A clear and concise explanation of the Biblical meaning of the term, salvation.
Though at times “salvation” may be used in a comprehensive sense to indicate the sum total of the blessings available to mankind in Christ, including redemption, reconciliation, justification, deliverance, and much more, in this article we will examine its more specific meaning.
The noun, with its companion terms, “saved,” “save” and “Savior,” carries us to the heart of the Gospel, for this message is primarily the statement of a divine rescue plan. There is risk, and people need to be rescued. It is deliverance from the danger to which sin has exposed us. Accordingly, we read of being “saved from sins” (Matt 1:21) and “saved from wrath” (Rom 5:9).
The word which Scripture uses as a contrast to “saved” is the word “lost.” Humanity is lost in sin and the evidences are many. This term “lost” is closely related, in the original, to the verb “perish.” As guilty, sinful human beings need justification; as dead, they need quickening; as slaves they need redemption; as “lost” and “perishing” they need “salvation” (Luke l9:10).
Earlier uses of this word group in Scripture are illuminating. It can be employed in a political setting as when, “the Lord saved Israel” (Ex 14:30). Here the verb is first used with the Lord as the subject. The foe is threatening but the Lord intervenes. Similar is its physical use as in the case of the shipwreck where the sailors and passengers were “saved” from drowning (Acts 27:20,31). There is also the medical usage where the word is often employed for deliverance from disease, as in the miracles of the Lord Jesus.
Against this background “salvation” means a persons rescue from those powers which would lead to ultimate destruction. These may be the power of Satan (as illustrated in Pharaoh), the peril of eternal perdition (as illustrated in drowning), or the ravages of the plague of sin (as illustrated by various bodily ailments). This is the character of the deliverance brought to men through faith in Him, Who so appropriately bears the name “Jesus.” This human name, meaning “the Lord saves,” was conferred upon Him because “He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).
Salvation is “of the Lord” (Ps 3:8; Jonah 2:9) and “by grace through faith” (Eph 2:8), thus eliminating human effort or merit. In the NT both God the Father and the Lord Jesus bear the title “Savior,” with John affirming “the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14), and this divine activity in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus has provided salvation for all men. This salvation, which God desires for all without exception (1 Tim 2:3-4), is revealed in Christ (Titus 2:11), recorded in the Scripture (2 Tim 3:15), announced by the heralds (Acts 16:17;28:28), and effective in those who believe (Rom 1:16).
“Salvation” is also a comprehensive concept involving deliverance for the complete person. Initially, there is the “salvation of the soul” (Eph 2:8;Heb 10:39). Practically, there is salvation of the life as the power of the Gospel is manifested in daily experience (1 Cor 1:21). Ultimately, there is the salvation of the body at the Lords coming again (Phil 3:20; Rom 13:11). Salvation includes deliverance from sins sentence, slavery, and, eventually, its sphere.