We are in STII, and today we begin that great important doctrine of salvation.
It is such a massive topic, but one that sits at the heart of the Christian faith.
The better we understand this doctrine, the deeper our understanding of the Gospel.
The deeper our understanding of the Gospel, then the higher our worship of God.
Like every other doctrine, all theology is inter-connected; so, the better you can grasp everything that we have thought so far, the fuller your grasp will be of soteriology.
It is a rich doctrine, a nuanced doctrine, and one that requires careful thought.
Like much of theology, there are aspects that must be understood if you are to truly be a Christian. Also, like much of theology, there are also many debated aspects to it.
There will be parts that must be rightly believed if you are to be orthodox (and, therefore, a Christian), but there are also parts that many good thinkers, and godly people, will disagree over.
So as we go along, we will do our best to be dogmatic where we must, but also be charitable where we ought.
To begin, it is very important not to read NT concepts into the OT (or even NT passages). The idea of salvation is not merely related to salvation from sin, nor is it limited only to the idea of being justified. Rather, it is a very broad, full, and multi-colored concept.
The bulk of the OT focuses on physical deliverance from enemies and oppressors, (Ex. 15:2; 1 Chron. 16:35; Psalm 18:4ff). But there are other meanings as well.
A good example would be Isaiah 52:1-10.
This passage is referred to, in part, in Rom. 10:15. As a result, there is often an assumption that Isaiah was referring to “getting saved” from sin. This idea, however, is very truncated, and fails to see the fullness of what salvation involves.
Isaiah 52:7 - “How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'"
Here, salvation in its fullest sense is the declaration that God reigns! Note the flow in this verse. The peace referred to, here, is the term “Shalom.” It is referring to the day when God brings all things under His reign and rule. And it will be on that day that the righteous are finally vindicated (i.e., justified).
What is fascinating about this text is how it uses the terms that we are very familiar with. “...who announces (evangelizes) peace, and brings good news (evangelizes) of happiness…”
And, of course, he uses the term, “salvation.”
Salvation in this passage, as well as throughout the Bible is far greater and fuller than merely the battle of sin and death. We tend to think of salvation in a “motion” sort of way. We see it as something from which we came, usually sin and death. While this is correct to a degree, the bible more forcefully describes it as something that we (and all of creation) is going toward.
A simple example of this is seen in the following passages. Notice the forward flow.
Eph. 2:8 - “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
1 Cor. 1:18 - “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God."
1 Cor. 3:15 - “If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.
Eph. 4:30 - “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
We will see that salvation is found in the truth God has come and accomplished the necessary work to make all things right again. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the great enemies have been conquered. Those enemies are sin, Satan, and death. The process of this salvation, however, is still being worked out in various ways and involves the concept of the Kingdom of God. Ultimately, salvation is eschatological in that it looks to the “end” of the old and the fullness of the “new.”
Terms used in the OT (Most explanations coming from the TWOT).
- The “yasa” word group.
This term carries a basic meaning of “making wide.” The idea is that being made narrow is restrictive and causes distress, whereas being made wide indicates freedom from distress because you have been liberated. The way out of distress (narrowness) requires deliverance. The person or thing that brings that deliverance is the “savior” or “deliverer.”
In fact, the name of Jesus based upon this word. In the Hebrew, it is a compound word that means YHWH delivers. For the Jew, there was much truth built into that name.
- The “natsal” word group.
This word carries the idea of deliverance or being snatched away (Ex. 3:22; Judg. 6:9; Psalm 22:8). This word is also very broad, but often involves a personal deliverance. Many of the events that are physical in nature (e.g., the cries of David in the Psalms), also carry spiritual aspects as well.
- The “malat” and “palat” word group.
These words in their verbal form are only found in the OT poetry.
Malat carries the idea of slipping away and is used to speak of being delivered (Job 41:11; Psa. 22:6).
Palat means to escape or to be made safe (2 Sam. 22:44; Psa. 18:3).
- The “gaal” and “padah” word group.
This is the word group to speak of “redemption.”
The primary meaning of this root is to do the part of a kinsman. It is the idea of a relative redeeming his kin from difficulty or danger. The root used in four basic situations, covering the things a good and true man would do for his kinsman:
First, it is used to refer to the repurchase of a field, which was sold in time of need (Lev. 25:25ff). Along with that, it also carries the sense of freeing an Israelite slave who would have sold himself in time of poverty (Lev. 25:48ff). In fact, the purchase and restitution was the duty of the next of kin.
Second, is the redemption of property or non-sacrificial animals dedicated to the Lord, or the redemption of the first-born of unclean animals (Lev. 27:11ff). The idea was that a man could give an equivalent to the Lord in exchange, but the redemption price was to be a bit extra to avoid dishonest exchanges. In these cases, the redeemer was not a relative, but the owner of the property.
Third, the root is also used to refer to the next of kin who is the “avenger of blood” for a murdered man. The full phrase “avenger of blood” is almost always used (c.f., Num. 35:12ff). Apparently, the idea is that the next of kin was to effect the payment of life for life. So just like a house is repurchased, or a slave redeemed by payment, so the lost life of the relative must be paid for by the equivalent life of the murderer. So the kinsman becomes this avenger of blood. The system of execution must be distinguished from blood feuds (i.e., revenge). Rather, the goel (the avenger of blood) was considered a guiltless executioner, so he was not to be murdered in turn.
Fourth, there is the very common usage that is prominent in the Psalms and prophets. And it is that God is Israel's Redeemer Who will stand up for His people and vindicate them. There may be a hint of the Father’s near kinship or ownership in the use of this word. A redemption price is not usually cited, though the idea of judgment on Israel’s oppressors as a ransom is included in Isa. 43:1-3. God, as it were, redeems his sons from a bondage that is worse than slavery.
The basic meaning of the Hebrew root is to achieve the transfer of ownership from one to another through payment of a priceand the equivalent substitute.
The development of this term is very important for Christian theology. Originally, it had to do with the payment of a required sum for the transfer of ownership (it was a commercial term.
Exodus and Lev. 19:20 use the term to speak of the redemption of a slave girl, but for the purpose of marriage. It is also a term used to speak of the redemption of a man’s life who is under the sentence of death (e.g., 1 Sam 14:15- when Jonathan was redeemed by the people of Israel).
The word was given special religious significance by the Exodus event. When God delivered Israel from salvery in Egypt, he did so, but at the price of the slaughter of all the firstborn in Egypt (both man and animal).
From there, the concept would broaden. God not only redeemed Israel from Egypt, but then delivered them from many other difficultes. David uses this word to speak of God redeeming him from all of his adversity (2 Sam. 4:9; 1 Kgs. 1:29).
The Psalms also speak much of God’s deliverance/redemption of life from danger. We see this most explicitly in the notion of God delivering a person from Death, Sheol, and The Pit. The Psalmists constantly talk about this in terms of their inability to deliver themselves, but God’s infinite power to do so.
The basic meaning is “to live/have life.” It also carries the idea of “giving or restoring life.” The majority of the texts use the term in a physical, temporal manner. Yet there are many which also give a spiritual sense as well.
(Ex. Deut. 8:3, Psa. 119:25)
The point to understand with this term is that life is seen as more than simply existing. It is existing in relation to God. He is the giver, sustainer, and taker of life. So to be separate from God in any manner is death. We see this in one sense with the unbeliever-- that while he yet “lives” he/she is actually dead. Eternally speaking, the unbeliever may be “living,” yet it is a life in the lake of fire, which is total separation from anything good.
A summary of salvation in the OT:
When you consider the OT you realize that the emphasis is upon the gracious and sovereign salvation that comes only from the Lord. Whether you consider the Fall and the promise of the Seed that would come and destroy Satan, or the care and salvation of Israel from Egypt and Babylon, God is soveriengly working in the lives of the nations.
There is a constant emphasis upon the gracious nature of that salvation as well. Think about how Adam suffered immediate destruction. Or Noah and his family were saved because he found favor (grace) from God. Abraham was called out of Ur by God’s sovereign gracious choosing of him. Abraham had nothing to do with this.
“Salvation is deliverance from enemies. Among these enemies were death and its fear (Psa. 6); the lion’s mouth (Psa. 22:21); the battlefield (Deut. 20:4); the wicked (Psa. 50:2); sickness (Isa. 38:21); trouble (Jer. 30:7); and sins (Ezek. 36:29). In the OT times, the overwhelming conception of God was that He was the Savior from all foes, both spiritual and physical.
Salvation is deliverance to the Lord. YHWH not only delivered His people from that which would destroy them, but He also brought them to Himself. His salvation was not merely a rescue from a dangerous situation, but it was also a rescue for a special purpose, that purpose being that those rescued should worship, praise, and glorify Him through lives dedicated to obeying Him in all of life (1 Chron. 16:32; Zech. 8:13).
A unique feature of the OT conception of salvation, as compared to the pagan religions of that time, is the fact that salvation was understood as the prerequisite, rather than simply the goal of obedience. The order is well expressed by the Psalmist, “Save me, that I may observe thy testimonies” (Psa. 119:146). The entire bible makes it very clear that the imperative of do for man is based upon the indicative of done by God.” (Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia).
Term used in the NT
The basic meanings are: “save, preserve from harm, rescue" (Matt. 1:21; Eph. 2:5).
It is a general term, but carries on that OT idea of deliverance. A person is being rescued from a situation in which they cannot rescue themself.
Meanings are: “salvation, deliverance; (1) physically, as rescue from danger. It is deliverance, preservation, safety; (2) as a religious technical term, safety of the soul, and in a spiritual sense, salvation; (3) of the messianic deliverance at the end of this present age-- salvation (Friberg’s Lexicon).”
Ex) Lk. 1:69; Eph. 1:13.
This word normally carries with it the abstract idea of salvation, rather than the actual.
Meanings are: the agent of salvation or deliverance-- savior, deliverer, rescuer; (1) used of God as the source of salvation-- Savior; (2) used of Jesus Christ as the agent sent by God to bring deliverance to mankind-- Savior (Friberg’s Lexicon).
Ex) Luke 1:47; Tit. 1:3.
“The doctrine of salvation in the NT derives its name from a word which was ingrained in the history and language of Israel from the period of the deliverance of the people out of Egypt up to the time of their restoration from captivity. The word yasha…. To save, which generally answers to the Greek, sozo, has given a name not only to Joshua, but to Jesus, who should save His people from their sins… The Messiah was to be the embodiment of the Divine help and salvation” (Girdlestone, Synonyms.)
Initial conclusion on the NT terms:
There are two basic points of emphasis with these terms. Sozo tended toward a temporal emphasis, while sotair tends more to a spiritual deliverance. However, even these lines are not consistent and even quite blurred. However, just as in the OT salvation was wholly of God, it is the same case in the NT. And at the center of this work of salvation is the person and work of Jesus Christ.
When we consider salvation, we will find that the NT teaches that salvation is something far more holistic than we generally understand. God saves not merely the soul, but the body as well. It is not merely man who is saved, but even all of creation, which is currently groaning under the presence of sin (Rom. 8:22).
Salvation is also not a “dot” but a continuum, where God is effectively working out salvation to the utmost. This makes salvation effectively eschatological in nature. There is a new day coming and with it a new heavens and earth. It is at that time that the fullness of salvation will have been realized.
So that’s the lexical data.
We have not yet started to develop the doctrine itself, but hopefully from just looking at the terms, it is already becoming clear that salvation is often far more rich (and nuanced) than we typically understand it. As we seek to develop this doctrine, we will hopefully be able to bring that out.