Salvation Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Salvation

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Salvation is restoration to health or wholeness of a fallen creation. For human beings and for a whole creation to be saved, God must forgive, justify, restore to righteousness, reconcile, give life, liberate, redeem, perfect — all these acts having overlapping meanings.

In Scripture

"For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation" (Ps. 62:1).

"The one who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16).

"The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:16, 17).

"There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Believe "They answered, `Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household'" (Acts 16:31).

"I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16).

"If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved" (Rom. 10:9, 10).

"Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him" (Heb. 9:28).

"Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet. 1:8-9).

Points to Ponder

Salvation is for psalmists In the texts above, salvation is for psalmists, for the lost, for the world, for mortals, for households, for Jews, for Greeks, for those who are waiting and those who are rejoicing. In other words, it is for human beings, who all need it. But, remembering that the biggest view of salvation in Scripture includes and surpasses the salvation of human beings, preachers may want to see human salvation within the context of the arrival of shalom (e.g., Isa. 60 and 65), or its New Testament equivalent — the coming of the kingdom of God in its fullness (e.g., Rev. 21).

Christians take a very big view of redemption At their best, Christians take a very big view of redemption because they take a very big view of fallenness. If all has been created good and all has been corrupted, then all must be saved. God isn't content to save souls; God wants to save bodies too. God isn't content to save human beings in their individual activities; God wants to save social systems and economic structures too. If the management/labor structure contains built-in antagonism, then it needs to be redeemed. If the health care delivery system reaches only the well-to-do, then it needs to be reformed. The same goes for hostile relationships of race, gender, or class. The same goes for proud and scornful attitudes among heterosexuals toward homosexuals. Landlord and tenant, student and teacher, husband and wife — these and countless other roles and relationships may develop warped expectations and unfair practices. The same goes for certain forms of popular entertainment, with their tendency to violate taboos in order to gain an edge, draw a crowd, and make a buck.

Everything corrupt needs to be redeemed, and that includes the whole natural world, which both sings and groans. The whole natural world, in all its glory and pain, needs the salvation that will bring shalom. The world isn't divided into a sacred realm and a secular realm, with redemptive activity confined to the sacred zone. The whole world belongs to God, the whole world has fallen, and so the whole world needs to be redeemed — every last person, place, organization, and program. All "rocks and trees and skies and seas." In fact, "every square inch," as Abraham Kuyper said. The whole creation is "a theater for the mighty works of God," first in creation and then in re-creation.

Note: the general idea in salvation is that God puts right what is wrong, and God does so through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It encompasses literally everything that God restores, enhances, or provides for well-being, whether of persons, animals, lakes, groups of persons, planets — everything. Salvation can be found in a meal, a home, a people, a covenant, a sacrament, a word, a heart, a movement of history, i.e., all that is encompassed in shalom, or in "the coming of the Kingdom of God" or in "reconciling to himself all things" or in "Behold! I make all things new." When we study faith, repentance, justification, freedom, prayer, and forgiveness, we should bear in mind that these "nesting boxes" fit inside much bigger ones.

Biblical terms and images for salvation 1) Salvation. A word associated with health and wholeness, as in Acts 4:12, and Mark 10:42. Also a word associated with general deliverance from evil, including shipwreck (Acts 27:20), drowning (Matt. 8:25), and even crucifixion (Mark 15:29). 2) Forgiveness of sins. Especially Lukan, as in the gospel frame of 1:77 and 24:47. 3) Justification. Especially Pauline, and especially in Romans, as in 3:21. To justify is to "rectify," to "put in the right relation," especially through pardon. 4) Righteousness E.g., Matt. 5:20. A word for a whole way of life, including right relations, right speech, right actions, and right obedience to God through Scripture. 5) Reconciliation. Restoration of a broken relationship, whether personal or (Col. 1:20) cosmic. 6) Life. Especially Johannine, as in 1:4, 3:15-16, 20:31. To have life, or abundant life, is to flourish. 7) Liberation. Release of captives, especially captives of sin (Rev. 1:5) and of the devil (Heb. 2:14-15). 8) Redemption. Deliverance from guilt, death, judgment, especially through a ransom or other "payment," (Rom. 3:24-25; Col. 1:14-15). 9) Perfection. Unique to Hebrews, e.g. in 12:2. Perfection is the human telos.

Never content to summarize salvation in theological terms, the Bible's writers also use a wealth of images for God's putting right what's wrong: lost...found...Luke 15:32 hungry...fed...Luke 15:17, 24 thirsty...watered...John 4:13-14 cut off...grafted on...Romans 11:17-24 rest...Matthew 11:28-29 in debt...solvent...Matthew 18:21-35 soiled...cleansed...Ephesians 5:26-27 in the the light...1 Peter 2:9 strangers...citizens...Ephesians 2:19 far home...Luke 15: 13, 27 Corinthians 8: 9 foolish...wise...Matthew 7:24-27 ill-clad...well-clad...Colossians 3:9, 10, 12 slave...child...Romans 8:15-17 sick...cured...Mark 2:17 dead...alive...Colossians 2:13, 3:1; Luke 15:24

Salvation is God's answer to human sin and guilt, but also to their attendant miseries: slavery, folly, alienation, disorder, shame, darkness. Salvation isn't just from simple, single sins, but also from the whole matrix of sin-causing-misery-causing sin.

Translation Insights

Yemba In Yemba, a language spoken in the central African nation of Cameroon, “savior" is translated nzaʼ-ŋkhʉ, which means “the cutter of the cord.” During the time of inter-tribal slavery in Cameroon, slaves were led in a line with rope around their necks connecting them to each other. A savior is the cutter of the cord, the one who frees a person from the bondage of slavery.

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Many of the translation insights shown on this site are courtesy of the TIPs Bible.
Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.