Salvation is the very basis of Christianity. It is a word that is used 173 times throughout the ESV Bible, 164 times in the KJV, and 122 times in the NIV. But what does it mean?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, salvation is the “preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.” But it is necessary to narrow it down further. Each time the word is used, the context will have some influence on its meaning. Although analyzing every single instance would be rather long and repetitive, many prominent moments help us clearly understand the others without explaining them outright. One might say that you can divide the meaning of the word into two categories.
The first category would be labelled “physical/temporal salvation”. Here the word would be used to describe a physical deliverance from something like imprisonment or disease. An imprisoned princess would receive salvation from the tower by a knight in shining armor, and so on.
For Christians, there is a much more significant meaning of the word salvation. It refers to our eternal well-being, it is a “spiritual salvation”. We are all sinners, and the wages or consequences of our sin is death. So Biblical salvation would refer to salvation that rescues us from both our sin and the consequences thereof. Although it is easy to say that Christ has saved us from our sins, it can be tricky to explain precisely what that means. The easiest way to describe it would be to start by contrasting physical salvation with that of our spiritual deliverance through Christ.
Looking at the apostle Paul, a clear example of physical deliverance would be his deliverance from prison (Philippians 1:19). His physical body received salvation from imprisonment. However, when Paul explains to his Philippian jailer what he had to do to be given salvation (Acts 16:30-31), he tells him about spiritual salvation – eternal salvation.
Christ relates salvation with entering the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24-25); thus we can conclude that the wages of our sin would prevent us from doing so. The consequences of sin are eternal, not just in our physical lives, so we need spiritual salvation from these consequences; otherwise, we would be eternally affected by them. The effect of our crimes is eternal death.
In the Old Testament, people made sacrifices at various occasions for various purposes. One of these purposes was to clean people or objects from sin. An innocent animal would be sacrificed in the place of the person so that they would not have to die for their own sins. Ultimately, Christ was sacrificed so that all of us could receive salvation from our sins – not through the ritualistic sacrificing of animals, nor through our good works, but through faith alone (Romans 1:16). Why is this possible? Christ was perfect. He was better than all of us in every single way: perfectly pure, loving, patient, kind, and the list goes on to every godly attribute. His was a sacrifice of something perfect in place of that which was damaged and corrupted, to bring about eternal salvation.
Some people are called by God to move somewhere new to share this excellent news with those who have never heard it, so they too can have eternal salvation from their sins. All of us are called to live in a Christ-like way where we already are, to show others the difference that Jesus makes, and then to share the good news with them.
However, if God has called you to share this good news, wouldn’t it be a shame if you did not do that? You have the opportunity to share the world’s best news with those closest to you so they can experience salvation from their sins. Who will you tell this week?