Friday, June 21, 2013

Them’s Fightin’ Words!

Those who remember old western TV shows and theater movies are well-acquainted with the title of this article. Christians also put up a battle, but it is “not against flesh and blood,” but against Satan’s spiritual darkness whether it be in the form of false religious teaching, outright atheism, or national-political fervor—all of which is included in Paul’s words at Ephesians 6:12. (Again, I emphasize that although the above three are physical manifestations of Satan’s “darkness,” Christians are not to literally fight or engage in physical altercations/confrontations with them. This is confirmed by 2 Timothy 2:24.)

A Christian’s battle is two-fold: First, to protect one’s self. Second, to fearlessly declare God’s Kingdom to any and all who will listen and, hopefully, help others take a stand for truth and righteousness. Paul makes these points clear in the words that follow what he wrote in Ephesians 6:12….

(Ephesians 6:14-18) Stand firm, therefore, with YOUR loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and with YOUR feet shod with the equipment of the good news of peace. 16 Above all things, take up the large shield of faith, with which YOU will be able to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles. 17 Also, accept the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word, 18 while with every form of prayer and supplication YOU carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit. And to that end keep awake with all constancy and with supplication in behalf of all the holy ones….

The reason I have underlined the action-words is to drive home the actions being emphasized. Take note that they are all defensive and not offensive. When I started this article, I was particularly intrigued with what Paul said about the “helmet of salvation.” I wondered why it was rendered “accept the helmet” and not “put on” or some such phrase. I checked the rendering of multiple other translations. While at least one did translated it as “put on,” the majority used the word “take.” Upon scrolling down in the list, I found a commentary by “Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary” that pretty much said what I expected to find. That is, “take, receive, and accept” are all legitimate forms of the original Greek word that Paul used. But what was the significance of “accepting” the helmet? I figured there had to be some gem of insight that is easily overlooked.

Then I started reflecting on what I knew of the people of that time—especially those Jews (Israelites) that were contemporaries of Paul. For many of those, it was a challenge to accept Jesus as their salvation because they had become steeped in tradition and Jewish Law. Accepting Jesus in the minds of the leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes) was tantamount to heresy, apostasy. For those “of the nations,” it may have been foreign to their ideologies to entrust salvation to anyone but themselves. There are even cultures today that are repulsed by the idea of belief in and trust in a savior. So now Paul’s words make perfect sense in that social climate—he was admonishing those in Ephesus to humbly accept the provision that God had made for mankind’s salvation. “Accepting” for the Jews meant having to put aside their trust in working out their own salvation through sacrifices and other acts prescribed by the Mosaic Law. They had to realize that nothing they personally could do would ever amount to salvation. However, after accepting the ransom sacrifice of Christ as the basis for their hope of salvation, they could now perform works befitting repentance and acceptance of Christian responsibility. Even in this modern world, some find wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle or motorcycle to be bothersome. They feel self-confident that they are strong enough to withstand whatever can happen. This drives home even more so how humility and following direction are important when it comes to accepting the helmet of salvation.

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