Salvation According to the Bible (A Greek Word Study)
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Below is a Greek word study I and a group of theology students conducted for our Christian Theology Class. This study showed me beyond a shadow of doubt that salvation is free for all who believe. This study also showed me that the "just believe," "once saved always saved," "last generation perfectionism" and "Calvinism/elect and reprobate" doctrines are all contrary to the straight and simple description of salvation given in the Bible. Enjoy!
σωζω, σωτηρια - all forms (noun, verb, etc.)
Lexical Meaning: σωζω means save; σωτηρια means deliverance, salvation
1. Is "saved" only a legal status or is it a real practical deliverance? (Richard & Marcos)
σωτηρια (salvation) “And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand.” (Act 7:25 NAS) This text is referring to Moses expectation that the children of Israel would recognize him as their deliverer. The word deliverer in this text is none other than σωτηρια in the Greek. Here we see a clear example that σωτηρια not only refers to salvation as a legal status but as real practical deliverance.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Rom 1:16 NAS) Paul describes σωτηρια as God’s power in this text. He does not describe it as Gods act or ability to change our status but as God’s power, or δύναμις, to save. “like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,” (1Pe 2:2 NAS)
According to this text σωτηρια is not only a legal status but a platform by which we can grow.
σωτηρία, σωτηρίας, σωτήρ), deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation: deliverance from the harm of enemies,
Acts 7:25; Lk 1:71; preservation (of physical life), safety
Acts 27:34; Heb 11:7. in an ethical sense, the soul's safety or salvation
Lk 19:9; 2 Pet 3:15; in the technical biblical sense, the Messianic salvation, salvation as the present possession of all true Christians: 2 Cor 1:6; 2 Cor 7:10; Phil 1:19, Lk 1:77; 2 Tim 2:10. Also a future salvation, enjoyed after the visible return of Christ: Rom 13:11; 1 Thess 5:8,9; Rev 12:10
From the syntactical uses of the word “saved,” it is used both to designate a legal status and to depict a practical deliverance
2. Who is saved? (Andres Palacios)
1 Timothy 2: 3-4 “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” According to the context of this text, many scholars believe that Paul is trying to combat the belief that Gentiles are not to be given the gospel. However, Paul writes a very clear and bold statement of God’s view on the salvation of men. He writes that it is God’s will, sometimes translated as desire, for all men to be saved. This includes Jews, non Jews, and who ever lives on planet earth. This concept that God wants everyone to be saved is a fundamental principle in our belief in salvation. If God wants everyone to be saved that means that Jesus died for all, not just a few.
There is a condition to attaining salvation. Notice how the verse states, “desires or wills”. God cannot make people saved but extends his invitation towards us to be saved. Humans must choose to believe in order to be saved. “15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:15-16
There are other text that prove that anyone that believes in Jesus will be saved. But attaining salvation is not just based on saying that you believe but by practicing what we believe. “24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Anyone can be saved but only the ones who deny themselves and completely surrender to Jesus will be saved.
3. How are they saved? (Michael Butler)
The people of God are saved by believing in the Gospel which is the power of God according to Rom. 1:16. The Gospel is the “power” of God for the salvation of EVERYONE who believes. Therefore the condition to salvation is belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.The word for believes is πιστεύω, with the root of πίστις. πίστις is commonly translated as faith or believe. In this particular case Paul uses the verb form πιστεύω instead of the noun form to show the significance. Interestingly, belief conveys action. There is a difference between verbal accent to something and by faith acting according to what you believe. Therefore according to this verse, we are saved by the Gospel (power of God, which is His gift to us) through believing which demands actions through faith. This is reminiscent of the words of James, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Eph. 2:8. A similar text found in 1 Peter 1:23 expresses the same notion. “For you have been born again, nor perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” It is by God’s word or Gospel that breathes life into the sinner. The sinner is saved or in this case, born again. The Word is living and enduring and brings new life to the spiritual man. In both texts God is doing the saving. It is not something that is done by the person but rather God gives the Gift, and applies the gift to the life to give life to the spiritually dead. This text helps explain 1 Peter 2:2 where Peter describes how we grow up in salvation. 1 Peter 2:2 shows a correlation of what it is to be born again. In 2:2 Peter uses newborn babes to describe their condition in the faith and since they are in said condition they should “…crave pure spiritual milk,….” This is no coincidence. Peter is referencing the born again aspect of the imperishable “seed” or living and enduring word of God. As new converts they were to crave the Word of God, “…so that by it…may grow up in…salvation,….” Again, it is by the word of God or Gospel which is living and enduring power of God that saves us by faith that is put into action.
4. How do some of Christ's healings help us understand "Saved" (Anthony Nix)
σωζω (save) for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Matt . 9:21 ESV according to this text the woman with the flow of blood touched Jesus in hope that just by touching the hem of his garment she would be made well. In this text obviously the woman was looking for physical healing. If only she knew that the man that healed her was also the man that can heal her illness of sin. In short the there seems to be a connection between the healing and saving power of Jesus.
Mark 5:23 ESV and implored him earnestly, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live." Then we come to Jairus’ daughter and her sickness. When he addresses Jesus he used a conjugated form of the word σωζω to refers to Jesus healing a girl that was dieing. When Jesus got to the house of Jairus the Bible says that the girl was dead but Jesus proceeded to raise her from the dead. it’s interesting that Jairus used σωζω in asking Jesus heal his daughter. These scriptures allude to the healing power of salvation and how it heals and raises the sinner from the dead. This kind of healing salvation transcends a legal standing to an experiential healing salvation because the widow stopped bleeding and Jairus’ daughter was really raised from the dead. These stories imply that God’s salvation actually changes the the person receiving it.
5. Can we be saved against our will? (Richard McNeil)
Answer: No, 1 Tim. 2:3,4 says “This is good and acceptable before God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” So how could anyone be lost? For us to be saved against our will would be enslavement and not joy and peace. To be saved against our will implies that we aren’t responsible for the need to be saved. For us to be saved means more than just us receiving eternal life, it means that we are brought back into a covenant relationship with our creator and king. To save us, without us making a choice to be saved, or desiring to be saved, negates the need for the plan of salvation. Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die if God could have simply picked and chosen whom He wanted to save.
Acts 16:30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Verb form used in this instance is “σωθω” meaning “I may be(ing) saved”. Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Verb form used here is “σωθηση” meaning “you shall be(ing) saved.” This strongly implies that the Lord doesn’t force the issue; He patiently waits for us to respond to Him. If we choose to believe in Him, then He acts to save us. In Revelation 3:20 we see a similar picture of a God who is patiently waiting and knocking, eager for us to open the door and let Him in. (Mark 16:16 & John 10:9)
6. Can we be saved without the exercise of our will? (Marcos Torres)
σωζω (save)“And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'” (Act 2:21 NAS)
According to this text, those who are σωζω are those who call on the name of Jesus. Thus, it is evident from this text alone that the exercise of the will plays a role in salvation. “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;” (Rom 10:9 NAS) Again, two acts of the will are mentioned. Confession and belief. To confess and belief are acts of the will. “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (1Ti 4:16 NAS)
The act of being σωζω includes a non-meritorious act of the will. Likewise, the act of remaining in the σωζω experience also involves a non-meritorious act of the will.
σωτηρια (salvation) for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:10 NAS) According to this text, σωτηρια is the result of a man both believing and confessing.
For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10 NAS)
Repentance, according to this text, is a gift of God. God places repentance within the heart of man. However, it is still up to the man whether or not he will repent for repentance is not forced.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; (Philippians 2:12 NAS)
The phrase “work out your own salvation” does not mean that salvation is up to us, but that it is up to us whether or not God does His saving work in us. Thus it is evident that salvation, while free for the taking, must still be taken.