What is salvation, and what does it mean to be saved in the Christian faith? I will go into detail to answer those questions and hopefully give you a better understanding of an essential concept in Christianity.
I will also distinguish between religion and the Christian faith regarding the doctrine of salvation.
What is Salvation?
First, let us establish the definition of salvation from a Christian perspective. The word salvation means the acutely dynamic act of snatching others by force from grave peril. That peril is eternal separation from God. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. Therefore, salvation rescues us from that death.
The word salvation was translated from several Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible. For reference, I will also include the Old Testament words.
- Yeshuah – safety, ease (Genesis 49:18, Psalm 3:8)
- Yesha – Safety, ease (2 Samuel 22:3, Psalm 18:2)
- Moshaoth – Safety, deliverance (Psalm 68:20)
- Teshuah – Safety, ease
- soteria – Safety, soundness (Luke 1:69, John 4:22)
- soterion – Safety, soundness (Luke 2:30)
Salvation is an active process, not a single event like responding to an altar call in a church service. It is also ongoing throughout a Christian’s life as we mature in our faith. We are saved from the kingdom of darkness and delivered into the Kingdom of God. We also grow in the salvation that we received from Christ.
The Original State of Man
What was man’s (human’s) original state, and how did we get to the condition where salvation was needed?
Genesis 1:26–28 (NKJV) — 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The original state of man, according to the above scripture, was that:
- Man was made in the image of God
2. Man was blessed
3. Man could be fruitful
4. Man could subdue the earth
5. Man had dominion over God’s creation
6. Man had provisions (Genesis 2)
Let me point out that the word man does not mean male. The word man is the same (in most cases) as the word Adam, which literally means rosy as in the flesh. By implication, the word Adam, translated as man, means humans. Therefore, when the Bible says God created man, it also refers to the female gender. Also, notice that Adam was not the male’s name as in Bob or George. Adam was what he was: A living soul, a human being.
We note that man had dominion over what God had created. God made man to dominate, rule, and maintain His creation (See Genesis 1:28). We find that there were two “types” of man. There was a male and a female man (woman). Both sexes had purposes assigned to them by God. The male’s purpose was to work and keep the garden. The woman’s purpose was to help the male. However, both had dominion over God’s creation.
Further examination of the Creation story will reveal that the state of man included the following:
- No shame, guilt. (Genesis 2:25)
2. They were in total communion with God
3. They had a will of their own
4. God made man to have dominion over His creation
5. The man and his wife were one flesh as husband and wife
6. Everything was very good and in order
Man enjoyed an overall righteous state. He was in right standing with God the Father. There was no sin in him, and he was in full fellowship with God the Father. But then?.
The Fall of Man
Eventually, man fell from the original state that we described above. The serpent deceived the woman. Suddenly, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil looked good for food, pleasing to the eye, and also desirable to make one wise (Genesis 3:6).
Remember that the woman had authority on the earth and could have told the serpent to get out of the garden. Instead, they listened to him and fell from the righteous state that God had placed them in. I will not get into the details of the mechanics of their fall since that is not the purpose of this study. The critical point is that man fell from the original righteous state that God placed them in by their own choice: They allowed a sinful nature (a nature opposed to God, i.e., disobedience) to enter into them. On that very day, they died to God. They no longer had that communion that they once enjoyed with God. They were no longer righteous.
The Result of the Fall
There were some drastic consequences of man’s sin. Some significant results of the fall were sin entering the world, shame, fear, and the loss of dominion over God’s creation.
Sin Entered The World
Because of one man’s disobedience, sin entered the world. the Bible says
Romans 5:12 (NKJV) — 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—
Romans 6:23 (NKJV) — 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In general, the consequence of the fall was sin, and the result of sin is death. All men enter the world unconnected to God because the sinful nature was perpetuated from Adam to all people. From the day we are born to the day we are born again, we do not know God and we are therefore dead to him. We are all born with the same nature that Adam had that caused the human race’s death (separation from God).
Shame and Fear
Genesis 3:8–10 (NKJV) — 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
This scripture shows us that shame, fear, and the desire to cover themselves were introduced into the world because of Adam’s disobedience. Recall that the Bible said they initially felt no shame when they were naked (Genesis 2:25). Their shame and fear resulted from the death (separation from God) that entered them when they sinned.
One significant consequence of the fall was that man no longer had dominion over the earth. The voice that man heeded became his master. He decided to become a slave to Satan by heeding his voice instead of remaining a son of God by obeying God. Recall what Satan told Jesus while he was tempting Him.
Matthew 4:8–9 (NKJV) — 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Notice that Jesus did not respond to a lie of facts. Jesus didn’t dispute whether the world and its splendor were his to give. Why? Adam and Eve gave their dominion over God’s creation to the serpent by submitting to its temptation.
Corruption of God’s Creation
A significant result of Adam’s sin was the corruption of God’s creation. Consider the following passages.
Genesis 3:17–19 (NKJV) — 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
Romans 8:19–22 (NKJV) — 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
Now consider the state of the world today. It is full of evil and ungodliness because of the sinful nature of people. It all started from the original sin and the fall.
The Need For Reconciliation
We are initially separated from God because of Adam and Eve’s sin. However, God initiated a plan of salvation for man to return to a right relationship with Him. Otherwise, we would be eternally lost. His only hope was in the grace of God, whether he realized it or not. The Bible says
1 Timothy 2:4 (NKJV) — 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) — 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
No one can enter into the salvation of God unless they decide to take a different course in their lives. To repent means to choose to take a different direction, i.e., to change your life. Instead of being a godless person, you decide to turn over a new leaf and live God’s way.
Born Again – Reconciled toGod
Jesus told Nicodemus that “…no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3b). He also said that we cannot enter the kingdom unless we are born of water and the Spirit – a new birth (John 3:5). Therefore, to be saved from the kingdom of darkness and to the kingdom of God, you must be born again. Just as we are citizens of a particular country by birth, we become citizens of the kingdom of God by the new birth. If you are not born again, you are not part of the kingdom of God and, therefore, will remain dead until you are completely and forever separated from the presence of God (the second death according to Revelations). See also Galatians 4:4-7.
Why didn’t God forget about man after he sinned and start over on another planet or something? Why did He bother to provide redemption for man? The Bible says
John 3:16 (NKJV) — 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
God loved us though we were in sin and separated from Him. The Bible says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (See Romans 5:8). Christ died because God the Father loved us. God sent Jesus Christ into the world to save and not condemn the world (See John 3:17). When we receive this salvation, we become children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (See John 1:12,13, Galatians 4:7).
How Are We Saved?
Salvation comes by hearing and receiving the Gospel. Salvation comes as a consequence of being born again. The Bible says,
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) — 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Saving faith comes from hearing the word of God (the Gospel).
Salvation is not earned. It is a gift from God.
Ephesians 2:8–9 (NKJV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
It is essential to know that we cannot earn and do not deserve salvation. We don’t get saved because we were good enough to satisfy a minimum threshold of goodness. Salvation is a gift of God that is obtained simply by putting your faith in Jesus Christ (See Romans 3:21-26).
A Close Look at John 3:16
A prominent passage of Scripture relating to salvation is John 3:16.
John 3:16 (NKJV) — 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
There are three things that this verse reveals concerning the basics of salvation. They are:
- God loves the world
2. God sent his only begotten Son
3. Eternal life is available to all who believe
God loves the world so much that He sent Jesus to die for our sins. We have eternal life when we believe in Jesus (that he died for our sins and rose from the dead).
Romans 5:8 (NKJV) — 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:17–18 (NKJV) — 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
There is no condemnation of those who are in Christ.
Romans 8:1 (NKJV) — 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
God does not condemn us for our sins if we believe in Jesus Christ. God does not deal with us according to our sins but instead freely gives us life if we put our faith in Jesus for salvation.
You must understand that God does not condemn you once you are saved. Therefore, you do not have to work for it to earn it. It’s not about what you have to do to be saved, but what Jesus has already done to provide it freely to you. All you need to do is believe (accept the salvation Jesus provided through his death).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
The word “gospel” originates from the Hebrew word Bisar (basar), which means to proclaim victory in battle because of God’s divine intervention (See 2 Samuel 4:10). From about 300 B.C. until after the time of Christ, many Greek-speaking Jews translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek (Septuagint). The word used to translate Bisar was euangelizesthai, which had a meaning very similar to basar. However, about the time the New Testament was written euangelizesthai had evolved into a different meaning. It simply meant “to proclaim.” A noun of the verb euangelizesthai was formed: euaggelion, which Christians used to describe the good news of Jesus.
The earliest English translations of the Bible used the Anglo-Saxon word Godspell to translate the noun euaggelion. Godspell means “the story about a god” and was used because the story about Jesus Christ was good news (a good message). Later as English developed, the word Godspell was shortened to Gospel, and the original Anglo-Saxon meaning was lost with this change.
Since euaggelion was specific to the good news of Jesus Christ, some translators used other words to translate the word basar in the Old Testament to avoid the confusion that may occur by references to Jesus Christ. Those translators often used glad tidings or an equivalent for the Hebrew basar.
Therefore, the Gospel is the message about Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross for our sin and was raised from the dead. Believing that and accepting the salvation provided by God through Christ results in eternal life. See 1 Corinthians 15:1-3.
The Apostle Paul said that the Gospel is the power of God to salvation. It is through hearing and believing the Gospel that we are saved.
Romans 1:16 (NKJV) — 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Salvation in the Christian faith is distinct from other religions. Other religions focus on what you must do to earn a type of salvation. Some examples follow.
- Buddhism – eliminating desires leads to eternal bliss (a type of salvation).
- Judaism – being part of the Jewish nation and being a faithful Jew brings about a reward
- Islam – being saved requires that you practice the Five Pillars. However, Muslims (practitioners of Islam) are not sure if they are saved even if they practice the Pillars continuously.
- Giving alms
- Prayer (five times a day)
- Confessing that Muhammad is the true Prophet of Allah
- Hinduism – You are pure enough to merge with Brahma when you become pure by eliminating evil in your life
Salvation in most religions centers on what you need to do to earn it. In Christianity, salvation centers on what Jesus Christ did to give it to you.
Salvation is a gift from God to bring you into right relations with Him. You are rescued from total separation from God (death) to life. We cannot earn it, and we do not deserve it. God loves us so much that He provided it for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You are no longer condemned to hell (death) once you are saved. Therefore, you need not judge yourself as being unworthy for it. Salvation, once again, is a gift from God to all who believe.