The piece of armour that Paul mentions here is the helmet, which he says is salvation. The Roman helmet was designed to protect the soldier’s head. It was made of bronze, covered his head, with a front piece coming down on the face to protect the eyes and nose. Paul means by this illustration that salvation is the particular doctrine that will protect the believer’s mind and vision.
We noticed also in previous studies that Paul takes this image from Isaiah 59 which describes the victory of the Messiah when he will come to deliver his helpless people. In verse 17, the prophet affirms: ‘He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.’ This is a reminder that we fight our warfare with the same type of weapons that Jesus used. Remember that we are fighting the same spiritual enemy, the devil.
What can we say about the mind of Christ that we should follow as we fight ? Paul in Philippians 2:5 exhorts believers: ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’ (KJV). As we read further into that passage we find that the chief feature of the Saviour’s mind that Paul stresses is humility. He reminds his readers that Jesus displayed humility before he came into the world when he made himself of no reputation and took upon himself the form of a servant. And he also displayed humility when he was in the world because he became obedient unto death. Applying this to his conflict with the devil, we should note that this outlook of humility is the opposite of the outlook of the devil, which is pride.
Another feature of Christ’s mind were his regular habits of personal devotions and attendance on public worship. These practices revealed two important features of a Christian soldier: dependence and discipline. We are apt to think that Jesus, because he is a divine person, did not need such human qualities. Yet we must recall that he is also a man, possessing a full human nature. The various graces that the Saviour possessed in his human nature were the product of the work of the Spirit in his heart. During his earthly sojourn, he engaged in spiritual conflict with Satan and each time the Saviour was enabled by the Holy Spirit to defeat the devil.
We can see his dependence and his discipline combining at his baptism. Jesus knew that he had been promised the Holy Spirit in an increased way in order to enable him to fulfil the task given to him by the Father. There, at the Jordan, he comes to receive the Spirit, but he is also praying, and it is difficult to imagine that he was not praying for the Father to fulfil his promise. In connection to Jesus’ baptism, we can remind ourselves of the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1: ‘Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.’ There the Father points to his humble Servant and mentions two things about their relationship up to that point: first, he upholds the Servant (which indicates that he was dependent); second, he delights in the Servant (which indicates that they had fellowship together).
Jesus was not only marked by humility and habit as he fought his spiritual war; a third characteristic was his heroism. Throughout his life, he valiantly proceeded against the powerful enemy of our souls, the devil. From his baptism, Jesus marched into battle against Satan and defeated him comprehensively in the desert, in the most uncongenial of surroundings (Matt. 4). In his three years of public ministry, our heroic Warrior defeated the powers of darkness as he liberated people from demon possession and other forms of Satanic bondage. On the cross, he engaged in fierce conflict with the powers of darkness and made a show of them openly. Although he died there, this was not a sign of defeat, but a further stage in his campaign because through death he destroyed him that had the power of death (Heb. 2:14) and emerged from the tomb as Conqueror of all.
So far, we have made some comments on the Saviour’s outlook as he journeyed through life. What about his vision, on what he saw as he fought his warfare? We noted earlier that the helmet was designed in such a way that the soldier could see clearly. What was conspicuous about Jesus’ vision? The writer to the Hebrews points out that Jesus was marked by hope as he looked ahead: ‘looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Heb. 12:2). The Saviour anticipated by faith his final victory. Although on the cross he entered a battlefield that no-one had been on before, he approached it confident that he would come through it triumphantly. He looked forward to his Father’s welcome, and he anticipated the great throng of the redeemed that would follow him there down the centuries.