'TAKE THE HELMET OF SALVATION...'
SERIES: PAUL, AN INSTRUMENT OF THE RISEN CHRIST
By Ron Ritchie
As I speak, the hijacked Kuwaiti airliner remains on the ground in Algeria.
There are 32 innocent passengers still being held hostage by pro-Iranian
terrorists, men who say that they are involved in a holy war and that even
if they are killed they will die as martyrs. This sobering news once again
makes us aware of what the apostle Paul calls in his New Testament letters
"the mystery of lawlessness" at work in the world. Behind our
world, national, state and local events and activities a spiritual battle
is being fought for the souls of men and women, boys and girls. In this
struggle the arch enemy, Satan himself, is trying to destroy humanity by
lies, deceit and murder. Here is what Jesus said of the devil, in John 8:44:
"He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth,
because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from
his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies." Two murders
have already been committed on this airliner and more are threatened by
these gunmen. They believe that by continuing to hold the hostages they
will yet achieve their goals, but they are blind to the fact that it is
they themselves who are being held captive by the evil one to do his bidding--and
his goal is not only to destroy them in the here and now, but for all eternity.
In our current series of studies we are tracing the life and ministry of
the apostle Paul from the book of Acts. Today, we find the apostle once
more held hostage for his proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This
time the Jews in Jerusalem are being used by Satan in an attempt to murder
the apostle. The mob in the temple are so blinded and deceived by the arch
enemy that the words of Jesus to his disciples in the Upper Room are particularly
apt here, "...an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think
that he is offering service to God" (John 16:2).
In Acts 21, we saw that Paul was verbally attacked by a group of Asian Jews
who were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. Upon seeing the apostle
in the temple, they cried out, "Men of Israel, come to our aid! This
is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people, and the
Law, and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple
and has defiled this holy place" (28). Their four-fold charge was entirely
false, but it had the desired effect; the mob dragged Paul out of the temple
and began beating him. Four years later from his prison cell in Rome, the
apostle wrote in his letter to the Ephesians that the Christian's struggle
"is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the
powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual
forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph.6:12).
The real battles of life are fought not against flesh and blood, but against
spiritual forces controlled by Satan, who is continually trying to destroy
God's people by means of lies, deceit and murder. While this warfare is
seldom visible to the naked eye, it is still very real and deadly. The Christian's
only hope for survival in this struggle is to wrap himself in the resurrected
As Paul was writing the Ephesian letter from his prison cell, where he was
guarded night and day by Roman soldiers, he used the armor and battle dress
of his captors to illustrate his counsel to Christians in Ephesus on how
to stand in the face of spiritual warfare. Thus he speaks of "girding
your loins with truth," "putting on "the breastplate of righteousness,"
"having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace,"
taking the "shield of faith," and, as we will see today, putting
on the "helmet of salvation." The Roman helmet was made of leather
and metal so that the soldier's head was protected from stones, clubs and
arrows, whatever the enemy could throw at him in battle. The head controls
the actions of the body. Keeping one's head clear in the midst of battle
therefore is essential to survival.
In this context, the Christian is instructed to put on the helmet of salvation
in order to maintain a clear head in the midst of the spiritual battle.
The helmet of salvation enables him to think straight and not be confused.
The word for "salvation" here encompasses not only the notion
of the Christian's being saved from sin (justification), but also that his
life in Jesus is being saved. As Peter wrote to the Christians in Turkey,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according
to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through
the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance
which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in
heaven for you who are protected by the power of God through faith for a
salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).
The Christian's inheritance is the presence and power of the risen Lord
who lives in our hearts. He will provide strength, courage and wisdom so
that we may stand in times of trial and temptation. As we draw on Christ,
he will reveal himself through us. Christians have been saved from the penalty
due to sin. We are now being saved from the power of sin; and one day we
will be saved from the presence of sin. To wear the "helmet of salvation"
is to have the mind of Christ, to see and interpret all the circumstances
of life as Christ, not as the world, the flesh and the devil defines and
uses them. The "helmet of salvation" enables us to look beyond
the physical and discern what is going on in the spiritual world. While
Satan seeks to tear down and destroy all that God has created, our Lord
is working out his plan of redemption in spite of the devil's schemes.
On the surface therefore it appears to be a dark hour for Paul, "the
chosen instrument of the Risen Lord." He is standing alone, in chains,
before a murderous Jewish mob; on trumped-up charges; and bereft of the
physical support and encouragement of James, the elders and fellow-believers
of the church in Jerusalem. But although he is standing alone, the apostle
has chosen to put on he "helmet of salvation" so that his thinking
will be clear. He will be able to speak the truth of the gospel of Jesus
Christ, and the hope of salvation in the midst of darkness and confusion,
as the opportunity arises.
I. A spiritual defense before the Jews, 21:37-22:23
And as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said
to the commander, "May I say something to you?" And he said, "Do
you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred
up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the
wilderness?" But Paul said, "I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia,
a citizen of no insignificant city; and I beg you, allow me to speak to
the people." And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on
the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great
hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, saying, "Brethren and
fathers, hear my defense which I now offer to you." And when they heard
that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more
quiet; and he said, "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought
up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law
of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today. And I
persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women
into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders
can testify, From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started
off for Danascus in order to bring even those even those who were there
to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.
'And it came about that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime,
a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell
to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, whyare you persecuting
Me?' And I answered, 'Who are Thou, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus
the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.' And those who were with me beheld
the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was
speaking to me. And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to
me, 'Arise and go on to Damascus; and there you will be told all that has
been appointed for you to do.' But since I could not see because of the
brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me,
and came into Damascus. And a certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the
standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me, and standing near said to me, "Brother Saul, receive your
sight!' And at that very time I looked up at him. And he said, 'The God
of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the Righteous
One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness
to Him for all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay?
Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.'
And it came about that when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the
temple, that I fell into a trance, and I saw him saying to me, 'Make haste
and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony
about Me.' And I said, 'Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue
after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in Thee. And
when the blood of Thy witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing
by approving, and watching out for the cloaks of those who were slaying
him.' And He said to Me, 'Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"
And they listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their
voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should
not be allowed to live!" And they were crying out and throwing off
their cloaks and tossing dust in the air.
The Roman cohort, Claudius Lysias, was about to remove Paul from the steps
leading up to barracks when the apostle asked the commander in the Greek
language if he could address the Jewish crowd. When Claudius heard his Greek,
he was relieved to know that Paul was not on Rome's "ten most wanted
criminals" list! The man the Romans were looking for was "the
Egyptian," who three years earlier had appeared in Jerusalem claiming
to be a prophet. He had led a band of followers to the Mount of Olives,
and there told them to wait until, at his word of command, the walls of
the Holy City would fall down . Then they would march in, overthrow the
Roman garrison and take possession of the city. The procurator Felix sent
a body of troops against the rebels, killing some and imprisoning others.
"The Egyptian" discreetly vanished. Claudius thought he had returned
and that his old followers were trying to kill him because he had forsaken
them. Relieved to find out Paul was not the much-wanted criminal, Claudius
then gave the apostle permission to speak in the Hebrew dialect.
At last, Paul had achieved his desire to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ
to the Jews whom he loved dearly. Placing the spiritual "helmet of
salvation" on this head (drawing on the life of Christ in calmness
and confidence), the arrested apostle arrested the attention of the Jews
by sharing six steps in his spiritual pilgrimage.
First, his roots. He was born a Jew, raised in Tarsus, and educated at the
feet of the great teacher Gamaliel, "strictly according to the law
of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you are today." Then
Paul spoke of his credentials as a persecutor of Christians, followers of
"the Way." He had killed, bound, and put both men and women into
prison, working under orders from the Supreme Court. He had even been given
letters of authority to pursue believers all the way to Damascus.
But then came his conversion in that famous incident on the Damascus Road
when he met Jesus Christ, from whom he received orders to proceed to Damascus.
There, Paul received his spiritual commission from Ananias, who was told
by the Lord in a vision that the apostle was "a chosen instrument of
Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;
for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts
9:15,16). Here in 22:14,15 we have added insight into Paul's commission
in the words, "The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His
will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from his mouth,
for you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard."
Then, fifth, Paul shared with the Jews that he had been baptized at the
direction of Ananias, who said to him, "Arise, and be baptized, and
wash away your sins, calling on His name." At this point the Jews realized
that Paul had bypassed the temple rites. Ananias was instructing Paul to
participate in a outward symbol of an inward reality (Rom.6; 1 Cor,12:13).
When one accepts Jesus as Lord he is saved, then the Holy Spirit baptizes,
places him into, the spiritual Body of Christ. The new believer is thus
encouraged to illustrate this spiritual reality with a physical reality,
water baptism, demonstrating the death of the old nature, the washing away
of sins, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to the new life
in Christ (Acts 2:38).
Finally, Paul spoke of his return to Jerusalem and a visit which he made
to the temple. There, he fell into a trance and the Lord Jesus again appeared
to him, instructing him to leave the city because the Jews would not hear
his testimony. Paul resisted that word, and referred to his background as
a persecutor of Christians. But the Lord ordered him out of the city, saying
to him, "Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles."
This was as far as Paul got in his testimony. Here before this Jewish audience
stood a Jew just like themselves, saying that the the Messiah whom they
had been waiting for for two thousand years had arrived on earth, in fulfillment
of the Old Testament prophecies, and that his name was Jesus the Nazarene.
But once the crowd heard the statement which Paul attributed to the Lord
about him, "Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles,"
they cried out, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should
not be allowed to live!"
The battle lines had been drawn. On one side stood the physical and spiritual
enemies of Jesus the Christ: the Jews, and the evil one and all his demonic
forces; on the other side stood a lone Jew named Paul, wrapped in the full
armor of God, reaching out in compassion and love towards his beloved Jewish
nation. "Away with him," was the response of the Jews who earlier
had fallen silent when the apostle first began to speak to them.
Why did they respond in this extremely negative way? If Paul was right,
that Messiah had come in Jesus, then the Jews would be faced with the following
radical changes: the Temple and all its sacrificial services would be completed
in Christ; the money-changers, shepherds, and innkeepers would be out of
business; the political influence and power of the High Priest and the Supreme
Court would be over; the dreams of the zealots for a political Messiah would
be shattered; the traditions of Judaism would come to an end;the Law of
Moses would have been fulfilled; and the position of the rabbis, priests,
Pharisees and Sadducees would be at risk. The mob was more interested in
keeping the Law and putting Paul to death for supposedly bringing a Greek
in to the Temple area. That is why they cried, "Away with him!"
In the year 1521, a humble Catholic monk named Martin Luther was summoned
to appear at Worms, in Germany, to stand before Charles V, the Emperor of
Germany and the Catholic church authorities, because of what Luther had
written against the practices of the Catholic church. Luther challenged
the church's definition of justification and sought to demonstrate from
the Scriptures that men are saved by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works.
Asked to repudiate his writings, Luther replied that his "conscience
was captive to the word of God and that unless he was convicted by Scripture
and plain reason, he would not recant anything. To do so would not be right
or safe," he said. Then he added the now famous words, "Here I
stand, I cannot do otherwise."
It was a dramatic hour. A humble monk and university professor of peasant
stock dared to set himself against the constituted authority of both church
and State. The Emperor said that this monk who dared to set himself against
the Christianity of a thousand years must be wrong, and adjudged Luther
to be "a limb cut off from the Church of God, an obstinate schismatic
and manifest heretic..."
Blinded by their traditions to the reality that Jesus was their risen Messiah
and Savior, the Jews chose to remain in spiritual darkness and confusion
and refused to hear anything more from Paul. The apostle was wearing his
"helmet of salvation," standing firmly with a rational, spiritual
defense of the gospel. He was quiet, calm and assured in spite of the spiritual
battle going on around him, delivering a message of deliverance, salvation,
forgiveness and hope. Having been arrested himself by the risen Messiah
on the Damascus Road, his desire was that his kinsmen also be arrested by
their Messiah. But they refused his offer. Paul was then bound and chained
and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. Soon he would give a rational
political defense before the Romans.
II. Paul's political defense before the Romans, 22:23-29
And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and
tossing dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into
the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he
might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way. And
when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who
was standing by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman
and uncondemned?" And when the centurion heard this, he went to the
commander and told him, saying, "What are you about to do? For this
man is a Roman." And the commander came and said to him, "Tell
me, are you a Roman?" And he said, "Yes." And the commander
answered, "I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money."
And Paul said, "But I was actually born a citizen." Therefore
those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander
also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had
put him in chains.
Claudius, the commander of one thousand Roman troops stationed in Jerusalem,
was on the spot. There was a riot going on in the temple area, apparently
caused by this Jew named Paul. He and his men rescued Paul from the crowd
who were beating him to death because the apostle had allegedly brought
a Greek beyond the Wall of Partition of the temple.. Then, once order had
been restored, he had allowed Paul to speak, only to have the Jews interrupt
him and demand his death with cries, throwing off their cloaks and tossing
dust in the air.
Claudius had had enough! Paul was taken to the Roman barracks to be examined
by scourging. The commander wanted to find out the exact cause of the riot
in the temple area. As one of the centurions was preparing Paul to be beaten
within an inch of his life, however, the apostle, who was wearing his "helmet
of salvation" in the midst of this new spiritual battle, spoke up and
asked, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?"
Paul knew his civil rights, and he knew the answer was no, for the following
reasons: It was a misdeed to bind a Roman citizen; and it was a crime to
beat a Roman citizen if the crime with which he was charged was not established
by the state.
Paul wondered if the centurion knew the law. At that moment the apostle
was able to establish his Roman citizenship and the centurion went to the
commander with the news that they were both in trouble. The commander asked
Paul if he were in fact a Roman citizen. Paul replied, "Yes."
"I acquired my citizenship with a large sum of money," said the
commander." Paul replied, "But I was actually born a citizen."
Citizenship was a high privilege in the Roman Empire. It encompassed all
kinds of civil rights, including the right to trial, up to the Emperor Nero
himself if necessary.
The commander became fearful when he heard that Paul was a Roman. He knew
the Jews and their customs, and thus was aware that this was really a Jewish
not a Roman affair, so he went about setting up a meeting with the Supreme
Court of Israel to see if he could discover the cause of the temple riot.
Paul's clear thinking served him well in the midst of pressure.
In his new book, Life Sentence, Chuck Colson, the former "hatchetman"
of the Nixon administration and now a spiritual leader in the Christian
community, tells of a time when someone tried to set him up in a hotel with
two prostitutes while he was in a certain city on a ministry assignment
with his Prison Fellowship ministry. A few moments before these people showed
up he moved out of his room to a different one because the window of his
room would not open. The women forced their way into his former room to
no avail. As he was flying out of town next day, he pondered the question,
How many enemies do I have? Would the hatred and suspicion ever
end? "You deserve the worst that can happen to you," one critic
had once written. I fretted about that for days. Ugly mail came to me at
times and on a few occasions people angrily confronted me in public. I knew
many still hated me as the symbol of Nixon ruthlessness, and I understood
the depth of feelings prevailing in the country....I don't want to be hated,
I mused, I yearn for affection, love and support like anyone else, ....If
one is to accomplish anything at all, he will meet opposition. So be it.
I could only trust the Lord for protection.
We are living in the Age of the Spirit, a time in which the risen Christ
has called you and me to participate in a spiritual battle which involves
the eternal destinations of men and women in every age until the Lord returns
to earth in power and glory. At times the battle will be very rough, as
was the case with the apostle Paul. But we have been supplied with the full
armor of God, Christ himself, so that we might survive in the battle. One
piece of armor that is of vital importance to the Christian in this struggle
is the "helmet of salvation." We must wear this helmet if we
are to keep a clear and calm head in the midst of the battle, whether the
struggle is spiritual, emotional, physical, or political. In order to be
victorious, we need to understand who we are and what are our resources.
In Paul's case, he was able with a clear head, in spite of stressful conditions,
to give a spiritual defense before the Jews, and then a political defense
before the Romans because he was wearing his spiritual "helmet of salvation."
The circumstances which we will be called upon to face in the coming week
may not be as dramatic as Paul's was long ago. We will not be called to
stand before an emperor and give a defense for what we believe. We will
probably not be taken hostage and flown to Algeria. But the battle we may
be called to partake in could be just as serious. For instance, I know several
couples whose children are facing major physical battles. I have a Christian
friend whose life hangs in the balance. I know of a Christian brother whose
marriage is being seriously attacked. I know of a Christian brother who
is about to lose an important job. I know some Christians who think their
civil rights are being violated.
As Christians, we must understand that we are involved in a spiritual battle.
But if we will put on the "helmet of salvation," as Paul did,
if we by faith put on Christ, and depend on him for clarity, soberness,
strength, wisdom and courage, then we will be able to stand in the evil
Catalog No. 4106
Ron R. Ritchie
April 17, 1988
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