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The following will examine the biblical meaning of the New Testament word SALVATION and examine its uses in various passages from the Old and New Testaments. While there are many pluralistic views regarding salvation, this assignment will address only one. All Scripture references will be from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
The Book of Acts was primarily written by Luke and is a record of two main people in this book, Peter and Paul. The title of the book of Acts in Greek is the word praxeis, which was commonly used in literature to summarize the accomplishments of outstanding men. The apostles are mentioned collectively throughout the Book of Acts, yet the book records the primary acts of Peter, in chapters 1-12 and of Paul, in chapters 13-28.
In Acts chapter 3 Peter and John were on their way to the temple, for the hour of prayer. Upon entering the temple, a man who had been lame since birth asked for alms and as Peter and John heard this, their attention was focused on him and Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). The man was given assistance by Peter’s hand to get up and walk, which he did. Peter then proceeded to preach to those who were witnesses to this miracle that it was not by their own power that healed the lame man, to make him walk again. The power that caused the lame man to walk again was the name of Jesus, “through faith in His name that has made this man strong” (Acts 3:16).
This miracle caused not only amazement among the people who had seen this man daily at the temple gate and lame since his birth, it angered the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees. Then they arrested Peter and John for preaching to the Jews that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, by the power of God, further proclaiming that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning a coming redeemer, savior and king.
Since it was late in the day when they were arrested, around 3 p.m. and near sundown, it was illegal to conduct a trial at night, therefore Peter and John spent the night in prison. Interestingly, these religious leaders respected the legality to conduct a legal inquisition of Peter and John on the following day, unlike the arrest, inquisition, trial and conviction of Jesus that was conducted, in the evening. Hence, the next day, they stood before the Sanhedrin to give an account for what they had done.
The Sanhedrin (san´hé-drin (סנחדרין, ṣanhedhrīn, the Talmudic transcription of the Greek συνέδριον, sunédrion)) was, at and before the time of Christ, the name for the highest Jewish tribunal, of 71 members, in Jerusalem, and also for the lower tribunals, of 23 members, of which Jerusalem had two (Tōṣephtā' Ḥăghīghāh 11 9; Ṣanhedrin 1 6; 11 2). It is derived from sún, “together,” and hédra, “seat.” In Greek and Roman literature the senates of Sparta, Carthage, and even Rome, are so called (compare Pausan. iii. 11, 2; Polyb. iii. 22; Dion Cassius xl.49).
In Josephus, the word is presented for the first time in connection with the governor Gabinius (57-55 BC), who divided the whole of Palestine into 5 sunédria (Ant., XIV, v, 4), or súnodoi (BJ, I, viii, 5); and with the term sunedrion for the high council in Jerusalem first in Ant., XIV, ix, 3-5, in connection with Herod, who, when a youth, had to appear before the sunedrion at Jerusalem to answer for his doings in Galilee. But before that date the word appears in the Septuagint version of Proverbs (circa 130 BC), especially in Proverbs 22:10; Proverbs 31:23, as an equivalent for the Mishnaic bēth-dīn = “judgment chamber.” It was quite serious for them to face the Sanhedrin even though they were empowered to judge cases that did not involve capital punishment.
During the inquisition on the following day, the Sanhedrin had asked Peter and John by what name or character of authority did they have permission to perform this miracle? Peter then explained that it was the one whom they crucified, whom God raised from the dead that the lame man was healed. Regarding this question of power that was posed to Peter and John, Adam Clarke says, “It seems that this council were convinced that the lame man was miraculously healed; but it is very likely that they believed the whole to be the effect of magic; and, as all intercourse with familiar spirits, and all spells, charms, etc., were unlawful, they probably hoped that, on the examination, this business would come out, and that then these disturbers of their peace would be put to death. Hence, they inquired by what power, εν ποια δυναμει, by what supernatural energy; or in what name, by what mode of incantation; and who is the spirit you invoke, in order to do these things? False prophets, reputed witches, wizards, etc., were to be brought before the sanhedrin, to be by them judged, acquitted, or condemned, according to the evidence. Some think the words should be thus understood: Who gave you authority to teach publicly! This belongs to the sanhedrin. What, therefore, is your authority, and who is he who gave it to you?”
Peter then boldly publicly announces to these religious leaders of the Sanhedrin saying, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Keener states that Peter’s use of the word salvation in the name of Jesus, refers to his earlier exposition of Joel 2:32, as indicated in Acts 2:21.
Peter’s reference to the word “saved” refers to making a person whole, as in the case of the lame man at the temple gate. As Peter spoke before the people in the temple and the Sanhedrin, he portrays Jesus Christ as the exclusive means of salvation above that of all other deities under heaven, which are excluded as a possible way of salvation, except the name of Jesus Christ. This also expresses the logical necessity of salvation for all of humanity. Peter’s use of the word “must” in his address also reveals the absolute necessity of faith in Jesus Christ alone, in order for a person to obtain God’s salvation. Salvation is hopeless without Him.
The word SALVATION, “Nor is there salvation in any other,” used in Acts 4:12 comes from the Greek word sōtēria (so-tay-ree'-ah, Greek: σωτηρία) and is used specifically 40 times in the New Testament. Sōtēria is defined by Thayer’s Greek Definition as follows: 1) deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation; 1a) deliverance from the molestation of enemies; 1b) in an ethical sense, that which concludes to the souls safety or salvation; 1b1) of Messianic salvation; 2) salvation as the present possession of all true Christians; 3) future salvation, the sum of benefits and blessings which the Christians, redeemed from all earthly ills, will enjoy after the visible return of Christ from heaven in the consummated and eternal kingdom of God.
The word SAVED, “…by which we must be saved,” is the Greek word sōtēr (so-tare', Greek: σωτήρ), which means a deliverer, that is, God or Christ (savior) and has 24 occurrences in the New Testament.
Sōtēr originates from the Greek word sōzō (sode'-zo, Greek: σώζω), which means to save, that is, deliver or protect (literally or figuratively): - heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole and has 120 specific references: saved (53), save (41), whole (11), made (9), healed (3), do (1), preserve (1) and well (1). The healing miracle that was performed on the lame man was a demonstration of the power of the name of Jesus Christ, to (sōzō ) heal or make whole those who are afflicted by some form of disease.
Likewise, it is the name of Jesus Christ, by which delivers a person to safety, from the wrath of God’s judgment for sin, which is transgression of the law. Peter not only demonstrated the power of God, in the name of Jesus Christ to heal the lame man that made him walk again, he also spoke to the religious leaders of the Sanhedrin concerning the salvation of the soul.
A Perspective of Salvation from the Old Testament
In E.M.B. Green’s book, The Meaning of Salvation, he describes the perspective of salvation by a particular group of Jewish people in the days of the Old Testament, the Sadducees.
The Sadducees were men of strong political influence that came from a family lineage of religious nobility and wealthy property owners. In the governing of affairs, they were not very cooperative people, often stubborn, yet conservative in their temperament, which both of these characteristics were unusual among this group of individuals.
The Sadducees understanding of salvation, in the first century is from the following Mishnah tractate, “Salvation for Israel lies in cooperation with the ruling powers. You may not like the Romans, but it is folly to oppose them. Politics is the art of the possible. And so long as we hold power in Israel we shall endeavor to keep her from the madness revolt which those hot-headed zealots are always urging. If the Pharisees like to dream of hopes of an after-life, where the tables are turned and all the righteous saved, good luck to them. We are concerned with the harsh realities of life as it is.”
This gives the reader a better understanding regarding the questioning of Peter and John concerning the authority they had to perform miraculous signs or speak about salvation, the liberty, deliverance or safety (salvation) of the Jewish people.
People in our present day society have a similar mentality, like the Sadducees, concerned only with the present difficulties of life without concern for the after-life, which is quite similar to that of an atheistic worldview. Yet, the Talmud (Mishnah) tractate Sanhedrin 10:1-3 and Talmud tractate Rosh Hashana 16b and 17a are convincingly filled with references to judgment and reward in the afterlife, with even a few stories of those who went there and came back to tell others about it. The Talmud insists that a convert be warned that most of the reward and punishment will not be in this world and should be quickly disillusioned. Such is the perspective of many people in the present as well of those who are non-Jewish also.
Salvation in the New Testament
The most crucial reason for a person to escape God’s wrath that is to come, His judgment of personal sin. This was specifically communicated by an angel of the Lord, to Joseph who was engaged to Mary. Matthew 1:21 says, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus is the one who will be the sōtēr, the savior, deliverer of God’s people from His judgment to punish sin.
The following verses from the New Testament letters of the apostle Paul, express God’s coming judgment, which should motivate an individual to obtain their salvation from God, through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ:
- Romans 2:5, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,”
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
The word wrath that is mentioned in these three verses is the Greek word orgē (or-gay', Greek: οργή) and this is defined as justifiable abhorrence, anger, indignation or vengeance.
These verses express the effects of a just and holy God toward Jews and Gentiles alike, because of a hard heart or feeling no regret for sins committed against God and it seems unfathomable to imagine what such anger, indignation or vengeance would look like from God. (There is a conscious, physical experience to this as well for those who are condemned to hell and it would be neglectful on the part of this writer not to mention this.) Both of which should cause an individual to humbly rush to God’s throne of grace, repent of their sins and personally possess their salvation by grace through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s anger toward unremorseful sinners should not be mistaken as an irrational, emotional outburst. His justice and holiness demands punishment for disobedience when His free gift of salvation, to exonerate a person from their sins, has been rejected.
William Crockett provides a simple and valid truth concerning the Apostle Paul as he, “chooses this term (orgē, or-gay’, Greek: οργή) to underscore the fact that in the eschaton rebellious sinners have no hope of salvation. They will be taken from the presence of God and the righteous and placed, in effect, beyond the pale of God’s love. The righteous go the way of life, the wicked the way of death.”
Therefore, First Thessalonians 5:9 is an amazing encouragement for an unrepentant sinner to realize God’s intention for their eternal souls. He did not create humanity with a specific intention to punish everyone because of the fall of man in Genesis 3, no, instead God sent Himself, in the likeness of human flesh to be a savior to those who would obey His command to repent of his or her sins and be saved from God’s wrath through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:9).
Every person surely lives once and will die once. At the end of life, each person will stand before God in judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 9:27), a judgment that has been forewarned. Yet humanity also knows and must hear even more that it is not God’s intention to send His wrath upon them, rather that it is God’s specific intent and purpose for every person to be saved from His anger, indignation and vengeance for their rebellion against Him, through a deliverer, a savior, who is Jesus Christ.
Regarding First Thessalonians 5:9 Matthew Henry says, “If we have hope of salvation, let us take heed of any thing that would shake our trust in the Lord. We have ground on which to build unshaken hope, when we consider, that salvation is by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, to atone for our sins and to ransom our souls.”
A person must primarily recognize that the ultimate reason and need to obtain salvation, is to escape God’s judgment of sin where the moral record of humanity is stained in sin and only a blood sacrifice can cause the removal of such a horrible stain before a just and holy God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” The God of the bible is the God who saves His people from their sin and not by their good works, piety or religious way of life. He is the only way of salvation and there is no other way (John 14:6).
A Pluralistic View of Salvation
Religious pluralism existed then as it does today, which indicates that an individual can hold two or more ecclesiastical views at the same time, even if they oppose one another, which they often do. For example, most Christians believe that Jesus was God incarnate and that he died for the salvation of humanity, while most Buddhists believe that enlightenment liberates the individual from the cycle of rebirth so that he may enter Nirvana.
James Sigountos says the Bible overwhelmingly affirms that those who reject Jesus Christ by adhering to other religions are lost and this is one of the reasons an individual will seek to find salvation in Christ alone (Matthew 18:11).
Because of the widely held pluralistic views held by some in days of the Bible, Sigountos cites philosophers such as Justin, Tatian, Theopilus, Origen and Eusebius who all agreed that Christianity had a unified system of truth that did not contradict itself and that only Christianity could be considered authentic, unlike the pagan beliefs of biblical history.
In addition and returning back to Scripture, there is exclusivity concerning salvation and an intolerance of salvation by or in any other deity. For 1) “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” and 2) God will not tolerate competition for His devotion, glory or sovereignty. “You shall have no other gods before Me,” said God to Moses in Exodus 20:3 and where the Lord said to the prophet Isaiah, “I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior” (Isaiah 43:11).
John Hick though suggests redefining salvation in terms of an actual human change is taking place in people and places within all the world religions. He believes that if Christianity is the sole source of truth regarding salvation, the forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, this is a tautology, a needless repetition of though that is redundant in other world religions.
Those that followed the religious pluralism or the philosophical ideologies in antiquity, as people also do today; we can easily see how these opposing theological worldviews affect an individual’s perspective and understanding of God’s salvation. The apostle Paul declared, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
It important to note also that while many today will hold on to their own theological concept of salvation as people did in the days of the Bible, they fail to recognize their concept of salvation is futile apart from God’s Holy Word. The strength and conviction a person has of their self-directed and complete exclusion of faith or repentance toward God, this path to salvation and eternity in heaven has a weak foundation compared to the cross, which is the power of God to save people. Jesus said that apart from Him we could do nothing, which includes entering heaven (John 15:5).
Salvation in Jesus Christ restores a covenant relationship with God for an individual with a contrite heart towards Him for the guilt of their sins that deserves His just punishment for their rebellion against Him. It brings peace to a new Christian, who has been born again, knowing the forgiveness of their sins through repentance and faith in Christ, has wrought for them their salvation from God’s judgment and an eternal condemnation to hell. Heaven and hell are future places and the salvation one obtains through faith in Jesus Christ is something that happens in the present, not the future. A person who is saved, has been redeemed from hell because they are saved and they enter heaven because they have been saved beforehand. Why would anyone want to challenge his or her own way of salvation compared to the power of God’s salvation in His crucified Son, Jesus Christ?
Paul Minear says, “the chief connotation of the term salvation is the assurance of life after death. The various religions are seen to compete in offering post-mortem guaranties. Man his haunted by the uncertainties of existence beyond the grave, and seeks to stifle his dread by accepting pious doctrines and practices. He wants a place in Heaven, and is afraid of a place in Hell. His dread is the counterpart of his ignorance. He has not yet experienced death, nor is he able to communicate with those who have. Considering a “future life” as a highest good, yet unable to penetrate behind the curtain, he is impelled to speculate.” Such speculation should take place rather speedily too because Scripture clearly warns people that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). What a horrible consequence it would be for a person to forever lose the salvation that God has provided in Jesus Christ! How shall anyone escape God’s judgment by willfully neglecting so great a salvation in Jesus Christ?
The guilt, power and consequence of sin daily weighs heavily on the conscience of the one who will receive God’s just punishment apart from Christ. There is nothing of any human effort that merits satisfaction to God that exceeds His work, in saving a person’s soul from final judgment. Only repentance and faith in the Son of God, from a humble and contrite heart is acceptable to God since there is no other whom has been appointed as an acceptable mediator to save a man or woman from God’s judgment (1 Timothy 2:5).
James C. Ryle says, “Likewise, there is only one hiding place for sinners who want to escape the storm of God’s anger—they must hide their souls in Christ…if they don’t want to perish forever—they must go to Christ.” He further adds, “There must be a Mediator, an Atonement, an Advocate, to make such poor sinful creatures acceptable with God: and I find this nowhere, except in the person of Jesus Christ. Heaven for man without a mighty Redeemer, peace with God for man without a mighty Intercessor, eternal life for man without an eternal Savior—in one word, salvation without Christ—all appear to me to be utter impossibilities.”
The great Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon said in his sermon, The Way of Salvation, “Salvation is the total restoration of man from his fallen estate; and yet it is something more than that, for God's salvation fixes our standing more secure than it was before we fell. It finds us broken in pieces by the sin of our first parent, defiled, stained, accursed: it first heals our wounds, it removes our diseases, it takes away our curse, it puts our feet upon the rock Christ Jesus, and having thus done, at last it lifts our heads far above all principalities and powers, to be crowned for ever with Jesus Christ, the King of heaven.”
The work of salvation cannot be achieved or performed by any man or woman because it is the work of God alone, which is made effectual by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ first, then by the acknowledgement of repentance of sin before a just and holy God. Throughout the New Testament and especially in the Old Testament, God has given specific direction and displays of His salvation power at work, proving that there is no other savior, but God (Isaiah 45:14,21).
It is the message and work of salvation that is God’s answer to humanity’s sinfulness of sin, the cleansing and redeeming performed by Himself, possessed by those who willfully obtain it for themselves, enabling them to obtain by God’s grace what they could not in all of their unrighteousness.
“After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!"” Revelation 19:1.
 Sanhedrin, From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Edited by James Orr, published in 1939 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Retrieved on April 10, 2009 from http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/S/sanhedrin.html
 Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, Acts 4:7. Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Verson 7.8) [Computer software].
 Craig. S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 333.
 Thayer’s Greek Definitions, sōtēria, G4991. Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Verson 7.8) [Computer software].
 Ibid. Sōtēr.
 Ibid. Sōzō.
 Mishnah, Niddah, 4.1.
 The parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 provides an example of the physical torment an individual will suffer in hell.
 Eschaton - (New Testament) day at the end of time following Armageddon when God will decree the fates of all individual humans according to the good and evil of their earthly lives. WordNet® 3.0. Princeton University. 10 Apr. 2009. Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eschaton.
 William V. Crockett, “Wrath That Endures Forever.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34, no. 2: ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost; accessed April 10, 2009. 196.
 Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-11. Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Verson 7.8) [Computer software].
 Religious Pluralism, available from http://www.reference.com/browse/religious%20pluralism; Internet; accessed 10 April 2009.
 William V. Crocket and James G. Sigountos, Through No Fault of Their Own? (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991) 229.
 Ibid. 235.
 John Hick, Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1995), 43.
 Paul S. Minear, “ The Hope of Salvation: Structural elements in biblical soteriology. Interpretation 3, no. 3: ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost; accessed April 10, 2009, 268.
 James C. Ryle, Only One Way – Christ! Retrieved from http://www.biblebb.com/files/ryle/JR-026.htm, on April 13, 2009.
 Charles H. Spurgeon, The Way of Salvation, (1858), retrieved from http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/0209.htm on April 11, 2009.
Craig. S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003).
Charles H. Spurgeon, The Way of Salvation, (1858), retrieved from http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/0209.htm on April 11, 2009.
James C. Ryle, Only One Way – Christ! Retrieved from http://www.biblebb.com/files/ryle/JR-026.htm, on April 13, 2009.
John Hick, Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1995).
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible. Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Verson 7.8) [Computer software].
Mishnah, Niddah, 4.1.
Paul S. Minear, “ The Hope of Salvation: Structural elements in biblical soteriology. Interpretation 3, no. 3.
Religious Pluralism, available from http://www.reference.com/browse/religious%20pluralism; Internet; accessed 10 April 2009.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
William V. Crocket and James G. Sigountos, Through No Fault of Their Own? (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991).
William V. Crockett, “Wrath That Endures Forever.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34, no. 2.
Recommended bible study resource - e-Sword.