what does it mean to be "saved" or to enter into a "salvation relationship" with God? does the "sinners prayer" do anything for us? does it matter if we never do it? what does it mean? does salvation only happen if we "confess christ as lord and savior?" does it only happen if say it with our mouths? what is the idea of "salvation" and what does it mean for my life as a follower of christ? does one need to remember an "exact date" of that salvation experience? can salvation be a process and not a "event?"
the term "salvation" is a very interesting one and in the new testament, three words are translated as meaning "salvation" - and, with the limits of the english language we give all three the same definition "salvation" - yet, we change the meaning as we desire:
sozo - "save, saved, made well, cured"
soteria - "deliverance, preservation, salvation"
soterion - related to soteria and means "to bring..." what ever the word one decides.
these words bring interesting questions - let me pick one for example, "sozo" or "saved" or "made well" is a great example of how we have misunderstood the theology of salvation. let me explain by using three scriptures where the word "sozo" is used in different ways.
in luke 7:50 the word is translated as "saved" and jesus says to the women, "your faith has saved [sozo] you, go in peace" the word "sozo" is translated as "saved" - notice, that the salvation comes because of her faith, but faith in what? she never confesses jesus as lord and savior, and she never says the "sinners prayer," in fact she says nothing - so, faith in what? what "faith" change in her life cause jesus to tell her that she was saved?
i believe the "faith change" was that she showed a "heart change," a willingness to humble herself and do for others; something the owner of the home was unwilling to do - she had a desire to be something different form who she was, she sought a change in life; her actions showed a new heart - the story never shares that she has any idea who jesus was [while that is implied via a traditional theology where "salvation" as an act of only confessing becomes important - but it is not in the story] and jesus never makes her confess anything - her act was her salvation. salvation came to her because she had a change of heart and followed a core teaching of jesus, to humble ourselves and serve others with an honest and open heart. so, must one speak out that jesus is lord? can that transformation take place in the silence of our hearts and become evident in our actions, where one day we act one way, and another day we are something different?
then we look deeper into luke and we come to luke 8:36 at the conclusion of the demons of "legion" story and the results of the interaction with jesus we see another use of the word "sozo" and one i think has been seen as "less then saved" [in the message the word is translated as "saved" but in the niv it is "cured"]. what i find so interesting is that the man never asks for anything, the man never speaks and never interacts with jesus at all - the demons do all the talking, and the demons do all the begging not to be removed and the demons do all the interacting - the man requested nothing. jesus' interaction is not with the man, but with the demons, and "salvation" is so not requested by the demons, but it is given to the man. even more interesting is that the same word "sozo" is translated as "made well" and this story is never seen as a "salvation story" and yet it is a great salvation story. if we take the word and translate it as "saved" we get a different view of the interaction, because he is "saved" and so, salvation came not even on his request but on something totally and completely done by jesus - that becomes a powerful reality that moves me greatly. salvation came from the heart of jesus, and not a request of a person. salvation was completely based on the actions of jesus and not on the actions of the person; does that mean salvation can come without our asking for it? is salvation something given to all people, just for being alive?
then, in the ever popular [and often quoted] romans 10:9 we read, "that if you confess with your mouth, "jesus is lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" [i love the way the message puts it, "say the welcoming word to God--"jesus is my master"--embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising jesus from the dead. that's it. you're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. that's salvation.] and the word "sozo" is the word "saved." so, the question comes, if "saved" comes with confession [and i am cool with that] can it come in another way? can it be seen that a change in heart allows for the same gift of salvation? i think the idea of "salvation" is wider and deeper then we have been lead to understand. if we see the romans scripture as "right" then we need to see the others just as "right" - the words are the same and have the same meaning. romans does not say, "the only way to be saved is to ..." so why do we see it that way? why do we say that we "must confess?" and if we "must" confess, does the idea of confession only mean we "speak the words" - can our actions speak as a confession to jesus as lord and savior?
so, who is "saved"
whenever one questions the idea of salvation, one is seen as a heretic; more so if it is "outside" the normal "traditional evangelical" view of what salvation is all about. the idea that "salvation" is anything other then what has been seen as "right" over the modern age is seen as "just wrong." the idea of seeing salvation in a different light always seems to bring about the next question; when i speak in terms of a "different view" of salvation people ask, "so, who is saved?" to me that question seems to say, "who is in our club" or "who do we see as "equal" to us?"
for me, and my reading, when jesus came and lived with us the story of salvation came to life [the incarnation became real, and moved into the neighborhood], and when he died the story started to come together in his willingness to give his life for us. when jesus died, salvation was granted to everyone [titus 2:11 clearly says that salvation appeared for all people]. i can hear the next question, "if everyone is "saved" doesn't that make cheap the idea of salvation?" not at all, why would it? the idea that jesus died for everyone is key to seeing who jesus is; if his death was for only those who think they got it right we cheapen the gift of salvation; we become a closed gathering of people who look only to themselves. the difference maybe [and this is outward processing] that some accept the gift and others do not - but jesus died for all people, everyone. yet, if we see the stroies of jesus and how he interacts with others can we say that "salvation can only come if we confess jesus as lord" and could their be other ways?
zacchaeus is another example - his salvation came not because of his confession in christ, but because he had a great change in his life - a shift in his business ethics if you will. the story is plain, and the idea of confessing jesus as "lord and savior" never happened. so, is his salvation not a true salvation? when jesus told zacchaeus that, "today, salvation entered your house" did he man that because of zacchaeus' actions his whole family was saved? today, we seem to think that there needs to be a magic formula [the sinners prayer] and a special password [confession] to truly be a christian. many in the church feel that if a person cannot express an "exact date" of salvation, never said it out loud and have never said the sinners prayer then their "salvation" is not valid. i believe that scripture shows that there is no "one method" of salvation; there is one source, the death of jesus for us, but not one method.