6, is also the Warrior King that outwitted and put Satan to open shame. Yet, he did not do this through sheer force and might when he took on flesh, but through love and sacrifice for his people. All of that wickedness and lies that we had given birth to had to be paid for. And on that day, two-thousand years ago when Jesus was nailed to a cross, the Evil oppressor thought he had won. As darkness covered the skies at noon that day (Matthew 27:45), was actually the Divine Warrior again giving his light to those trapped in darkness. The cross was that act of Divine love which freed people from darkness and sin and put the Evil one to open shame:
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us allour trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
The victory of our salvation was completely won, but Paul is setting forth that “even though the final blow was dealt against evil, the flaming arrows of the doomed continue to assail God’s people” (Frank Thielman, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Ephesians. ed. D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale, pg. 832). So as we continue walking in the victory the Divine Warrior has won for us, we out on the righteousness of our Savior as that which we stand in. We use our mouths for his glory and to make much of him both now and forevermore.
Hi Wes, Have you read Iain Duguid’s book: The Whole Armor of God…he does a good job of explaining the OT allusions in Eph 6 as well. Thanks for your faithful, Christocentric hermeneutics!
I haven’t yet but want to. He was one of my professors in seminary and is one of my favorite to read. Thanks for the recommendation.