The chart below is a word study I’m currently working on for the word σωτηρία, which is Greek for ‘salvation’ or ‘deliverance.’ This chart contains all 45 uses of σωτηρία and all its variants in the Greek New Testament. I’m working on this study because it has been my observation that, specifically within Protestant Evangelicalism, the emphasis of using the word ‘salvation’ has been the aspect of our justification, that is, “getting saved.” My hypothesis is that, although “getting saved” is certainly one aspect of salvation, it is only one small aspect and in fact may not even be the primary thrust of the word in the New Testament.
I’ve divided the usage of salvation up into four categories: justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification. These are common “categories” or “steps” theologians often refer to in what is called the ordo salutis – the order of salvation. I’ve added a fifth category called receiving Christ, which I’m using to refer to all four aspects listed above.
The below analysis is a work in progress. I’m positive I’m wrong about some of these. However, the emerging numbers show something striking; it does seem that “getting saved” is not the primary focus of salvation in the New Testament. In fact, because “receiving Christ” seems to be the most common usage of the word σωτηρία, perhaps that is really the overarching usage of the Biblical authors, despite which particular aspect they are referring to in an immediate context? And, if that is the case, maybe this idea of receiving Christ and union with him should be our focus too?
Current results are as follows:
|Luke 1:69||and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,||Justification|
|Luke 1:71||that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;||Justification|
|Luke 1:77||to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,||Justification|
|Luke 19:9||And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.||Receiving Christ/Sanctification|
|John 4:22||You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.||Receiving Christ|
|Acts 4:12||And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”||Receiving Christ|
|Acts 7:25||He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.||N/A|
|Acts 13:26||“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation.||Receiving Christ|
|Acts 13:47||For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”||Receiving Christ|
|Acts 16:17||She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”||Justification|
|Acts 27:34||Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.”||N/A|
|Rom 1:16||For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.||Receiving Christ|
|Rom 10:1||Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.||Justification|
|Rom 10:10||For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.||Justification|
|Rom 11:11||So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.||Receiving Christ|
|Rom 13:11||Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.||Glorification|
|2 Cor 1:6||If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.||Sanctification|
|2 Cor 6:2||For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.||Receiving Christ|
|2 Cor 7:10||For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.||Sanctification|
|Eph 1:13||In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,||Justification|
|Phil 1:19||for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,||Sanctification/Glorification|
|Phil 1:28||and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.||Sanctification|
|Phil 2:12||Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,||Sanctification|
|1 Thess 5:8||But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.||Glorification|
|1 Thess 5:9||For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,||Glorification|
|2 Thess 2:13||But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.||Sanctification|
|2 Tim 2:10||Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.||Receiving Christ/Adoption|
|2 Tim 3:15||and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.||Justification|
|Heb 1:14||Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?||Adoption|
|Heb 2:3||how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,||Receiving Christ|
|Heb 2:10||For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.||Receiving Christ|
|Heb 5:9||And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,||Glorification|
|Heb 6:9||Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.||Sanctification|
|Heb 9:28||so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.||Glorification|
|Heb 11:7||By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.||N/A|
|1 Pet 1:5||who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.||Glorification|
|1 Pet 1:9||obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.||Sanctification/Glorification|
|1 Pet 1:10||Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,||Receiving Christ|
|1 Pet 2:2||Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—||Sanctification|
|2 Pet 3:15||And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,||Sanctification|
|Jude 3||Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.||Adoption|
|Rev 7:10||and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”||Receiving Christ|
|Rev 12:10||And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.||Receiving Christ|
|Rev 19:1||After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,||Receiving Christ|
Well, finishing this little mini-series took a lot longer than expected. Needless to say that getting engaged, work, school and life are enough to keep me away from writing!
I’ve previously written two entries about the study of Biblical languages, part 1 and part 2. In the first entry I talked about why it is important for ministry leaders, particularly pastors, to have a working knowledge of the original text. In the second entry, I focused mainly on some small but common examples of how to defend the text against common attacks. In this last entry of this series, I am going to discuss a few examples of how the original text can greatly enhance teaching from a given text.
It is rarely the case that a reading of the original language will significantly alter the message of the translation. That should be of great comfort to many, as it shows that our English translations (and others) are mostly accurate concerning the original text. What we do often find, however, is that the message can be significantly enhanced by really understanding the language of the author.
Below I have listed a few examples that I will do my best to explain. I would like to again remind the reader that I am in no way claiming to be an expert on this subject, as I am barely scratching the surface myself. I do however love to share what I am learning with others, and I hope in some way these little examples are enriching to you.
Example #1: Understanding the Original Word
This little diddy was something I discovered in my studies of 1 Timothy a couple of weeks ago. As I was translating and studying 1 Timothy 2:1-6, I was curious at the following line: For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Ti 2:5–6, ESV). My attention was drawn to the word ransom, ἀντίλυτρον in the Greek. Recognizing this as a compound word, I looked up λυτρον in the lexicon to find that λυτρον by itself meant “ransom”. So why the need to compound ἀντί ? Turning to my handy Daniel Wallace grammar to see what he had to say about this, indeed our little preposition ἀντί provides great emphasis to this passage. As it turns out, ἀντί carries the meaning of “exchange”, “substitution” or “in place of”.
Now the passage in the English already says “ransom for all”, so the idea of Christ paying our penalty is already at work here. However, taking into consideration the full word ἀντίλυτρον, we can now really see a substitutionary ransom is what Paul really had in mind here. Paul really wants to get the message across to his audience that Christ’s death was in place of sinners. How sweet this truth is!
Example #2: The Present Progressive
The book of 1 John is awesome because you need very little vocabulary to translate it. It is so repetitive that by the end of the book you feel like an absolute pro who could translate any book in the New Testament. If only this was the case…
1 John 3:9 presents us with an interesting little passage. It reads: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God ( 1 Jn 3:9, ESV). Now from what we know about the entirety of the New Testament, there can be no way this passage means that if you sin once you aren’t a Christian anymore. That isn’t how grace works. But don’t we sometimes think that? Maybe when we’re feeling low, having a week where we’ve really fallen into sin, we start thinking those thoughts don’t we? There are some preachers out there (albeit false ones) who want to lord over you by preaching a perfectionist message, maybe they’re right?
This is where our understanding of the present progressive tense comes into play. The present progressive tense is one that means it is an action that is occurring now and is continuing on into the future. When we read the verbs “makes a practice of” and “sinning”, what we’d find in the Greek language is this is in the present progressive tense. So what we’re talking about here is someone who sins now and continues habitually to practice that sin without remorse. While this is again understandable from our English translations, it is entirely possible for people to get caught up on verses like this.
**As I write example #3, I realize it is worth briefly mentioning Hebrews 2:17, …to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb 2:17b, ESV). It is interesting to note that the verb “to make propitiation”, ἱλάσκεσθαι, is also in the present progressive tense. What we can gather from this is that this passage is not referring to a single act of atonement on the cross, but a continual subsequent activity by which Christ continually applies the propitiatory power of His sacrifice (Vos, Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 145). Since this could be an entirely separate post to examine this, for brevity’s sake I will end this note here.
Example #3: The Perfect Tense
The perfect tense is a verb tense in the Greek language that is really hard to communicate in the English. The reason for this is the lengthy implications the perfect tense has. The perfect tense can simply be defined by an action that was completed in the past and has results or impact in the present time. An example of this idea would be like saying “I have freed him from jail”, with the present result being that he is still freed. Since it is hard to realize when such a tense is being read in our English translations, we often breeze right through the words without stopping and asking “Well what is the result that action had on present reality?”
The perfect tense is littered throughout the Greek text, and it often can greatly enhance ones message when properly understood. A great example of this can be seen in Hebrews 2:18, For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb 2:18, ESV). The verb for “has suffered” is in the perfect tense, which tells us that Christ’s sufferings are something that happened in the past, but have a result in present reality. The sufferings and temptation that Christ has behind him, and still carries with him as a past experience, enables him to relate and know exactly to what weight and force we are struggling in our temptations.
This message brings such joy and comfort to my soul. The God of the Bible is such a drastically different God than any other man-made god throughout history – he understands what we are going through and sympathizes with us in our weaknesses. I know when I am feeling tempted and shamed in my sinful state that Christ hears me and sympathizes with me, knowing what I am going through.
Example #4: Word Order
Those silly Greeks didn’t quite understand proper word order yet (proper by my American English standards!), so ancient Greek writings can largely put the words in any order the author so chooses. One of the benefits of this is that the author can place certain words before others if he really wanted to provide an emphasis on a word or concept.
Philippians 2:13 has a really great example of this. The beginning of this verse reads, for it is God who works in you (Phil 2:13a, ESV). The Greek for this reads θεὸς γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν, woodenly translated for God is the one working in you. What is interesting about this sentence fragment is the word order – under normal circumstances we would expect ὁ ἐνεργῶν (the one working) to have been the first two words in the construct, as it is the subject of this clause. However, what we find is that Paul chose to put θεὸς (God) first. This is important for us because it tells us that Paul really wanted to emphasize GOD as the one who works in us. That is the concept Paul wants us to take away, that it is not us who works for him but it is GOD who works in us. This is also especially important if we consider the previous verse, which has often led people to think Paul was teaching a works-based salvation. This is not the case, instead Paul is speaking of an obedience to God already working in us.
Well, that concludes this short series on the importance of language studies. I hope these few examples were enriching to you in some way, and if you are not familiar with languages, you can begin to see how small things here and there can really begin to enhance the message of a passage when the original text is really studied.
Of course there are examples where varying translations can occur from the Greek that might have significant differences in the meaning of the passage (Philippians 2:13, substantive infinitives anyone?). However, I do not think examining such passages would be particularly fruitful at this time, but I may write about them in the future.
If you are familiar with languages, or have had some training in the past but have now neglected to keep up with your understanding of the languages, I hope this series was an encouragement and challenge for you to get your grammars and books back out. For people new to the idea of studying languages, I hope this series has given you an appreciation for the depth that can be found in language study.
When I began this series weeks ago, I set out to answer the question “Why study the original languages if we have modern translations?” Hopefully this served its purpose!
As a young seminary student, one of the first questions my friends ask me is “So, what classes are you taking?” Those who know me well know that I am currently about to go into my third semester of Koine Greek studies. When asked about these classes, I’m often met with one of two responses:
- That is so cool! You must be learning all kinds of new things that you just can’t learn without the Greek text!
- What is that for? Don’t we have the English translations?
I never know how to answer either of these types of responses. In fact, when I first began taking these classes I was a little bit at a loss, as I was unable to explain why they are important. Are the studies of original languages (OL) really that fundamental? Can the church function without it? What about the average lay-person, do they need to know them? Should all pastors be able to reference the OL’s, or is it just meant for the research scholars? In an attempt to be able to provide some answers to my friends and the Church, I am going to spend the next three posts discussing the importance of language studies. The remainder of this post will be spent on the general importance and summons to original language studies. The following posts will deal with defending the accuracy of the text and the truth of the text from error, as well as wrestling with an understanding of the nuances and meaning behind the OL’s.
Before I begin, let me remind the reader that at the time of this post I am only entering my third semester of Greek studies. I have yet to even study the Hebrew alphabet, nor enter the pulpit. By no means am I elevating myself as an expert, nor am I elevating a “two-class” Christianity where those who know the languages are better than those without. I am but a novice, at best. I will however advocate a position stressing the importance of OL studies to pastors and the Church.
Brothers, Bitzer was a Banker
I’ve been reading through John Piper’s book entitled Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. What an amazing blessing this book has been to me at this time in my training. In this text, Piper has a chapter entitled “Brothers, Bitzer was a Banker”. The chapter begins by telling of a book released in 1969 entitled Light on the Path. This text is a daily dose of Scripture readings in both the Hebrew and Greek, and is meant to help pastors preserve and improve their ability to interpret the Bible from the OL’s.
The editor’s name was Heinrich Bitzer. He was a banker.
Piper continues this chapter by asking the question “Must we be admonished by the sheep as to what our responsibility is as shepherds?” He cites several important reasons why pastors should be able to wrestle with the OL’s. I will cite several of these reasons below, either paraphrased or directly quoted from this chapter:
- “First, the confidence of pastors to determine the precise meaning of Biblical texts diminishes. And with the confidence to interpret rigorously goes the confidence to preach powerfully.”
- Having to depend on the various (differing) English translations tends to discourage careful textual analysis in sermon preparation. As soon as you really start paying attention to tenses, conjunctions and vocabulary the versions are too diverse to provide a sure analysis. So the preacher often contents himself with the general focus or flavor of the text, and his exposition lacks the precision and clarity which excite a congregation with the Word of God. Boring generalities curse many pulpits.
- For example, most of the modern English translations (RSV, NIV, NASB, NLT) do not enable the expositor to see that “have fruit” in Romans 6:22 links with “bear fruit” five verses later in Romans 7:4. They all translate Romans 6:22 without the word fruit.
- “So what we find in groups where Greek and Hebrew are not cherished and pursued and promoted is that expository preaching—which devotes a good bit of the sermon to explaining the meaning of the text—is not much esteemed by the preachers or taught in the seminaries.”
- “Weakness in Greek and Hebrew also gives rise to exegetical imprecision and carelessness. And exegetical imprecision is the mother of liberal theology.”
- “Where pastors can no longer articulate and defend doctrine by a reasonable and careful appeal to the original meaning of Biblical texts, they will tend to become close-minded traditionalists who clutch their inherited ideas, or open-ended pluralists who don’t put much stock in doctrinal formulations. In both cases the succeeding generations will be theologically impoverished and susceptible to error.”
I can think of no better way to end this section than with Piper’s closing words to his chapter:
Let’s give heed to the word of Martin Luther: “As dear as the gospel is to us all, let us as hard contend with its language.” Bitzer did. And Bitzer was a banker!
The Lowest Common Denominator
If we took a survey of the Church today (specifically the American Church), I would contend that we would find more churches without pastors trained in the languages than those with. For that matter, how many seminaries are still requiring the OL’s? Of those that do, how many require anything more than one semester?
I’ve spoken to many leaders who are ten or more years out of Seminary, and they’ve all but forgotten their OL training. Many I’ve spoken to will say something along the lines of “I have a concordance and Bible software now; it does all the work for me.” Friends, I fear this is similar to walking onto a football field with all of the equipment yet not knowing the rules of the game. Having the tools at our disposal is an important start, but we must know how to play the game!
Many critics will argue that languages are best left to the experts. After all, quite a bit of work is necessary to go from a student who knows the vocabulary, to a scholar who works for translation boards. And this is true. But is there not room in the middle for our pastors to have a working knowledge of the texts from which they preach each week? As Piper also questions in his book, “We have, by and large, lost the Biblical vision of a pastor as one who is mighty in the Scriptures, apt to teach, competent to confute opponents, and able to penetrate to the unity of the whole counsel of God. Is it healthy or biblical for the church to cultivate an eldership of pastors (weak in the Word) and an eldership of professors (strong in the Word)?” When we “leave the work to the experts”, we have essentially separated and professionalized the work of the shepherd into a completely separate role.
One of my favorite artists and poets Propaganda raps in one of his songs: “…See the presence of good art will unconsciously refine a community, and poor art will do an incalculable harm…” I believe this same concept can be applied to our teaching philosophies inside (and outside) the Church. The presence of educated, expository preaching and teaching will unconsciously refine and build up our church communities. Without it, we are stuck teaching to the lowest common denominator, and this will do an incalculable harm. We are already seeing the effects of this, as preachers uneducated in the Word of God are taking the pulpit and preaching all kinds of wishy-washy doctrines, swaying to and fro with lofty opinions and flat out damning interpretations of the text.
If we want to see our Church maintain solid preaching and teaching, we must not neglect the study of the OL’s.
Give them the Bread, not the Bread Factory
It is the responsibility of every preacher in the pulpits to teach the whole counsel of God. James tells us that not many of us should strive to become teachers, as we will be judged more severely (James 3:1). How then can we preach the whole counsel of God and teach to the level at which we are demanded if we cannot understand the languages in which the Word was written? When we are unable to read through the original languages ourselves, we become enslaved to the commentaries. Unable to work through these things on our own, we can but only trust what other people have said on these matters. The Prince of Preachers CH Spurgeon has this to say:
“A man to comment well should be able to read the Bible in the original. Every minister should aim at a tolerable proficiency both in the Hebrew and the Greek. These two languages will give him a library at a small expense, an inexhaustible thesaurus, a mine of spiritual wealth. Really, the effort of acquiring a language is not so prodigious that brethren of moderate abilities should so frequently shrink from the attempt. A minister ought to attain enough of these tongues to be at least able to make out a passage by the aid of a lexicon, so as to be sure that he is not misinterpreting the Spirit of God in his discoursings, but is, as nearly as he can judge, giving forth what the Lord intended to reveal by the language employed. “
Truly, it is the job of the preacher to deliver the bread, not the bread factory. We need not all be scholars, but should we not have the capability to understand the particulars of the language and why certain tenses or constructions are used – and thus its importance on the message?
I know most of you were probably hoping to see some language examples. I am saving those for the other two posts. However, I hope we can all begin to see the importance of the continual study of the OL’s to pastors and the church. For those of us in the Western Church, we have so many resources readily available to assist us in this. To neglect the resources and funding we have at our disposal that much of the global church does not have is simply irresponsible. This is not something that can continue to go neglected in our seminaries and churches today.
What does this mean for us now? Pastors, if you find your OL skills lacking let this be an encouragement for you to refresh your skills. Consider signing up to audit the language courses at your local school, picking up Light on the Path or breaking out your old primers and start working through them. Students, do not neglect your studies thinking the software and commentaries will do all of the work for you. Continue to strengthen your skills and exegesis while you can.
Lay-persons, you may be asking what this all has to do with you. Let me also encourage you that you need not sit this one out. There are plenty of resources out there for you to be able to work through. Consider picking up a key word study bible or an interlinear text (one where the English and OL are next to each other), a concordance, or a copy of something like Logos Bible Study software. Ask your pastors to lead a Bible study workshop at your church. Being able to pick up on small nuances, such as knowing that what many translations render as “servant of Christ” could actually be rendered “slave” (coming from the word δοῦλός) can provide immediate depth and richness to your studies.
Let us encourage and exhort one another to a deeper study of God’s Word all for the glory of the King on the throne!