Bible Study Series: Ephesians - The Third Heaven Epistle
Ephesians 6:17 Bible Study - Helmet of Hope & the Sword of the Spirit
by I Gordon
Lately we've been talking about belts and shoes. Personally I find that these make all the difference in capturing 'the look' that is so important in this modern world. I mean, where would I be without my latest chic belt helping me stand out from the crowd?
Ok... don't fear... we aren't talking fashion accessories or any 'look' on this site! Believe me... if you are after fashion tips you've definitely come to the wrong person. When it comes to holding your pants up, find any belt you want. Who cares? But when it comes to faith and reality, only the belt of truth and the gospel of peace will do! And you can add into that the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith. These are the real accessories required for a believer. But there are more. Today we are just looking at one verse, Ephesians 6:17. We are talking helmets and swords today. These two often go together because the mind is were the battle is most fiercely waged. But more on that later.
So what are we going to explore... We'll ask (and with a bit of luck hopefully answer) the following:
- What is the Helmet of Salvation and how does it relate to hope?
- Why is it important today... of all days?
- What is this sword, the only offense weapon in our arsenal, and how do we use it?
- What are some examples where the helmet and sword were used in the Bible?
The Helmet - Protect that head of yours!
Eph 6:17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
So let's begin with this helmet. You don't need to be Einstein to know that the helmet protected the head. And you're not jumping to the top of the class if you know that the head is, well, important. Much of the Christian's battle goes on in the mind and thought life. It is the major battle zone. And, quite frankly, this helmet is needed more than ever in our day. I've spoken about this before but there is an onslaught of lies and propaganda on all levels today. It is within our Governments, our Schools and sadly, even our churches. In this crazy age (which was prophesied about in the Bible) the helmet is needed more than ever to guard the mind and protect the ability to think and reason sanely! Unfortunately we are living in a day where common sense is not very common anymore! The Bible is clear on the battle that goes on in the mind. For the unbeliever it is certainly not looking good except for the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit to draw and convict. Their mind, scripture tells us, is corrupt (1 Tim 6:5), dull (2 Cor 3:14), depraved (Rom 1:28), hostile to God (Rom 8:6-7) and blinded (2 Cor 4:4). The enemy has the mind of the unbelievers. And though he has ultimately lost the war for believers, he continues the fight. Thus the battle in the mind of the believer rages on. Scripture tells us:
2 Cor 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. (4) The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (5) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Consider the words of Pastor Ray Stedman who wrote this in 1965 during the midst of the Vietnam war. They were days of uncertainty and propaganda, and the questions raised are very relevant for our day too.
This helmet can keep our thinking straight and preserve us from mental confusion and darkness. Stop a minute here. I would like to ask you this: As you look at the world in which we are living, is there anything more desperately needed than this? Is there anything which could possibly be more relevant to the situation in which we find ourselves than this factor which will keep us thinking straight? Was there ever a time when men were more frankly bewildered than they are in our day, or when statesmen were more openly confused and honestly admitting it? The intelligentsia confess being utterly baffled in dealing with the problems with which human society is confronted.
Pastor Ray Stedman
The so-called 'intelligentsia' today have a solution. They have placed all their bets on global government and to get there they need to first implement 'the great reset' and then, in their words, 'build back better'. In all of the coming chaos and change, one thing is certain - you need the helmet of salvation firmly in place! So what is this helmet and what salvation is it speaking of? You probably know that salvation in the Bible for the believer is threefold - past, present and future.
- Past - You have been saved by grace through faith and are spiritually reborn. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Your spirit is alive! You are saved from the penalty of sin. In the Bible, this is called justification. (Eph 2:8, Rom 5:1)
- Present - You are being saved. This is an ongoing process where your soul (mind, will and emotions) is continually renewed and saved from the power of sin. This is sanctification. (Rom 5:10, 1 Cor 1:18)
- Future - You will be saved. There is a day coming, hopefully soon, when your body will be transformed to be like Jesus' resurrection body and you will forever, in one moment, be saved and free from the presence of sin for evermore! This is glorification. Bring it on! (Rom 8:23, Phil 3:21, 1 John 3:2)
So when Paul tells us to put on the helmet of salvation, which aspect of salvation is he speaking of? It is not so much our past salvation1 that occurred when we were born again because that is already complete and is not put on again. I believe Paul speaks of the present and future aspects of salvation. He is not looking back but forward. This is brought out more clearly in the following two scriptures:
1Th 5:8-9 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (9) For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rom 13:11-12 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (12) The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Did you see that? Paul writes of 'the hope of salvation as a helmet'. Our helmet is a helmet of hope. This is, it a confident assurance that guards the mind in troubling times. Sometimes we feel like the Psalmist who wrote:
Psa 55:2-5 Hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.
That is when we need the helmet of hope. It gives confidence for today based on the faithfulness of God for tomorrow. It replaces every lie, doubt and fear that the enemy tries to sow in the mind with hope and truth based on the confident assurance of God's salvation. And that involves hope for the present day and our final salvation on that great day - the day of the blessed hope, the day of His return!
Biblical examples - Attacks on the mind
It might be useful to explore a few examples where God's people have come under an attack within the mind to see how this works. Can you think of any examples? Can you remember any times in the Bible where an enemy (or 'the' enemy) has tried a mind attack? Some classic examples that come to mind include the following:
- Eve - We have spoken several times how the enemy came to her twisting God's words, causing doubt on God's word and character. And while she tried to repel this attack using God's word (the sword), she misquoted God.
- King David & Israel - Who has not read of the mental torture through fear that Goliath inflicted upon all of Israel? Except for David that is! Look at the effect of Goliath's presence and words upon Israel: "Then the Philistine said, "This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other." On hearing the Philistine's words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified." (1Sa 17:10-11)
- King Hezekiah - During this godly King's reign, the King of Assyria came to lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem as I mentioned in the last study. You can hear the hiss of the serpent as he begins the mind attack saying things like 'Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, 'The LORD will deliver us.' Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?' (Isa 36:18)
- Nehemiah - When Nehemiah embarked on his God given task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem it wasn't long before the attacks came. Three prominent enemies in Sanballat, Geshem and Tobiah arose and used mocking, fear and threats to try accomplish their goal,
- Elijah - With Jezebel's threats to kill him constantly in his mind, even the great Elijah ran and hid, isolated, thinking he alone was left of God's people - 'There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty... I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." (1Ki 19:9-10)
- Jesus - the Devil came to Jesus with temptations and mind tricks of all types... Yet lost!
So what are the types of thoughts that the enemy speaks? He (and your own fallen nature) will say:
|The enemy says
||Example (& what God says/did)
|'You are weak and useless'
||That was the battle Gideon had when God called him against the might of the Midianites. 'But God I'm a nobody! I'm the youngest in the smallest family in the smallest tribe in Israel! You have got the wrong guy!' And yes, God used that nobody incredibly!
|'You have sinned too many times...
God won't forgive you anymore'
|The Prodigal son in Jesus' story would have thought that. 'I don't even deserve to be thought of as a son anymore. I'll return as a lowly servant'. And yet he found great grace, forgiveness and acceptance with his Father.
|Nobody is coming to help you'
||This was the battle raging in the minds of Hezekiah and his men as they listened to the hiss of the enemy's words. Sennacherib, The King of Assyria was powerful indeed, naturally speaking. And yet there was One who came to Hezekiah's aid and sorted this problem very quickly! (More on this in the next study)
|'You have no purpose in life'
||I bet Moses battled with this after leaving his life of royalty in Egypt to live 40 years as a shepherd in the wilderness. You can possibly hear it in the naming of his first son Gershom saying, "I have become an alien in a foreign land." (Ex 2:22) And yet God still had an incredible plan and purpose for this man Moses that would make him famous for all time!
|'You'll never get free from your past'
||I'm sure the wicked King Manasseh battled with these thoughts as he lay chained in a cold Babylonian dungeon pondering his wicked past. And yet we read 'In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.' (2Ch 33:12-13)
|'God doesn't love or accept you'
||Peter may have wondered this after denying the Lord three times, and then being asked by Jesus three times whether he loved Him. And yet Peter soon learned the answer as Jesus then commissioned him to be a Shepherd and to 'feed my sheep'
|'The future is hopeless'
||That was Elijah in the cave thinking he alone is the last of God's people left and now they are coming to kill him. But he found that God had reserved 7000 for Himself!
We all battle in our minds with thoughts of one type or another do we not? 'You are useless!' 'You've made the same mistake again???' 'No one is coming to help'... Remember that the helmet is the hope of salvation.
When the pressure is on, saturate yourself with God's word and praise. I was speaking to a friend yesterday who is faced with losing her job, and career, this week due to vaccine mandates. The pressure is on. Yet I was encouraged to hear her say that when things start to become too much she turns on music and renews her mind, singing praise to God. This is really encouraging and so biblical! I was reading the other night what David did when on the run from King Saul. David's life was on the line as he ran and hid in caves. During this time he wrote a few Psalms and one of those was Psalm 57. Listen to what he says. First we see the reality of the battle going on before telling his soul to awake and sing!
Psa 57:4-8 I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts-- men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. (5) Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. (6) They spread a net for my feet-- I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path-- but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah (7) My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. (8) Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.
'Awake' - he said to himself! Wake up gloomy soul and praise! I will start the new day and awaken the dawn with singing to God. Good advice!
There is always hope with God for He is the God of hope. But in connection with this all important helmet comes our only offense weapon... the sword - which is the word of God! Here is something that used correctly strikes fear into the heart of the enemy.
Offense! The Sword of the Spirit
Eph 6:17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
So far all of the pieces of the Christian's armor have been for defense. That have been to block and prevent the attacks and flaming arrows of the enemy. Yet God has also given us a sword. This is the word of God, and specifically scripture given through the Spirit for the occasion. It can be used for defense to parry an attack but more importantly for offense. The Bible is clear that:
'... the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.' (Heb 4:12)
The use of God's word as a sword against the enemy is seen well in Christian's battle with Apollyon in Pilgrim's Progress. I mentioned this battle in the last study but we didn't get to see how it ended. Did our hero survive? Did Christian make it through this devilish attack? How remiss of me not to tell you sooner! Let's rectify that mistake now! We pick up the story near the end of the battle...
"This mortal combat lasted for above half a day, until Christian grew weaker and weaker because of his many wounds. Then Apollyon, spying his opportunity, began to move closer to Christian, wrestling with him until Christian fell to the ground. With that, Christian’s sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, “I have you now!” and almost crushed Christian to death, so that Christian began to despair of life. But as God would have it, while Apollyon lifted himself up to deliver his last blow and to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly stretched out his hand for his sword and grabbed it, saying, “Rejoice not against me, O my enemy: when I fall, I shall rise back up.”
With that, Christian gave Apollyon a deadly thrust, which made the fiend fall back as one who had received a mortal wound. Christian, seeing his advantage, thrust his sword at him again, saying, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him who loved us.” When he heard those words, Apollyon spread out his dragon wings and flew away, and Christian saw him no more."
John Bunyan expresses this battle well showing how Christian quoted scripture to attack the enemy. Note also that at one time the enemy had knocked the sword out of Christian's hand - be careful of this. When trials arise and fill your heart with doubts and fear go to God's word. Go to the God of the word. Pick up your sword and make sure you have scripture and promises from the Lord that you can use to resist the enemy. Again we should note that this sword is the sword of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will impress scriptures upon your heart that are just right for the time at hand. I know He has done that with me. There have been many times over the years that He has given me a specific verse or promise for the troubled time I have found myself in. And having received that word, I then have to repeatedly remember and speak it out. This of course is what our Lord Jesus did. For every doubt and temptation that the Devil put to Him, Jesus was clear - 'It is written!' was the answer. Jesus, the Word of God2, used His own specific and relevant word against the enemy. This is the true sword of the Spirit.
Another example of this is in the classic David & Goliath story. I mentioned David facing Goliath earlier and the taunts that Goliath made to cause fear amongst the Israelites, and even, if possible, in David's mind. Naturally speaking, Goliath was very intimidating. Scripture describes him and his weapons as follows:
1Sa 17:5-7 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; (6) on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. (7) His spear shaft was like a weaver's rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.
And yet David came out to meet him without any armor because Saul's armor didn't fit him! Or did he? He didn't have any physical armor but he certainly came out ready in the armor of God! He came out swinging his spiritual sword using the name and word of God. Listen again to the encounter:
1Sa 17:41-47 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. (42) He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him. (43) He said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. (44) Come here, he said, "and I'll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!" (45) David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (46) This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. (47) All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give all of you into our hands."
Goliath may have had fearful words, but David had The Word direct from the Spirit of God. Goliath may have had a large sword and javelin, but David had a spiritual double edged sword and the power of the Spirit that Goliath knew nothing about. But he soon would!
We have looked at the helmet and the sword today and I hope you can see the connection between the two. The battle rages in the mind so the helmet of hope must be worn. The doubts, lies and fears of the enemy in our minds are overcome through this helmet and the word of God, given through the Holy Spirit, which is our sword. Let met close with the lyrics of a recent song called 'You say' which expresses both the battle and the need to replace the lies with the truth. The opening verse encapsulates this battle going on in the mind and shows the need for the helmet of salvation. The chorus then brings in the sword of the Spirit replacing our (or the enemy's) thoughts with the truth of God's word. (And I'll add a few scriptures when the sword gets waved!)
I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I'm not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know
You say I am loved when I can't feel a thing (1 John 3:1, John 17:23, Eph 2:4-7)
You say I am strong when I think I am weak (2 Cor 12:9-10, Phil 4:12-13)
And You say I am held when I am falling short (John 10:27-29, Psalm 37:23-25, Isa 41:10)
And when I don't belong, oh You say I am Yours (Isa 43:1, Isa 44:5, John 17:6, Rom 8:15)
And I believe, oh I believe, What You say of me, I believe
So... we have now completed our studies in spiritual warfare and the armor of God... right? Not so fast my friend. Another weapon remains. A most powerful one. One called 'All-prayer' which will be the focus of the next study.
Until then... God Bless!