The ‘Breastplate Of Righteousness’ In Ephesians 6:14 -- By: David H. Wenkel

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 58:2 (NA 2007)
Article: The ‘Breastplate Of Righteousness’ In Ephesians 6:14
Author: David H. Wenkel


The ‘Breastplate Of Righteousness’ In Ephesians 6:14

Imputation Or Virtue?

David H. Wenkel

Summary

This study examines the long-standing disagreement over the nature of the ‘breastplate of righteousness’ in Ephesians 6:14. One position argues that the righteousness is external, consisting of imputed righteousness. The other position argues that the righteousness is internal, consisting of Christian virtues. This study includes a brief survey of Paul’s usage of spiritual armour in other Epistles and an examination of the Isaianic background of spiritual armour. After examining the metaphor of the ‘armour of God’ and the context in Ephesians, it is argued that the breastplate is ethical, consisting of virtues that reflect Christ.

1. Introduction

The armour of God in Ephesians 6:10-20 is part of the staple diet of both children’s church lessons and Sunday morning preaching. The imagery and the application of Paul’s doctrine to Christian life make it a significant source for contextualisation and spiritual warfare issues. The purpose of this article is to examine the nature of the breastplate of righteousness in Ephesians 6:14b:

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Author’s emphasis)1

What has been debated for several centuries is where this righteousness of the breastplate is derived from.2 Though the discussion of spiritual warfare and the armour of God occurs in innumerable sources, the nature of the armour of ‘righteousness’ is often accompanied by data that provides knowledge about the text, but not necessarily knowledge of what the text is about.3 There are two prominent views regarding the nature of the righteousness referred to by the breastplate. The first view posits an external righteousness to the believer by imputation of Christ’s righteousness.4 The second view posits an internal righteousness of the believer that consists of virtue. 5

2. Intentional Ambiguity

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