Just What Do You Mean . . .
Savior?

by Jack M. Lane

 

 
You've heard it a lot. “I’m saved!” “Have you been saved?” What in the world does that mean? And does it mean the same thing to you that it means to me? What do people mean when they talk about salvation, and being saved, and having a savior? More importantly, what does the Bible mean when it talks about these things? Do you know? 
   
  
  
Ask any number of people what it means that Jesus is their savior. You might hear answers ranging from a basic “Jesus died for us, so now we get to go to heaven when we die” to a more complex “Christ was God’s Passover lamb, and his death redeemed us from our sins.”
  
There are a lot of denominations in the Christian world, and as a result there are a lot of ways of looking at this topic. But most of the denominations agree that the main feature of Christianity, and the main mission of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, is that of salvation. The hallmark of the Good Friday/Easter tradition, as well as the New Testament Passover (or Lord's Supper) and the Days of Unleavened Bread, is the idea that Jesus Christ, or Yeshua the Messiah, is our redeemer and savior. 
  
But what does that mean, really? "Redeemed," "redemption," "salvation" and "savior" are some of the religious-sounding words that don't mean a lot to many people. If we were to evangelize (and isn't that the Great Commission?), we need to show that there is something that people need to be saved from, or redeemed from. Otherwise, what's so important about being saved?

In order to really understand how Christ can be a savior, or a redeemer, we need to ask, “Saved from what? Redeemed from what?” We might even go deeper and ask for a definition of the words.

  
Here’s how one Bible dictionary defines “savior”:
 
A person who rescues others from evil, danger, or destruction. The Old Testament viewed God Himself as the Savior: “There is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior” (Isa 45:21). Because God is the source of salvation, He sent human deliverers to rescue His people, Israel (Ps 106:21; Isa 43:3,11). This word was also used to describe the judges of Israel, those “saviors” or “deliverers” who rescued God’s people from oppression by their enemies (Judg 3:9,15).  

In the New Testament the word for savior describes both God the Father (1 Tim 1:1; Jude 25) and Jesus Christ the Son (Acts 5:31; Phil 3:20). The apostles rejoiced that in Christ, God had become the “Savior of all men” (1 Tim 4:10). He was the Savior of Gentiles as well as Jews. As Christians, we are exhorted to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).   [1]
   
God is the Savior, and Christ is the savior. They both take part in the salvation process. They are both saviors. But then, so were the judges. It’s interesting that this dictionary definition isn’t even talking about spiritual salvation. A savior is merely someone or something that rescues someone from something. A bankruptcy court can be a savior. A policeman can be a savior. But they won’t give you eternal life. A savior is merely someone who saves. 
  
But we might want to ask, “Save from what?” The Philistines? Does a savior (in the biblical sense) just save Israel from danger? What about forgiveness of sin? What about eternal life? Doesn’t that figure in there somewhere? This explanation isn’t full enough to tell the whole story.
  
Another Bible dictionary says:
Man cannot save himself temporally [now, in this life] or spiritually; Jehovah alone can save (Job 40:14; Ps 33:16; 44:3,7; Hos 13:4,10). The temporal saviour is the predominant idea in the Old Testament; the spiritual and eternal saviour of the whole man [is the predominant idea] in the New Testament Israel’s saviour, national and spiritual, finally (Isa 62:11; Rom 11:25-26). Salvation is secured in title to believers already by Christ’s purchase with His blood; its final consummation shall be at His coming again; in this sense salvation has yet ‘to be revealed’ (1 Peter 1:5; Heb 9:28; Rom 5:10). Salvation negatively delivers us from three things: (1) the penalty, (2) the power, (3) the presence of sin. Positively it includes the inheritance of glory, bliss, and life eternal in and with God our Saviour.   [2]  

This definition needs a little unraveling because there’s so much in there. Old Testament Israel needed physical saviors to save them from physical harm and captivity. New Testament Israel (the church, the ekklesia, the body of Christ) needs to be saved, each and every one of us individually, from the world of sin all around us, and from our human weaknesses and tendencies to sin, and from the consequence of sin, which is eternal death and missing out on eternal life as God’s resurrected children. 
  
This “saving” saves us from the penalty of sin (loss of life and missing out on eternity with God), the power of sin (to ruin our lives and make mankind miserable), and the presence of sin (which causes our weaknesses to be strong and our failings to succeed).
  
Who, then, is the savior? It is both the one who died for our sins and the One who sent the one who died for our sins. Both of the dictionaries just quoted point out that God is ultimately the savior and the redeemer, but the New Testament scriptures plainly refer to both God and the Messiah as savior. 
  
  
 THE DEFINITION OF SALVATION  

We’ve looked at the word “savior.” Now, what do we mean when we say “salvation”? One of the Bible dictionaries defines salvation this way:
Deliverance from the power of sin; redemption.

In the Old Testament, the word salvation sometimes refers to deliverance from danger (Jer 15:20), deliverance of the weak from an oppressor (Ps 35:9-10), the healing of sickness (Isa 38:20), and deliverance from blood guilt and its consequences (Ps 51:14). It may also refer to national deliverance from military threat (Ex 14:13) or release from captivity (Ps 14:7). But salvation finds its deepest meaning in the spiritual realm of life. Man's universal need for salvation is one of the clearest teachings of the Bible.   [3] 

Sin exists. It came into the world through our first parents, Adam and Eve, and has continued to defeat every person in every age. There are consequences to sin, ranging from misery and ruined lives to the loss of the opportunity to live forever as a child of God.
  
Salvation is the act of saving us. In a religious, biblical context, salvation is the act of saving us from our sins and from our sinful nature. The need for salvation goes clear back to the Garden of Eden. We have needed a savior right from the start.
  
By the time of Noah, early on in Genesis chapter 6, mankind was so rotten that God felt the need to destroy them and start over. The saving of Noah and his family was an act of salvation, not only for Noah and his family, but for all mankind. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here!   
The apostle Peter, in one of his epistles, draws an analogy between Noah’s rescue and our spiritual salvation today. 1 Peter chapter 3, beginning in verse 20 (all scriptures NIV unless otherwise noted):

20 … God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it [in the ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,  
21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It [the water of baptism] saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand, with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. 
   
In a later time, in the days of Moses, the Old Testament’s paramount act of salvation was the Exodus. God saved Israel using Moses. We might consider Moses to be a savior. He was a type of savior, but he was not a redeemer. A redeemer pays the price, or pays the slave owner in order to free the slave. (For a discussion of the redeemer in ancient Israel, click here to read the article, “The Story of Ruth.”) 
  
Moses led Israel out of Egypt, but he didn’t redeem Israel by paying the price to free her from slavery. God did that. God redeemed Israel through the ten plagues on Egypt. In effect, God “paid Egypt back” for the enslavement of Israel. In fact, the Hebrew scriptures often refer to God as the redeemer of Israel. And the picture of Israel coming out of Egypt is the picture, or the type, of our salvation through baptism, coming out of our own slavery to sin, and being covered by the blood of Christ. 
  
In 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, Paul writes:

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 
   
And yet, Moses isn’t declared in scripture to be Israel’s savior, or their redeemer. How do the scriptures refer to Moses?
  
Hebrews 3:1-6:

1 Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 
2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.
3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.
4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.
5 Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future.
6 But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. 
   
  
ARE WE SAVED NOW?  

To help sort out all this information, here’s a brief review of what we’ve just read. Once Noah and his family got into the ark, the ark saved them. Once the ark started floating, and people started drowning, Noah and his family were saved. Saved from what? Saved from drowning!

  
Then there was the Exodus. Moses led the people of Israel, along with the mixed multitude, out of Egypt. When they left, they were saved. Saved from what? Saved from slavery!
  
These two men, Noah and Moses, were in a position to be a savior, of sorts. But the scriptures don’t point to them as saviors.
  
Peter makes the case that Noah’s “baptism,” being saved through water, can be likened to our baptism into the salvation that saves us. Paul says that Israel was baptized into Moses by going through the Red Sea. Hebrews calls Moses a faithful servant in the Father’s house, while it points out that Jesus is the faithful son over his Father’s house. And then it says, almost as an afterthought, “Oh, by the way—you’re the house.”
  
How can we relate these thoughts to our own experience? 
  
There is a question I have posed a number of times in the past, just to see what answer I would get. I have asked people, “Are we saved now?” I know a great many people who would automatically say no, because of the teachings they learned from their church. However, when I am faced with this question, I respond with a resounding “Yes!”
  
Let’s define what it is we’re talking about. If you were to ask me if we are saved now, I might ask: “Saved from what?” Or, “What do you mean, ‘saved’?” In a church we once attended, people believed that salvation equates to the resurrection. When Christ returns and we are resurrected, that is when we are saved. In this scenario, salvation is yet future. Since we haven’t been resurrected yet, we haven’t been saved yet. That teaching betrays a profound and disturbing lack of understanding of what the gospel message really is.
  
There are many scriptures that indicate we have salvation now (Acts 4:12; Romans 1:16; 11:11; 2 Corinthians 6:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 2:11). And there are scriptures that indicate that our salvation is also a future event (Romans 13:11; 1 Peter 1:5; Revelation 12:10), and that we will be saved in the future (Matthew 10:22; 24:13). But we also read that we are saved now (Acts 2:47; 4:12; Romans 8:24; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 15:2; Ephesians 2:5,8; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). 
  
Doesn’t this sound like salvation is a two-step process, or a three-step process, or a progression of events over time? Is there an “early” aspect of salvation, followed by a “later” aspect of salvation? In fact, these three verb tenses—past, present, and future—closely follow the three steps of salvation often referred to as justification, sanctification, and glorification. Here is the relationship of these three verb tenses: We were saved from our sins, and from the penalty of our sins (that is, we were justified when we repented of our sins, were baptized, and were forgiven). We are in the process of being saved now (we are sanctified, or set apart, by living our Christian lives in the way of God); and we will be brought back to life at the resurrection (we will be glorified at Christ’s coming). From this we can see that there are past, present, and future aspects of salvation.
  
Closely related to this is the understanding of the phrase, “the kingdom.” We read in the New Testament scriptures about “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven.” There are verses (such as these examples, just from the book of Matthew) that refer to the kingdom as being in the future (Matthew 5:19, 20; 6:10; 8:11; 13:43; 16:19; 24:14; 25:34; 26:29). But there are also verses which refer to the kingdom in the present tense (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 5:3, 10; 6:13; 10:7; 11:12; 12:28; 19:12; 23:13). And there are verses which can apply to either a present or a future kingdom, or both (Matthew 6:33; 7:21; 9:35; 11:11; 13:11; 18:1-4; 19:14, 23-24; 21:31, 43). Doesn’t this sound like an earlier and later fulfillment of what the kingdom is? (For more on this subject, click here to read the article, “What You May Not Have Known about the Kingdom of God.”)
  
We can find scriptural references that say we have been saved, we were saved, we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved, and also that the kingdom of God is not only to be established in the future, but it also has a component in our lives now. Armed with that knowledge, it seems that to say salvation is only defined as the resurrection at Christ’s coming doesn’t really match what the scriptures tell us. 
  
Quoting from one of the Bible dictionaries:

The salvation that comes through Christ may be described in three tenses: past, present, and future. When a person believes in Christ, he is saved (Acts 16:31). But we are also in the process of being saved from the power of sin (Rom 8:13; Phil 2:12). Finally, we shall be saved from the very presence of sin (Rom 13:11; Titus 2:12-13). God releases into our lives today the power of Christ’s resurrection (Rom 6:4) and allows us a foretaste of our future life as His children (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:14). Our experience of salvation will be complete when Christ returns (Heb 9:28) and the kingdom of God is fully revealed (Matt 13:41-43).   [4] 
   
  
OUR RELATIONSHIP TO OUR MESSIAH  

Now we have a better idea what the scriptures mean when they refer to salvation, being saved, and having a savior. What do we do with this knowledge? The next step depends a lot on our own frame of mind. Before making the next step, of doing something, we need to be something. Paul explains in Philippians chapter 2.
  
There was a man, an itinerant preacher and teacher, back in the first century A.D. (or, if you prefer, the first century C.E.) This was a man whose name may have been Y’shua, Yeshuah, Yahshua, Yehoshua, or any of a dozen variants. But even though we may not know the exact pronunciation, we do know that he has been given the name which is above all names. Paul writes in Philippians 2:5-7:

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 
   
He didn’t grasp upward to be like God. Who grasped upward to be like God? Lucifer! We can read about it in Isaiah 14:12-15 (NKJV):
12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!
13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit. 
   
Rather than grasp upward, Messiah let it all go, and let everything fall downward, so he could take on the nature of a servant.
  
It’s interesting to note, in Philippians chapter two, that Yeshua had the nature of God, since God was his father, but it also says he had the nature of a servant. And if you stop and think about it, that really is God’s nature, isn’t it? He doesn’t throw His weight around and remind us that He’s God. He doesn't need to. He’s gentle, and patient, and waits for us to come to our senses. He might point out some things to us in our travels toward maturity and wisdom, but He doesn’t grab us and shake us and insist we follow Him. Not only that, but He also answers prayer. He does things for us, like a servant. Like a loving Father. And he waits by the road, watching every day, until we prodigal sons come to our senses and return to Him. That’s the kind of God we have.
  
Continuing in Philippians 2:8: "And being found in appearance as a man, he [Christ] humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!"  

This humble servant, this faithful son in his Father’s house, became the sacrifice that all those lambs and goats and bulls and doves throughout the ages represented. To be our savior, he had to take our sins on himself and become the sacrificial lamb. To be our redeemer, he had to pay the price to ransom us from our captivity. And he did that!
 
9 Therefore [as a result, because of this] God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 
   
We once attended a church that all but ignored Jesus, and all the wonderful things he did, because we were there to worship the Father and give glory to the Father. We didn’t spend any time worshiping Jesus at all. Why, that wouldn’t be appropriate! Our sermons and conversations almost never referred to our savior, and our children knew virtually nothing about Jesus, his life, his works, and his story.
  
But Paul says that to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord—not just know it quietly, but to openly confess it—gives glory to the Father! God isn’t sitting up there being jealous if we happen to say something nice, even worshipful, about His son. God isn’t that petty. That concept of a god is definitely too small. Paul says here (and in many other scriptures) that if you should bow your knee to the risen savior, and confess that he’s your Lord, that actually brings glory to the Father! Paul is saying it’s okay to think good thoughts about Y’shua-Yeshua-Yahshua-Yehoshua-et cetera. God won’t be jealous. God has a son He’s really proud of! 
  
By the way, it says in verse nine that God exalted him and gave him the name that is above all names. Paul isn’t talking about the phonetic sounds here. In the Bible, someone’s name is more than just a sound. It’s their identity; it’s who they are; it’s what they do and what they stand for. He was given the identity as the lamb who had been slain, the office of high priest in heaven, the position of sitting at God’s right hand, and the destiny to be the world’s ruler during the Millennium. That’s what Paul is talking about. It isn’t how we pronounce his name. That’s not what Paul was getting at here. 
  
  
HOW IS MESSIAH OUR SAVIOR?
  
Now, building on all of this, let’s explore how it is that Jesus, the man, the first century itinerant preacher and teacher, is our savior. How is it that this man died, and his death somehow paid the price for everyone’s sins throughout all time?
  
We know that God devised the Levitical priesthood and gave it to Aaron and his sons. We know that God came up with the various animal sacrifices, and the purpose of the sacrifices was to cover the sins of the people and the nation. And we understand that all the sin offerings, all the burnt offerings, and so many of the other offerings, were intended to be a hint of what was coming in the future. To borrow a phrase, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:17). 
  
But how does that work? The apostle Paul writes at length in his epistles about the grace that God gives to those who follow Him. God's grace overcomes sin. God's grace wins out over sinfulness and the penalty of sin. Then, in Romans 5:20, Paul makes the unusual statement that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” What a concept: the more sin there is, the more of God's grace there is to overcome it! Grace, favor, forgiveness, and the hope of eternal life never run out! No matter how much of a sinner you might have been, you can never sin so much that God can't forgive it all!

But then, lest anyone misunderstand, he clarifies his thinking in chapter six: 

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 
   
There was a heresy in the first century (which is still extant today!) that Christians should go ahead and sin all the more, so God’s grace could be made manifest all the more. The more sin, the more grace. Paul is addressing that heresy in this passage. He is saying no, we should not increase our sin, or even go through life continuing in sin. Quite the opposite, in fact. We should stop sinning! The reason for that is that we died to sin.  He goes on to explain in verse three: "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?"
  
Christ literally died, and was literally raised from death as a resurrected son of God. Those of us who have been baptized into Christ picture, in our baptisms, our own death and burial. It's a ceremony to show that we are ready to die from our old lives and go on into the future in our new life. But it's just a picture. If you are reading this article, you have not yet died in real life. Yet, many have. Many people have gone on before us into real death, and are resting in the grave, safe in the arms of our everlasting Father and our elder brother. For those of us who are still alive, we have pictured that peaceful sleep by our baptism. We have also pictured the resurrection by coming up out of the water, forgiven of our sins (justification) and going on to lead new lives as God’s children (sanctification), until we come to the day when we really do go to the grave to await our resurrection (glorification).
 
4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection
   
We are picturing being resurrected into God’s eternal family, looking forward to the time when we will be literally resurrected from our graves at Christ’s return. What we have pictured in baptism (justification and sanctification) will take place in real life in the future (glorification).
6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 
7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 
   
Paul now introduces the concept of being slaves to sin. As one of the Bible dictionaries explains,
 
People could become slaves in several ways. The poor who were unable to pay their debts could offer themselves as slaves (Ex 21:2-6; Neh 5:1-5). A thief who could not repay what he had stolen could also be sold as a slave. Children born of slave parents became "house-born slaves" (Gen 15:3; 17:12-13). Sometimes children would be taken as slaves in payment for debts (2 Kings 4:1-7). …
 
Slaves were allowed to secure their freedom. … A slave could also buy his freedom, or another person could buy his freedom for him (Lev 25:47-49).  [5] 
   
Because we were born into this fallen world, we would have been slaves to sin until our dying day. Only death would release us from our slavery to this cruel master, since we would have no way to purchase our freedom. We had no way to redeem ourselves from our slavery. But praise God, we have been redeemed—purchased—from slavery! Our debt has been paid, we have been redeemed, and we have been set free from our old master, sin and death!
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.   
9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.

10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
16 Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 
17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.  
18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 
   
Notice how Paul expands the picture of slavery. We were redeemed from being slaves to sin. The One who redeemed us actually bought us, and now we are slaves to Him! Of course, we are children of our Father in heaven, but in this word picture Paul is showing that we were bought with a price, and He owns us! (See also Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Corinthians 7:22-23)  

Continuing in Romans chapter 6:
19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
   
Because Christ lived a sinless life and died for our sins, when we die in him at baptism we have the opportunity to live a more-or-less sinless life (although we still fail to live perfectly), and we have the opportunity ultimately to be in the resurrection to eternal life at Christ’s coming. Because we apply the sacrifice of Messiah’s blood to our sins, our past sins are not only covered; they are totally wiped away! 

The Levitical sacrifices covered the sins of the people. but had no real power to forgive those sins ("It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins," Hebrews 10:4). In Christ, our sins are not only covered, they are blotted out ("He cancelled the record of the charges against us, and took it away by nailing it to the cross," Colossians 2:14, New Living Translation.)

Biblical terminology is not just that our sins are covered, or that we have been acquitted of the charges against us, but rather that we are justified, truly made right before God! Notice how Paul explains this during a message he delivered in a synagogue, in Acts 13:38-39:

38 'Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.

Because we have been set free from sin, we don’t have to obey sin any more as a ruler in our life (justification). Instead, we have become slaves to righteousness, and we are expected to live a righteous life (sanctification).
  
But there is still something missing. How can we simply apply Christ’s sacrifice to our sins? How is it that he is the Lamb of God that takes away, not only our sin, but the sin of the world (John 1:29)? What’s the missing element in the story that would make the picture complete? The answer to that often depends on which denomination you attend, or whose literature you are reading! 
  
There are a number of explanations about this important point. There have been many attempts to explain this mystery. For example, many denominations teach that, since Jesus is God, as part of the Trinity, God (or at least part of God) came down and died for us. Some denominations don’t see a substantial difference between the Father and the Son, since there is one God, so their approach is that all of God came down and died. Others have said that, since the Father had Jesus (or “the Word,” as he was known before his incarnation) create the universe, including Adam and Eve, the life of Jesus was of more value than all human lives put together, so the loss of his one life could pay the price for everyone’s sins.
  
There are also other ideas about how Jesus could die and pay the penalty for all the sins of all the people throughout time. Within the theological frameworks of the various denominations these views represent, these explanations make a certain amount of sense. Unfortunately, these explanations have not been entirely satisfying, because there are few scriptures to back up these various ideas. Even if the assorted explanations sound correct, and answer the question within the parameters of a denomination’s beliefs, there are few scriptures that exactly reflect any of these beliefs.
  
  
EXEGESIS VERSUS EISEGESIS  

Perhaps I’m being a bit of a stickler when it comes to having scriptures to back up what I believe and teach. But I try to be very careful in my biblical understandings. I try to determine what the scriptures are actually saying, rather than allow myself to read meanings and interpretations into scriptures. The difference between these two approaches is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis. Here are some definitions of these two terms:
 
Exegesis is a theological term used to describe an approach to interpreting a passage in the Bible by critical analysis. Proper exegesis includes using the context around the passage, comparing it with other parts of the Bible, and applying an understanding of the language and customs of the time of the writing, in an attempt to understand clearly what the original writer intended to convey. In other words, it is trying to "pull out" of the passage the meaning inherent in it. The opposite of exegesis is eisegesis.  [6]   


Here's a description of what exegesis is from pages 21-22 of Roy B. Zuck's book titled Basic Bible Interpretation: "The exegetical process takes place in the workshop, the warehouse. It is a process in private, a perspiring task in which the Bible student examines the backgrounds, meanings, and forms of words; studies the structure and parts of sentences; seeks to ascertain the original textual reading (textual criticism) etc. ... In the privacy of his study, the exegete seeks to comprehend the exact meaning of the Bible passing being studied." Exegesis is the process of approaching Bible interpretation with a humble spirit, and an open mind. In order to gain a true understanding of God's Word, one must be willing to allow God's Word to speak for itself, and be willing to abandon cherished beliefs if they are in conflict with God's Word. Exegesis is not merely an intellectual exercise we do all alone. God tells us that in order to properly understand His Word, we need the help of a) the Holy Spirit and b) others who have strong theological training. We are also cautioned to be careful about who we allow to influence us.  [7]  


The Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines ‘exegesis’ as: critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, esp. of the Bible.   This is often called the ‘grammatical-historical’ interpretation method. Thus, when someone reads the words of Scripture, and interprets them on the basis of context and the type of literature etc., then this would be an example of ‘exegesis’—reading out of Scripture what the writer clearly intended to express. …   When church members and their subsequent generations are trained in this method of thinking (interpreting Scripture in context), they have a respect for God’s Word and then judge the ‘world’s’ fallible theories on the basis of what the Word of God clearly states. When they are taught to use exegesis in Genesis, they usually consistently apply this method of interpretation throughout the rest of the Bible. They have a solid faith in absolute truth. Especially when they then see how, starting with the history given in the Bible, they can make better sense of the same evidence which was previously used to undermine the Bible. They are not tossed ‘to and fro’ by the world’s fallible ideas, but by and large stand firm on the authoritative Word. The ‘world’ then recognizes that Christians do take God’s Word seriously and believe it as written. As a result, the ‘world’ is often challenged to question its fallible theories and listen to God’s Word—instead of the other way round. Understanding the difference between ‘eisegesis’ and ‘exegesis’ is really the key to the effectiveness of the church in today’s culture.  [8]   
 
In contrast to this is the concept of eisegesis, which is defined as: 
... an interpretation of scripture that expresses the interpreter’s own opinions, bias, etc., rather than the true meaning of what the author had intended.  [9]    
 
…the antonym of exegesis is "eisegesis," which means "reading into" a text, or seeing things in the text that may not really be there.  [10]  


Here is a good definition of Eisegesis right from Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:6: “I have applied all this to myself and Apol’los for your benefit, brethren, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” RSV
From a dictionary: Eisegesis (eye-si JEE-sis), An interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreters own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the true meaning of the text. In case you have never heard of Eisegesis, it can be considered to be the opposite of Exegesis: investigation and study of Sacred Scripture through tradition, history, archaeology, and criticism to find the true meaning. The antonym for exegesis is eisegesis which means reading into a text something that simply is not there.  [11] 



A special note regarding a term that is the antonym of Exegesis, called Eisegesis. Eisegesis, is the method of interpreting a passage of Scripture according to personal bias, (personal notions or opinions), rather than the original intent of the Text.  [12]  
 
Keeping an eye on these two concepts, and insisting on an approach of "sola scriptura" (the scriptures alone), can help to keep our studies of scripture on the correct path.

  
FIRST ADAM / LAST ADAM  

Admittedly, this topic is rather deep and technical. Not everyone who has started this article has gotten this far in reading it.

Many people, understanding that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8), have simply accepted the concept that “Jesus saves” and have proceeded happily on the road to eternal life. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, although they may be at risk of not following through on the sanctification part of their salvation as well as they might.
  

On the other hand, Christians who are interested in this question, and who want to go deeper in their understanding, have usually had to rely on the theologians of their denominations to try to explain the process, based on the understandings found in their own denomination's statement of beliefs.

Whether Jesus is God, or part of God, or the son of God, or the sinless Lamb of God, should not make a difference in our understanding of how Jesus is our savior. Regardless of our understandings of the nature of God and the nature of Christ, it is plainly shown in scripture that God set up a plan for the salvation of mankind; that it required the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ of Nazareth; and that God has offered this amazing plan of salvation to all mankind. There is no question that the life, and death, and life again of Jesus were able to atone for our sins, and once our sins and sinfulness have been taken care of, the road is open to make us justified, holy, and acceptable children of God. That is not at all in question in this article.

Here is the question at hand: Is there a sound, 
biblical explanation for how Christ's death could cancel our sins and remove the death penalty from us? What's the missing link in the equation?
  
I pondered this question for years. One day I came across the answer. As you might expect, it had been there all along, but I just hadn’t seen it. I’m grateful that others saw it, and that I was willing to learn from others. In fact, it was already suggested earlier in this study. It’s the concept that in Adam we have all sinned, but in Christ we are all made righteous, or sin-free. In Adam we all die, but in Christ we are all made alive.
  
It’s one of the duality concepts of scripture. There’s a first Adam, and there’s a last Adam. The first Adam was a son of God, the last Adam was – is – a son of God. The first Adam was of the material universe, the last Adam is of the spirit realm. The first Adam sinned, and so do all of us, but the last Adam kept himself from sinning, and so can we! What is pertinent to this discussion is the concept that we were born in Adam, and unless we are redeemed from slavery to our master, sin, we will die in Adam. The difference is that we can, through faith in the shed blood of our savior, change from dying in Adam to dying in Christ, pictured by our baptism, and in this way we are changed from death to life!
  
There is an excellent article on another web site which goes into quite a bit of detail comparing and contrasting the first Adam and the last Adam. This would be an appropriate time to read that article. You can click here to read it.
  
  
HOW PAUL EXPLAINS IT  

At this point we need to look at some pertinent scriptures. The scripture quotations beginning here will be from The Complete Jewish Bible.  In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is writing about the resurrection. Beginning with verse 35:
35 But someone will ask, “In what manner are the dead raised? What sort of body do they have?”
36 Stupid! When you sow a seed, it doesn’t come alive unless it first dies. 
37 Also, what you sow is not the body that will be, but a bare seed of, say, wheat or something else; 38 but God gives it the body he intended for it; and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.
39 Not all living matter is the same living matter; on the contrary, there is one kind for human beings, another kind of living matter for animals, another for birds and another for fish.
40 Further, there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies; but the beauty of heavenly bodies is one thing, while the beauty of earthly bodies is something else. 
41 The sun has one kind of beauty, the moon another, the stars yet another; indeed, each star has its own individual kind of beauty.
42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. When the body is “sown,” it decays; when it is raised, it cannot decay.
43 When sown, it is without dignity; when raised, it will be beautiful. When sown, it is weak; when raised, it will be strong.
44 When sown, it is an ordinary human body; when raised, it will be a body controlled by the Spirit. If there is an ordinary human body, there is also a body controlled by the Spirit.
45 In fact, the Tanakh says so: Adam, the first man, became a living human being; but the last “Adam” has become a life-giving Spirit.
46 Note, however, that the body from the Spirit did not come first, but the ordinary human one; the one from the Spirit comes afterwards.
47 The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven. 
48 People born of dust are like the man of dust, and people born from heaven are like the man from heaven;
49 and just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, so also we will bear the image of the man from heaven.
   
We can see some of the duality in the type and antitype of these two Adams. But how do we place ourselves into this picture? How can we unite ourselves with this last Adam and receive all these wonderful benefits?
 
Romans chapter 3, beginning in verse 9:
 
9 So are we Jews better off? Not entirely; for I have already made the charge that all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, are controlled by sin. 
10 As the Tanakh puts it, “There is no one righteous, not even one! No one understands,
11 no one seeks God,
12 all have turned away and at the same time become useless; there is no one who shows kindness, not a single one!
13 ”Their throats are open graves, they use their tongues to deceive. Vipers’ venom is under their lips.
14 Their mouths are full of curses and bitterness.
15 ”Their feet rush to shed blood,
16 in their ways are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of shalom they do not know.
18 ”There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 
   
Paul is picking out a number of verses from various places in the Hebrew scriptures that show that the human condition is carnal and not responsive to God and His ways. But then, Paul addresses those who try to live by the scriptures, in verse 19: "Moreover, we know that whatever the Torah says, it says to those living within the framework of the Torah, in order that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world be shown to deserve God’s adverse judgment."
 
That’s saying that the word of God shines a bright light that will stop people’s mouths; it will ultimately cause the world to become silent and to listen. The scriptures will show the world that if they don’t live within the framework of the scriptures, then they richly deserve the wrath of God.
  
But there’s a “however” in there. “Doing” scripture isn’t the end, but a means to the end.
20 For in his sight no one alive will be considered righteous on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah commands, because what Torah really does is show people how sinful they are.
21 But now, quite apart from Torah, God’s way of making people righteous in his sight has been made clear – although the Torah and the Prophets give their witness to it as well –
22 and it is a righteousness that comes from God, through the faithfulness of Yeshua the Messiah, to all who continue trusting. For it makes no difference whether one is a Jew or a Gentile,
23 since all have sinned and come short of earning God’s praise. 
24 By God’s grace, without earning it, all are granted the status of being considered righteous before him, through the act redeeming us from our enslavement to sin that was accomplished by the Messiah Yeshua. 
25 God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah [atoning sacrifice] for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death. This vindicated God’s righteousness; because, in his forbearance, he had passed over [with neither punishment nor remission] the sins people had committed in the past; 
26 and it vindicates his righteousness in the present age by showing that he is righteous himself and is also the one who makes people righteous on the ground of Yeshua’s faithfulness.
27 So what room is left for boasting? None at all! What kind of Torah excludes it? One that has to do with legalistic observance of rules? No, rather, a Torah that has to do with trusting.
28 Therefore, we hold the view that a person comes to be considered righteous by God on the ground of trusting, which has nothing to do with legalistic observance of Torah commands.
29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, he is indeed the God of the Gentiles;
30 because, as you will admit, God is one. Therefore, he will consider righteous the circumcised on the ground of trusting and [he will also consider] the uncircumcised [to be righteous] through that same trusting. 
31 Does it follow that we abolish Torah by this trusting? Heaven forbid! On the contrary, we confirm Torah
   
What was Paul referring to (in this translation) as “legalistic observance of Torah commands”? Paul often had to compare and contrast what the Jews were doing with what Christians (including Jewish Christians) needed to do. Paul was reminding his readers that scrupulous law-keeping was not the thing that saves people, but rather faith (or trust, in this translation) in the shed blood of Jesus, the son of God, and that salvation and eternal life are a gift from God. This is justification, and no amount of law-keeping will justify us to God. 

Now, does this trust do away with the need for God’s law – for torah? Certainly not. Paul actually reinforces the need for torah. But in what context? We need God’s teachings and instructions to guide us through the part of the salvation process we identified as sanctification. We need to live a godly life, and we can only understand what God means by living a godly life by reading His rule book He gave us. “What Torah really does is show people how sinful they are” (verse 20). How does it do that? By identifying what sin is! (1 John 3:4; Rom 3:20)
 

Obeying God has always been part of the package. Yet the concepts of sin and obedience seem to be sensitive topics for some people. There are people who believe in cheap grace, which amounts to salvation without any responsibility or need for change. Some actually define obeying to God as “legalism,” yet at the same time they admit that people need to leave their lives of sin when they come into the faith. Most of the Christian communities understand that lives are changed, behaviors are modified, and sin needs to be left behind when sinners repent and come into the fellowship of a Christian community.
  
We can find more details about this process of salvation in Romans chapter 5, beginning in verse 12: "Here is how it works: it was through one individual [Adam] that sin entered the world, and through sin, death; and in this way death passed through to the whole human race, inasmuch as everyone sinned."
  
We didn’t stand condemned to death because Adam sinned. We deserved the death penalty because of our own sins. 
 
13 Sin was indeed present in the world before Torah was given, but sin is not counted as such when there is no Torah.
14 Nevertheless death ruled from Adam until Moshe [Moses], even over those whose sinning was not exactly like Adam’s violation of a direct command. In this, Adam prefigured the one who was to come. 
   
Paul shows that, even though the Ten Commandments had not been given until Israel assembled at Mount Sinai, death still held power because all people had sinned, from the Garden of Eden forward.
 
15 But the free gift [salvation] is not like the offence. For if, because of one man’s offence [Adam’s sin], many died, then how much more has God’s grace, that is, the gracious gift of one man, Yeshua the Messiah, overflowed to many! 
16 No, the free gift is not like what resulted from one man’s sinning; for from one sinner came judgment that brought condemnation; but the free gift came after many offences [centuries of sin] and brought acquittal. 
17 For if, because of the offence of one man, death ruled through that one man; how much more will those receiving the overflowing grace, that is, the gift of being considered righteous, rule in life through the one man Yeshua the Messiah!
18 In other words, just as it was through one offence that all people came under condemnation, so also it is through one righteous act that all people come to be considered righteous.
19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man, many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the other man, many will be made righteous.
20 And the Torah came into the picture so that the offence would proliferate; but where sin proliferated, grace proliferated even more. 
21 All this happened so that just as sin ruled by means of death, so also grace might rule through causing people to be considered righteous, so that they might have eternal life, through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord. 
   
One act of sinfulness brought the world into a fallen state. One holy life, lived without sin, brought about a state of grace that waits patiently for all of us to come to our senses and take hold of it. The purpose of scripture is to point out which behaviors are sin, which attitudes and lifestyles will drag us down to our deaths. God tells us to avoid sin, and gives us a Book which defines what sin is!
  
We can come to God through our faith in his grace, because of the blood of Christ, which was spilled so we could die in him. If we do, then we can be in his resurrection, the resurrection to eternal life as sons of God. 
  
So there you have it. We have a savior. And this savior saved us from a terrible fate and offers us something incredibly wonderful!
  
The Exodus was just a dress rehearsal for the salvation of mankind. Coming out of Egypt was child’s play compared to bringing the entire race of humans back from the gallows, back into a state of reconciliation with God, doing away with the sin and sinfulness that has dragged us all down to the pit of death and despair from the Garden of Eden forward. It’s the broken body, and especially the spilled blood, of this savior of ours, this older brother of ours, this friend of ours, that can take us from death row to the holy city.
  
If you observe the New Testament Passover, or the Lord’s Supper, once a year, don’t just forget about the man on the cross until next year. It’s not our righteousness that carries us through; it’s his righteousness, his faithfulness. It’s our faith, our trust, in his righteousness, in his blood, that brings us together every year to celebrate these days of sacrifice, and coming out, and going forth into the wilderness, and being forged into a people.
  
We didn’t escape death because we slaughtered a lamb and spread its blood on our houses (Exodus 12). We’re here because the first Adam, and all his descendants – including us! – brought about the slaughter of the last Adam, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And if we spread his blood on the doorposts of our lives, and our hearts, and our wills, and our intentions, and our children’s lives, we can go out, and be saved, and be made into a people.
  
There are a lot of religious buzz words in the world, like “savior,” and “salvation,” and “being saved.” But now you should have a better idea what these words actually mean. Now you know what we mean when we say “savior.” 
  
  
  
  
  
  


Endnotes:

  1.   Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers, article “Savior”

  2.  Fausset’s Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft, article “Savior”

  3.   Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers, article “Salvation”

  4.   ibid.

  5.   Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers, article “Slave”

  6.   http://www.biblestudy.org/beginner/definition-of-christian-terms/exegesis.html

  7.   http://www.creationists.org/exegesis.html

  8.   http://answersingenesis.org/home/area/overheads/pages/oh20020614_123.asp

  9.   http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/words.htm

10.   http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~remoore/long.html

11.   http://douglawrence.wordpress.com/2008/03/03/eisegesis-can-be-considered-to-be-the-opposite-of-exegesis/

12.   http://www.alphadictionary.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=259






For further reading: 


 "The Law and Sin”
 

 “The Law and Grace”

 
 “Why Do We Obey God?”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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