In part five of this occasional series on the armour of God, we learn how comprehensive our salvation really is.
Either we’ve said it, or it’s been said to us—will you please just make up your mind! Maybe it’s choosing an ice cream flavour, a new pair of shoes, a television channel—or something far more serious like a university course, vocation or even a life partner; either way there are numerous times throughout life when we must bite the bullet and make up our minds.
When we make up our mind about who Jesus is and what we really believe about him, our lives are changed. In fact, the benefits of choosing to follow Christ are far-reaching and infuse every aspect of our lives in wonderful and liberating ways. Sadly, though, some believers are content just to receive salvation and the promise of eternal life, but miss out on experiencing the fullness of salvation as they grow as disciples while here on earth. Don’t get me wrong, eternal life is a fantastic benefit of salvation—but there’s so much more!
In the book Armour of God, by Priscilla Shirer, it says that God intends for us to receive his gift of salvation, and then apply it to our lives. ‘Salvation is not just about redemption. It’s not just a ticket to eternity. Salvation is also meant to be applied so we can walk in liberation because we have been redeemed by the cross of Calvary. Salvation is meant to re-orientate our whole identity and then implement a whole new way of thinking into our daily lives. Salvation is also a defensive, protective device.’
In Ephesians 6:17, the Apostle Paul tells us to, ‘put on the helmet of salvation’. It’s important to remember that in the brief verses making up Ephesians 6:10–17, Paul’s using the individual pieces of armour as symbols to summarise what he’s already talked about at length earlier in his letter. Paul spends most of chapter 1 and 2 of Ephesians outlining the nature and benefits of salvation. And he certainly wasn’t talking about a one-off event! Paul was explaining what Shirer calls the ‘comprehensive cover’ of salvation.
We all know that to be given a course of antibiotics by the doctor is one thing, but taking them is a whole other story. Receiving something does not mean we will experience the benefits that only using it can give us. Priscilla explains that:
The salvation experience is often reduced to something that only affects a person’s eternal destiny. And to be clear, the fact that it does affect the outcome of eternity gives us incredible hope. In fact, part of what it means to wear the helmet of salvation is to live every day in the light of eternity and the promised future we have. Doing so will, without a doubt, change the way we live in the present.
While the future implications of our salvation are critical and give us astounding hope, this is not the totality of what it offers. If salvation was only meant to give us a ticket to eternity, what good would it do us now while we’re still on earth? Do we sit around waiting, living out our days until some future moment when the Lord returns or we go to heaven, whichever happens first?
Absolutely not! God has more for us! More for us to experience his love and grace and freedom, and more for us to do in partnership with him for our personal growth, for the benefit of others and the world he loves. But as we saw in the last instalment of this series with the shield of faith, when we move forward into what God has for us, we will face opposition. Just as the enemy knows the power of faith and sends flaming arrows to distract us, he also tries to mess with our minds by building strongholds in our thinking. But we can put on salvation like a helmet which shields us from the enemy’s attacks.
...the benefits of choosing to follow Christ are far-reaching and infuse every aspect of our lives in wonderful and liberating ways.
But how does this work? It all comes down to this idea of ‘comprehensive cover’, which the illustration of the helmet makes clear. Made of bronze-covered iron, a soldier’s helmet was essentially a skullcap. Called a ‘galea’, the helmet of a Roman legionnaire fitted well and was designed to protect the soldier’s skull and brain from a lethal broadsword assault. (A broadsword was a heavy weapon, about 1.2 metres long, and it required the use of two hands to be held aloft. Strategically aimed and with sufficient force, such a blow could kill instantly.)
Not only did the helmet protect the head, but hinged pieces were attached providing cheek guards and a flared neck guard. This is the ‘comprehensive cover’ Priscilla references.
In theological terms, what we’re talking about here can be explained reasonably simply. Priscilla puts it brilliantly when she says, ‘Salvation is not just a past-tense event (justification) with future-tense implications. As we live underneath its blessing, we enjoy a vibrant, living, daily reality in the present (sanctification). And this is not just a one-time occurrence. Sanctification is a process by which we are continually delivered from the wrath of God on earth, fortified against the enemy’s attacks, and molded into the image of Christ as our minds are renewed.’
It’s no accident that Paul aligns salvation with something that protects our heads. His choice of helmet as a symbol for salvation is powerful. Both scripture and science affirm that our thinking directly influences our actions. Understanding the fullness of salvation is vital to overcoming the enemy’s attacks and fortifying our minds against his lies and schemes.
Unlike salvation which we simply and gratefully receive, sanctification is a process that we must cooperate with and participate in. In The Salvation Army we like to say we are, ‘saved by the blood, and sanctified by the fire (of the Holy Spirit)’. Full salvation, or sanctification, is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, purifying us and empowering us to know and do God’s will.
As The Salvation Army, we’re fairly good at proclaiming the gospel of salvation. It’s what we were raised up by God to do. He cleverly ensured our job description wouldn’t be forgotten or mistaken by writing it into our name. But our salvation is more than a calendar date recording when we made up our minds about Jesus and chose to follow him. It was a big deal—a headliner in the event schedule, but not the whole show season —far from it.
Just as a wedding day is the beginning of a marriage, the day we make up our minds about Christ and start following him, is the beginning of a whole new life. Te Ope Whakaora ‘The Army That Brings Life’ expresses this so beautifully. Life is an ongoing invitation to keep making our minds up about Christ—to be sanctified every day—until the day we see him face to face—our minds completely and fully made up.
Read: Part 6 (Final instalment)