Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Helmet of Salvation

Here we are again this week to continue our discussion on the Whole Armour of God. Please post your comments; we are sure they will help us do a better job. God bless you.

Helmet of Salvation

“And Take the Helmet of Salvation (Ephesians 6:17)

Second Corinthians 4:6-17
For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, NKJV

We now come to the second portion of the armour which is not fixed or attached to the body but which the soldier has to take up and put on – “the helmet of Salvation” The helmet worn by the Roman soldier was a kind of cap which was made of leather; but this leather had been strengthened and incidentally ornamented, with plates of metal to give it protection. Then surmounting all this there was a kind of crest or plume, again mainly for the purpose of ornamentation. When the soldier knew the enemy was coming he took hold of his shield, then of his cap or helmet, put it on, then took hold of his sword and rushed into battle.

The spiritual application of the helmet is obvious; the Apostle is drawing attention to the head, to the mind, the brain, the understanding, the thinking of the Christian. We have already dealt with the feelings and the sensibilities, the emotions and the desires and have seen how the enemy tends to attack us at these various points. But now we have to direct our attention to the particular aspect which involves the consideration of the mind and the understanding, the intellectual part of our whole position as Christians.

The Apostle here is not concerned so much with our intellectual acceptance and understanding of the faith – but with something more general.

Paul is not concerned so much with our understanding of particular doctrines such as justification by faith as with our whole attitude towards the faith. 

In this general sense, our adversary the devil often attacks us through producing a sense of weariness or tiredness, so much so that the Christian sometimes feels like giving up the entire battle. Christians are sometimes in difficulties and trouble about particular doctrines, particular aspects of the faith. That does not raise the question of giving up the whole Christian life; but what we are dealing now is something bigger and in a sense much more serious. It is that one tends to become weary and tired, and to feel hopeless about the whole campaign itself and its outcome. A situation when the Christian says to himself “I have been in this campaign for a long time, I am wounded, I am striving, I am struggling; but what is the point of it all; I am the one who is about to faint, ‘as things have been they remain, as it was in the beginning so is now’ Have I gained an inch of ground, have I done anything at all?” The Apostle Paul was referring to the same problem when he wrote to the Galatians in Galatians 6:9: “Let us not be weary in well doing”.

The Christian becomes weary in well being, simply through feeling the heat and the burden of the day. The campaign is so long drawn out, the warfare is constant, and he is tempted to feel utterly hopeless. 

This can afflict us in a personal sense or in a more general sense. It often comes to a man individually in connection with his own personal problems and battles. He sometimes turns to himself and says: “I have been fighting ever since I have become a Christian, and I am still fighting. Is there no end to it?” It is the devil’s attack making him to feel that the whole thing is vain and useless. One can feel the same about the entire condition of the Church as one looks at it today. Here is an institution that has been in existence for nearly two thousand years; but what is her position in the world today? The Church in Nigeria is full of confusion and muddle and uncertainty. In the West, the situation is not better. A friend the other day told me that in Britain and USA the Church has become a place for the old men and women. She counts for so little; and so the devil comes and suggests to us that she is useless. If otherwise, he suggests, things would not be like this after two thousand years. The enemy seems strong and powerful; while the Christian seems weak and fainting. Is there any point in going on with the struggle? And there are undoubtedly many people who were once attached to the Christian Church but who have given up, feeling that the whole thing is vain. And this feeling can come to us in respect of our own individual and personal problems, or with regard to the whole state and condition of the Church.

The best way, perhaps, of looking at the matter, is to see it in terms of the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The Hebrew Christians, who are addressed, have been brought up in the Jews’ religion; then they had heard the Christian message and had believed it, and had become members of the Christian Church. For a while their sun shone brightly. And they were happy in their new faith. But as the years passed, they found that they were being persecuted by their own fellow countrymen, the Jews, who regarded them as traitors to their long history, and also by Gentiles. Moreover, they had been told in the preaching and the teachings that the Lord would come back again and receive His own unto Himself and set up His kingdom. But there was no sign of His coming. The result was that these Hebrew Christians had become utterly discouraged, and some of them were beginning to look back to their old religion and were wondering whether they had been a little too precipitate in leaving it and taking up the Christian faith. That is the background to the Epistle to the Hebrews – discouraged Christians!

In other words, the problem facing those Hebrew Christians was not a question of tactics but one of giving up the whole campaign. They were weary, tired; they were persecuted, they were tempted, everything seemed to be against them, and they had got into a condition in which they were tempted by the devil to quit, to give it all up; to back out of the whole campaign, and to return to their former position.

There is a similar illustration in Second Peter 3. The Apostle is dealing there with the scoffers who came to the early Christians and said: “Where is the promise of His coming?” they said in effect: “You Christians have said that the Lord is coming back, and that He will conquer His enemies and set up His Kingdom, but where is the promise of His coming? Everything remains the same as it has been since the foundation of the world. You have made a mistake; you have believed a lie, your doctrine is not true. You might as well give it up because it has proved to be false”

We are facing the same problem in our twentieth century. In the face of difficulties, trials and problems, the enemy comes to us and says: “There is nothing in Christianity, it makes wonderful offers but what does it give you? You were promised that you can cast all your burdens on Him and leave everything to God; but has it turned out to be like that? Are you not encompassed by trials and troubles and problems? Are you not finding yourself in a very weary, tiring campaign? Take the economic situation in Nigeria and its effect on Christian business establishments. It is a case of hard survival if at all they survive. The devil now makes suggestions. As long as you remain in this Christianity of yours, you will continue to suffer. Look at so-so and so. They have progressed. May be this is God’s way of rewarding you. You had better give this your Christianity a second thought!

Such is the condition with which we are dealing. It is a very old problem. God’s people have always been tried in this way. Look at the case in Psalm 72. The Psalmist concluded: “I have washed my hands in vain” In other words, he is saying, I have tried to live the righteous life but it has been to no purpose, I might as well give up. That was the temptation and Paul tells us here, when such is the case, put on this “helmet of salvation”

Our Lord Jesus Christ was referring to a similar situation when he said in Luke 18:1 “men ought always to pray, and not to faint”. The main problem of life is to keep standing, and not to be overwhelmed by all these things that come upon us from all directions, and make us feel like giving it all up. Another illustration of this is found in Timothy. Timothy always had the feeling that everything was too much for him. His old friend and teacher, Paul was in prison, and likely to be put to death at any moment, and the cares and burdens and problems in the Churches fell to his lot. Oh, how can one go on with all that? Paul has to write him and say: “God has not given us the Spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (Second Timothy 1:7)

To deal with this Paul says, there is only one course to follow: “Take hold of the helmet of salvation and put it on your head!” But what does salvation mean in this connection? It does not mean a simple awareness of the fact that we are saved, that we are Christians as some have suggested. Paul himself leads us to the right answer in First Thessalonians 5:8 where he says:"But let us who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for our helmet the hope of salvation." The hope of salvation! What in the world is this? Again this is defined in Romans 13:10-11: “Love works no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed”

Salvation in this context is not so much something I am enjoying at the moment; it is something to which I am going, something which is coming to me; our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The future tense of salvation!

In other words, the Apostle means by salvation here – the Christian hope or what he calls elsewhere “the hope of glory”. The protection therefore which we put on our heads to counter the devil’s particular assault and attack is, “the hope of glory”. Christ Himself in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 taught that Christianity is not going to be a bed of roses but tribulations and trials, wars and rumours of wars, no magical circle to run in and be saved. You will be in the troubles and trials, but “he that endures to the end, shall be saved” Nevertheless, Christ gives His disciples real hope when He said: “These things have got to be; these things must happen before the end comes” What has the end in stock? When you think that everything is hopeless, and you are about to give up and give way to despair, “suddenly you shall see the Son of Man coming, riding upon the clouds of heaven, as King of kings and Lord of lords”. That is what is meant by the helmet of salvation – the hope of glory! The hope of His coming!

Paul in First Corinthians 15 advances the same argument. He says that the assurance that Christ has risen, and that we shall be raised also in an incorruptible body is the mainspring of our Christian activity. In verse 32 he raises a question about his sufferings and activities –”why should I go on? What is the point of fighting with beasts at Ephesus?” – It is because the ultimate victory is sure! He raised the same issue and arrived at the same answer in Second Corinthians 4:6-17. Verse 17 is very moving but that is the real issue. Here he is putting on the helmet of salvation and rejoicing in “the blessed hope” Keep your eye on that!

This teaching is not confined to Paul. It is the theme of the Epistle to the Hebrews. In Hebrews 6:11-12 we read: “We desire that everyone of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end, that you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises”. The writer has already said to them: Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though thus we speak” He has been talking of those who deny the faith and who had once said that they believed, and he has been saying terrible things about them. But he says: “Beloved, I am persuaded that this is not true of you. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which you have showed towards His name, in that you have ministered to the Saints , and do minister” He concludes by saying we have an anchor “within the veil for Jesus our forerunner, has gone there for us” Keep to this truth!

The Apostle Peter gives the same teaching in First Peter 5:10 where he says: But the God of all grace, who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” The Apostle John writes also when he said: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, ... it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (First John 3:1-3) then follows the words: “Everyman that has this hope in him ...” that is it! The hope of salvation! The helmet of Salvation!

The same message is found in the Book of Revelation.

In conclusion, we may say that nothing is more important for us than to know what we may call “the tenses of salvation”. Someone may say – you are saying that salvation is in the future? No, salvation has past, present and future tenses. The Christian is a man who has been saved. He is justified by faith. He is no longer “under the law” He will never come into condemnation” But then the Christian is a man who is being saved. He is not perfect, there is work going on in him. The Christian has yet to experience final salvation. There is a day coming when he will be absolutely perfect. In short, we can summarize the tenses of salvation – the past is justification, the present is sanctification and the future is glorification or redemption – the absolute salvation.

So putting on the helmet of salvation means that when we are attacked, besieged, tried, tempted and the devil says: there is nothing in it, you might as well get out of it, Christianity makes false promises, it does not fulfil them, give up! You answer by saying “No, I have not been led astray by this teaching. I have always known that there are steps and stages in salvation. I know that I am saved. I know that I am being saved (present continuous). I know that ultimately I shall be completely saved.

Believers are destined to be absolutely perfect, free from sin, free from all vestiges of evil, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. We shall be glorified, we shall be like Christ, we shall see Him as He is and be like Him; our bodies shall be changed, we shall be completely glorified – saved entirely, body soul and spirit; with nothing lacking. This is our hope (Ephesians 5:25-27; Romans 8:30) the helmet of salvation means that the Lord having ever set His love and His affection upon us, and having called us, will never let us go; and whatever is the strength and power of the enemy, His power is greater. (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:31-39)

Let us therefore in the words of Hebrews 12:1-2 look at our blessed Lord Jesus Himself, the Son of God, His incarnate in this sinful evil world, with the devil attacking, and all the powers of hell let loose against Him; He went through with it. What enabled Him to do so? Verse 2 – “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame!” That was the secret and that should be our helmet of salvation – Look unto Jesus!

The writer of the Hymn “the Church’s one foundation” expressed the idea thus:

‘Mid toil and tribulation

And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace for evermore
Till with the vision glorious
Her longing eyes are blest
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest!

Another Hymn exhorts us thus:

Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus

Ye Soldiers of the Cross
This day the noise of battle
The next the victor’s song
To him that overcomes
A crown of life shall be 
He with the King of Glory 
Shall reign eternally! 

There shall be wars and rumours of wars; everything will be against you and you may well think you are finally lost and defeated; lift up your heads! The coming of the Son of Man draws near. Put on the helmet of Salvation!

For the rest of the Series: The War You Must Win

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