Summary: Our minds must be guarded against error, and direct attack of the enemy, with sound doctrine (#22 in The Christian Victor series)
“And take the helmet of salvation,…”
Well, we all know what a helmet is for. They protect the head. There are many reasons to wear a helmet. Work on a construction site, riding a motorcycle, going to war, preparing to tell your wife you just bought a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee on impulse… (No, that is not a personal experience; I just made it up)
There are also many types and styles of helmet, but there is no need to get into that here. They all serve the same purpose without exception, and there is only one reason to wear them. To protect the head. Primarily, and for obvious reasons, the brain.
We discussed the point that Paul has told his readers to be prepared first with truth, then with right standing with God through faith in the shed blood of Christ and His resurrection, then to move out with that message, making peace between God and men.
And we made note that following that he began speaking about these pieces of armor that, rather than being worn at all times, are taken up for battle, and really only have a purpose in times of battle. The shield, and now the helmet, and as we will see, the sword.
I’ve worn helmets. They are not comfortable. You get used to them after a while, like anything that you have to wear for an extended length of time. But when you can finally take them off it is a great feeling.
On the other hand, when they are necessary they are good to have. More than once has a sword blade, or a bullet, or a piece of shrapnel been deflected by a wisely worn helmet. I doubt very much that it has often been said, “Oh, he might have lived if he hadn’t been wearing that helmet!”
So let’s go on to make spiritual application, acknowledging first that Paul’s obvious intent was to encourage us to guard our mind, against error and against the enemy’s direct attack.
HELMET OF SALVATION
I want you to understand that Paul was not talking about that initial experience of being saved, when he said to take the helmet of salvation. This is made clear in several ways.
First of all, he said to ‘take’ the helmet. As we’ve seen in several studies lately, our initial salvation is not something we take, or “take up”. We were entirely dead in sin and unable to play any role in our salvation. It was a gift, and entirely of God’s doing.
So Paul would not tell his reader to ‘take up’ salvation, in reference to the exercise of belief in the gospel and being saved, any more than a doctor would stand at the foot of the bed of a woman in labor and holler at the baby, ‘Come on out!’
Salvation is spiritual birth from above, and it is the work of the Holy Spirit of God.
Secondly, Paul was writing to Christians. He wasn’t writing to anyone he considered a non-believer. We’ve already established several times through the course of our study in this epistle that he is addressing Christians, and even the context of this final section of the letter bears that out. In verse 10 he says to ‘be strong in the Lord’. In verse 18 he admonishes them to pray, and more specifically, to pray for him and for one another. These are all things that would not be said to an unbeliever.
There is absolutely nothing to say of a spiritual nature to an unbeliever, other than the gospel message. Until he is brought to repentance for sin by the Holy Spirit, and then understood and believed the gospel and been born from above, he will not understand spiritual truth, and to exhort him to Godly living or the practice of Christian behavior is absurd. He is dead until given life from above.
Now I know you’ve heard me say these things many times, but it is my solemn duty to repeat them often. I’ve been perusing so many books and reference materials lately that I can’t remember where I read this, and it is not a direct quote, but one writer pointed out that a preacher’s two primary duties are to preach the gospel, and tell sinners that they are dead.
His point was that since a large percentage of church goers are not actually saved, it would be irresponsible to allow them to continue on, fellowshipping with believers, enjoying the tangible and material benefits of being a ‘church member’, perhaps even holding office or teaching a class, and never challenge them with the truth of their actual condition.
To the known unbeliever, the preacher’s duty is to tell them that they are dead in trespasses and sins, and that they must repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. To those whose spiritual condition is not so obvious, his duty is to continually challenge them to examine themselves in the revealing light of the scriptures, and test themselves as to whether there is spiritual growth and fruit in their lives. In short, whether they are actually saved. To those who demonstrate a Christ-likeness and a desire to be conformed to His image and an excitement about the prospect of His imminent return, the preacher’s duty is to take them deeper in the Word and exhort them to holy living and active Kingdom work.