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Unlocking Fresh Insights: The Helmet of Salvation Explained, Ephesians 6:17 by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Dec 5, 2023


Helmet and Sword Connection

I chose to discuss the helmet last because most soldiers suit up with all the other armor or gear first and then place their helmets upon their heads. I did so despite listing the helmet before the sword of the spirit. Ephesians 6:17 alludes that the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit are strategically connected on a spiritual level.


And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

In earlier blogs, we learned the sword was the only offensive weapon Paul mentions in his list of Roman armor.


Spiritually, the sword of the spirit operates as an offensive weapon when we are in the midst of spiritual hand-to-hand combat. The “word of God” mentioned is the Rhema word, a revelation, or instruction one is given on a personal level when reading the Bible, listening to a sermon, hymn, or other means. It is the moment of realizing, “This speaks to my situation. This is what I should do.”


And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


Does Paul link the armor pieces to show that salvation is needed for protection

and to hear God's word? You be the judge.


Non-Traditional Interpretation

This blog will differ from the traditional commentary on the helmet of salvation that focuses on the need for and the means of “salvation” through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Here, the focus will be on the protection salvation provides as one stands against the wiles (schemes, plan) of the devil (v. 11) and is empowered to withstand in the evil day.


Military Importance of the Helmet

The Roman Empire was known for its disciplined legions, conquering territories, and making a significant impact on history. The Roman soldier's helmet was a crucial part of their military machine. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, written during his house arrest, uses a Roman soldier’s helmet to convey meaning often overlooked when reading this passage.


The Design of the Helmet

The design of the soldier’s helmet supplied protection and durability to the soldier's head during warfare. Originally fashioned from leather but later gave way to metal construction. Whether the galea was crafted from a blend of materials like iron, bronze, and leather, these helmets were a marvel

of Roman ingenuity. Their design incorporated elements that not only protected the wearer from

sword strikes, spears, and projectiles like arrows but also ensured durability amidst the rigors of battle.

Roman Soldier Helmets Made of Metal and Leather, photo by Terry Harman, 2023


With a rounded or conical shape, the helmet covered the entire skull, leaving only the face exposed. To enhance protection, cheek guards provided coverage without obstructing vision or communication. This design demonstrates the meticulous attention Romans paid to balancing protection and practicality.

Roman "Galea" or Helmet, photo by Terry Harman 2023


Design Provided Identification and Unity

Beyond protection, the Roman helmet served as a symbol of unity and identity within the legion. Ornate plumes, crest holders, and engraved markings were added to Roman legionaries' unique helmets. The decorations were not only visually appealing but also helped soldiers identify their fellow soldiers and officers during battle.


This sense of unity and cohesion among soldiers was more than a morale booster; it was an essential ingredient in the success of the Roman legions. Knowing that fellow soldiers were fighting with them, distinguished by their helmet decorations, made people more committed to the cause when facing difficult enemies. The soldiers were not just fighting for the emperor or Rome. They were fighting for the man that stood next to them on the battle line.


Design Provided Tactical Advantages

The Roman helmet was not just about protection; it was also a testament to the Romans' strategic brilliance. Its distinctive design featured a pronounced brow ridge and a sloping neck guard, ingeniously deflecting blows away from vulnerable areas. The open-faced design, while exposing the soldier's face, provided clear visibility and unobstructed communication – both pivotal elements in the tightly coordinated Roman formations.


Furthermore, the design of the Roman helmet distributed weight evenly, reducing strain on the soldier's neck and shoulders during long marches and protracted engagements. This ergonomic approach to helmet design exemplified the Romans' practicality and meticulous attention to the well-being of their troops. The Roman soldier's helmet was not just a piece of armor; it was a symbol of Roman military strength, unity, and tactical excellence.

Spiritual Significance of the Helmet

Paul planted the church at Ephesus during his third missionary journey. He lived and ministered to the people of this cosmopolitan city for three years. The church consisted of Gentiles, whose lives had not been shaped by Jewish laws or experiences. Living in a city known for its idolatrous and pagan practices, this young community of believers would have faced spiritual challenges not unlike Paul’s. His correspondence traveled from one church to another, from city to city, in accordance with the customs of that era.


Paul chooses his words wisely as he writes his letter to the Ephesians using the analogy of his jailer’s armor. I cannot help but wonder if while incarcerated, the Lord gave Paul a Rhema word using specific parts of the armor to strengthen him during this terrible time in his life. Is it possible that what the Lord impressed upon Paul’s heart to give him strength was the catalyst for Paul’s concern for the Ephesian church? Let us examine the verse in detail.


And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


Key Words

“take”

δέξασθέ (dexasthe), is a verb “to receive, accept or welcome or welcoming something in a receptive way. To receive in a welcoming (receptive) way. What is it that Paul urges the Ephesians to receive or welcome?


“helmet”

περικεφαλαίαν (perikephalaian) What is the helmet that we are to receive? The Roman helmet not only provided identification of what unit the soldier belonged to but ensured protection where the soldier was vulnerable. The Ephesians are to receive or welcome the Rhema word of the Lord but also receive or welcome the protection afforded by salvation and the knowledge that they were not in spiritual battles alone. They were united with an army of other believers in the trials associated with living in the pagan society counter to the values of their new faith.


“salvation”

σωτηρίου (sōtēriou) This adjective of salvation is found only in Ephesians 6:17. Nowhere else in the Greek New Testament is it used but we have a clue as to what it means when we turn to the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint (LXX). The Greek word sōtēriou is found192 times in the Septuagint to mean peace.



Conclusion

What are we to receive or welcome when we find ourselves in the midst of spiritual battles in our lives? We are given the opportunity to receive and experience peace, or shalom that passes all rational understanding. We can stand firm in the middle of the emotional storm knowing we are safe and secure in the knowledge we belong to the Lord. We are identified with his army and the helmet of salvation is there to protect us from our discouraging thoughts of despair.


Our mind is often the battlefield. When trials and tribulations come we tend to second guess ourselves. Emotionally we beat up ourselves. We go over the issue over and over.


"If I had done this, said that, not been there on that day, none of this would have happened." In reality we do not have as much control as we want to believe when it comes to troubles. What we need is peace to quiet the storm.


We are granted this protection as a consequence of our salvation or deliverance. What is one way this peace can be obtained? By being sensitive to the Lord's direction. Listening to that small still voice. The Lord will provide us with a Rhema word specifically tailored to our circumstances. It is important to note that we may not be spared from all trials in our lives.


Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not spared from the fiery furnace but they were not destroyed by the fire (Daniel 3:16-28). Daniel was not spared the lion's den but he was not consumed by his preditors (Daniel 6:1-28). When trials do arise, we can rest assured that we are not alone. Our shields are united with those of the faith community, and through this unity, we can endure a peace that surpasses all earthly understanding.


I leave you with the Priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 JPS 1917.


The LORD bless thee, and keep thee;

The LORD make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee;

The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace (shalom – soterios)

.

For Further Study

(1) This resource provides a lengthy examination of the 154 verses in the Septuagint where the Greek word soteria is translated as “peace” to convey the meaning of the Hebrew word shalom. "Salvation (Soteria) - Greek Word Study." Precept Austin, n.d., https://www.preceptaustin.org/salvation-soteria_greek_word_study.




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Sep 27, 2023

Fresh, beautiful and affirming of the biggest possible meaning of salvation. Thank you Terry!

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