EPHESIANS 6:14d(cont.)-15b(part one)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:14d (cont.) “. . .and having on the breastplate of righteousness;”
As we have noted, the “breastplate of righteousness,” outward righteousness, enhances our spiritual union with Christ, and makes the enemy tremble.
Third, “the breastplate of righteousness” gives us assurance of salvation. Outward moral rectitude provides obvious evidence we have been saved. Ongoing, non-ending, unrepentant unrighteousness is a red flag, warning that one may be lost. God saves us to give us assurance (1 J 5:13) and “joy unspeakable” (1 P 1:8), but outward unrighteousness annuls this certainty and pleasure.
How tedious and tasteless the hours,
When Jesus no longer I see!
Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers
Have all lost their sweetness to me.
The midsummer sun shines but dim;
The fields strive in vain to look gay;
But when I am happy in Him,
December’s as pleasant as May (John Newton).
The poison of sin eats away at the vitals, rusts as a canker, and fosters doubt, but outward righteousness dispels the huge cloud of doubt, and replaces it with confidence. It allows us to fight with courageous readiness. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion” (PR 28:1).
Fourth, the “breastplate of righteousness” brings honor to Jesus. Outward righteousness glorifies God. The worst disgust of a Christian’s sin is the poor reflection it casts on Jesus. God’s children are to bear the family likeness, to imitate God, and Isaiah 59:17 pictures YHWH putting on “righteousness as a breastplate.” The world, when eyeing believers, should see on our breastplate the same righteousness, God’s very resemblance, and thus be drawn to Him.
Moral rectitude allows us to reproduce, to multiply, to be fruitful and productive in God’s cause. Satan hates and viciously attacks practical holiness, for without a “breastplate of righteousness,” our testimony to the lost amounts to nothing. If we are as irritable, impatient, sinful, and mean as unbelievers, we have little to say to them about Jesus. Be careful about behavior. Actions are important. The world watches our exposed breastplate. Obvious to all, it cannot be hid. Honor Jesus. Keep our breastplate covered with righteousness.
Eph. 6:15a “. . .And your feet shod. . .”
In a section devoted to the word “stand,” Paul appropriately discusses the feet, the body parts on which we stand. Roman soldiers wore an open-toed leather sandal. It was essentially a sole held firmly to the foot by straps wrapped around the instep, ankle, and lower leg. The sole had nails or studs underneath. This spiked sandal insured safe footing, and prevented sliding on slippery or treacherous terrain. Traction was especially important in ancient warfare. The initial collision between two armies in battle was similar to what happens on the line of scrimmage in football today. Combatants hurled themselves against one another, clashing in hand to hand conflict. Whichever side held its ground in this opening crush of battle gained a tremendous advantage.
Christian warriors need a good foothold in hand to hand combat against evil. Do not run to battle slipshod. Attend to our shoes. When lost, we were totally unshod, having to face life’s battles with our feet completely unprotected. God graciously provides every believer with good combat boots, but we are often careless, guilty of not taking full advantage of His provision. To stand requires a good standing. Our feet must be firmly planted, our shoes well prepared. Many saints need our shoes repaired. Paul prescribes what we require.
Eph. 6:15b “. . .with the preparation of the gospel of peace;”
“Preparation” refers to a prepared foundation. Our firm foothold in the conflict is “the gospel of peace,” good news which brings to the Christian warrior a two-pronged peace–a peace with God which results in a peace from God.
Christian warrior, our firm footing for fighting begins in peace with God. “The gospel of peace” is the good news that God changed from being our enemy to being our friend. Feeling terror toward God paralyzes, but peace with Him steadies a trembling soldier, and allows us to face evil foes with confidence.
Believers know their power to win comes from God. Thus, if we have doubts about being at peace with Him, we are weakened by uncertainty and hesitation. Unrighteousness melts soldiers into cowards. If conscience condemns us, we go down when the devil attacks. The spiritual combatant’s only hope is to be confident of God’s favor, to feel assured God is fighting for us.
Peace with God builds confidence, and buoys our spirits. God tries to use our own conversion experiences to emblazon this truth forever upon our hearts. From the very outset of our Christian lives, God wants us to know how vital peace with Him is. When one becomes a Christian, the overwhelming emotion is a peace with God which passes all understanding (see PH 4:7). The sense of separation is removed, the burden of guilt lifted. Pastor Kent Hughes remembers his conversion as the most joyful event of his life. He said the relief of having his sins lifted made him feel “as if I had lost my gravity and could float up to God. There was nothing between me and God but peace.”
Peace with God is liberating. Philip Doddridge wrote of his conversion, “Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.” Charles Wesley, to commemorate the first anniversary of his conversion experience, penned,
I never shall forget that day,
When Jesus washed my sins away,
Blessed be the name of the Lord!
When Whitefield was born again, peace with God set him ablaze. He never forgot the experience. Every time he returned to Oxford, he would run to the spot of his conversion and revel in what he had experienced there. This sense of peace with God which we all experienced at the beginning of our Christian walk must be continued, nurtured and maintained, throughout life.
Peace with God plants a soldier’s foot on a firm foundation. Without it there is no true fulfillment, no victory in Christian warfare. No soldier can fight happily or well while a load of unpardoned sin lies in the heart. Our success lies completely in sensing for sure that God is smiling on us with pleasure.
A dying soldier, wounded in battle, asked someone to take dictation for a letter to his father. The man who transcribed the letter asked if the soldier wanted the letter to end with the words, “Your dutiful and affectionate son.” The dying soldier grieved, “No, no, not dutiful; I never have been a dutiful son; the thought which most agonizes my soul at this moment is, that my disobedience and unkindness have well-nigh broken my father’s heart.” Oh! Breaking father’s heart was more painful than thinking of death itself. Fellow Christian warriors, the conflict yields no joy if we think the Father is frowning upon us.
For the Christian warrior, Heaven is home, and it is hard to be settled and serene on the battle front when things are not at peace on the home front. We soldiers must have peace with God before we can be fully effective in battle.