Putting on the Breastplate of Righteousness, Part 2

This is our second article on the Breastplate of Righteousness in our series on using the Armor of God as found in Ephesians 6 as a discipleship pathway to spiritual maturity.
The first two articles on the Belt of Truth can be found here and here.
The first article on the Breastplate of Righteousness can be found here.
In the previous article we discussed the difference between our positional righteousness and our conditional righteousness.
Our positional righteousness is our theoretical righteousness in Jesus as we stand before God. In Jesus we are found “not guilty” and therefore righteous based solely on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
As Paul wrote:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Paul also wrote:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:3-6).
We have put on the positional righteousness of Jesus like a breastplate and we are thereby considered holy, righteous, and blameless before God. However, we must also consider our conditional righteousness in the here and now. In that same chapter of 2 Corinthians Paul also wrote:
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
Paul also previously wrote to the church in Corinth:
But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
While we have the positional righteousness of Jesus laid as our foundation, God is also concerned with our conditional righteousness that is built upon it.
As we wrote in the previous article, Satan will attempt to accuses us and question our positional righteousness. Therefore, It is important to teach disciples that their righteousness has been secured by Jesus through His death and resurrection. Moreover, our righteousness has been sealed by the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote:
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:22-23).
However, Paul also instructed us:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
So, just as we must remind the disciples that they are secure in their positional righteousness, we must also teach them that their conditional righteousness is still a work in progress.
Where we have failed as churches is that we have struggled to explain how the discipleship and sanctification process pertains to our conditional righteousness.
Too often we have made it either a “try harder to do better” scenario; or in an overreaction to that scenario we have attempted to make sanctification just sitting around waiting on God to change us “mysteriously” through the power of the Holy Spirit.
But what the Bible clearly teaches is that we are to be transformed and conformed into the likeness of Jesus as we imitate and obey Him as His disciple.
Positionally, we are immediately made holy, righteous, and blameless before God in the heavenlies when we theoretically put on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Conditionally, we are progressively made holy, righteous, and blameless in this world as we practically put on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as we daily imitate and obey Him as His disciple (through the supernatural empowerment and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit).
And Paul writes that God is working everything to this purpose:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:28-29).
In Ephesians, Paul also wrote that God saved us for this purpose:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Paul went on to write:
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:20-24).
The word translated “learned” in verse 20 is directly related to the word translated “disciple.”
Therefore, it is through imitating and obeying Jesus as His disciple “in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus” (the belt of truth) that we “put off the old self” and “put on the new self,” which is the image of Jesus (which in turn is the image of God), and we are thereby “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (the conditional side of the Breastplate of Righteousness).
Thus, it is by first believing in Jesus and submitting to following Him as His disciple that we put on His positional righteousness like a breastplate before God. Then, it is by actually imitating and obeying Jesus as His disciple that we put on His conditional righteousness like a breastplate in the here and now.


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