some questions:
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?"

some definations:
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 scripture:
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?

closing thoughts:
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.


Jeffrey said...

cool stuff man. I'm right there with you in those thoughts. rock on.

Keith said...

I agree with most of what you have stated. i do think it is between you and God. True, Jesus died to save everyone. But I think that a person has to believe that and accept that. This idea of the sinner's prayer though as the ONLY way to be saved is bogus in my opinion. If you accept Jesus death on the cross for us and honestly believe that, then you're in. Just my point of view. You're awesome John and I love reading your stuff man! Rawk on!


s. zeilenga said...

I can kind of see where you are shooting for and agree with you on a few aspects of the article but I can't fit your "everyone is saved" concept into the whole of the gospels. It might not be a vocal confession per se but every one of the people you mentioned had some sort of life change and announcing (vocal or not) to the world.

Perhaps it is possible to say that everyone who comes into contact with Jesus and has a life change is saved but can we say that people who learn of Jesus, interact with Jesus and still go away unchanged are saved? I think there are too many quotes from Jesus and the Apostles that negate the "everyone is saved" idea.

I mean, if everyone is saved then doesn't that negate the whole "go into all the world thing?" (Mark 16:15)? What would be the point? And what about Jesus saying, "...no one comes to the Father except through Me?" And what about the parable of the landowner? (matthew 21:33-46) And what about the parable of the seed and the sower? (check luke 8:12)

These are just questions thrown out there. But, I think they need to be asked because they seem to point to a way to salvation.

To me, it isn't about elitism or asking "who can be saved?" as a part of a christian-ese caste system. I ask that question so that I can form my witnessing/disciple-making efforts around a specific game plan.

anyway. Sorry for the long post. I just am asking some much needed questions.


Mike and Rachel Whitenton said...

Thanks for this article, John. It brings up a very important question, "Who can be saved?" The passage you cite in Titus 2:11 doesn't seem to me to support your claim for universal salvation at all. The verse simply gives Paul's reasoning for his instructions to various peoples in the Cretan church. He urged older men and women, young women and bondslaves to interact with others in ways that glorify God. Why? Because "the grace of God has appreared bringing salvation to all men [and women]." This verse is not saying all are saved, but rather that salvation is available to all, so all should be treated with respect, dignity, etc. The reformers, namely Luther and Calvin, stressed the importance of letting Scripture interpret Scripture. So what does the rest of Scripture say about salvation? It says that one is saved by grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9, Acts 4:12). In fact, the Bible stresses that one is saved by faith alone over 160 times (to see all references go to http://hixson.org/docs/Soteriology/160%20verses%20on%20faith%20alone.pdf).
Also, what about all of the people in Revelation 20:11-15 whose names are not found in the book of life, and are subsequently thrown in to the lake of fire? That doesn't sound like sweet time with Jesus to me. Lastly, as mentioned by Z above, why the push for evangelism if faith in Christ is not necessary for one to be saved?

I'm not trying to be a hater, John. I really appreciate your work and enjoy your contributions. I am just pointing out what seems to me to be some major problems with your assertion that all people will be saved. I would enjoy hearing your comments.


john o'keefe said...

mike, thanks for the links and the list. in reading over the list, i am not certian i agree with the authors expression. while i can see how someone could get that, i am not sure i would agree.

while i do understand where many are coming from, i am reminded of the debate in acts around the issue of circumcised and being saved. many in the church could not even think that a person who was not circumcised could be saved - for them it was impossible. they felt they knew what salvation was, and they felt they knew what God wanted - but did they?

the idea that everyone is granted salvation is not a bad thing - and as i mentioned in the post, absolutly everyone on this planet is given the gift of salvation, some choose to accept it and some do not. but christ died for all people, everyone - without exception.

2 Corinthians 5:14
Christ's love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat.

Craig said...

hey john, I wanted to read the article on poverty, but the link is broke. Love your blog and site also! :D

john o'keefe said...

fixed :D thanks graig -

oneday said...

so what's the distinction between ...
"salvation is for everyone"
"everyone is saved"

Chris Spinks said...

Not that it makes much difference to your point (which is well made, thanks!), but soterion is either a noun or an adjective. So either the thing "salvation, saving power" or the descriptor "bringing salvation"

Phil Perkins said...

Mike and Rachel,

I really liked your Bible knowledge and unwavering insistance on believing according to your best understanding of Scritpure. Your understanding is right, too. John's illustration from Luke is not a good one. "Salvation" or "being saved" in hellenistic culture was just like our culture. It could mean saved from hell or from a disease or from an accident. The demoniac was saved from the demons. Relying on Eugene Peterson and his Mess is just a mess. Mr. Peterson is not even honest.

Two things bothered me about your response to John. First, you seemed apologetic about correcting his heresy. According to I John 5:2-3, "By this thing we know that we are loving the children of God, when God we are loving and His commandments we are doing. This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not hard." We are commanded to correct error. You did a VERY loving thing.

Then you extended gratitude to John for his work. Consider what II John 10-11 says: "If any man comes to you, not bearing this doctrine, do not receive him into your (or the) house and do not even speak to greet him. For the one speaking to him to greet has fellowship in his evil works."

You were absolutely right in your biblical critique. John's is not the doctrine of John, Jesus, Paul, and the NT. Therefore, we are not even to encourage him.

John has not been honest in his treatment of the text and I can vouch for the fact that he has not been honest offline, either.

I have challenged him to debate me over a number of issues, including his association with the Emergent heresy. Look at his website ginkworld.net. There you can find potty mouth and until recently you could find an article by David Sherwood approving of sexual perversion. He is not honest.

As for the Emergent, their big website, theooze.com, had an article posted on Wednesday, April 19, advocating "pantheism."

In Christ,
Phil Perkins