God’s Armor for Us: the Helmet (21)
“And take the helmet of salvation….” – Ephesians 6:17
Defense, defense, defense. How important is defense! The one and only offensive weapon—the sword—is very important, as we shall soon see. But so important is the individual believer’s soul in which God has deposited eternal riches in Christ, and so important is the defense of that soul, that God has ordained yet another piece of defensive armor in addition to the breastplate and the shield—the helmet. For what it is worth, a legendary American football coach once underscored the importance of defense in sports when he famously quipped, “Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships.” While the importance of defense in sports is debatable and ultimately the debate is trivial, the importance of defense in spiritual warfare is indisputable on the basis of God’s provision of a three-piece defensive armament pictured to the Ephesians in the armor of the Roman soldier. From one point of view, the whole of the Christian life is one arduous march through time to heaven striving to defend the precious soul from relentless spiritual foes. For this daily battle in which defense is crucial we must have on our breastplate, take our shield, and take the helmet. I hope your helmet is strapped on.
The helmet itself
Having taken the shield in one hand, and before he takes his sword in the other, the Roman soldier would take his helmet and press it snuggly upon his head. The helmet was made of thick leather overlaid with metal plates. For distinctive flair there was often an ornamental red plume fixed to the top of the helmet, something like a mohawk of thick, red feathers running down the middle of the top of the helmet from front to back. One good strike to the head could be fatal. Head-protection was critical.
In our spiritual warfare we must have a helmet to withstand the attacks of Satan. Even as the breastplate of righteousness refers to the spiritual breastplate that is righteousness, and the shield of faith refers to the spiritual shield that is faith, so also the helmet of salvation refers to the spiritual helmet that is salvation. While “salvation” is a very broad concept, the inspired apostle more narrowly defines our spiritual helmet as “the hope of salvation” in I Thessalonians 5:8—“But let us who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”
The helmet of the hope of salvation refers to activity of the believer in which he, with his renewed mind, hopes for the full realization of his salvation.
Hope is an ardent longing for and sure expectation of some future good that was promised. We do not have an earthly hope that shames us, like the wicked who hope for what ultimately will never make them happy. We hope for full salvation, and because God promises it, we shall surely possess it. Salvation is deliverance from the greatest evil and deliverance unto the greatest good. Salvation is God’s work—accomplished by our crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, and applied by His Holy Spirit—whereby He delivers us from our sins and the curse due to us for them and delivers us unto everlasting life with Him in His covenant consummated in heaven. Thanks be to God for the great salvation we enjoy today as we have been delivered in principle!
But, we do not yet possess full salvation. We do not yet experience everything that God has prepared for us in Christ Jesus. We have not yet heard the trump of God and beheld with wonderment the majestic Christ in His personal, visible, bodily descent from heaven with all His holy angels. We have not yet experienced the complete, personal victory over sin that will occur when our deceitful old man of sin is abolished in death and when in the final resurrection we are clad with the immortal robes of salvation that are a thousand times more dazzling than the sun. We have not yet been summoned with the millions of angels and the throngs of worshiping brethren out of all the nations of the earth to God’s throne in Paradise to sound together His praises through endless ages. What satisfaction we will enjoy when all the weary night is past and we awake with Christ to view the glories that abide! For it we hope. For it we long. Of it and our possession of it we are confident. Hope!
With our renewed mind we hope. The helmet covers the head, representing the believer’s spiritual mind. When the Holy Spirit makes His abode in us, our dark and carnal mind is illumined and made heavenly so that we do something no ungodly young person can do: we can think upon and then desire gospel realities. Colossians 3:1-2, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on [literally, “set your mind on” or “think on”] things above, not on things on the earth.” If we will hope for heaven, then we need the grace of a renewed mind to think about heaven, Christ, and the treasures above rather than the world, man, and the fleeting things of this earthly life.
We need a helmet. If we do not hope, then we go to battle bareheaded. If we hope for earthly glories, then we go to battle with a paper helmet. If in this old life of corruption the principle of heavenly life has been planted in our hearts so that we eagerly set our mind upon and seek those things which are above, then we wear a helmet. God be praised for giving us this helmet!
The importance of it
Consider two attacks of Satan that demonstrate the importance of having the helmet of the hope of salvation in our spiritual warfare.
First, there is the threat of being swallowed up by worldliness.
Matthew 6:19-20, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
I John 2:15-17, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.
How do we triumph when according to our sinful flesh we are not merely interested in but basely enslaved to earthly pleasures? How do we stand when we are surrounded by men and women whose god is their belly, or their name, or sports, or fashion, or money, or vacations, or all the flashy stuff continually paraded before us in online advertisements that hunt us like prey? How do we stand in this selfish, self-centered, self-serving age of entitlement, where every one assumes all of reality must be bent into conformity with his personal dictum, “No good thing shall be withholden from me!”? How do we stand in an age of affluence in which we do not know what lack means because so many possessions, opportunities, privileges, and vacations are afforded us? Laying up in our mind loving thoughts for the world is a grave threat like a sharp arrow or spear to the soldier’s head.
Hope is the defense. With the helmet of the hope of salvation the Christian goes through life thinking about and setting his heart on heavenly things and longing for that which eye has never seen, tongue has never told, no app has ever been created, Apple has never imagined, Uber has never transported, YouTube has never shown, and Amazon has never sold, because it is the glory of Christ that shall be revealed in us. The Christian does not flee the world and look askance at the things of earthly life as an ascetic, but he keeps his feet from getting entangled while his eye is always looking for the better country upon which he has set his heart. No wonder the apostle says (Rom. 8:24), “We are saved by hope….”
Secondly, there is the threat of fainting in adversity.
Psalm 34:19—Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
Acts 14:22—Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
John 15:19—If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
How does the Christian go on when his losses are so many, when his bodily pain is so severe, when his opportunities fly away one after another, when his disease and the management of it are so wearisome, when his poverty is so great, when his home is so broken, when his heart aches continually, when his soul sorrows so deeply over a deceased loved one? How does he survive, much less daringly go forth in valiant exploits, when he is tempted again and again to despair and cry with old father Jacob that all these things are against him (Gen. 42:36)? Hopeless it all seems.
How does the Christian stand confident in this antichristian world with antichristian leaders and antichristian institutions paving the way for the Antichrist who will come with devilish inventions of torture to defy the living God and His church? How does the young Christian soldier not succumb to dread terror when he looks around or hears about nations aligning themselves for war and blasphemous men and women jockeying for positions of leadership on the world stage? How does the Christian stay on his feet in this world when helicopters with news cameras descend on his little hometown to capture the cleanup after yet another massacre by terrorists?
The Christian certainly does not set his heart upon the hope of a future earthly millennial kingdom. With his helmet, the soldier not only thinks about what is seen and heard and felt and experienced—painful as it is—but he has the power to think about how all his tribulation is working an eternal weight of unseen glory (II Cor. 4:17-18). He has an unshakable hope that following this momentary trouble he shall be called home to heaven where the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will feed him, and shall lead him unto living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from his eyes (Rev. 7:17). With our helmet we stand amid the fray and all the temptations singing reassuringly, “O why art thou cast down, my soul? And why so troubled shouldst thou be? Hope thou in God, and Him extol, who gives His saving help to me”! (Psalter 114, stanza 10).
Having on his helmet, the Christian looks to Christ clothed in sovereignty and ruling the universe with a scepter of righteousness. He contemplates with deep longing the future heavenly kingdom of peace that is coming in the day of Jesus Christ, when spears shall be beat into pruninghooks, and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid (Micah 4:3-4). Let Satan come at us breathing out threatenings and slaughter through the Antichrist, for we will stand triumphantly with our helmets and sing, “Uplifted on a rock, above my foes around, amid the battle shock, my song shall still resound. Then joyful offerings I will bring, Jehovah’s praise my heart shall sing”! (Psalter 71, stanza 5).
The taking of it
Take this helmet. “And take the helmet of salvation…” (Eph. 6:17). This action calls to mind the image of a captain holding or setting out a helmet, and the soldier taking the helmet from his captain and placing it on his head. “Take” refers to the activity of faith, though not in the corrupt Arminian sense in which God supposedly presents salvation to us but it is up to us to exercise our free will in the acceptation of His well-meant offering. Faith is a saving gift. God gives us the salvation we now enjoy in principle. God gives us complete salvation. God gives us hope. God also gives us faith, by breathing into us the power to believe His promises, which are the substance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1). By the faith He graciously gives we take the helmet of salvation.
Take it! Take it now in these words. Take it when the hope of the gospel is preached (Col. 1:23). Take it when you open your Bible and read those things that were written aforetime for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Rom. 15:4). We have hope. Have hope. Have hope till the day your helmet is exchanged for a crown.