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WORD STUDY | SALVATION | CADET PETER HICKMAN

By salvation Category

The Proclaimers of the Resurrection were asked to explore the word “salvation” in it’s original context of the Old and New Testament. From their research and understanding they were then asked to then reflect on Paul the Apostle’s work in Philippians 2:12 which encourages followers of Philippi to ‘work out their salvation.’

The following was written by Cadet Peter Hickman.

“I’m part of The Salvation Army…” I have stopped counting the puzzled expressions on people’s faces when responding to questions regarding my occupation or Christian denomination. Some people awkwardly nod as if they think I misunderstood their question, while others fade into the background hoping to escape unnoticed. As I reflect on the various responses to the term “Salvation Army,” I come to realize that maybe the word salvation throws them off. Perhaps the meaning of the word is lost in today’s society. Is it possible that Salvationists have so frequently used the term in the context of our organization name that we have forgotten the original meaning?  If this is the case, is there any need to re-introduce the meaning of salvation into our modern context? Before I consider this issue, let us look into the biblical understanding of salvation in both the Old and New Testament.

            David Freedom appropriately states that, “the Bible introduces on practically every page the theme of salvation (or its absence).”[1] However, the Old and New Testament understanding of the nature of salvation differs according to their contexts. In the Old Testament the term salvation has a range of meanings: “deliver,” “bring to safety,” “redeem,” “vindicate,” “help in times of trouble,” “rescue” and/or “set free.”[2]  It appears in studying the term that most biblical scholars agree that the basic Hebrew root denoting salvation is indicating deliverance.[3]

            Salvation applies to deliverance from various types of situations: Barren woman receives the gift of a son (Judges 13; 1 Sam 1:1-2:11), personal enemies are defeated (Ps 7,109), victory for the king (Ps 20:9), disease is removed (1 Sam 10:24, Ps 72:4), danger passes(Ps 18, 34: 6, 19), ransom is paid (Ex 21:8, Isa 53), trouble is avoided (Ps 18), death is bypassed (Ps 86:13) and finally slavery is eliminated. (Deut 24:18) This deliverance happens on all scales from individuals, groups to whole nations. Perhaps the most common example of salvation in the Old Testament, on a large scale, is when God saves  the whole people of Israel from oppression and captivity in Egypt (Exodus 1:11,13, 16; 2:23-25; 5:1-21; 20:2) and eventually leads them to the promised land. God as Saviour was continually displaying his saving acts throughout the Old Testament, finding ways to draw His people closer to Him. However, as we approach the New Testament, the understanding of salvation undergoes slight variations.

            A distinctive element in the New Testament concept of salvation is that the title of Saviour, reserved for God in the Old Testament, is transferred to Jesus as Incarnate Son in the New Testament. [4] That is, whereas before it could be said that God brings salvation upon the earth (Ps 74:12), Jesus the Christ appeared on earth to bring salvation. (Titus 2:11)[5]

            The New Testament understanding of salvation is to “save,” “heal” “keep from harm,” “rescue,” liberate,” “reconcile” and “redeem.” Although these definitions of salvation are similar to those of the Old Testament, it is that from which we are rescued that is distinct.

            Salvation in the New Testament appears to embody a holistic approach to salvation as  Jesus delivers people from sickness (Luke 8:48; 17:19), deformity (Mark 3:4; Luke 18:42), demonic possession (Mark 1:34), the threat of death (Mat 14:30), the power of wealth (Mark 10:25-26), the constant and pervasive domination of ‘evil’, or the ‘evil one’ (Matt 6:13) and perhaps most importantly sin (Luke 15:18).[6] Jesus is the Saviour of sinners (Lk 2:11; Jn 4:42, Ac 5:31;13:23; Php 3:20; 2 Pe 1:1,11; 1Jn 4:14) and  because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, salvation is a present reality and is made available in and through Jesus.[7] Furthermore, salvation is also a future hope, as presently, humanity experiences only a taste of the full and final salvation to come.[8]

            It seems the Apostle Paul picked up this idea of future salvation when he instructed the church at Philippi to “continue to work out your salvation…”[9] I do not believe that Paul is referring to the idea that salvation is earned by our works, for in his next breath Paul says, “it is God who works in you.” I think Paul’s intention is that because we are saved, the very act of being saved leads us to do good works for others. When I think of the above verse, my mind comes back to the motto, “Saved to serve.” The power of being saved allows (or instills in) us the desire to work alongside one another and attend to the needs of the hungry, strangers, the naked, the sick, and the prisoners (Matt 25:31-46).

Lastly I believe that Paul’s idea of continuing to work out salvation is meant to be addressed within a larger context, as the letter was addressed to a group of believers – the church. Although I absolutely believe that salvation comes exclusively in the name of Jesus, I think as believers we are agents of salvation. By speaking into each other’s lives and walking alongside suffering humanity, we help usher the saving act of God into His creation. In a sense we are working out our salvation with one another until God brings His people to the fullness of life in the age to come. So, to return to my original question, it seems that our founders clearly understood the purpose and character of the organization, as we truly are a “Salvation Army.” 

For references and bibliography, click here.

Cadet Peter Hickman, along with his wife Ruth, and their children Levi and Vivian, is a part of the Proclaimers of the Resurrection session.  While Peter is currently sporting the CFOT buzz cut, we have seen pictures (from an earlier time in his life) of a full head of curls!  Now we know where his son Levi gets his cherubic curls.