Helmet of Salvation
“And take the helmet of salvation, …” Ephesians 6:17a
With such a great army as the Roman legions why did Rome fall? Edward Gibbon explains one of the reasons. “The relaxation of discipline, and the disuse of exercise, rendered the soldiers less able, and less willing, to support the fatigues of the service; they complained of the weight of the armor, which they seldom wore…may be considered as the immediate cause of the downfall of the empire.” (Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. III, pp. 271–272). A helmet on the ground does not protect a soldier’s head. Christian soldiers need to put on the whole armor of God which includes “the helmet of salvation.”
In many states a helmet is required when riding a bike or motorcycle. Some refuse to wear them. No Christian can get away with not wearing their helmet every day. Even God wears one. In describing God Isaiah wrote, “for He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak” (59:17). God does not need salvation. God is the victorious warrior, saves his people, and judges their enemies.
The Roman Soldier’s Helmet
The Roman helmet was called a “cassis.” It is Latin meaning “to circle the head.” Is was made of metal. They had another helmet. The galea was made of leather. The bronze helmet had a leather skull cap with a inner iron plate for added cranial comfort and protection. It protected the eyes with a metal band. Two hinged cheek plates protected the sides of the face. The top was decorated with a horse-hair crest. This was not done so much in battle but more often when on parade after a victory. “An inside lining of felt or sponge made the weight bearable. Nothing short of an axe or hammer could pierce a heavy helmet, and in some cases a hinged vizor added frontal protection” (Barth Eph. II, p. 775). Nevertheless the Roman soldier did not wear it unless going into a fight.
The helmet was most vital to protect a vulnerable part of the body in battle – the head. This was especially true of enemy soldiers on horseback. A hit by even a small rock or club could result in confusion, being knocked out, or even death.
The Christian Soldier’s Helmet
The Christians is commanded to “take” the helmet. However, it would be better translated as “receive.” After all, the Christian receives salvation from God as a free gift. “Beare suggests that once a soldier was fully clad, the helmet and sword would not be taken up form the ground by himself but would be handed to him by his attendant or armor bearer” (Beare 743). By analogy, salvation and the Word of God are gifts that believers receive. In Isaiah, God’s helmet of salvation is what he does; in Ephesians, it is what he gives. The Psalmist wrote, “O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle” (Psalm 140:7).
Salvation is spoken of in three ways in the New Testament: 1) a past event when they have their sins washed away in baptism (Acts 22:16); 2) as a present reality (2 Cor. 6:2); and 3) as a future blessing (Rom. 13:11). Every day the Christian has the assurance of his salvation. He has been saved, he will be saved in Heaven if he remains faithful till death and he is being saved as he repents and confesses his sins to God in prayer (1 John 1:8-10). For a Roman soldier wearing his helmet is reassured knowing that his head is protected, so the Christian is reassured knowing that the promise of eternal life is secure with God. “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son…These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:11,13).
In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul refers to the helmet as “the hope of salvation” (1 Th. 5:8) Hope keeps us focused in the right direction. It gives courage and confidence. Hope causes us to persevere, that is, not give up.
When a soldiers loses hope, he tends to give up the fight and surrender. When Esau thought all was lost and his life was about to end, he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. As Clare Boothe Luce said, “there are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them”. Salvation brings hope of victory. It is an anchor to the soul (Hebrews 6:19,20). As a result the Christian keeps going. “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9).
Why is the helmet of salvation and not something else? Perhaps it is because salvation involves the mind and the emotions. We believe with the heart and obey with the heart (Rom. 10:9-10; 6:17-18). Furthermore, our thoughts need to be protected. When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden he first attacked her thoughts about the forbidden tree’s virtues and God’s vices. He does the same today by blinding the minds of unbelievers “lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor. 4:4). The head represents the mind and it is in the mind where thoughts originate. Temptation is when Satan turns the mind into a battlefield over our thoughts. Christians must fight back.
“…for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
If your mind is not protected, evil thoughts will enter and result in losing your salvation when you begin to mind carnal or earthly things. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). All of those who were raised with Christ in baptism, need to keep their minds focused on spiritual thoughts. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).
The Christian solider knows that one day this helmet of salvation is to be replaced by a crown of life (James 1:12). Christ has promised, “be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Every day receive the helmet of salvation as a wonderful gift from God. “…It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11) Are you bareheaded soldiers of Christ?
— Daniel R. Vess