By Jamin Roller
Worn like a jacket, the soldier’s breastplate was made from leather, along with iron or bronze. The breastplate protected the soldier’s shoulders and chest. Like the breastplate protects one’s most vital organs, God’s righteousness lived out protects believers from false accusations and attack.
I have a friend who worked as a waiter at a high-end restaurant. When he first got the job, he had to go through a few weeks of training before he could begin serving. After his training, he was told to show up to the restaurant one evening. He expected to shadow another waiter as a last step in his training, but when he got there he was told to sit at a table and invited to order anything he wanted off the menu. He picked the finest steak and his favorite sides, and another waiter served him during his meal. At the end of the night, a manager came and explained to him what the meal was all about. The restaurant wanted their staff to know what it was like to dine there and wanted their first experience to be as a customer not a server. The hope was that they would be a better waiter as one who first enjoyed and received before they served.
The image of the breastplate of righteousness captures something of that order. As believers fighting faithfully in a spiritual war, we are to join God in pursuing righteousness in the world. These passages from our reading today highlight that work.
However, before we were called to be servants in that work, we received that righteousness through Jesus. Before sending us to be part of God’s righteous work in the world, He invites us to sit at the table of His grace, forgiveness, and love to receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ in our place. We are first partakers of the righteousness bestowing grace of Jesus and then commissioned to be part of that service in the world.
In Ephesians 6, Paul invites us to imagine this as a breastplate. It is a piece of armor that covers the chest, it’s near the heart, and propels us with confidence into battle. When we are assaulted with the condemning lies of the enemy, the truth of the gospel, like a piece of armor guarding our heart, reminds us of our sure salvation in Jesus Christ. When we are tempted to shrink back from the righteous work in the world, the armor around our heart compels us to offer to others the grace we first feasted on ourselves.
To summarize what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5, we have been made righteous and are ministers of righteousness. May that guard our hearts against doubt and guide our feet in confident proclamation of the good meal of grace available to all who believe.