In the eight year Afghanistan war against terrorism, last year suffered the heaviest civilian casualties: 2500 civilians died. US General Stanley McChrystal, NATO commander, has changed the rules of engagement. Our military can only fire on the Taliban in self-defense. For example, if a sniper fires from a building and then lays down his rifle and walks out of the building unarmed our military cannot open fire.
The military is trying not only to win the war against terrorism but the hearts and minds of the Afghans for future relations and so the terrorists will not retake the country after we have pulled out.
We soldiers of the cross do not have the same rules of engagement. Our enemy will never lay down his weapons. Peter perfectly identified our enemy’s tactics: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Paul instructs us how to engage our Enemey in Ephesians 6:10-20.
1. By Depending on God’s Strength (6:10, 11a).
The most powerful military in the world is in Afghanistan but is limited by the rules of engagement. Cobra attack helicopters cannot fire Hellfire missiles until enemy combatants are positively identified which can take over an hour. Military leadership believes this is necessary to avoid unnecessary property damages and collateral damage.
2. By Knowing Your Enemy (6:11b, 12).
The war on terrorism in Afghanistan is difficult because the enemy blends in with the citizenry. An insurgent can fire at our troops, lay down his weapon, walk into the crowd and be lost.
3. By Putting on God’s Spiritual Armor (6:13-20).
Paul has listed the armor in the same order the Roman soldier would put on his equipment as he prepared for battle. First, he put on the belt on which hung his sword, then the breastplate, next the shoes, the shield, and finally the last two pieces were the helmet and the dagger for hand-to-hand combat.
We have come to the final two pieces of weaponry. The soldier would hold his door like shield with his left arm and before the soldier could grab his dagger with his right hand, he would have to put on the hot and uncomfortable helmet.
The helmet of salvation has to be received or appropriated before the believer can wield the sword of the Spirit. The Roman soldier wore a bronze helmet fitted over an iron skull cap lined with leather or clothe. This protected him from the enemy’s broad sword which was a large two handed sword 3 to 4 feet in length carried by cavalrymen who intended on splitting the skulls of their enemies.
The Christian soldiers’ helmet is salvation that protects us from Satan’s attempts to destroy us spiritually. Paul says “take” or “receive” this helmet. That is appropriate all the benefits of salvation.
Salvation’s three benefits can equip the believer not to fall victim to Satan’s attacks.
1. Our past salvation benefit is deliverance from the condemnation of sin (Romans 8:1).
If you have assurance of justification, Satan cannot defeat you with the quilt of your past. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. But all of our past sins are forgiven and forgotten by God because of justification.
2. Our present salvation benefit is deliverance from the control of sin.
This is primarily Paul’s reference in the helmet of salvation. Satan cannot defeat you with temptations if presently you are being delivered from the control of sin through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. If we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh through which Satan will tempt you. Satan will defeat us through our thought life: “As a man thinks, so is he.” If we have put on the helmet of present deliverance from sin, the Tempter cannot defeat us.
3. Our future salvation benefit is deliverance from the very circumstance of sin.
Glorification is the believer’s certain future as Paul’s describes in Romans 8:28-30: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul referred to the “helmet, the hope of salvation.” We can be “confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
It is said of the troops of Lord Cromwell the Protector that they never lost because, being Calvinists, they knew that their destiny was secure and that they were fighting because God had led them to that spot and would prosper them in that work. There is a sense in which that should be true of us.” (James Montgomery Boice. An Expositional Commentary: Ephesians. Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1988, 248). God has led you to where you are in your Christian life and conflict and He will protect you with the helmet of salvation.
These three benefits of salvation protect us from the past, present, and future effects of sin. “If God be for us who can be against us.”
In Part 7, we discover the importance of being skillful with the Sword of the Spirit in combat with the Devil.