Call me ignorant, but I didn’t even know that the Evangelical Alliance existed here in Australia! OK, now that you’ve picked yourself up off the floor after sliding off your chair in laughter, you’ll be pleased to know that, while scanning their website, I stumbled on this article by Aussie Dr Rikki Watts. There are parts of this article that are so simple they are profound. It gave me some answers. I hope you find some too. Enjoy!
What Does It Mean to Be Saved?
I’ve always struggled with what it means to be a Christian. And it’s not because I didn’t think God was real. I was brought up in the Pentecostal church. I knew God was real, but there was some sense of dislocation between my Christian experience and relating that life to the world around me. I realise now that many Christians do not know why they are here.
What does it mean to be saved? I remember when I was working at IBM this was often satirised. A poster in a friend’s cubicle said ‘Jesus saves – at First National’. I remember at first being offended by this, but in time I began to wonder if we haven’t half deserved it. I began to realise how odd the language must sound to a 21st century person.
It began to dawn on me that we were using a word that really doesn’t mean what it meant in Roman times. ‘Saviour’ was a well-known political term. There’s a famous inscription which speaks of Caesar Augustus – ‘it seemed good to the Greeks of Asia and in the opinion of the High Priest to say the following – Since Providence which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit mankind – sending him a saviour, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things.’
Pay attention to the language here. No one is talking about going to heaven, about sins forgiven. The term ‘saviour’ here has to do with concrete changes in the lives and the world in which people of the first century lived,worked, and sought to bring up their families. This was real life stuff.
There’s nothing here about somewhere beyond the blue. Being saved by a saviour had a well-known economic and political meaning. It was a word from everyday life. Augustus was considered the people’s Saviour because he’d restored peace to the empire. He was their benefactor.
It seems to me we’ve dropped the classical clanger – we’ve made the kind of mistake that no decent missiologist would make today. We’ve hung on to the word and lost the meaning. So what does it mean to be savedLet’s track the imagery that Genesis gives us in order to understand salvation. You can’t really talk about salvation until you talk about creation. There’s a reason for beginning in Genesis.