What Does Salvation Mean?

Perhaps the most popular Christian verse is John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:17 continues with the same theme (I am putting “saved” in italics to emphacize its usage.):

For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him.

There is that word “saved”. Or look this verse:

And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

There is “saved” again. What does saved mean? What is salvation?

The word translated save is sozo in the Greek which means to make whole, to restore, to protect. In John 3:16 we have the comparison, perishing versus eternal life. In those two end results we have what we are saved from and what we are saved to. We are saved from perishing; we are saved unto eternal life. That’s what we read in John 3:16-17.

When Peter began to sink while walking on the water he cried out “save me” in Matt 14:30. When Jesus grabbed his hand, restoring him to the point where he could again walk on water until he got into the boat he was saved.  This illustrates the resuing, restoring, making whole meaning of “saved”.

Without Jesus we are in darkness, we are lost. This is not my message, these are Jesus’ words;

He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.
For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved.
But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God. (John 3:19-21)

Some people are upset at all the talk about perishing, about God judging, about sin, about talk of “evil works”. In John 3, Luke 9 the teaching about salvation versus judgment, sin and evil works are Jesus’ words. If you think that you are already righteous, then Jesus himself said;

But when he heard it, he said, They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.
But go ye and learn what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. (Matt 9:12-13)  (Whole italicized by author.)

There is that concept again of wholeness. Jesus came to restore those that call on him to wholeness.     If you think that you are whole already, that the things Jesus called evil aren’t evil, if you think that it isn’t fair that God would judge sinners, if you think Jesus isn’t real, then he didn’t come for you. Jesus came for those that recognize a need for him so that they can be restored to wholeness.

The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kill, and destroy: I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.(John 10:10)

Jesus came to restore us to an abundant life now (John 10:10), and eternally (John 3:16).  Life in Jesus makes us whole.  With Jesus we can have a life that is abundant whereas without Jesus we live a life that is full of the darkness that abounds in the world.  An abundant life now and eternal life with him is what Jesus came to make available.   That is what salvation is about.

© copyright 2009 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

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