There is much confusion around the idea of what is salvation. The problem is that we have been “enlightened” to bad teachings for centuries. This has happened because many forget that the New Testament was mainly written to Jews, not Gentiles.
At the center of the misunderstanding about what is salvation is a greek word. It is what we know as sozo. It is used over 100 times in the New Testament in 18 different books. It is translated mostly as saved but can be used for preserved and recover. This is become when we are saved, we have recovered everything lost in the fall of mankind.
So what does it mean to us?
- to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
- to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
- to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue
- to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment
- to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance
When we are saved and turn from our own wicked ways, we are rescued from the danger of sin, hell and grave. The reality of the fall such as demonic influence are destructed because of the blood of Jesus Christ in our lives. (This is why a believer can’t have a demon!)
Jewish vs Greek beliefs about salvation
Many of us are gentiles and as such, we tend to not understand Jewish thinking! This matters because most of the scriptures was written by Jews, for Jews, and to Jews. When Paul wrote, he did not think of the “three parts of a person: body, soul and spirit.” (That’s a Greek concept) He saw a person as a whole being. When the early church spoke of soul and spirit, they used them to mean the same thing. It was not until later that people divided the two.
The Apostles saw salvation as being saved, healed, delivered, and sanctified at conversion. There is no example of a believer getting delivered or “inner healing” anywhere in the Book of Acts. If God is the same yesterday, today and forever…and we believe the New Testament is our guide for faith and conduct; we know also reject anything beyond salvation that the early church viewed as included in conversion.
The tripartite view which Apollinaris of Laodicea started to teach (three parts of a person) become popular but was later rejected in 381. We got where we are today with it because Martin Luther taught this doctrine during the Reformation. The common believer did not have the education to truly be a “Berean” (Acts 17:11) As a result, the teaching has taken root in almost every movement in the last 500 years.
Oddly, even John Calvin realized this was a bad doctrine and rejected it. He believed there was two realities of the person: the body and soul. While this is much closer to what it seems the Apostles believed, it helps us understand one of the main challenges that we face.
Here is why this matter is so important. As an evangelist, are we trying to save the soul (mind, will and emotions) or the spirit. If we use the Greek logic of one has a soul and a spirit, the evangelist’s role would be winning people’s mental and emotional state. Do you see the problem here?
The reality is that soul winning is about eternity and has little to do with the mind or the emotions. It is about their eternal destiny. In the tripartite view, we would be spirit winning. Of course, we reject this as we should reject the whole theological concept.
Given, that we realize that sozo means reaching people as a whole person, soul winning is about the person; not a part of them. When we realize this, we understand that evangelism has been made easy and all the confusion is taken away. Soul winning is just because reaching people for Christ to save them in every area.
I believe we have gotten here where we have such complex theology because theologians struggle to just make things simple. A professor job security is obtained by making doctrine hard to understand. However, the biblical view is so simple that the farmer or a fisherman can understand it. We have to remember that most of the early church were not the most well educated of society.