Today we’re wrapping up the official listing of the “Armor of God,” although prayer is typically lumped in with this section in vss. 18-20. The last two pieces of armor Paul lists in vs. 17, as you undoubtedly just read, are the “helmet of salvation” and the “sword of the Spirit.”
What’s Paul referring to with the first piece? Well, per usual, MacArthur puts it much better than I can: “The helmet protected the head, always a major target in battle. Paul is speaking to those who are already saved, and is therefore not speaking here about attaining salvation. Rather, Satan seeks to destroy a believer's assurance of salvation with his weapons of doubt and discouragement . . . Satan wants to curse the believer with doubts, but the Christian can be strong in God's promises of eternal salvation in Scripture (see Jn 6:37-39; 10:28, 29; Ro 5:10; 8:31-39; Phl 1:6; 1Pe 1:3-5). Security is a fact; assurance is a feeling that comes to the obedient Christian.”
That’s the important thing to keep in mind. Our salvation in Christ is not something that we can “take off” or something we need to “put on” before our battles. But. . . we can lose our assurance that we’re saved. When we’re disobedient and don’t repent, one of the first things we can lose is our assurance. We know, in our heart of hearts, that what we’re doing is incompatible with being a follower of Christ, and we can’t help wondering if we really belong to him.
Another passage that I think illuminates it is 1 Thes. 5:8, which has a kind of “Armor of God” theme in extreme miniature: “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” In that verse, Paul says that it’s our hope of salvation which is our helmet we need to put on and wear. Remember, there are at least three senses in which we’re saved, the three “tenses” of salvation: 1) We were saved from the punishment of sin when we placed our faith in Christ (also known as justification), 2) We’re saved day by day from the power of sin as we tap into the power of the Spirit and utilize the tools he provides (aka sanctification), and 3) We'll one day be saved from the very presence of sin when we either go to Christ in death or he comes to us as he returns to earth (aka glorification). Our hope of salvation would fall into the 3rd category.
According to this interpretive theory (shared by me and others), we’re supposed to go into battle with our ultimate victory “protecting” our heads (in other words, keeping it in the forefront of our thoughts). This is certainly consistent with the facts: If we go into battle knowing that it’s the Enemy’s Kingdom which is under siege, knowing that our future’s secure whatever happens, and knowing that our Lord’s victorious return is near, that makes all the difference. So whether Paul’s referring to our assurance of present salvation or future salvation, we need to focus on our thoughts on that and let it guard our head.
Then we come to the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This is the only piece of our armor which can be used offensively, everything else is only defensive. This is the weapon we use to take the fight to the Enemy and actually wound him and make him hurt. You want to make Satan wish he hadn’t come close to you? Quote the word of God, either to him or around him. When our Savior encountered the Adversary in the wilderness, he could’ve dismissed the Enemy with a word of command. He didn’t: He countered each temptation with a quote from Scripture (each quote from Deuteronomy, btw). We know from personal experience that the our Lord’s word is “[sharper] than any double-edged sword, [penetrating] even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. . .[judging] the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” That’s how laser-sharp it is. When the word of God is turned against me, I feel it. So think about that sharpness being turned against the Enemy of your soul, and smile.
But just like the rest of our armor, a sword does absolutely no good in a display case. In order to quote it back to the Enemy and wound him, you have to know it. That means reading it daily. It means meditating on it. That means memorizing passages which address your weak areas. That means faithfully plugging into a church where it’s preached and taught.
I think we can all stand to sharpen our sword-fighting skills, don’t you?
Lord Jesus, I thank you for my salvation, past, present, and future. It’s all from you. And help me to read, understand, apply, and use your word. I want to make my Enemy wince, and you smile.