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BIBLE & THEOLOGY | SALVATION, Part 2 of 2

By salvation Category

Salvation – the core of The Salvation Army.  William Booth based his ministry on repentance and salvation.  In his book “In Darkest England and The Way Out” he said, “My only hope for the permanent deliverance of mankind from misery, either in this world or the next, is the regeneration or remaking of the individual by the power of the Holy Ghost through Jesus Christ. But in providing for the relief of temporal misery I reckon that I am only making it easy where it is now difficult, and possible where it is now all but impossible, for men and women to find their way to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Salvation.

In the following essay, Cadet Jason Dockeray explores the meaning of Salvation.

Salvation is one of the most commonly used words in the Christian world.  All professing Christians understand salvation to be an integral aspect of Christianity.  This essay will look at the word salvation and what it means and who it is intended for and I will offer a personal reflection on what these findings mean to me as a follower of Jesus.

This paper will first explore the Old Testament view of salvation.  It is worth noting that there are some subtle differences between the New Testament and the Old Testament but for the most part the definition of salvation is consistent throughout the Biblical narrative.  Salvation, in the original Hebrew, has many different meanings.  When one goes back to find the root of the word they find four distinct words that are translated into the English word salvation.  The Hebrew describes actions such as deliverance, redemption, help in distress, and being saved.[1] In the Hebrew Bible the word Salvation is often used to refer to individuals, but most commonly to a specific group, the Israelites.  One clear example of this can be seen in Exodus 14:1-15:21 when the Israelites are miraculously delivered from the clutches of the Pharaoh.[2]  The covenant of God to save the Israelite people is seen in countless other places in the Old Testament.   At times it appears as though salvation, in the Hebrew context. is meant only for the Israelites.  This is misleading as we see other examples within the Hebrew Bible alluding to alternatives.  The story of Jonah reveals God’s salvation for the Ninevites.[3]  This universal salvation is more of a secondary theme, which flows under the major theme of salvation for the Israelites.

Understanding that salvation seems to be geared more towards the people of Israel in the Old Testament it is important to understand what they are being saved from.  The Biblical text seems to show that in the Old Testament salvation is given from the threat of physical violence, captivity, death and sin.[4]  These themes are repeated in the New Testament, but a prevalent difference between the two is that in the Old Testament, salvation seems to be tied to the virtue of one’s work.  If you are faithful to God, He is faithful to you.  This is clearly seen in the salvation of the people during the Babylonian captivity, and before that in the life of David, who seemed to experience God’s salvation because of his unwavering faithfulness to God.

            As we enter the New Testament the most significant change in the working definition of salvation is the idea that it is universal.  We see this declared in Mathew 28, where Jesus instructs his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations[5],” and again in John 3:16 where God’s gift of Salvation is clearly given to all that believe[6].  In the New Testament the word salvation, when translated into the original Greek, has many different characteristics.  For instance the Greek word Ruomai is translated as salvation but more accurately means rescue or sazo which again is translated to be salvation but means saved.

What are people being saved from in the New Testament?  We read in Matthew 1:21, Mark 1:5 and countless other places that people are being saved from sin and death. We see people being saved from a wide range of things but the major emphasis seems to be on a spiritual salvation or an internal one.  This is seen in Romans, where we read “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”[7].  The major difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is how salvation can be received.  In the New Testament, all people can be justified by faith and the initial distribution of salvation seems not to be geared on action.[8]  Additionally, God’s plan for universal salvation is more clearly articulated in the New Testament.

Understanding that in the New Testament we see Salvation for the whosoever, it is important to look at how Salvation is to be lived out in everyday life.  All Christians need to ask themselves, is Salvation a onetime experience or is it on-going?  Philippians 2:12 seems to clear up any ambiguity. Paul writes “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  It is clear for Paul that salvation is an ongoing process.  Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren agree with Paul and they use the analogy of a race to teach the reader about salvation.[9]  They say that some people start the race and think they have won but they argue that God calls Christians to start and finish the race.  Salvation is a process. 

I will talk briefly on the impact of this reality on my life.  Salvation is intended for everyone and means rescue or help not only in this world but for the next.  My intention is to continue to work out my salvation, growing closer to God and being fully sanctified in each moment.  This development of my salvation will not happen in isolation but rather my goal will be to work out my salvation while helping others to realize the gift of salvation and help them to work it out in their own life as well.     

Although there are subtle differences between how salvation is interpreted and who it is for in the Old and New Testament, it is clear that God’s gift of Salvation is eternal, and something that is a life long journey.

For references click here.

Cadet Jason Dockeray is a part of the Friends of Christ session.  He is at CFOT along with his wife, Kristen, and his son, Jackson.

Jason can be seen wandering around the halls at CFOT in his stocking feet but his socks are regulation!