The helmet of salvation
In the Christian’s armour (Ephesians 6:10-18), the shield deflects the fiery darts of the evil one. What about the ‘helmet’? This is described as ‘the helmet of salvation’ (v.17).
If the shield protects the heart, the helmet protects the head. As the head physically is the source of thinking, so the head spiritually is the place for right thoughts about God and truth.
What we think in relation to the Word of God is all important. Writing to the Corinthians of those who are spiritually perishing, Paul stated that ‘the god of this age [Satan] has blinded their … minds’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is also possible for someone saved to lack watchfulness in thinking and to lapse in spiritual faithfulness.
Today many people decry Christian doctrine and have little interest in the confessions and catechisms of the church. They read few books; and fewer still of the best titles that explain evangelical and reformed truth.
Some may say that it is the life you live, not the belief you hold to, that counts. There’s truth in that up to a point, for our lives must reflect real Christianity. Yet it is still dangerous to think that way, for the mind must be stored with the truths of salvation.
This right use of the mind is our helmet against Satan’s attacks. Paul warned young Timothy: ‘Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron’ (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
He then added: ‘Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine …Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you’ (4:13,16).
There is a battle on for the minds of Christians. The mind is to be well stored with sound doctrine to repel the myriad false, soul-sapping ideas that would otherwise flood in.
Paul exhorts Christians to ‘take’ [put or keep on] the helmet of salvation. But what is the connection between the helmet, a protective piece of armour, and salvation?
The clue to understanding this lies in 1 Thessalonians. Here Paul writes: ‘Let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (5:8-9).
When Paul speaks here of the ‘hope’ of salvation and being appointed to salvation, he is using the term ‘salvation’ with a particular nuance. He is not simply referring to our first coming to faith in Jesus, or merely being hopeful that we might be saved at some future time.
Rather, he’s referring to salvation in a completed sense – living as a saved person now, and looking forward to salvation’s completion in glory. That is the hope of the Christian. That is what salvation involves in its fullest sense.
There is, therefore, protection in this ‘helmet of salvation’. The believer keeps his or her mind stayed upon the Lord, keeping a grip on the hope of the gospel as an eternal hope. Constant meditation upon the Saviour and his salvation keeps at bay the many false and perverse ideas and philosophies – secular and profane – always vying for our attention.
What aspects of our salvation particularly inspire this hope? First, with reference to the past, we reflect on the salvation Christ accomplished through the cross, followed by his resurrection and ascension. Upon his completed work of atonement we can wholly rest.
Secondly, with reference to the present, we reflect on what the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent, does within us. He enables the believer to overcome sin and temptation.
Thirdly, with reference to the future, we keep your mind fixed on the future glory of Christ and his church; the completion of salvation when Christ comes again; and his final, total victory over the powers of evil.
All this encourages the believer to go on in the faith and hope of the gospel in this spiritual wilderness and warfare below! So it is that the ‘helmet of salvation’ protects us in this sinful, dangerous world.
John W. Keddie