Therefore take up the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm then … with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed.. (Eph. 6:13-14)
The Breastplate holds two images in the Scripture: the breastplate of the High Priest symbolized mercy and holiness (Exodus 28:15-30); and the breastplate of the soldier symbolized protection (Isaiah 59:17; Eph. 6:14; 1 Thes. 5:8). In both cases they represent someone who has possesses the character of God and who has a passion in his heart to do the will of God.
When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus he spoke about the “day of evil” (Eph. 5:17 and 6:13), and shortly after he wrote this letter the first official Roman persecution was begun. From AD 64 until AD 70, or from the burning of Rome until the Fall of Jerusalem, was a period that was chaotic and very difficult to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul could see that a very difficult time was just around the corner for the church.
His Spirit-inspired words speak to us today as well. When culture seems to turn against the Christian faith, we need to be sure that we maintain the transformed character of Christ that the Holy Spirit is creating in us. Integrity is essential in every age, but especially in those that are unfriendly toward believers.
Secondly, in the scriptural contexts where this image is used, is illustrated the importance of Christian intercession through prayer. God was appalled in Isaiah’s time that there was no intervener, and intervention begins first in prayer. Many have correctly noted that evangelism is not only speaking to men about God; it is first speaking to God about men. The first Christian duty in any ministry situation is to bring the matter to God in prayer.
Thirdly, this breastplate calls for redemptive action. Righteousness that covers our sinfulness through the grace of God in Christ is what saves us: the “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom. 3:22). But this righteousness also changes us in how we view ourselves and the whole world. The Christian thinks redemptively and mercifully. When God’s righteousness covers our hearts, we see everything in a new light, according to the holiness and righteousness of God. Righteousness includes the forgiveness that God offers in Christ Jesus to our broken world.
The best protection for every Christian at any time is to give our hearts to God and let His righteousness mould our hearts into the image of Christ. When we are dressed in the righteousness of God, we will stand in integrity, we will pray in intercession, and we will minister in intervention and grace.