What is Salvation?

Salvation is not just “making one safe,” delivering one from erroneous thinking about themselves. Nor is salvation just “making one safe” from the punitive consequences of God’s judgment, or from going to hell sometime in the future.

Rather, salvation “makes one safe” from the destructive dysfunction of man’s self-reliance, in order to function constructively as intended by the Creator, living out of the dynamic of divine enabling.

David F. Wells, The Search for Salvation,

“The whole comprehensive view of salvation which the Bible presents – past, present and future; subjective and objective; personal and societal, is not being maintained in its wholeness within modern theology.”

Foerster, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (Kittel’s) – root words from which sozo and soterion are derived mean “to make safe.”

Salvation. To make safe from what? Not to make safe from erroneous thinking by understanding your “erroneous zones”. Not to make safe from economic and/or political oppressors (liberation theology).

Perhaps the most popular conception is that we are made safe from going to hell. And yet, the objective of Christian salvation is surely more than just an escapist incentive for the acquisition of an everlasting “fire insurance policy.”

Salvation has to do with being made safe from misused humanity, dysfunctional humanity, in order to be restored to the functional humanity God intends by the presence of the functional dynamic of God in man by His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

We are being saved unto full participation in the risen, ascended Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the dynamic of God’s Spirit.

We are being saved unto the purpose of our creation and existence in glorifying God. (Isa. 43:7)

We must be painfully honest in reappraising our popular misconceptions of salvation in evangelical theology today.

Several years ago. “I FOUND IT” campaign of Campus Crusade. What is the IT they were claiming to have found? Salvation? Eternal Life? The implication is that “salvation” is an IT; something, rather than Someone. Such is sloppy salvation terminology!

We need to understand a dynamic restorative and functional salvation process – Not just preventative salvation. Not just acquisitional salvation (the acquiring of spiritual benefits.) Salvation is not a “benefit” dispensed by a “benefactor.” Yet Darrel L. Bock (Bibliotheca Sacra – Apr. June, 1986), “Jesus as Lord is the divine dispenser of salvation”…”Jesus is the dispenser of divine salvation and forgiveness.” Such is a separated concept that separates salvation from the Saviour, and creates a static view of salvation. Jesus does not dispense salvation like a bubble-gum dispenser; He does not dispense salvation like an airline ticket dispenser; Jesus is not like a medical dispensary dispensing the “gos-pill”. Salvation is only in the dynamic activity of the Saviour. Jesus Christ is salvation.

Salvation is not an entity, a commodity, a “package”, a spiritual “goody”; Salvation is not a heavenly entrance pass, a ticket to heaven, an eternal life package. Salvation is not a “possession in my pocket’.

Evangelical theology has swung from a God-centered theology to a man-centered theology, and has wrenched “salvation” from the grace-activity of God, placing it into the hands of men, to be manipulated by men (or so they think).

When we use the phrase “got saved”, it has static connotations of an event in time, a transaction, a static state of being.

Conrad Murrell, Salvation When?

“…it is extremely difficult to determine in the Bible where anyone “got saved.” That is not Bible terminology. It is not early church terminology. The Puritans did not use it. It is peculiarly the language of modern evangelism. It is Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, but not Bible.”

Salvation is the dynamic functioning of the Person of Jesus Christ within us, the restorative activity of the Saviour.

Modern theology has reduced salvation to depersonalized formulas, static arguments of the length of one’s ordo salutis.

J.S. Stewart – A Man in Christ ,

“There has been a tendency, on the part of Roman Catholics and Protestants alike, to systematize Paul’s teaching into elaborate “plans of salvation,” to the details and order of which the experience of believers has been required to conform – the tendency, in other words to stereotype the grace of God. To regularize salvation beyond a certain point is simply to revert from the freedom of the spirit to the bondage of the letter. ….endless misconceptions have been caused by isolating the various elements in the Christian experience from one another, and assigned each its place on a chronological chart.”

W.L. Liefeld, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (revised)-

“In the Pauline corpus…salvation is…a dynamic act rather than a logical category or symbol. ..salvation, far from being a deus ex machine used to salvage an occasional bad situation, is God’s eternal plan, extending through Christ to the entire range of human need.”

Salvation is a process ­ not a process of accumulating “good works” as in the cultic sense of salvation process, but the process by which God’s dynamic grace is continuously applied to our lives, in the “saving life of Christ.” Salvation is the dynamic process of the work of the Saviour in His people




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