Helmet of Salvation – Ephesians 6:17

Introduction (330)

Before you ever commit a sin in an action, or a word or even in your thoughts, there is a process.  James 1:14-15 will say that “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  Sin never comes out of the blue: I don’t know what happened, I was walking down the road and the next thing I stole a car; …then next thing I told a lie to my friend!

Paul warns us that the battle is not about controlling external actions and word; it is about fending off the spiritual attacks that seek to entice us, enflame our desires and drag us away. Last week we were looking at one of the primary ways that Satan does that, by firing flaming arrows of lies fiery darts of doubt.  This morning we are going to look another similar kind of temptation that can crush us: discouragement or hopelessness.

The fifth piece of the armour is the helmet of salvation.

Ephesians 6:17 Take the helmet of salvation;

The Roman soldier’s helmet

Roman soldiers wore helmets made of leather inlayed with metal plates, or cast in solid metal (bronze or iron).  Show pictures.  Some helmets had a decorative plume on top, cheek-pieces that flapped down to protect the face and a shelf on the back of the helmet to protect the neck and shoulders.  The helmet protected the head from arrows, but more importantly from skull crushing blows to the head from the enemy sword.

The Christian’s helmet

In the Christian’s spiritual battles is also necessary to wear a helmet – the helmet of salvation.  To understand what Paul is saying here, you need to realise that the Bible uses the words saved or salvation in different ways at different times: (a) I have been saved (past tense); (b) I am being saved (present tense); (c) I will be saved (future tense).  You could say it another way: that we are saved from the penalty of sin, the power of sin and the presence of sin.  So we have two questions then: “which salvation is Paul talking about here?” and “How does that form part of the armour of God?”

3 Aspects of a Christian’s salvation

The Bible speaks of salvation in these three ways: past, present or future.

1.     Penalty of sin (I was saved)

This refers to the past aspect of salvation in which we have been freed from the penalty of sin; we have been saved from the rightful consequences of judgement and death because Christ was our sacrifice on Calvary.  The price has been paid.  Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (ESV)

I don’t think this is the helmet.  The gift of salvation, new birth, being born again, if anything, is most akin to the breastplate.

2.     Power of sin (I am being saved)

This refers to the present aspect of salvation where the Christian is being freed from the power of sin.  Sin used to be the ruler in our lives, but now it has been dethroned by a new king who broke the power of sin – Jesus Christ.  Paul tells the Philippian Christians to “work out their salvation” (Phil 2:12b) – What could that mean, I thought I was saved?  1 Cor. 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The gospel is uprooting sin in our life and we are submitting to our new king.

I don’t think this is the helmet either.  You could make an argument for this one, but I think it best fits into the idea of future sense of salvation.

3.     Presence of sin (I will be saved)

This refers to the future aspect of salvation where we will one day be free from the presence of sin in our lives completely.  A day is coming when Christ will return, cast the Devil down forever, and we will free from all sin.  On that day Philippians 1:6 will be fulfilled: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.    Paul will say in Romans 5:10b “having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”  Summary:

  • I was saved/penalty of sin/past tense/justification
  • I am being saved/power of sin/present tense/sanctification
  • I will be saved/presence of sin/future tense/glorification.

The main reason that I would put it in this last category is 1Thesselonias 5:8 “But… putting on… the hope of salvation as a helmet. “

(A) The helmet: assurance

There are several passages that help us here: even though Satan’s attacks are relentless, we do not ever have to worry that we might be unsaved.  That is simply not an option:

Romans 8:28-30 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.    For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.   And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Christians like to quote verse 28.  But why are we so confident in verse 28?  Because we are assured of the end.  There is an unbreakable chain from ‘called’ to ‘glorified’.

John 6:35-40 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

Another unbreakable chain: the Father gives, the Son receives, the Son keeps, and the Son raises on the last day.  There is an assurance that the Christian can carry around in his/her heart – we cannot lose our salvation.

John 10:26-30 Jesus answered, “… My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

Jesus had just said that his sheep know his voice and follow him, not the voice of the thief or robber.  We have been given eternal life (not earned it in such a way that it can be forfeited).  No one will snatch us out his hand.

Parable of the sower

There is of course the case of the person who went to the front at a meeting, prayed a prayer but then seems to have fallen away from the Lord.  What about them?  The parable of the sower is helpful here.  There are four ways to respond to the gospel: (1) seed on the path that is snatched by the birds = nothing; (2) seed in the shallow soil = looks like salvation (go forward at a meeting / pray a prayer) but they realize it is not just fire insurance against hell but a whole life devotion they wither – they responded to a false kind of salvation; (3) choked by thorns and thistles – these a genuine but unfruitful / disobedient Christians (backsliders) who Paul says will sneak into heaven as the flames of hell lick their butts; (4) genuine and obedient and fruitful Christians.

You can spend a lot of time trying to differentiate between 2 and 3 because they can look very similar – but I don’t think that’s our job.  Paul says “examine yourself to see if you are in the faith” (2Cor. 13:5).

The point: our confidence is not in our own ability to keep ourselves saved.  If you believe that you can lose your salvation if you don’t do certain things, keep up certain kinds of Christian actions, behave in a certain way, then you will inevitable be motivated by fear: “I’m sacred of what will happen if I don’t…”.   You will always be counting the obedience beans that you are piling on the scale eager that it will be enough to tip them in your direction.  However if you are certain of your future salvation there will be so much less chance that you will become discouraged by failure or be motivated by fear

(B) The helmet: perseverance

The helmet of salvation is our motivation to persevere, our HOPE in the midst of trials and temptations, hardships and despair.   We will not have to fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil forever.  Living without hope is like running a race without a finish line!  You can’t say to someone, ‘Start running for the rest of your life.  There’s no finish line by give it everything you’ve got!!!’  What kind of incentive is that?

If there was no hope of future salvation then what point is there in enduring the trials of this life.  Paul says,

1Corinthians 15:32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

He basically says, ‘There is no way that I would face these pagans who want to maul me like wild beasts except if there is a resurrection to glory’.  Paul persevered through these trials and worse because he knew one day he would be raised to glory with Christ – that is the helmet of salvation.

Read Romans 8:18-24.  This passage promises full redemption, the completion of our salvation.  Until that happens creation groans and we groan.  We groan when confronted with the sin and brokenness of this world (sin and death).  Jesus responded in a similar way – at the grave of Lazarus (deeply moved / wept); when healing the deaf man (sighed deeply).  What did that look like physically for the gospel writers to record it in those words?  What does it look like to groan?  The more we groan, the deeper our longing, the more real the helmet of salvation will be for us.

Christ wore the helmet

Our ultimate example is Christ.  He was incarnate into this fallen, sinful world, the devil and all the powers of hell threw everything and the kitchen sink at Jesus.  He went through it.  He knew His death would mean separation from the Father yet He went on.  How was he able to do this?

John 13:3-4  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God  and was returning to God;   so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

Jesus washing the disciple’s feet is a metaphor for the cross.  How did Jesus endure the disappointment, hardship, temptations to give up, the evil flung at him?  Among other things, He knew he was returning to God = helmet of salvation!


Discussion questions

  1. Grant said, “Before you ever commit a sin in an action/deed, you have been dragged away and enticed in your heart”. How does this idea relate to the Armour of God?
  2. Discuss the three “tense of salvation” :
    1. I was saved/penalty of sin/past tense/justification
    2. I am being saved/power of sin/present tense/sanctification
    3. I will be saved/presence of sin/future tense/glorification.
    4. To which of the three above do you think Paul is referring in the ‘helmet of salvation’ ?(cf. 1Thesselonias 5:8 But… putting on… the hope of salvation as a helmet)
  3. Read Romans 8:28-30, John 6:35-40, John 10:26-30. What do we learn about assurance from these verses?
  4. How is the Parable of the Sower a helpful framework for understanding people’s response to the gospel? (don’t spend too much time here – it can be a long discussion)
  5. How does the helmet help us to persevere through the hardships, trials and brokenness we face in this world?
  6. Read Romans 8:18-25. What is the link between groaning and hope?  What is the link to the helmet of salvation?
  7. How did Jesus put on the helmet of salvation in John 13:3-4? How does this help you to put it on?