I’ve heard it said and I’ve heard it preached – in fact I might even have preached or said it myself: “There is no armour in Ephesians 6 for your back, because you are not expected to run away.”
Well, that is only partly true. You are supposed to stand. But it is untrue that there is no armour for your back. When Paul said “Put on the full armour of God”, he had in mind the armour worn by a Roman soldier. One of the pieces of armour was a metal breastplate. The breastplate worn by a Roman soldier not only covered the soldier’s chest, it also covered his back.
Paul says that Christians need to put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6.14)
The righteousness that Paul refers to here, is the righteousness that is given to us through faith in Christ. When we came to know Christ, a spiritual exchange took place. He received our sin and we received the righteousness of God (see 2 Corinthians 5.21).
One of Satan’s main lines of attack is that of condemnation. He tries to bring up our weaknesses and those areas where we are still battling the flesh. He wants to control the way we think about who we are and how God sees us. Knowing that God sees us as righteous is a killer blow to this particular enemy tactic. Our hearts – and that includes our emotions – are kept protected by a healthy, biblical understanding of who we are in Christ.
But what about our back? Why even complicate things by talk about our back?
Firstly, sometimes in spiritual warfare, as in physical warfare, the enemy sometimes strikes from behind.
Satan can and will use our past as a weapon. He hits us hard with things that have happened or things that we have done, which we know and he knows we can’t change. Our righteous standing before God is more than adequate defence against that assault.
Secondly, sometimes Satan ambushes us. An ambush is a totally unexpected attack. Totally unexpected things happen in life. We walk into work one day and find ourselves caught up in a conversation about issues we didn’t even know were issues. We receive an email with bad or negative news or even a personal attack. Those are spiritual ambushes. The difficulty with an ambush in physical warfare is that it takes by surprise those under attack and the confusion it creates can stymie an effective response. The same is true when it comes to spiritual warfare. That’s where the righteousness of God kicks in. However serious the attack, our relationship with God is still intact. When you’re ambushed, the best response is to remember the righteousness that is yours through Jesus.
Thirdly, there is another way in which the enemy attacks from the behind: betrayal.
The words we often hear at communion, “On the same night that Jesus was betrayed”. On the night that Jesus took His final steps toward providing healing for all mankind, He was betrayed.
Betrayal is one of those words and experiences that is packed with emotion. Just take two seconds and say “Betrayal” and then monitor how you feel. In some ways betrayal is the ultimate ambush. The long term impact can be seriously damaging to emotional and spiritual health. How does the breastplate of righteousness protect us in this particular attack?
Betrayal has the power to damage us – short term and long term. It can cause us to temporarily or indefinitely lose our sense of identity, or as one therapist put it, having your accurate reality denied. The breastplate of righteousness protects our identity.
However, healing the wound of betrayal doesn’t just come about through holding on to our sense of identity, it also entails forgiving the betrayer. Note that it is the betrayer we forgive, not the act of betrayal. Because of we have been forgiven by Jesus and made righteous in Him, we have the spiritual resources to extend forgiveness to others. In so doing we not only free them, we free ourselves. The breastplate of righteousness not only to protects who we are in Christ, but also enables us to repel Satan’s attempt to try to make us become what we are not.
When you face a deadly enemy it’s good to know you have a rearguard. Righteousness, the righteousness of God is our rearguard.
Psalm 139.5 says: “You are all around me, behind me and in front of me.You hold me safe in your hand” (NIRV).
God’s got your back.