Monday, February 13, 2012

He will save his people from their sins

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
(Mat 1:21 ESV)

I would like to spend some time looking at salvation and eternal life. Are they synonymous? This plays an important role in determining how we look at what Jesus accomplished on the cross. The question, what exactly did Jesus accomplish on the cross, comes to mind. Let me begin by stating that the terms salvation, savior, sin, redemption, and reconciliation have a lot of connotative baggage that has accumulated over the course of the years in Christian dogma. These concepts stray so far from the grammatical meaning of the words that the first century believers would understand, that they are barely recognizable by their intended first century meaning.

In this post I want to give you a heads up on how I am looking at these terms of late. This, like so many of my views, has been evolving over the last decade. So let me answer my question from above. What did Jesus accomplish on the cross? First, he reconciled the world to God so reconciliation is of first importance. Secondly, he brought forth the assurance of eternal life. Church dogma calls that salvation, but I am not so sure that the catch all words saved, salvation,  and save are really synonymous with reconciliation and eternal life. We should not be asking the question are you saved to people? Rather, we should be asking the question do you know you have been reconciled?

I see salvation, saved and savior as terms that are more ensconced in the first century situation. The Romans called Caesar savior, (soter Greek root.) The term savior or soter was used in the context of the first century situation. Rome, through Caesar, had bought peace to the world, (Pax Romana.) While it is true that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, brought salvation to the world, it was through peace with God based upon the ministry of reconciliation. First and foremost Jesus would bring salvation to the first century believers from the impending judgment facing the Jews. This was accomplished. Most of the believers saw the signs of the times and went to Pella before Jerusalem was surrounded and invaded.

Now I will turn to the word sin. In Hebrew it was the word chata (missing the way) and in Greek it was hamartia (missing the mark.) Sin is the most misused word in all of Christian doctrine. When we look at the verse quoted at the beginning of this post, “for he will save his people from their sins,” it must be noted what that mean to the first century readers. At the time of the gospels, the Gentiles had not yet been included in the covenant. When the writer of Matthew wrote “he will save* his people* from their sins” he meant that Jesus would save the Jews from missing the mark.

How did they miss the mark? Well, the main way was by believing that religion made them acceptable to God. They misunderstood the gift of the Torah, the prophets, and all that they had been given as God’s chosen instrument. They were in reality the people chosen by God to bring forth the ultimate message of reconciliation; namely, the promise to Abraham that in *his seed* all of the nations of the world would be blessed. They had completely missed the mark in that area.

Where am I taking us next on this journey? Well, I want to try to rediscover the apostle’s doctrine or teaching that will enable us to really help impact the kingdom of God. If we are under a strong delusion in current church doctrine, then perhaps it also extends to salvation and reconciliation. Perhaps if we gain a more biblical view of salvation, reconciliation, and sin we may find that we possess *really truly good news* to proclaim to the world.


  1. Hey Joe,
    I truly love your approach to understanding 1st century thought and application. Very freeing from current day mindset. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Thanks Radixx,
    I actually am convinced that my reading of the text is more biblical and more in line with actual Christian Doctrine than the evangelical orthodox take. I am happy that some are reading and blessed by my effort. It makes me want to continue!


  3. Salvation and eternal life may not be synonymous, but they go hand and hand. Salvation (salvare - to save) delivers, saves us from sin which in turn helps us to have eternal life.


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