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Salvation in its simplest form, means the act of saving or being saved and is a word usually associated with Bible teaching, and rightly so for the word can be found throughout the Bible. It is used in the Old Testament one hundred and thirteen times and in the New Testament forty-three times. The Book of Psalms uses it most of all with sixty-one references.

What does the word salvation mean? If we analyse the word as it occurs in the Bible we find it has a number of different shades of meaning. It is not therefore necessarily a theological term but simply means being saved or preserved from something evil, whether physical or spiritual. On the theological side however it denotes firstly, the whole process by which men and women can be delivered from all that interferes with the enjoyment of God's highest blessings and secondly, the actual enjoyment of these blessings.

Salvation is closely connected with the word saviour, another word found in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament the word saviour is especially used of God as the Deliverer of His chosen people Israel. In the New Testament, the word saviour also means a preserver or deliverer and is usually applied to Jesus as we read in the words of the angel addressed to Joseph:

"And she (Mary) will bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus(meaning saviour), for he will save his people from their sins"
  • Matthew 1.21

Salvation in the Old Testament

Having established that the root meaning of the word salvation is deliverance from danger or evil, we need to consider some examples of how it is used in the Old Testament. The outstanding example of Divine salvation in the early history of God's people, the nation of Israel, was their deliverance from Egypt. There are some very relevant words in the book of Exodus, included in the song of Moses and the Israelites: "The LORD is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation. He is my God and I will praise him"

  • Exodus 15.2.

The meaning of salvation in this example can be understood by the words of Moses, as the children of Israel stood on the shore of the Red Sea fearful of the pursuing Egyptians. We read that "Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will accomplish for you today"

  • Exodus 14.13.

Since it is God who provides the deliverance, He is described by the prophet Isaiah as the Saviour. "For I am the LORD your God: the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour"

  • Isaiah 43.3.

When King David was delivered from all his enemies, his prayer of thanksgiving is expressed in similar terms: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in him I will trust, my shield and the horn of my salvation my stronghold and my refuge; my Saviour, you save me from violence"

  • 2 Samuel 22.2-3.

Another example of salvation can be seen from God's comforting words to the nation of Israel through the Prophet Jeremiah, when they were taken into exile in Babylon:

"Therefore do not fear, O my servant Jacob, says the LORD. nor be dismayed O Israel, for behold, I will save you from afar and your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you says the LORD to save you"
  • Jeremiah 30.10.

The poor and the needy also come within the scope of God's salvation. David wrote in the Psalms: "This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles"

  • Psalm 34.6.

Job expressed it like this: "he saves the needy from the sword, from the mouth of the mighty, and from their hand"

  • Job 5.15.

In these verses, salvation applies not only to a nation as a whole, but to individuals and particularly to those who put their implicit trust in God. David, king of Israel was one such person who wrote:

"But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him."
  • Psalm 37. 39, 40

In the Old Testament we can see that complete trust in God was the most important human characteristic for salvation. Next in importance, and following naturally from the first was obedience to God's moral law as expressed in the written code called the Law of Moses. For those who did not keep that Law, forgiveness was conditional upon repentance. Most sins also required the sacrifice of an animal, which involved the shedding of blood, as part of the act of repentance and to obtain forgiveness of sins.

God's Plan of Salvation in the New Testament

We are told in the letter to the Hebrews that the sacrifices under the Law of Moses were "symbolic for the present time" - Hebrews 9.9. It was not until God's own Son Jesus Christ came that he, through obedience was able to present himself as the perfect sacrifice to take away sin. The passage in Hebrews continues with these important words which contrast the ritual sacrifices under the Law of Moses with the sacrifice of Christ:

''"But Christ came as high priest of good things to come,

with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood he entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption"''

  • Hebrews 9.11-12

The word salvation is mentioned only once by Jesus. The occasion was when Jesus met a tax collector called Zacchaeus - a man who belonged to a class that were hated by the people. Jesus listened to the man's confession of honesty and fairness above the call of duty and as a result Zacchaeus was immediately rewarded with the most satisfying words anyone could wish to hear. Jesus said to him: "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham"

  • Luke 19.9.

There is a principle set before us here. Zacchaeus was rewarded because his thoughts and actions were right. Jesus was the Saviour promised in the Old Testament and his mission was to save others like Zacchaeus, as we read for example in his words from Matthew's Gospel record:

"The Son of Man has come to save that which was lost"
  • Matthew 18.11.
"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many"
  • Matthew 20.28.

Jesus likened this saving process to a journey along a narrow and difficult road. He said:

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
  • Matthew 7.13, 14.

Salvation calls for a contrite heart, a childlike receptiveness and the forsaking of the things which will lead us away from that narrow path to salvation, conditions it is impossible for man unaided to fulfil. The disciples asked Jesus "Who then can be saved? Jesus answered them: "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God""

  • Luke 18.27.

However, God will only help us if we try our very best in our service to Him, and demonstrate in our lives, faith and belief in Him and His Son Jesus Christ.

The Gospel record of John

John's Gospel record has a lot to tell us about salvation, for each chapter suggests different aspects of the subject. In the following verses we are reminded of some of the ideas associated with the word salvation:

  • "as many as received him to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name" - John 1.12.
  • "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" - John 3.5.
  • "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 begotton Son of God" - John 3:18.
  • "salvation is of the Jews" [John 4.22].

Christ's earthly parentage is clearly Jewish through his mother Mary. His direct line can be traced back through the Old Testament Scriptures to King David and back further to Abraham, the Father of the Jewish race - Matthew 1.1. It was to Abraham that God made this promise:
"And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" - Genesis 12.3.
It was only when Jesus came that this promise to Abraham could be fulfilled. The Apostle Paul shows how we too can be related to God's promise:
"If you are Christ's then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise" - Galatians 3.29.

The Acts of the Apostles

Before Jesus left his apostles and ascended up to heaven he gave this commandment to them:

"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned"
  • Mark 16. 15,16

In the Acts of the Apostles we read how the apostles preached the Gospel message of salvation. In the 2nd chapter of Acts we find Peter preaching in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and this was his urgent appeal: "Be saved from this perverse generation"

  • Acts 2.40

The Apostle Paul preached the same message. He had been imprisoned at Philippi for proclaiming "the way of salvation"

  • Acts 16.17

The record tells us that there was a great earthquake in the prison which opened the prison doors and loosed the chains of the prisoners. The prison keeper, fearing for his life, asked Paul and his companion Silas: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Their reply was this: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household"

  • Acts 16.30, 31

The following verses tell us that the prison keeper and his family were all baptized and rejoiced in their new found belief. There is only one way to obtain salvation and it is set out in the teaching of Jesus and his apostles.

If we return to Peter's preaching we find he has something very crucial to say about Jesus Christ and salvation. He said to the leaders of the Jews: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved"

  • Acts 4.12

To resist the mission of Jesus Christ as preached by the apostles was to resist the only way of salvation. It is God's way for salvation comes from God, through Jesus. The plan of salvation and its execution are ultimately of God. God has made compassionate and gracious provisions in sending Jesus. None of this can be known apart from the Holy Scriptures through which God speaks to us.

The writings of the Apostle Paul

In his 2nd letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul leaves us in no doubt that the Scriptures are totally reliable and inspired words of God.

"from childhood you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work"
  • 2 Timothy 3.15-17

Knowledge of the Scriptures has to be coupled with faith in Jesus. If we read and observe these precious words, it can be very rewarding now and give us hope of salvation from death and life for evermore.

Jesus - The Means of Eternal Salvation

Jesus' urgent appeal to those who would be true followers of his, was don't be over concerned about the things of this life: "But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom"

  • Luke 12.31-32.

Finally, as Peter reminded those leaders of the Jews, it is only through Jesus that salvation has been made possible. Following Jesus is a commitment for life and salvation is conditional. The letter to the Hebrews sums up the vital role of Jesus and the conditions for obtaining eternal life in the kingdom of God.

"having been perfected, he became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him"
  • Hebrews 5.9
Julian Crisp
Norfolk, UK
Source Light on a New World reprint from Volume 21.5

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