“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
After telling us to have the belt of truth fastened around us,the apostle Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness. Now this is the righteousness that comes when we are in God’s will,not self-righteousness. Self-righteousness will do no good as a protection, but God’s righteousness is excellent protection when we face up to our enemies. It is a breastplate. It does not give great protection to the back, but when we know that Jesus rose from the grave,we need have no fear and we need not turn and run. This is righteousness that is credited to us through our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In Roman times, a soldier wore a breastplate when he was going into battle. Because we are in a state of constant spiritual battle, we need to keep it firmly in place. In someways we are like sentries,always needing to be alert but uncertain of when a threat will arise, and in other ways we are like soldiers in a battle, needing to keep our wits about us all the time to prevent an opportunist strike that could disable us.
The breastplate does not protect when the soldier is running away. It does not protect from a fifth columnist who is in the same ranks and who strikes from behind. There are two implications from this: firstly that one needs to be sure of one’s companions, and secondly that there is no protection when one turns and runs. The answer to both is to immerse oneself in prayer,and the study of Scripture, so that we know the One on whom we rely. And that,of course,as the student of the catechism knows is the chief end of man, to know God and to enjoy Him forever. I pray that each and every one of my readers will do just that.