Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Been saved, being saved, will be saved
Salvation is a many-faceted, glorious reality which has time aspects attached to it. We’ve been saved – so we sing songs like ‘Happy day, oh, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away’ and ‘My chains fell off, my heart was free’. I often recall that day when, as a teenager, I first heard that you could be born again and was saved.
Then we’re being saved as a present day reality. We’re continually being rescued from ourselves – our foolishness, our bad reactions, our blind spots, the world, the flesh and the devil. God keeps on saving us and giving us grace to live to please him.
Ultimately, and in theological terms, salvation is a future occurrence, an eschatological event. It’s being saved from banishment from the presence of God in eternity. In reality, everything that happens to us is almost trivial compared with salvation from hell, judgment and the wrath of God on that final day. So in its fullest sense salvation is a future event for us all, a time when we’ll be saved into eternal delight and glory.
Here Paul exhorts us to put on the helmet of salvation. In Romans 13 he says, ‘Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.’ He’s referring to God’s cataclysmic judgment on the universe. Our salvation is getting closer and closer.
The hope of salvation
I remember the first time I flew and saw the dawn beginning to break. The sky was black and it was as though someone took a golden pen and drew a line across it. This beautiful golden line opened up and gradually the colour of the sky became deep blue. I was mesmerised by it, just watching the day that was about to break.
Speaking of salvation Paul says, ‘The night is far gone, day is at hand.’ Salvation is on its way. This short night will soon be over. Glory will break out. Paul urges us to put on the helmet of salvation. Elsewhere uses a different phrase and relates it to the future, ‘For a helmet take the hope of salvation’ (1 Thess. 5:8). We must put it on. In hope we’re saved.
In Romans 8 Paul questions, ‘Who hopes for what he already has?’ This reminds me of Christmas. A few days before Christmas the children seen the parcels under the tree and have great hopes. They’re tempted to touch the presents and long for different things. The reality is this: ‘the presents are not yours yet’. Likewise, we don’t hope for what we already have. Rather we must set [our] hope fully on the grace that’s coming to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ Even now we’re the sons of God but it doesn’t yet appear what we shall be.
I believe that the helmet of salvation refers to salvation in its fullest sense – eternal salvation, coming into the presence of God, being transformed into his likeness and being caught up in everlasting glory. Mother Theresa said, when we’ve been in eternal glory we’ll look back at our life on this earth as one night spent in a bad hotel. We’re entering into eternal gory. We’ll be changed and what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.
We won’t be swallowed up by death but by life. That’s our great salvation. That’s when all the enigmas will be put right and all the unanswered questions will find their answers. It will be a salvation that overshadows and overwhelms everything we’ve ever seen before. Here on earth we hear about the tragic death of people that we know the hounding of Christians in Afghanistan and martyrs in China. We think, ‘This is terrible’. But heartbreak will give way to salvation.
No turning back
There’s a salvation coming, so let’s be good soldiers. There’s an ultimate hope of salvation when we’ll be completely changed and have new bodies for the Spirit to live in. God has prepared things for us that haven’t even entered the heart of man – gifts under the Christmas tree that none of us could ever have dreamed of.
It’s a real battle and we must put on real armour. ‘Set your hope fully…’ says Paul. Maybe you battle with desperate situations that seem to have no solution. This word is for you: Set your hope fully on the grace that’s coming at the revelation of Christ. Salvation lies ahead for you.
You’re facing a battle, so be strong. You’ve got to be strong and take God’s armour seriously. Your armour must come from God and you must put it on. Realise this, its God’s armour and it doesn’t cover your back. In Psalm 78 we read, ‘The sons of Ephraim fully armed for battle turned back.’ You could write ‘shame’ in the margin. There are so many wonderful battles in the Bible, so why did these men turn back?
God has equipped you with everything that you need, so don’t run. God is committed to you and with his help you can fight.
This post was adapted from the 2nd of three sermons on the Armour of God preached at Together on a Mission 2010