Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Understanding The Helmet of Salvation - Ephesians 6:17

Ephesians 6:17 "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Today's post features a piece of the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:17 that is called "the helmet of salvation". As the Apostle Paul was under house arrest in Rome, he was continuously chained to one or more Roman soldiers. In the course of his incarceration, he would have had ample time to view soldiers from every conceviable angle. It is certain that as the soldiers would had been changing their watches, Paul would had witnessed them "taking up" or "putting on their armor". In Ephesians 6:10-18, the truth of the believer's warfare and the physical illustration of Roman armament are used to shed light on one another. To take up the helmet and put it on one's head would had been one of the final stages to being fully ready for combat apart from the sword. Helmets protected the head and the eyes, the seat of the senses. 

The importance of both the head and the heart in the Christian life
In the Christian life, growth in discipleship entails not only the heart, but also the head. In fact, unless the mind is initially influenced and shaped by the Word of God, the heart will not follow. The heart is the follower in the realm of the human soul, with the mind being the leader of the two. Granted, without the heart, the mind can only ascent to truth but never commit to it. This is why God has included the conscience, which concretes belief of the mind into convictions of the heart. 

Understanding the meaning of the helmet of salvation
As Paul issues the command to "take up the helmet of salvation", what exactly is he meaning? In one other place in Paul's writings we read of the helmet of salvation in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 - "But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation." Both texts refer to the need to put on the helmet of salvation in contexts require the Christian's alertness in the spiritual battle that must be waged in these last days.  

The meaning then can be discerned by noting Paul's reference to the helmet of salvation in his letters, however is there another source from whence he is deriving this imagery? It appears Paul is is alluding to Isaiah 59:17, which reads - "He put on righteousness like a breastplate,And a helmet of salvation on His head; And He put on garments of vengeance for clothing And wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle." 

I have found that oftentimes, when a New Testament writer is referring back or quoting an Old Testament phrase, verse or section of verses, they are in reality thinking of the wider context in which that original quotation occurs. Both Ephesians 6:17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:8 can be used as springboards in getting back to Isaiah 59, with Isaiah 59 in turn providing the full context in understanding the significance of this phrase "helmet of salvation". Moreover, as we read Isaiah 59:17 in light of Ephesians 6:17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:8, we do so in reflecting upon the accomplished work and Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let the reader note a quick outline of Isaiah 59:

God's saving righteousness - Isaiah 59
1. Power of God's Righteousness - Isaiah 59:1

2. Peril of self-righteousness - Isaiah 59:2-16

3. Protection of His righteousness - Isaiah 59:17-20

4. Perseverance because of the Word of righteousness - Isaiah 59:21

Based upon the context of Isaiah 59, in which the alluded text of Isaiah 59:17 occurs, it appears that when we take up the helmet of salvation, we are taking up the righteous work achieved by God in Christ. Whenever you consider the contexts of both Ephesians 6 and 1 Thessalonians 5 in light of Christ's 1st and 2nd comings, the helmet of salvation's meaning comes into view. In Ephesians 6:17, the concern is with living the Spirit filled life in light of Christ's achievement in His first coming. In the latter text of 1 Thessalonians 5:8,  the reader is urged to take up the helmet of salvation in light of Christ's second coming. 

Putting on the helmet of salvation entails putting on the Gospel, putting on all that God has achieved in Christ. The mind of the child of God ever needs to be saturated with the Gospel, as seen in such passages as Romans 12:1-2 and Hebrews 12:1-2. Philippians 2:1-4 commands believers to have the same mindset of humility as Christ did. Whenever we put on the helmet of salvation and fix our eyes on Jesus, we will be able to make right and godly decisions in the face of spiritual, moral and interpersonal opposition. 

So today, let us put on the full armor of God and not forget to take up the helmet of salvation - the Gospel, and apply it to our minds, our hearts and our lives. 

No comments:

Post a Comment