what does it mean to be saved?
The more truth we learn, the more unlearning we realize is necessary. The systemizing of error so permeates our thinking we must always be of a ready mind to reconsider what we think that we already know. The temptation is to hold onto the old as if we owed it some allegiance. Perhaps it’s because we feel confident with that which we know, or at least think we know. Or perhaps we think it is safer to continue believing the way we have been taught, than to consider we have been wrong and contemplate a tedious restructuring of our beliefs. We are reminded of a suitable quote by A. E. Knoch.
- "It may be painful to forsake much that we hold dear, and which may have cost us much to gain and maintain."
One major area of our failing is in not distinguishing between things that differ. The Holy Spirit chooses to use particular words for very specific purposes. We must be careful not to treat them as being placed haphazardly. Such is the case with salvation. Most will talk as if being saved and being born again mean the same thing, that if one is saved he must automatically be born again and vice versa. But if this is the case, we have many scriptures that beg to be explained. Let’s look first at a few of them and then after that see if we can arrive at a more accurate understanding of what being saved fully entails.
- JUDE 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
This is of course referring to the great Exodus where GOD sent Moses to rescue the nation of Israel from the heavy hand of the Egyptians. However, once they had escaped across the Red Sea, many of them rebelled against GOD and returned to their old ways. Therefore GOD "destroyed them that believed not". These persons were saved but then believed not! Saved by GOD from the Egyptians they were later destroyed by GOD in the wilderness. It goes without saying that their salvation had nothing whatever to do with being born again. They were simply saved from some particular bondage or destruction. Let’s consider another.
- JOHN 12:27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.
Yeshua (Jesus) was approaching the hour of His capture, torture and crucifixion, so He poses a hypothetical question, "What shall I say Father, save me from this hour?" Did Yeshua being "saved from this hour" have anything to do with His being born again? Of course not. Again, this salvation had to do with His being saved from bondage and destruction, not of some spiritual re-birth.
Lets look at an example of the apostle Paul’s salvation during the period of ACTS.
- ACTS 27:20 And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
Paul and his companions were sailing across the Mediterranean Sea for Italy when they were caught in a violent storm. Every man feared for his life, for if the storm overwhelmed the ship, which it had every indication of doing, they would surely all die. Therefore, "all hope that we should be saved was taken away".
Again, like the previous passages, their being saved had nothing whatever to do with being born again. They were simply hoping to be saved from destruction. No matter how you squeeze it and twist it, you cannot make saved identical with being born again. Now I will concede that if one is born again, as a son of GOD, he may very well be saved from a host of destructive and enslaving situations. But that is a far cry different than the two being the same exact same thing.
Here is another interesting example of salvation concerning Yeshua.
- MATTHEW 27:42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
His accusers were simply saying, "He saved others from bondage and destruction, but He cannot save Himself from bondage or destruction". Many times Yeshua did indeed save others from some sort of bondage or destruction, but we should not just assume that each time He saved someone, that they were simultaneously born again. Lets look at a few.
- MARK 5:22-23 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him [Yeshua], he fell at his feet, and besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed [sozo, saved]; and she shall live.
The Greek word sozo, here translated healed is the same word translated saved elsewhere. This ruler of the synagogue was not asking Yeshua to convert his daughter to Christianity. He simply wanted her freed from her bondage, he wanted her healed, hence he wanted her saved. As Yeshua journeyed to go to the girl, another woman sought to be healed.
- MARK 5:25-28 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole [sozo, saved].
She desperately sought to be healed, to be saved from her bondage. The text does not indicate to us that she desired to be born again, only that she wanted to be whole, sozo.
- MARK 5:34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole [sozo, saved]; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
Is there peace in salvation? There certainly is. To be saved from some bondage or destruction is wonderful. It is always disheartening to see someone afflicted by some distress when we know salvation is available. But being healed, being made whole, being saved from some sort of bondage or destruction is not the same as being born again.
Here is an interesting usage of saved by the apostle Peter.
- 1 PETER 4:18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
These righteous are still in need of being saved, and that salvation they are evidently only to scarcely obtain. This is a substantially different concept of salvation than what we hear many teach today. They proclaim that being saved, being righteous and being born again are just different phrases describing the same thing. Peter no doubt meant that after the resurrection, on the day of judgment when all men will be measured by how they lived their lives, then even the righteous will scarcely be saved, but evidently not the ungodly.
Here is another interesting passage.
- ROMANS 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
The apostle Paul is saying that the salvation of himself and those to whom he is writing, is somehow closer now then when they first believed. What salvation does he see approaching? He writes in the first chapter of ROMANS that "the gospel of Christ…is the power of GOD unto salvation to everyone who believes". Now he writes that his salvation is nearer than when he believed. Obviously the time of which he writes is the time of Christ's Return.
Even so, one can be saved every time there is a bondage or destruction to be saved from. At the very least, when we are born again we are saved from all that the unbeliever is destined for. This does not mean that later in life we will not be in need of being saved from some other calamity that might befall us. Over the course of our lives, we could be saved many times from different situations. However, only once are we ever born again.
If you ask most Christian groups how one is born again, many will be able to quote from memory their particular formula so as to acquire salvation. Most seem to utilize the following verse from Paul’s epistle to the Romans.
- ROMANS 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
This is their formula, "Confess Jesus as Lord and believe GOD raised Him from the dead and you are saved", or as they phrase it, you are born again. Even though it only says saved and nothing about being born again, many people see no or little difference. As they believe saved and born again are practically the same thing, so they can take the liberty to transpose the two whenever it suits them.
Paul repeats the exhortation in quite a different way in verse 13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved". There is an interesting commentary on this section of ROMANS by A. E. Knoch which I will give below for the reader to consider.
- There is here an illusion to the ancient custom, still in vogue in eastern lands, of the right of sanctuary. One who is in danger of death by the hands of the blood avenger, if he cannot reach a safe place in time, may invoke the name of some great and powerful person, and thus find salvation through his name. If the avengers of blood refuse to listen to his appeal, and take his life, it devolves upon the person on whose name he has called to take swift and summary vengeance. He gathers together all his friends and allies to assist him in punishing the outrage and in defending the honor of his name. For three and one third days he executes vengeance on all who were concerned in killing the one who had invoked his name. "Whoever should be invoking the name of the Lord shall be saved." When vengeance visits the earth, the only shelter will be the name of Jehovah. Therefore it will require not only heart belief, but also the avowal of the mouth. Thus it is that Israel will be saved and all others who, in that day, will seek refuge in His name.
This analysis gives us a lot of good information on our passage in question. We have already seen that salvation does not simply mean born again, so what saving is being promised by this confession in ROMANS 10? Let's take a little time to explore the context in which these passages in ROMANS are set.
Paul begins in the first verse of the chapter by declaring the desire of his heart for Israel is "that they might be saved". He is not desiring here that they be born again, but rather that they might be saved from a fast approaching destruction. Saved from what destruction we find in the remoter context as we look back at chapter nine.
- ROMANS 9:27,29 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved…And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.
This remnant was to be saved from a similar fate that had befallen Sodom and Gomorrah; they were to be saved from death and destruction. Paul then goes on in chapter ten to note Israel’s utter and complete failure in obtaining their own salvation, which is that "they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of GOD" (verse 3). Rather, because of their ignorance, they went about to establish their own righteousness by their works of the flesh. They had thought that they would somehow be saved from destruction because they observed all of the minute details of the Mosaic law.
Paul then attempts to explain to these Israelites that true righteousness is "the righteousness which is of faith", (verse 6) not of the works of the law. Again, the remoter context of chapter nine sets this for us by declaring "…the Gentiles, which followed not after righteous, have attained to righteousness [9:30]…But Israel, which followed the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness" (9:31).
His obvious concern here is not for the salvation of his Gentile readers, for they already "have attained". His desire and prayer is for many of his Jewish readers, for it is they who "stumbled at that stumbling stone" (9:32). As Esaias (Isaiah) centuries before had cried over Israel (9:27), so now Paul. It is their fate, the Jewish believers fate with which he is primarily concerned with here in this section of ROMANS.
"The word is nigh thee [Israel], even in thy mouth, and in thy heart" (10:8). Paul reaches back here to DEUTERONOMY, Israel’s book of the law, to make his argument against their ignorance. Paul is not trying to evangelize the Gentile nations with his talk of salvation here in ROMANS 10, rather he is bleeding his heart out for his Christian brethren, his "kinsmen according to the flesh" (9:3), "that they might be saved" from destruction (10:1), from the same fate that had befallen the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The word that is nigh thee is the true way of their salvation! Nigh thee is the word that can save them from this coming destruction. What word is he referring to? The answer is found in the next verse.
- ROMANS 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved [from destruction].
This was written specifically to Jewish believers, not Gentile believers. It was written for their salvation, not ours. Sure, there is no difference between the Judean and the Greek, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved" from destruction (10:13). But here Paul is beseeching "his kinsmen according to the flesh", for the Gentile believers in Rome were already there. It was the Judean who had stumbled. It was the Judean who were going "about to establish their own righteousness". It is the Judean who had this word "nigh thee" (DEUTERONOMY 30:11-14). It was the Judean who was approaching the wrath of GOD more than was the Gentile.
But irregardless of who was to be saved, Judean or Gentile, we believe it is abundantly clear from the context that ROMANS 10:9 is not the formula for becoming born again. Only by removing this passage from its surrounding passages can one arrive at that erroneous conclusion. This confession is not the words which the sinner must utter aloud from the altar of the Church so that when he dies he can go to heaven and be with Yeshua. This verse was an exhortation to Paul's kinsmen in the flesh, his Jewish readers, to seek the righteousness which is by faith, and thereby be saved from the coming wrath of GOD.
Although Paul wrote this section of ROMANS to the Judeans believers at Rome, whether one be a Judean or a Gentile, ROMANS 10 gave him the assurance that "in that day" whosoever shall invoke His name, Yeshua, the name of the King of kings, was to be saved from the wrath which befell Sodom and Gomorrah.
"For by grace are you saved" Paul wrote to the Ephesians. What else could it be? If we could save ourselves from some bondage or destruction, we wouldn’t need to be saved. The reality that we are unable to save ourselves causes us to call upon HIM who is able. Whenever we are saved from some bondage or destruction, it’s always grace. Absolute grace!
When we read in scripture of those who are about to be saved, we see a believer in a most dire situation, usually at the end of his ropes. There is nothing left for them to do but to seek the Almighty’s hand. However, being born again is an entirely different matter, for in that situation we are given words of truth to believe. Being born again and being saved are both critical in the life of a believer, yet they are each distinct with their own purposes and results.