Both the first reference to sins and the first reference to the word save, sOzO, are found in Matt. 1:21, in the promise to Joseph, very literally: "Yet she shall be bringing forth Son, and you shall be calling the name of Him 'Jesus,' for He shall be saving the people of His from the sins of theirs."
The first occurrence of huios, son, in the Greek Scriptures are in Matt. 1:1, 20, 21. In them Joseph and the Lord Jesus Christ are both described as "Son of David" in these three, so closely linked together. Thus here we have yet another coincidental first reference.
Already, then, we have clearly laid out before us in these first references that the purpose to be accomplished by the Lord Jesus as Son of David is saving His people from their sins. Moreover, the fact is established that the word save has primarily to do with sins.
In Contrast, the first occurrence of the word sOtEria, salvation, is in Luke's Gospel, being found in Luke 1:69, 71, 77; 19:9, and nowhere else in the Gospels except John 4:22. The group of three occurs in the prophecy of Zacharias after the birth of John the baptist. The first has to do with redemption, the second with "salvation from our enemies," matched in v. 74 with "being rescued out of the hand of our enemies," the third: "to give knowledge of salvation to His people in pardon of their sins." John's solitary occurrence is "salvation is out of the Jews."
The remaining occurrence of salvation in the Gospels, Luke 19:9, shows the direct result of a sudden display of the grace which came through Jesus Christ. Here the Lord Jesus said: "Today salvation came to this home, forasmuch as he also is Abraham's son. For the Son of Mankind came to seek and to save that which is lost." Here was one of Abraham's sons who was a special sinner, but under the stimulus of the grace displayed by the Lord Jesus salvation came to him. The account does not actually say so, but the reference to Abraham implies it—that the faith shown by Zacchaeus was the faith of Abraham.
Already, in these passages we have the main outline of the truth about salvation. It is the translation into practical experience of the faith of Abraham which results from the manifestation of the grace of God to the individual and its acceptance.
To be saved from any ill is to be shielded or rescued from it. The first two occurrences of sOzO (Matt. 1:21; 8:25) illustrate those two ideas. The purpose of the Lord Jesus is to save His people from their sins. The former has both ideas: shielding from, and rescue from, their sin; the latter is an urgent appeal for rescue from the billows; and the next reference is an actual rescue from disease (Matt. 9:20-22). The last three occurrences in Matthew's Gospel have to do with vain talk about the Lord Jesus being rescued from the cross.
The word is so close in meaning to its English usage that there does not seem to be a great deal to say about it in direct exposition. The first occurrences in Paul's epistles are in Rom. 5:9, 10, the meaning of which is plain: "saved from indignation," "saved in His life." Rom. 8:24, 25 read, "We were saved as to expectation." Here Paul explains at once: "Now expectation, being observed, is not expectation; for what anyone is observing, why is he expecting it also? Yet if we are expecting that which we are not observing, we are expecting it through endurance." It is in line with the old proverb: "You cannot eat your cake, and have it." Once you get what you are expecting, you cannot expect it any more.
Here is disclosed the true answer to the question which we often used to receive from evangelists of all kinds: "Are you saved?" It is, "We are saved as to expectation." In effect, in ordinary English, is: "We are being saved. We shall be completely and finally saved when God's trumpet shall sound and we are snatched away for the consummation of what we are expecting, to be ever with the Lord. Our salvation is not a present fact of experience; for, as Paul here points out, if it were it could not possibly be something to be expecting. So we cannot properly declare, baldly as it were, "Yes, I am saved"; but "Yes, I am expecting to be; and my expectation is firmly based on faith in God, faith in the promises made in His Word." It is based on precisely the same ground as our assurance that we are accounted righteous through Jesus Christ's faith.
Consequently, in the section of this epistle which concerns Israel, we find the assurance for them that "the residue will be saved" (9:27) and the promises that if they should be avowing by the mouth that Jesus is Lord and should be believing in the heart that God rouses him out of dead ones, they shall be saved (10:9) and that "whoever should be invoking the Lord's name shall be saved" (10:13). Paul desires to "save some of them" and eventually "all Israel shall be saved" (11:26).
When we come to 1. Corinthians we meet with an outstanding example of the way careless translation perverts Scripture for us; for the King James' Version of 1. Cor. 1:18 directly contradicts what is said above concerning Rom. 8:24, 25. It reads concerning the preaching of the cross: "but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." An accurate translation of the Greek is, instead: "yet to us who are being saved it is God's power." Our salvation is going on; but it is not completed, and nothing in God's Word suggests that it is or should be. For us, salvation is a sure and certain thing, but its full realization is not yet. The Greek word here, sOzomenois, to-ones-being-saved, describes something going on. The same form occurs in 2. Cor. 2:15 where the King James Version repeats the mistake. Nevertheless, it was forced to be inconsistent in rendering the contrasting statement which follows, for instead of the corresponding "in them that are lost" it abandons the past tense in English in favour of the indefinite "in them that perish." The C.V. fails as do many others in 1. Cor. 15:2. Read: "through which you are being saved also." There should be no uncertainty in Titus 3:5. "He saves us" is indefinite in time.
Where we do get the idea of "being saved" as an already finished deed is in Eph. 2:5 and 8, where the essence of the matter, so far as this paper is concerned, is (literally): "as to the grace you are ones having been saved." The idea is that, as regards the grace, or, so far as the grace is concerned, you are ones already enjoying the status of saved ones. (That is why the verb is Middle Voice). It is "the grace" of which Paul had already written in Eph. 1:6, 7. With such perfect divine grace as that already given, eventual saving can be presumed, for anything less than that would be unreasonable.
In 2. Tim. 1:8, 9 the Greek, rendered literally, reads: ". . . . according to God's power, the One-saving us and calling, to (a) calling holy. .." Again, this is not a completed act of saving, but something in progress; and it furnishes another instance of the way accurate translation is essential if we would avoid error. Paul makes the truth about the act of saving quite plain in 2. Tim. 4:18: "The Lord will be rescuing me from every wicked work and will be saving me into the Kingdom of His, the celestial one." Incidentally, this closing declaration is the complete answer to anyone who may dare to assert that Paul's proclamation of the Kingdom "would include its present abeyance."
Of the word salvation, sOtEria, little need be said here. Nowhere is it spoken of as already accomplished; and such passages as Rom. 13:11; 1. Thess. 5:8; 2. Tim. 2:10; 3:15 imply that, in the full sense at any rate, it is yet to be.
R.B.W. Last updated 11.3.2006