The helmet of salvation
And take the helmet of salvation. Ephesians 6:17
How do we appropriate salvation for spiritual battle and put it on like a soldier wears his helmet for combat?
It means that above all we need to understand what we have in Christ; we need to understand our riches in Christ. This is very important. You need to understand your resources. You need to know that you can meet the enemy and defeat him. And that’s where salvation comes in. Charles Hodge wrote in his commentary on this passage, “That which adorns and protects the Christian, which enables him to hold up his head with confidence and joy, is the fact that he is saved.” We put on salvation like a helmet by understanding what it means to be saved in the first place. It is because we are saved that we can meet the devil and his legions to begin with. It is our salvation that has armed us, so to speak. We need to know what weapons we have as saved people.
The problem is that we can get discouraged in the battle, and begin to think we have far fewer resources at our disposal than we really do. You can begin to get the Elijah syndrome. That is, you can become paralyzed by the feeling that you are all alone in the battle and that you are having to do this completely in the power of your own strength and in the light of your own understanding. And when you have made a few mistakes and when you come up short a few times, it’s easy to descend into this mindset. And you become weary in the battle and you begin to think about giving up. It’s a bad place to be: it’s incapacitating, debilitating, and paralyzing spiritually.
How do we get out of there? First of all, you need to understand and really believe that when God saved you, he equipped you with everything you need to defeat the enemy. That begins with his work in your heart. It’s easy to look at our hearts and see them as the playgrounds of Satan and to forget that “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). You are never alone, nor are you ever out-gunned, because there is never a day that the Lord is not working in you and through you. It is true that you may be small and insignificant, that your talents may be small, and your reach limited. But know that if our Lord could take a few fish and loaves of bread from the hands of a boy and feed five thousand people with it, he can bless you no matter how small you are.
In this connection, the apostle Paul wrote, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). God will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, and the reason for this is that he is there empowering you and equipping you. How are we strengthened? We are strengthened by the power of God (Eph. 3:16). We are kept by the power of God (1 Pet. 1:5). It was the power of God that saved you in the first place (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 2:5) and it is the power of God that keeps you there. The apostle himself confessed that though he and his fellow workers were “weak” yet they were able to “live with [Christ] by the power of God” (2 Cor. 13:4). Paul prayed for the Thessalonians that God “would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power” (2 Thess. 1:11). God does not give us the spirit of fear, but of power (1 Tim. 1:7).
Of course, God’s power does not look like the power of the world. It is a power in smallness, strength in weakness, just like the Lord. Nevertheless, it is the power of God, a power that will overcome all that opposes it in the end.
Then we need to remember that God never gives up on his children. We are surrounded every day by false promises and false people. Our world is full of false hopes. At the beginning of WW2, our troops in the Philippines really believed that their government would rescue them. Nevertheless, they were left at the mercy of the enemy – not because their government wanted to leave them there, but because at the time it just couldn’t intervene. But God never gives up on us; he never leaves us or forsakes us. This is why the apostle was able to write that he was “confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until [bring it to completion at, ESV] the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). God did not start a work of grace in your heart only to let it rot and go to waste. It took the blood of his Son to begin that work, and you can be sure that he will not despise the value of his blood.
Thus, fundamentally, I see in this verse a call to hope. This is a call to hope in the sure fulfillment and completion of that salvation which God has already begun in us. Heaven is in the heart of every believer. This becomes especially clear when we compare our text with a similar text in 1 Thess. 5:8, where the apostle writes, “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.” Here the apostle makes it explicit: that which is our helmet is the hope of salvation. Thus, the primary focus of the Christian is on what God has promised us in the future. Though we are not to forget the realities that are already true in us, we are to be constantly looking forward to the fulfillment of salvation in the age to come.
We can focus on the blessings of the age to come because we can be sure of the blessings of the age to come. All the pain we endure in this age is temporary at best. The blessings of the age to come are eternal. We are not “saved” in this world in the ultimate sense of what it means to be saved. Our salvation is closer than when we first believed, but we have not embraced it yet. Our full salvation is yet future. So don’t put your hopes on this world and this age. God does not intend for you to. To do so is to sabotage your hope. That does not mean he will leave you alone in this age. It does not mean he will forsake you. It does not mean that there is one moment when his grace is withdrawn from you. But it does mean that the fullness of the blessings of our salvation are yet to come. And by God’s strength and power we can endure to the end because it is worth it.