The Helmet of Salvation
Scripture: Isaiah 26
Text: Ephesians 6:17
Sermon by Rev. Harry Bout
Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Bowmanville, Ontario, 1985
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 2, No.6
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Especially in recent years, all sorts of studies have proven that protective headwear is essential to prevent serious injuries. A series of laws have been passed that make it mandatory for motorcyclists to wear helmets. Also in the field of sports, we see all these things more and more now than we used to. But of course this was something that was already known to the ancients thousands of years ago: that indeed protective headwear was a must. Soldiers had been wearing headwear for many centuries.
That’s why it is not surprising that the piece of Roman armor that Paul uses by way of background for the Christian armor is a helmet. This helmet is called “the helmet of salvation.” That is what we want to focus on today. You already know about the shield of faith. What a wonderful shield that is! It keeps us so busy doing the things of the Lord and keeps us so near to our Lord that we almost don’t have time to doubt and worry. It gives us great courage, as we saw with Abraham, Noah, Enoch, and all the great saints that we find in Hebrews 11. Even with all the persecution that they endured, they were able to quench the fires of Satan with that shield.
But now we look at the helmet of salvation. What is it going to do for us as a very vital piece of armor? First of all, let us consider the meaning of the word salvation itself. Secondly, we will see who administers this salvation; who brings it to us. Then thirdly, we can understand from that how it functions as a piece of armor which protects us.
Salvation comes from the word to save. To save has the meaning of to be roomy, to have space, to not be closed in, to have a broad and wide open space to live in. It’s the very opposite of being confined and constricted, or being oppressed.
If you just think for a moment about some of the things that are oppressing or confining in life, then perhaps we first of all think of sickness, being confined to a bed, or just not being able to move out of our room. We may think perhaps of being poor, in the sense that we are restricted with what we can buy, or where we can travel. Slavery is another form of oppression, being restricted to only do somebody else’s will, rather than having the freedom to exercise our own wills. We have all these examples throughout scripture — the poor, those who are in slavery, and those who are sick. Again and again, those are sort of the general characterizations of those who are in need of deliverance.
Of course we know that all these forms of oppression go back to one cause, and that is sin. Sin is the root of all oppression, be it sickness, slavery, or whatever else. It confines us even while we are alive, and finally it puts us into a box and it buries us into the ground. “When sin has conceived, it brings forth death.” That’s the way it has always been, ever since Adam fell into sin. That great oppression has continued: sin, death, and hell itself.
Hell is the greatest form of oppression. It’s the greatest form of confinement, because there is no freedom of expression. There is no freedom of speech in hell. There is no freedom of religion, no freedom of any kind, no personal privacy. There is no freedom to be joyful, or freedom to love, or freedom to experience all those qualities which we enjoy so much now. One is restricted entirely to pain, sorrow, bitterness, gnashing of teeth, and hatred. Again and again in scripture, hell is defined in that way. It is the utmost of oppression and confinement, because in hell the fury of godlessness is, as it were, entirely out of control, which will continue forever and ever.
Congregation, that’s why when we think of salvation and what that means, and what it means in terms of what we’re delivered from — the oppression and confinement of hell — then how thankful we can be for a Savior! He is the one who has set us free from that terrible oppression which hell is, not only for a time, but forever and ever.
It is the state of being saved, and that is what He grants unto His own. That means that all those different forms of oppression are gone. The privilege of salvation is that you begin to experience that wonderful new freedom there is in Christ Jesus; He brings us into that. He brings us out of oppression and confinement and into that new freedom in Jesus Christ. He brings us out of that grave, that box, out of eternal death. He brings us into eternal life, where there is unlimited freedom to be able to do all the wonderful things, and experience all the wonderful qualities of life that the Lord has created for His people.
Here is just a small example of night and day, or light and darkness. You know when things are dark you can no longer discern sizes or shapes. You can no longer see the things that are dear to you and the faces that are very precious to you. All the shapes and sizes and colors are gone. The birds stop singing at nighttime. That is just a very small picture of how everything is reduced to a certain confinement in darkness. Imagine for a moment what this means in terms of eternal darkness, which throughout Scripture is always characterized in that way — eternal darkness versus eternal light. As soon as the light comes on, the birds begin to sing, you can begin to discern colors, shapes, and sizes, and you can begin to all of a sudden see life. It just all of a sudden comes into being, as it were. All the wonderful things that God has created, you can begin to enjoy as life.
That’s the way it is with salvation as well. When Jesus Christ brings salvation He gives us life, and all the wonderful things that come with that, the things that are so very dear and so very precious.
In Luke 1, Zachariah talks about “salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us.” Congregation, that’s the way it is with Satan. That’s the way it is with the enemies of God’s people. You read that in the Old Testament. Again and again there is that tremendous fear that the enemy is only after one thing and that is your life: to cut you off from the land of the living, and to bring you into Sheol or Hades, the Old Testament terms for hell. You see, Jesus Christ has delivered us from this.
Again and again throughout the Old Testament, we see that the Lord is the one who goes to battle for His people. Isaiah 59 pictures how the Lord goes out to battle for His people, putting on righteousness as His breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on His head. That’s an Old Testament picture of Jesus Christ, already coming as the king who goes to battle for His people. In Exodus 14, Moses told a fearful Israel to stand firm for “the Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still. You will not see the Egyptians again.” And they didn’t, because the Lord destroyed them. The Lord gave them room and freedom. They weren’t confined and restricted to the enemy king any longer.
So we find throughout scripture that the primary task of the king is to deliver his people. He is to set his people free and make sure that they stay free. It’s a very unfaithful king who either abandons or restricts his people to a new bondage, or a very weak king who is not able to deliver his people from the enemy each time. How thankful we can be that Jesus Christ is neither an unfaithful king nor a weak king! The salvation that He brings is indeed like none other, for He delivers us from all oppression.
Zechariah 9:9 says, “Shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem! Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion. See your King comes — righteous, and having salvation.” Isaiah says of Him, “He will proclaim peace to the nations, and His rule extends from sea to sea, to the ends of the earth.” Congregation, we cannot forget that this is our salvation, which is given to us by our king Jesus, who has gone to battle for us. “I will bring near My righteousness; it shall not be far off. And my salvation shall not tarry. I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel, my glory,” says the Lord in Isaiah 46:13.
Very briefly, against this background of what salvation means and who has brought us that salvation, our king Jesus Christ, let us now consider thirdly:
What does this helmet of salvation really do for us? That is why we are turning to chapter 26 of Isaiah today. In verse one he says that we have a strong city. It is strong because God makes salvation its walls and its ramparts, and He will “keep in peace all those whose mind is stayed on Thee,” verse three. In order to be ready for battle, our salvation is not something that we can doubt.
It’s true that every soldier who enters into battle will be fearful, but you cannot be fearful about salvation, or uncertain about your salvation. The equivalent of the walls of Zion, the city of God in the Old Testament, is the church of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. You must have this kind of assurance of salvation. You cannot be wondering whether or not you are saved, and be in that kind of doubt constantly. There has to be a certainty of your salvation, because that will give you the kind of confidence and security that is expressed here in verse three: “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” The reason for confidence is that the Lord is the everlasting strength (verse 4).
We have to know this, because, as Isaiah goes on in verse 13, “0 Lord our God, other lords besides Thee have had dominion over us.” Notice that — “have had dominion over us,” in the past tense. At one time they were ruled by other kings, but not anymore. Now Israel has experienced their deliverance from the dominion of other kings. The Lord has come and set them free, and has made them His own.
The context in chapter 26 is that in the last verse of chapter 25, Moab, an enemy of the Lord, had very high fortresses, and what does the Lord do? He will bring down those tremendous high fortresses, which had been such a threat to God’s people in Israel. They will be laid low. You see, in Moab, they have a city that looks very good, but the Lord will destroy it, because it is not made out of salvation. But this city has walls of salvation. “We have a strong city. Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.”
That’s why here in these first few verses of chapter 26, Isaiah is moved to compose a song. This is actually a song: “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah." And he’s basing this song on what he said earlier in chapter 25 verses 8 and 9. Look: “He will swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off their faces and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off the earth: for the Lord has spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord, we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation." He’s repeating the same thing twice, he’s so excited about it.
The Lord of his salvation is going to wipe away their tears. He is bringing salvation. Isaiah is looking for a time when there will be a great victory and great deliverance, and he is very confident that it will happen. Already in chapter 24 he said, “The Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem before His saints, gloriously.” He already pictures the king in Zion.
So often Israel had to go in exile. So often Israel had to be put in bondage and had felt the oppression from other nations, every time they followed in one error or another. Isaiah prophetically is looking forward to a city where this will not happen again. He is looking for a time when this city will be so strong, and they will be able to come to this city at any time. That is what Isaiah is singing about, because he is already envisioning that.
What kind of city is that? A city whose walls are so strong that they are far greater than those made out of mortar and block. It is salvation that gives it the strength. It is salvation that they can stand on, as it were, and look out. From that point of strength, they can stand on the walls and look out on their enemies with great confidence. That is the kind of city Isaiah pictures. Even as we build our homes with very strong walls, so Isaiah realizes the kind of strong city the Lord is building with ramparts. Ramparts were small walls that were fitted into the long walls to give it even greater strength. The Lord has appointed salvation for that.
What Isaiah is really seeing is a city that is not yet inhabited in his time. This is a brand new city; a city that the Lord is building for His people. Actually, it’s like the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden was perfect and complete for Adam and Eve to move in; for those special people that God created for that new home. That is what Isaiah is already seeing. This new city is built on a corner stone, Jesus Christ. He has laid the foundation, and now as the righteous are approaching this city, what do they say? (verse 2) “Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.”
When Adam and Eve sinned there were angels as gate keepers so that they could not re-enter the Garden of Eden. The cherubims had to chase them away. Here again Isaiah sees, as it were, the angels as gatekeepers of this new city also. Now this saint is crying out, as it were, to those angels, “Open the gates!”
What kind of confidence is this? These are the pilgrims who have come from all over the world, weary and worn out, and they have finally come now to this city of Zion which the Lard has prepared especially for them. They cry out to the gatekeepers very confidently. They now have the right to enter into that city. They lost that right in the Garden of Eden, but now they have that right again, and very confidently they cry out to the gatekeepers to let them in.
What gives them this confidence? Well, verse 2 explains it. These have been made righteous. They are wearing the breastplate of righteousness. They are standing in a right and proper relation to the law, justice and to the Lord of holiness. Where have they received this kind of righteousness? They have received it from the king of the city, the very same king who reigns and rules in this Zion. He is the king who has prepared this city for them, and He is the one who has also declared them righteous.
They come from all over. Chapter 24, verse 16 says, “From the uttermost parts of the earth we have heard songs, even glory to the righteous.” These are a very, very happy people. They are singing and they are joyful. They are not oppressed; they have been set free. These are the ones who have experienced what salvation really means. Why? Verse 8 of chapter 25 explains it: “The rebuke of this people He will take away from all the earth.” These are the ones who have not been rejected in judgment, but whom the Lord has saved, and He has set them free from death, sin and hell. They are the ones who are keeping the truth. Isaiah already saw these righteous in chapter 1 verse 26: “The city of righteousness, the faithful city, Zion will be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.” All those who are made righteous from all the ends of the earth may come to the gates of this city and cry out boldly, “Open ye the gates!”
Congregation, all this Old Testament language here in Isaiah is just a beautiful description of what the church of Jesus Christ should be. All the very same ingredients of faithfulness, of righteousness, of salvation and of truth are the very pieces of armor that describe the Christian, not just as an individual, but as congregations, as a church, as the body of Christ. All the same qualities that characterize Zion and Jerusalem in the Old Testament as the city of God, speak also of the Church as the city of the living God.
What is it that makes it so strong? It is the walls of salvation. Salvation is the walls and the ramparts. It is not first of all your orthodoxy, or your great ability to learn, or your discernment, or your faithfulness, or because you refrain from dancing, or refrain from a number of other things, or because you have all the doctrines straight. All that is fine and wonderful when you are living inside the city. But that is not the strength of this city. You do not build on that. The only wall that will support the church and give it the strength and protection it needs is salvation. “Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks,” says Isaiah in chapter 26 verse 1. These gates are set in the walls of salvation, and not in anything else. But the gates through which you must enter into the city are set in the walls of the city. You must pass through salvation in order to enter into the city. Since salvation gives us our absolute freedom, how we can thank God for it? That is what enables us to go into battle.
Now we can understand why this helmet of salvation is so crucial in our lives. If once we have entered into the gates, once we can stand on the walls from that position of strength, then we can go to battle.
See the description that Paul uses. Paul must have watched these Roman soldiers that were in his home or jail. He must have watched them get dressed numerous times. That is why there is the sort-of sequence in Ephesians 6 verse 16. First you begin by putting on your belt, then the breastplate, then the sandals, and finally, you get to the helmet. It was the custom that you wouldn’t put your helmet on until you were actually on the battlefield, and until you were in position to do battle. Then you would put on your helmet, signaling that the battle would begin. As the soldiers were lining up in their places across from one another, the last thing they would do would be to put on their helmets, and then the fighting would begin.
Congregation, with ourselves, the sandals, belt, and breastplate are fine and wonderful in themselves. But the Christian also needs the helmet to really go to battle. The strength and security of the church is in its salvation. Never forget that. It is not what we have done in the past or will do in the future, or not even what our forefathers have done, or what our grandchildren will do as far as the church is concerned (of course we trust that the Lord directed them and will direct us), but it is first and foremost what Jesus Christ has done as our king. He is the one who has brought salvation, says Zechariah. He is the one who will save us. “We have waited for Him,” says Isaiah. “We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
Congregation, that’s the way it is with you as well. Are you rejoicing in your salvation? Every day? Are you rejoicing that you are saved? That the Lord has done this for you also? You should be, obviously. You should be rejoicing in what Jesus Christ has done for you. And then you can sing this song that Isaiah has written, a song of the redeemed. Are you looking for a city whose builder and maker is God, as Hebrews 11 verse 10 says? There is that kind of city. But have you entered it? Have you gone through the walls? Have you cried out to the angels, “Open ye the gates!” It is not in my righteousness, but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I have the privilege, and I am able now to enter in.
Then you can sing this refrain: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.” What a beautiful refrain that is! When you are standing on the walls of salvation, then indeed you can go to battle. You can put on that helmet. When that helmet is firmly in place, when you know that King Jesus has won the battle, it gives you tremendous courage to go forth.
He is the king. He entered first. Jesus Christ has gone through the greatest enemy of all. As the kings would always lead their people into battle, so Jesus Christ has led us into that great battle, and He has won the victory. “0 grave, where is thy victory; death, where is your sting?” It is gone — Christ has gained the victory for us.
Those are the walls of salvation, which will guard and protect you. Of course the battle will get fierce. The enemy will surround you at different times, and you are going to feel very exposed, isolated and vulnerable. It may even seem that there are just too many of them. But with that helmet of salvation, no matter what the enemy will throw at you, you are safe, because the walls of salvation will protect you.
Keep your eyes fixed on those gates that are open for you through Jesus Christ. When faith will be turned into sight, that is the day that you will begin to experience, in a newer and fuller way, the freedom that you already have in Jesus Christ. But until then, you have the promise now that “the Lord will keep in perfect peace, whose mind in stayed on Thee.”
Congregation, keep your mind stayed on your Savior, Jesus Christ. He is your King. He is your salvation. Amen.