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Discover the Book - Apr. 17, 2009

  • 2009 Apr 17

Wearing His Salvation 

John Gibson Paton, (1824-1907) was a pioneer Presbyterian missionary to the New Hebrides, a group of islands in the southwest Pacific (now Vanuatu). He was born at Kirkmahoe, Dumfriesshire (Scotland), Paton was educated in theology and medicine at the University of Glasgow while serving as a city missioner (1847-1856). Ordained in 1858, he and his bride sailed to the southwest Pacific to begin work among the savage cannibals on the island of Tanna. On November 5th 1858 John Paton and his wife Mary Ann waded ashore a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. The Island of Vanuatu was then inhabited only by fierce cannibals. The ship which ferried the Patons up a thousand miles north from New Zealand would not even drop anchor because of the reputation of the savages. So all alone, thirty four year old John and his bride rowed to their place of ministry. In his journal Paton says his heart was overflowing with joy as they set foot on the jungle shore. That joy would soon find refining in the fires of great affliction.

Just over three months later on February 12th  little Peter Robert their first child was born. In the hot and bug infested jungle Mary did not recover from the pangs of birth. First came severe fever, then dehydration and nausea and finally pneumonia and delirium. As the baby greeted his third week of life, his mother died. In the wet soil of the rain forest John knelt to dig a shallow grave with his own hands. There he laid his wife's lifeless body to await the resurrection.

Sleeping on the grave to keep her precious remains from being dug up and eaten by the cannibals he tried to care for his infant son. It was useless, little Peter followed his mother in less than three more weeks.

On his knees again beside the fresh grave of his wife John Paton wrote that with ceaseless tears mixed with earnest prayers he claimed that island for the gospel of Jesus Christ as his hands dug a tiny grave. After almost four years of faithful work he left the island without seeing a single convert.

Many years later his son by another marriage resumed work on Tanna and eventually saw the entire island come to Christ. Many years later Paton revisited the island. He was greeted by the chief of the former cannibals who asked him who the great army was that had surrounded his hut every night when he first came among them. John Paton knew it had to be God's angels who had protected him. Because of his faithful work and that of his son, when he left the New Hebrides for the last time, after ministering on another island as well, it is reported that he said with tearful eyes, "I don"t know of one native on these islands who has not made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.”

What kept missionary John Paton from quitting, becoming embittered or even abandoning his faith in Christ? One thing alone. He had taken salvation as a helmet. He wore his helmet of salvation and thus his heart and mind were kept even in the most severe troubles.

  • How can we have a consistent Christian life with all the pressures that are weighing in on us? 
  • How can we have that degree of holiness so that we feel that access that God talks about and wishes for us to have?
  • How can we know victory?  
  • How can we overcome those persistent doubts that so often beset us? 
  • How can we rise above the weaknesses that seem to be built right in - the inherent weaknesses that are part of our humanity and flesh? 
  • How can we overwhelm indifference?  I think that is a key question that needs to be answered because so many Christians, after the first year or so of kind of meteoric rise, drift down into Christian indifference, which is such a plague in the church today. 
  • How can we defeat discouragement?  That terrible, kind of gloomy blanket that comes over our Christian lives, like we just can't make it - we just can't fulfill our role as a father or as a godly mother or as a teacher or as a leader or whatever.   It just seems like we get discouraged about that.  
  • How do we find in our lives the living up to God's expectations and how do we fulfill His desires for us?

We must wear our Armor. Ephesians 6:10-17:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

Remember, Armor for Paul was more than pictures from daily life of the nearly omnipresent Roman Legionnaires. Very literally, the "whole armor of God” he describes is a picture of Jesus Christ. In these verses Paul gives a list of the combat equipment that the Holy Spirit issues to every believer at the moment of salvation.   

Helmet of Salvation. This helmet is laying hold on what Christ did for us in salvation. It means use what you received at the new birth. Believe God. Take Him at His Word! A Roman soldier wouldn’t go to battle without a helmet. That would be foolish. Helmets were made out of two things: leather, with some patches of metal on it, or solid cast metal. A soldier never was far from his helmet. Nearly any object on the battle field could immobilize a soldier if his head was unprotected. So to the Christian soldier the meaning of the helmet is assurance of salvation. Warning: Lack of assurance brings defeat! 

The helmet of salvation (v. 17). Our text is divided here because the Greek word take is an imperative, rather than another participle. This parallels the imperative “stand” in verse 14. The helmet and sword are the last two pieces a soldier takes up. A helmet, being hot and uncomfortable, would be put on by a soldier only when he faced impending danger. Having one’s head guarded by a helmet gives a sense of safety, so the helmet of salvation refers to both:

  • Our present safety from the devil’s attacks and
  • To a future deliverance, “the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1 Thessalonians 5:8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.).
  • Our Salvation is only through Christ. God’s powerful hand has come down to lift men up. His salvation brings deliverance
  • From sin (Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”),
  • From lostness (Matthew 18:11 “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.), and
  • From the wrath of God (Romans 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.).
  • Satan wants to attack our minds, the way he attacked and defeated Eve (Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 11:1–3). So this helmet refers to our minds controlled by God. When God controls the mind, Satan cannot lead the believer astray. 
  • We need to be “taught by Him as the truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21).
  • We are to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).


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