As a keen cyclist, I never get on my bike without first putting on my protective helmet. Avoiding the narrow and dangerous West Highland main roads, I use the cycle track built on the former Oban to Ballachulish railway line. Here, other hazards such as highland cattle, sheep and horses with all of their attendant unpredictability present themselves. In such an environment where injury through collision or evasive action is a real possibility, a helmet to protect the skull is an essential piece of equipment which could literally save your life.
In the Apostle Paul’s discourse on the ‘Armour of God’, the fifth piece of armour is the ‘helmet of salvation’. The Roman soldier’s helmet, without which he would never enter battle, was made of thick leather covered with metal plates including cheek pieces to protect the face.
All legionnaires wore a helmet to protect the head from injury caused by a blow from the commonly used two handed broadsword or ‘rhomphaia’ measuring around three foot six inches in length. Popular in Europe in Roman times, this vicious weapon was used by enemies to split or decapitate Roman skulls.
The Apostle Paul was well aware that Satan attacks the mind of the believer with doubt and discouragement. Thus the helmet of salvation gives assurance, protecting the mind from enemy attacks suggesting doubts about salvation, the heavenly destination and the love of God.
Believers need the protection of the helmet because a wounded mind can be seriously damaging to the individual’s life and witness. Writing to the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul asked believers to "set your mind on things above" in order to ensure that they had a right focus in their lives.
The Bible is very clear about the functions of the helmet of salvation.
Firstly when believers wear it they are justified before God. This means that the moment a person trusts in Christ they can no longer be condemned by their sin. The Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans assures all believers that they are secure in their Heavenly Father’s hands: “…. there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Secondly, believers wearing the helmet of salvation are progressively sanctified. This means that as we live under God’s grace, sin no longer dominates our lives. Again this is illustrated by the Apostle in the Epistle to the Romans: “….. count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”
Thirdly, a key aspect of the believer’s salvation is their future glorification when we will be wholly saved from the presence of sin. Looking forward to this time the Apostle John in his first Epistle wrote: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure”.
True believers who wear the helmet of salvation every day can stand strong in the face of all doubt and discouragement. In the difficult spiritual environment of 21st century Scotland, that’s great news worth shouting about!