A Righteousness That Glorifies God

“STAND FIRM THEREFORE . . . HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS” (EPH. 6:14).

A righteous life testifies to God’s transforming power and brings Him glory.

We’ve seen the importance of donning the breastplate of righteousness, but Scripture also discusses the consequences of failing to do so. These consequences serve as warnings to anyone who is prone to neglect righteousness.

If you’re not committed to righteousness, you not only make yourself spiritually vulnerable, but also forfeit some of God’s wonderful blessings. David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation” (Ps. 51:13). His sin had robbed him of his joy and assurance. That’s true of us as well because joy is directly proportional to obedience. If you’re pursuing greater righteousness, you’ll know greater joy.

You might also forfeit some of your heavenly reward. John said, “Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (1 John 8). I believe that New Testament rewards are various capacities for service in heaven. The greater your reward, the greater your capacity to serve God. Somehow your current righteousness and faithfulness to God affect what you will do for all eternity. Don’t allow sin and negligence to diminish your reward!

Without righteousness you will also suffer loss of opportunity to glorify God. When thinking or behaving unrighteously, you violate your reason for existence, which is to glorify God in everything (1 Cor. 10:31). Instead of exalting Him, you bring reproach on His name. Instead of causing others to see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16), you breed confusion and mockery.

Peter says to us, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that . . . they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:11). When unbelievers scrutinize your life, what do they see? Does your righteousness testify of God’s saving and sanctifying grace?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you an increased hunger and thirst for righteousness as you seek to live to His glory today.

For Further Study

Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:21 as a reminder of God’s marvelous grace to you.



From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Developing Practical Righteousness

“STAND FIRM THEREFORE . . . HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS” (EPH. 6:14).

Practical righteousness is moment-by-moment obedience to God.

We’ve seen the importance of putting on the breastplate of righteousness as protection against Satan’s attempts to pervert your thinking and emotions. But Scripture speaks of three kinds of righteousness: self-righteousness, imputed righteousness, and practical righteousness. Which did Paul have in mind in Ephesians 6:14?

Paul wasn’t speaking of self-righteousness because that is what the breastplate of righteousness is designed to protect you from. Self-righteousness deceives a person into thinking, I can please God and reach heaven on my own merit. But Isaiah said, “All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isa. 64:6). Far from getting you to heaven, self- righteousness will condemn you to eternal hell because it rejects the merits of Christ’s atonement.

Similarly, Paul wasn’t speaking of imputed righteousness—the righteousness of Christ granted to every believer at the moment of salvation. It’s also called “positional righteousness” because it results from your position or standing in Christ. Second Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Christ, “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Every believer is clothed in the garment of Christ’s righteousness. You don’t put that on. It’s already yours in Christ.

Only practical righteousness remains—that which flows from obedience to God’s Word. Although in God’s eyes you are righteous in Christ, you must also pursue righteous behavior. In other words, your practice should match your position. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:13). John added that “the one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

As you learn to live in obedience to God’s Word, you’ll be protected by the breastplate of righteousness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Spirit to help you search your heart and reveal any self-righteous attitudes that might be making you vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Confess them, then praise Christ for the true righteousness that is yours in Him.

For Further Study

Read Romans 3:10-23. What kind of righteousness did Paul pursue?



From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Guarding Your Mind And Emotions

“STAND FIRM THEREFORE . . . HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS” (EPH. 6:14).

True righteousness begins with a right relationship with God.

A Roman soldier would often engage his enemy in hand- to-hand combat. At such times, the weapon of choice was the short sword, with which he sought to penetrate his opponent’s vital organs. For his own protection he wore a molded metal breastplate that extended from the base of his neck to the top of his thighs. It helped deflect any attacks aimed at his heart and abdomen.

The Roman breastplate has great symbolism in Paul’s analogy because to the Jewish people, the heart represented man’s mind and thinking processes; the intestinal area or bowels represented the seat of feelings and emotions. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (KJV). Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jesus added, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21).

During spiritual warfare, Satan’s primary attacks target your thinking and emotions. If he can condition you to think and feel contrary to God’s Word, he has won a significant victory. That’s why he attempts to fill your mind with lies, immorality, false doctrine, and half-truths. He tries to blur the line between righteousness and sin by surrounding you with evil influences that increase your tolerance for sin. He clothes offensive sin in the blinding garment of entertainment. He puts it to music and masks it in humor to confuse you and deaden your spiritual senses. Satan wants to corrupt your emotions and draw you into sinful desires.

Putting on the breastplate of righteousness begins with a right relationship with God, who is the source of true righteousness. From that relationship flows the commitment to cultivate righteousness in your own life by learning and applying His Word. Therein lies the protection you need to safeguard your mind and emotions from satanic deceptions.

Suggestions for Prayer

Focus on strengthening your relationship with God today. Commune with Him in prayer. Meditate on His Word. Seek His grace in responding thoughtfully and righteously to the temptations you face.

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 10, noting Solomon’s description of righteous people.



From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Pursuing Truthfulness

“STAND FIRM THEREFORE, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH” (EPH. 6:14).

Truthfulness is the best defense against Satan’s lies.

The first piece of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:14 is the belt of truth. Roman soldiers of his day wore a tunic, which was a large square piece of material with holes for the head and arms. A belt kept the tunic from flying loosely and getting in the way in the midst of battle.

The phrase “having girded your loins” was commonly used for gathering up the loose material of one’s tunic or robe when preparing for battle or travel. It speaks of preparedness, as in Exodus 12:11, where God tells the children of Israel to gird their loins for their exodus from Egypt. Jesus used it in a figurative sense in Luke 12:35, where He warns us to gird our loins or “be dressed in readiness” for His second coming. Peter said we’re to gird our minds for action (1 Pet. 1:13).

The Greek word translated “truth” in Ephesians 6:14 can refer either to the content of that which is true or to an attitude of truthfulness. Both are implied in the verse. In Ephesians 4 Paul combines both aspects in warning us not to be “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (vv. 14-15). Instead, we are to embrace sound doctrine and always speak the truth in love.

The way to defend yourself against the cunning deceptions of Satan is to gird yourself with a thorough knowledge of God’s Word and a firm commitment to obedience. Yet many Christians remain vulnerable because they’re unwilling to do that.

Just as Paul exhorted the Philippians to excel in knowledge and discernment and to remain sincere and blameless until in Christ’s presence (Phil. 1:9-10), so you must also do the same. Never be content with your present level of spirituality. Keep learning and growing. Demonstrate an attitude of truthfulness that reveals your commitment to God’s Word and your readiness for battle.

Suggestions for Prayer

Is your life characterized by truthfulness? If not, you’re a ready target for Satan’s schemes. Confess it to the Lord and ask Him to cleanse your heart and give you a love for His truth. Begin today to apply His Word to your life.

For Further Study

Read verses 1-4 and 13-15 of 2 Corinthians 11, noting the tactics of Satan and his servants.



From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.

Resisting The Devil

“TAKE UP THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD, THAT YOU MAY BE ABLE TO RESIST IN THE EVIL DAY, AND HAVING DONE EVERYTHING, TO STAND FIRM” (EPH. 6:13).

Spiritual warfare isn’t as much a frontal attack on Satan’s domain as it is the ability to resist his advances.

Spiritual warfare has become a popular topic in recent years. Books, tapes, and seminars on the subject abound, but there is still much confusion. Some say we must rebuke and bind Satan to thwart his power and influence. Others say we must expel demonic spirits through “deliverance ministries.” Still others encourage us to band together to aggressively assault the strongholds of supposed territorial demons.

But spiritual warfare isn’t an outright frontal attack on the forces of darkness. Scripture says, “Submit . . . to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7); “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:8-9). The idea that Christians have the authority to rebuke or bind Satan is foreign to Scripture. Even Michael the archangel treated him with more respect than that (Jude 9).

Spiritual victory involves submitting to God, pursuing His will, keeping your spiritual armor on, being on the alert for Satan’s attacks, and then standing firm and resisting him “in the evil day” (Eph. 6:13).

“Evil day” is a general reference to the sin that exists in this world. As the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), Satan will continue to produce evil until he and his forces are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-15). Then the evil day will give way to an eternal age of righteousness.

Countless people have pastored churches, taught Sunday School classes, led Bible studies, sung in choirs, and been involved in every conceivable area of ministry only to one day abandon their ministries and embrace the world. Somehow they stopped resisting the devil and lost the courage to stand firm.

How about you? Is your commitment strong? Are you willing to stand firm for the Lord today?

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the grace to boldly resist whatever might challenge your faith today.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 9:23-27.

  • What was Paul’s great fear?
  • What measures did he take to insure spiritual victory?
  • Are you taking the same measures?



From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993.