“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” Ephesians 6:17
The helmet is the only article in the military equipment of ancient soldiers which has survived to the present day. Every soldier knows the importance of adequate protection for the head. This sovereign member of the human body, the citadel of intelligence and vital energy, must not be left uncovered.
So God in his unfathomable grace crowns his children with the gift that is, above all others, the gift of salvation. It is his to give. It is his right to decide who shall receive it. Salvation is all of God.
In the Bible this precious gift is represented in three tenses. We were saved, we are being saved, we shall be saved. It is therefore a full salvation, spanning the years from past to future, gathering riches with every passing day. Paul writes to the Philippians: “being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it (or ‘finish it’) until the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6). The idea expressed here is that the work of grace in the life of the believer is progressive. And the promise is that once God has begun this work he will go on completing it.
There is a beautiful relation between the figure of the soldier’s shoes and that of his helmet. How strange a warrior in ancient times would have appeared. if his head had been securely helmeted, but no boots had been on his feet. Helmets and bare feet do not go together. Similarly with the Christian; the helmet of salvation has a counterpart in the shoes for service. The one explains the other. Of what good are shoes for Christian service unless the wearer is himself a Christian? And on the other hand, how strange that one should wear the helmet of salvation, but no shoes for that service unto which he has been saved. We are saved to serve. Bare-footed Christians are difficult to explain! When we pray, “Let the glories of thy grace, O God, be seen in me”, we should remember that those glories are intended to reach down to the feet.
This truth has missionary application to the church as well as to the individual Christian. The church, too, must have shoes for service, and particularly missionary service. When a church no longer reaches out it passes out!
And what about the sword? The Bible is the Christian’s sword. Its author is the Holy Spirit. That fact in itself makes the Bible a true and trustworthy instrument. Rest assured that when you read the Bible, you are reading a book that is the product of God. And he always stands back of his products. When you study the doctrines of the Bible, you are being instructed by a Divine Teacher. And when you are given it as a weapon for warfare, you are provided with an implement of heavenly workmanship.
Make sure that you take the entire Word of God. A soldier in battle can do little with a sword’s hilt. Nor can he prevail with a broken sword. Christians must not entertain the notion that just so much of God’s Word need be used as may suit their convenience. We are not given such liberties with the Bible. All its doctrines, including those that demand the strictest self-denial and an avoidance of even the appearance of evil, are to be employed with diligence and devotion. We do not deny that there were progressive stages in revelation, the one proceeding upon the other, the light becoming brighter as redemptive history moved through the appointed ages and epochs. But even so, each was part of the whole, and the whole is made up of the parts. “All Scripture is profitable,” writes the apostle Paul (II Timothy 3:16).
Jesus in the wilderness used the sword of the Spirit against the tempter. “If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” At once the Master’s hand went to his sword, and he drew it forth. “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone.”
That was the sword in the hand of the apostolic church that demolished the fortifications of paganism. It was the sword in the hand of Luther, of Calvin, of Knox, and the other Reformers. Is it in your hand?
Let us pray that we may be made skillful in the use of it. A man who does not know how to carry and to manipulate a weapon is a source of danger to himself and to his fellow men, as well as defenseless before the enemy. The follies that have attended the mishandling of the Bible are almost as lamentable as the defeats that have occurred when it was not used at all.
Gracious God, we thank thee for the Bible. Bless us in the study of it, give wisdom and understanding in the use of it. Keep us hungry for its contents. Amen.