P. G. Mathew | Sunday, January 1, 1995
Copyright © 1995, P. G. Mathew

Salvation. Everyone's very familiar with this word. Tragically, few in this day and age take the time to understand what salvation really is, or why our eternal destiny hinges on whether or not we have it. The purpose of this booklet is to clarify the meaning of biblical salvation, in hope that the reader will understand it, passionately lay hold of it, and delight in it for all eternity.

Since the Bible was written in both Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament), we will begin our study with the literal definitions of the word "salvation" in these languages. In the Hebrew language the word for salvation is yasha, from which we have Joshua. Yasha has this meaning: "to be wide, or roomy - a broad and spacious place." Yasha communicates the idea of freedom. It is "liberation from confinement, constriction, and limitation." The word for salvation in the Greek language the word is sozo or soteria, whose the meaning is "cure, recovery, remedy."

The word "salvation" in the Bible is used in many different ways. The basic meaning is "deliverance from danger." You could use the term to refer to healing of diseases, deliverance from fear, deliverance from famine, deliverance from enemies, deliverance from bondage, and so on. In Exodus 14:30 we find the words, "That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore." So in this instance the word is used with reference to God's deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt.

However, the word "salvation" is also used in the Bible with a far more substantial meaning, a spiritual meaning. In the Scriptures we see salvation in its fullest meaning to be God's deliverance of us from his wrath, from sin, and from death. In Romans 1:18 Paul speaks about our need for deliverance from God's wrath: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men..." Paul speaks in Romans 3:23 about the need for deliverance from sin because, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And in Hebrews 9:27 we see our need for deliverance from death as "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment."

Now we must ask the question, "From where did our need for salvation originate?" It is clear from the book of Genesis, that God created man in uprightness (Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image..."), and he was to obey God. That obedience would have led him to eternal life. Instead, we find in Genesis 3 that man chose to disobey, and as a result, he died.

The serpent declared to Eve in Genesis 3:5, "God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Man became proud. He wanted to be like God. He wanted to be a self-determining, self-sufficient being. So he disobeyed. That disobedience brought about spiritual death, which is the loss of fellowship and relationship with a just and holy God.

What was the result of man's attempt to deify himself? It was failure, emptiness, anxiety, rebellion, corruption, alienation from God and man, fear, and death. At the moment of man's disobedience salvation became necessary.

Where, then, according to the Bible, does salvation come from? It cannot come from man, because man died. It is absolutely impossible for a dead man to save himself. This does not mean that sinful men around the world are not attempting to save themselves. They are always trying to save themselves. Some believe they can save themselves by education and intellectual enlightenment. To them an educated man is a saved man. Others are working hard at moral reformation, trying to do the right thing. They believe that a morally good man is a saved man. Still others believe they can save themselves by medical and psychological treatment, or economic and political strategy, or technological advancement, or man-initiated religious activity. But man, because he is a sinner, cannot save himself, any more than he can raise himself from the dead. Therefore, every one of man's efforts at self- salvation is an exercise in futility.

The Bible speaks about God's salvation. In Isaiah 43:11, we read this: "I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior." And St. Paul, speaks about God's salvation in Ephesians 2:8: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." Jonah, from the belly of the fish, made this profound statement: "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). And in the famous verse, John 3:16, we read, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." This, then, is not a salvation from man, but from God.

Salvation is from the Lord. This salvation was accomplished by God in human history. Just how did God accomplish this for us? We just saw how God saved his people from the bondage of Egypt. This was symbolic of what God has done for his people through Jesus Christ . Through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has brought about our salvation from the wrath of God, from sin, and from death.

St. Peter speaks about salvation through Jesus Christ alone in Acts 4:12: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." The "gospel" or "good news" consists of these historical facts: Christ died for our sins; he was buried; and he was raised to life (1 Cor. 15: 3-4), demonstrating that all our sins were completely paid for. God himself accomplished salvation in Jesus Christ by means of his "propitiatory" sacrifice on the cross. Propitiation means that God's wrath that was due to us was poured out on Christ. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross satisfied God's wrath and turned it away from us. Because of this we were forgiven and justified. Without these facts, you have no gospel.

So, then, salvation is salvation from the wrath of God. The wrath of God has been taken away. We have been reconciled to God. And not only that, salvation is also salvation from sin. The Christian is saved from sin's penalty, from sin's power, and, in heaven, from sin's very presence. Salvation is also salvation from death. There are three kinds of death: spiritual death, which is separation from God in this life; physical death, which is separation of the body from the soul; and eternal death, which is separation of body and soul from God forever. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross saves us from all these.

This salvation, however, is not merely a salvation from all these things. It is a salvation to something. We are saved to worship God, to serve God. Sin was disobedience to God, and salvation brings about our obedience to God. We are saved to obey the true God. We obey now out of love. This obedience is the evidence of salvation, not the cause of it.

This salvation is not only the salvation of your soul. God intends to save our bodies. That is why the Christian religion speaks about the resurrection of the body. That will happen when Christ comes again.

What is the extent of this salvation? God's salvation is not limited to the Jewish people. It is for all the peoples of the whole world. It is universal, and it is also particular. That means God saves only those who repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, when we consider this subject of salvation, the saved ones rejoice with exceedingly great joy. If you are a person who is not saved, you must understand the seriousness of your situation. There is a coming judgment. The wrath of God still burns against you. You are experiencing death even now and will experience it in its fullness at the judgment day. If you are an unsaved person, you must understand you cannot save yourself by education, technology, false religion or moral reform. You must repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ alone, because there is no other way of salvation. Christ alone is our Savior. God saved us in history through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is only one religion that is true, only one that is God's way of salvation. That is the religion revealed in the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, and there is only one Savior who is true, Jesus Christ.

My prayer is that you will take these words to heart, for they spell out God's way of salvation as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Our eternal destiny hinges on this question, "What must I do to be saved?" We must choose God's way of salvation. We must abandon our own pitiful attempts at self-salvation. We must humbly embrace the salvation found in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross. Then we must demonstrate we are saved by living our lives, not for ourselves, but in loving obedience to the gracious God who created us. God wants to save us and reconcile us to himself, thus revealing the full extent of his wonderful love to us. May you discover the wonder of his salvation for yourself, to your eternal joy!

Copyright © 1995, P. G. Mathew

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

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