what is salvation?

April 7, 2008

I know the typical Sunday school answer to this question, but it doesn’t seem to ring true anymore. Salvation, to me, used to mean that point where you “asked Jesus into your heart” and were guaranteed a place in heaven, or “justified”. The rest of your life was meant to be a working out of the consequences of the Holy Spirit being present in you, i.e. “sanctification”. Now, I’m not so sure I know what it means. It seems that the Bible uses the term “saved” more like the English word “saved”, but with connotations of healing, restoration, reconciliation, and rescue. It also seems like it can be a repeated thing where one is saved from many evils, healed from many sins, but not necessarily finished. In other words, I think a more biblical understanding of salvation would combine justification and sanctification.

How does it happen? It’s obvious that it’s a gift of God through Christ’s taking on of sin on the cross and being raised to victory in the resurrection. It’s also something that comes through faith. But what is faith? “Faith” is becoming such an unhelpful word. It’s only a religious word. I don’t think the Bible uses it in such a religious way as we do now. A more useful word might be trust. It would be interesting to substitute all of the words “faith” in the Bible with the word “trust”. Trust is not just a mental, emotional, inward thing. Trust is stepping out into the abyss, whether or not you feel that someone is going to catch you. It’s like being told you’ve got a parachute on your back, but never knowing it works until you’ve jumped out of a plane.

So, salvation seems to be the lifelong journey of trust as you learn to step out in every situation into the arms of God. Stepping out takes effort, dare I say, “work”, but God teaches us that he is our salvation. I think the archetype of this kind of relationship is God’s friendship and promise to Abraham when God says, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Gen. 15:1). “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1)

The biblical authors saw salvation as one’s ongoing healing, restoring, loving relationship with God.

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