… and take the helmet of salvation … (Ephesians 6:17a)
The helmet protects the head. Our mind, our thoughts, our imagination, our study, our convictions, our reason, our plans—all of these are guarded by the salvation that is ours in Christ.
We note again that this salvation is not our own doing. It is the work of Christ. Jesus is the Savior. We are the saved. It is the saving work of Christ that also protects our head.
Some Christians are tempted to disconnect the life of the mind with their life of faith. This is dangerous and wrong. Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Our mind is an important part of our Christian life of faith, love, and hope, and when Paul equips us with the helmet of salvation, he reminds us that the foundation of our thoughts and the regular object of our reflection is the salvation won for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Our minds, then, are not anxious about God’s wrath; we are not afraid of death, we are not scheming to sin or planning our attempts to get into heaven by our efforts. All of this has been accomplished. With these things settled, we are free to think and imagine, to study this cosmos and reflect on how we might bless and serve our neighbor.
In another letter, Paul speaks of the armor of God using a slightly different picture. In that place, he expands on the use of the helmet of salvation:
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:8-11)
Paul connects the helmet of salvation with hope. We set our minds not only on the things the Lord has done for us but also on the things to come that the Lord has promised. Salvation is the forgiveness of our sins, but it doesn’t stop there. Salvation is dying in the faith and coming to the beautiful vision of God, seeing Jesus face-to-face. Salvation is the resurrection on the Last Day and attaining the resurrection from the dead, the eternal life of the new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells. Salvation is being rescued from this valley of tears, from this life of trouble and all the assaults of the devil, the world, and the flesh.
Salvation is ours now, with more to come! Life will give way to more life. Hope, as opposed to fear and despair, is the mark of the Christian mind.
Bryan Woilfmueller, A Martyr’s Faith in a Faithless World, 78-79