Salvation and the Spirit in Action
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand… Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:13,17 NIV Read More
This is the last part of putting on the full armor of God. A breastplate, belt, and boots all serve their purposes, but the last two carry a particular obligation. Despite all of the Jesus movies with towels on the heads of the good guys and Roman soldiers and their broom helmets, Roman soldiers only wore their helmets into battle. Typical life on the street in Jerusalem or elsewhere in the Roman colonies didn’t warrant the heavy armor of a helmet during day-to-day life.
Helmets were reserved for special action that required special safety precautions. Just like you don’t wear your rock climbing harness in your cubicle or take a headbanger’s pose during Oceans, you would only wear a helmet if you were about to go to war.
The sword is similar but even more direct. Helmet, belt, shoes, breastplate are all for the defense, but the sword is for the offense. Sure, you could use a sword to defend yourself, but that is not the point. It is sharp and pointed for a reason. To take it a step further, lances and spears were carried by Roman soldiers, but that is not what Paul compared the word of God to. After javelins were thrown, swords were used for face to face combat. Swords are for one-on-one contact with the enemy in the midst of a bigger fight.
I’ve heard other commentators say that the helmet of salvation was there to protect our mind from the enemy. I don’t want to discount that at all, because the salvation of Christ does make us think differently and help us to grow in wisdom. It shouldn’t be overlooked, however, that for Paul, our salvation results in the most intense levels of action. James would say As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26
Jesus has saved us and the continuing salvation of the world is part of the plan. Like Father Christmas says in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: ‘These are tools, not toys.’ Our salvation and the Holy Spirit are for our benefit, but not for the benefit of our vacation. Our salvation gives us a vocation of doing God’s work in the world, protected from the enemy, and sent to engage in the joyful spread of the Gospel face to face.
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