Christianity possesses a number of key concepts that must be understood in order to have a clear understanding of its teachings. Among the most essential concepts is that of salvation. Salvation is spoken of throughout the text of the Bible and misunderstanding this central tenet of the Christian faith will prevent a person from a thorough grasp of its teachings. What is salvation in the Christian tradition and why it is so foundational to grasping the whole of Biblical teaching?
The concept of salvation is not unique to the Christian faith.
Many religious traditions have an understanding of salvation and what it means within that particular belief system. The general concept involves being delivered out of some dire peril. Religious traditions usually focus on the dangers of sin and the necessity of being delivered from the consequences of such sin. These traditions, though, differ in how this deliverance is achieved. Christianity has a specific understanding of what salvation is and of how God delivers people from the consequences of their sin and rebellion against him.
While the Christian concept of salvation is rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the need for salvation from sin has its roots that go back long before Jesus appeared on the Earth. Following the crossing of the Red Sea, when God delivered his people Israel from bondage under the Egyptians, Moses led the people in a song of worship to God (Exodus 15:2). Israel worshiped God who was their salvation. Deliverance from bondage in Egypt was a living symbol of God’s deliverance of his people from bondage to sin. The Lord God is worthy of worship because by his strength he has saved those who put their trust in him.
For the people of God, the Lord was the one who fought for them.
When they went forward according to his direction, the Lord fought for Israel as a demonstration that he was the one, true God who was greater than all of the false gods of the nations around them. Following a victory, the people of Israel declared that the Lord had worked salvation in Israel (1 Samuel 11:13). Salvation from physical enemies showed that God could overcome any enemies whether physical or spiritual in nature. Celebration and joy were the proper responses of God’s people to their Lord who regularly delivered them from their physical enemies and was their hope of eternal salvation with him.
The Christian believes that Jesus is the promise of salvation that God had given his people through his prophets.
When John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah Jesus, was born, his father Zechariah declared that this was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promised salvation (Luke 1:69).
The promised deliverer was to come through the line of King David; a man after God’s own heart. Because David had completely placed his confidence in the Lord to be his salvation, God had promised that salvation would come through his genealogical line. Knowledge of salvation would come through John, the forerunner of the Messiah, who would call the people of Israel to repentance and forgiveness of sin by trusting in the Lord (Luke 1:77).
Jesus is the way of salvation for the follower of the Christian faith.
When the apostle Peter was brought before the religious authorities, he declared there is salvation in no other than in Jesus (Acts 4:11, 12). It was the preaching of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the testimony that Jesus was truly the Son of God sent by the Father to be the sacrifice for sin, that caused such great turmoil in the city of Jerusalem and led the religious authorities to come down hard upon the earliest followers of Jesus. All that Jesus said and did was attested to by his powerfully conquering death and rising to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Salvation for the Christian does not come about by any particular action, but by trusting in Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome of the way of salvation. He declared that salvation is the result of confessing Jesus’ Lordship and believing in his resurrection from the dead (Romans 10:9). Salvation is a combination of an internal belief and a public confession that a person has placed his or her life in the hands of Jesus and is willing to be completely directed by him. Belief in the resurrection is the testimony that Jesus is who he said he was and confessing his Lordship is an affirmation that Jesus is God and that he rules over all creation. Christians have the confidence that such a combination of belief and declaration guarantees salvation from the bondage of sin and the assurance of eternal life in the presence of God.
The book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, is a revelation of God to the apostle John. John saw a great multitude in heaven worshiping the Lord and giving Him glory (Revelation 19:1). The salvation of those who trust in Jesus declares that God is powerful enough to overcome sin and its horrendous effects on human beings. God deserves glory because he has delivered his people from their bondage to sin and he will reign as king over them for all eternity. Salvation for the Christian is not just for this world, but for all time. The Christian understands salvation as a gift from God and thus the Lord is worthy of all praise and glory forever. Jesus is the way of salvation that God has made so that his people can live eternally with him.