Salvation from...?


No great essay here; just an observation from years of debating universalism and Christian soteriology in general.

One of the commonest things in such discussions, is to find proponents on all sides of a question talking about “salvation” without much further clarification about what a person is being saved by God, from.

Obviously there are many things that God could be (and hopefully someday shall be) saving us from; but I make a point of regularly stating, in such discussions, that I myself am talking about salvation from sin. I do this because I find that this is the salvation being most heavily emphasized in the New Testament documents (as well as in the OT texts, to a large extent, though perhaps not proportionately to the same extent as in the NT. Often OT salvation is from external military or climactic threats.)

I could give anecdotal examples of past discussions where the other party was routinely talking about ‘salvation’ but obviously wasn’t talking primarily about salvation ‘from sin’, because then his (or her) claims would have been rendered ludicrously self-refuting. Which (despite expectations, perhaps) is not what I want my opponents to be engaging in. :wink: But I thought I would open up discussion on the topic and perhaps invite responses along a couple of lines:

1.) reminiscences of times when the other person was talking about salvation from something other than (primarily) from sin, or was talking about salvation from sin but then was turning around and denying salvation from sin;

2.) alternately, is there something we should be seeking salvation from more primarily than from our sin and our sinning? (And is there biblical and/or metaphysical warrant for this more primary salvation?)


This is a hot topic in my opinion. In our sunday school class our teacher (my father in law) handed out a copy of a article from “The catalyst” which is a methodist print. In it a gentlemen shared his story that a student of his, while at a seminar, came to him and said…“I get it, Jesus died to save us from God”.

The result was a mob of people in our class showed up because the teacher had opened a can of worms. People took offense to the statment. It was a much more heated debate than even I anticipated. I was sympathetic with the woman who said this and so I took no offense. Of course I knew she did not believe that. She simply noted there was something wrong in our thinking.



Ah, yep, I get that impression from discussants, too, sometimes. :smiley: (Worse, I’ve sometimes seen them practically say so. Uhhhhh… and then they want to know why I’m complaining as an orthodox trinitarian… :laughing: )

It would be somewhat more orthodox, I think, to try to claim that Jesus died to save us from Himself. (Though a modalist could claim the same thing, of course.) And obviously salvation from the wrath of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) has to be part of the package in various important ways. I certainly don’t want to deny that. But (to put it a bit colorfully) I don’t recall Jesus being named Jesus because He was going to save His people from Himself and/or the Father. :wink:


It gets truly confusing when you break it down that way. :slight_smile:



I’m not sure about the background of who you’re refuting. But I’ll give my summary.

Christ died to save humanity from the consequences of our sins. This ultimately includes the fall from paradise and the origin of the fallen/sin nature. We can say that we get saved from God’s wrath while we enter God’s blessings. But I don’t see [how] anybody can say that this equals getting saved from God without caveats.


I think the misery the power of sin holds over someone who is bound by it is the actual penalty. Genesis 3 spells everything out as to the curse. So, we are freed from SIN itself and our liberty from any kind of penalty is inherent in that freedom. God’s mind toward us isn’t changed at all upon our repentance or recognition of sin. The problem is that we are enemies in our own minds. The breach is on our part NOT God’s part.



I must confess that I do not really understand the atonement and I most certainly object to the notion that Jesus saves us from a Father who only wants to punish us. That is breathtakingly unbiblical! Nevertheless, is there not any place to speak of being saved from God’s wrath? Is that not part of what salvation is about? I confess that I think it must be. So salvation is, in part, about being saved by God from God’s wrath. Right?


Does God’s wrath from an E-universalists perspective need saving from? This is the hardest issue I’ve wresteled with as I’ve embraced talbotts line of thought.

On one hand it seems Mr. Talbott would have us appreciate the wrath of God (hell).
On the other hand we are absolutely opposed to anyone being consigned to it.

It seems to me to be a pickle for everyone. In one sense it’s as if we’re saying LIFE is going to kill you (God will pour out his wrath and kill you) and in one sense we’re saying LIFE is going to save you from death (sin or the devil).

Again, this is why I wanted a forum board for us to discuss these topics to hammer them out possibly.

I believe this topic deserves it’s own forum where different perspectives could be raised. So perhaps we need a forum for “God’s Wrath - What does it mean” or something like that.


Shall I quote your namesake on this? :astonished: :open_mouth: :stuck_out_tongue:

We are only to seek to be saved from the wrath of God as a corollary to being saved from our sins. With the right understanding of God’s love, we could just as easily pray for God’s vengeance on us as for His love! “No man is saved who would not prefer hell to his sins.”

I trust the wrath of God against me, because I trust God. If I insist on sinning, then may God in His mercy be wrathful against me! It is only against ‘me’ insofar as I insist on my sinning to be constituitive of who I am. His wrath is essentially against my sin; it is only accidentally (in the old philosophical sense of that word) against me. Ultimately, His wrath is as much in favor of me, whom He loves, as His love; because His wrath is contingent upon His love. (God is essentially love; He is not essentially wrath.)


I forgot to mention, in my other reply: actually, I affirmed at least once (maybe more often) that salvation is, in part, about being saved by God from God’s wrath; and affirmed that there are plenty of things to be saved by God from. But my topic was about what we are being primarily saved from.

And, per the real George MacD (also per the scriptures, I would say, as would he), the salvation from wrath is contingent upon salvation from sin. In fact he’s big on affirming that there is no salvation from the wrath of God outside of salvation from sin; though of course the expression of the wrath need not necessarily be so maximal as the imagery rightly warns about the potential extent of.

Or as Lewis puts it (who considered GMacD his teacher, and who had universalistic sympathies, though not being universalistic himself): sure, perfect love casteth out fear, but plenty of other things do, too–for a while! We shouldn’t settle for anything less than perfect love casting out our fear of God. And we cannot love God perfectly (even to our limited derivative extent), until we are righteous people, free from sin.


My take on God’s wrath.

I have a son. He’s 7 now. From the time he could walk I’ve taught him to stay out of the road and how to cross the road. I’ve taught him the dangers of the huge dump trucks that travel up and down our little country road. My mother in law lives across this little road and so we cross it frenquently. Now he knows so if he is near the road I will let him know. My wrath. If he continues to play near the road then I will more than let him know. I may raise my voice. If he still continues to play near the road or heaven forbid to play in the road he is apt to get a spanking. Again my wrath. Now my wrath may become more severe and will if he continues to break the rules that I know will keep him safe.

Is this a wrong way to look at God’s wrath?

On a side note I told my son that I trusted him to cross the road by himself to go to granny’s house the other day. He said,
“I know daddy but I don’t trust myself.” I thought, How much trouble would we stay out of if we just said. “I know Father, but I don’t trust myself.”



That was beautiful, Mike! (Including your son’s reply.)

Also extremely biblical in regard to how God treats sinners, OT and NT both.


But isn’t “sin” just a distortion of what is good. If the standard of the Law is embodied in the Ten Commandments, then a trangression of those commandments consitutes sin. But then Jesus summarizes the Law into the Two Commandments of Love God and Love thy neighbor as thyself. Ergo, sin is simply not loving God and your neighbor properly. So to me, the focus shouldn’t be to stop sinning (as always the emphasis is), though we do need to know by definition what consitutes sin, but rather learning to love, which in itself is a command from God. It is in THAT process by which we can learn to love God perfectly.

Having said this, then, salvation is the process by which we learn to love as God loves. We draw strength from God through the Eternal Spirit to learn to love, for by walking in the power of the Spirit we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, against such is no law. Rather than being saved from sin, we are saved to God.



That, however, doesn’t make much sense of the verb “to be saved”. Salvation is a rescue from something; those who don’t need rescuing don’t need salvation. (Unlike redemption or ransom, by the way, which in ancient contexts could involve being raised up into authoritative family membership instead of a rescue, though by metaphor the term was applied to that as well.)

I don’t mean to deny that we are being saved to God (or perhaps that would be ‘saved unto God’); but I sure wouldn’t put it that way rather than being saved from sin. Yes, sin is only a distortion of that which is good, but people still need saving from that distortion in many ways. I like to remind myself for example that people need saving from my sins, which ultimately means people need for me to stop being a sinner and be a perfectly righteous man instead. If that requires my death (and someday it will), then I had better submit to it. The only way out is through: we are saved first into the death and then (thereby) into the life of Christ. Without repentance, there is no forgivness for sin; and all of us will one day be called to account for even every idle word we have spoken. We can either cooperate with God in His judgment on us, or rebel.

From God’s standpoint He has forgiven us already; but a loving personal relationship involves cooperation by all the persons involved–and until we stop rebelling, then (by tautology!) we are still rebels. In which case fear of God still is the beginning of wisdom. Only perfect love should cast out all fear; by God, only perfect love shall cast out all fear.

(Or, perhaps not all fear, if awe of the sublime can still be considered the highest and holiest of fear. Those who admire another person with true love, beyond one’s self, know what kind of fear such a love also is. It is also, I think, the most difficult kind of fear to have. Or to describe.)


You have a point. I meant to use ‘save to God’ to refer to the whole reconciliation process, which is a rescue of sorts. I admit, not being versed in the Greek, I’m probably misapplying the term.

Of course, there is more to it than mere obedience. The rich young ruler seeking eternal life did all according to the commandments, but was lacking the spirit of the law. Something that another rich man, Zacchaeus, discovered and thus found salvation. Intent is everything. Or more precisely, death to self. :wink:


What exactly does that mean? I’ve never understood the phrase.


an interesting tidbit I ran across last night:

What is the most important
thing in the Scripture for the sinner?
Many will answer, Salvation. Yet this
important term only came into use in
the English language about the twelfth
century, say eight hundred years ago.
It is a purely Latin word. At that time
it bore the meanings both of safty or
salvation, and of health. The believer’s
salvation was his “health”. Salvation
occurs not once in the Anglo-Saxon
Scriptures (680-900 A.D.),or in Wiclif’s
version (1380 A.D.). Wiclif always uses
the word “health”, although he uses the
terms"make safe" and “safe”. The old
word used for the Saviour was Haelend,
or “Healer”. Not only does He make one
safe, but He heals. Tyndale, in the year
1526A.D. was the first one to use the word
salvation in the Scriptures, and he used
it once only, in John 4:22(“for salvacion
commeth of the Jews”. Wiclif had, “for
heelthe is of Jews”) Thereafter the fine
old English word “health” dropped out
and was completely displaced by the
imported but now most important Latin
word " salvation". A Rising Son Ministries & Services
From,Whence Eternity? Alexander Thomson. Concordant
Publishing Concern


Does anyone know whether the English word ‘salve’ is a component of salvation (as in one applies a salve to a wound to promote relief from pain and healing).

So I might have been on to something in my song about the nativity when I had the young shepherd boy say ‘the healing of the world has just begun’ :smiley:


Actually, yes it is. In fact, I can go one better than that! The Jews chose the Greek term {xristos} to translate “messiah” or anointed one; this is a term very closely related to the (far more common) Greek term {xrestus}, which was one of the Greek words for ‘healer’. Why was that a term for ‘healer’? Because it was first a term for plasters that healers would put on people to cure them of infection. Those plasters would typically have mustard and/or sulfa powder mixed in. (Sulfa == sulfur == brimstone!) This gave the plaster a yellowish-golden look, which is why the plasters were named after a modified version of a Greek word for ‘gold’, {xrustos}. (Our term ‘crystal’ derives from that oldest usage, too, by a more roundabout route!)

Justin Martyr used to make topical puns about Christ and Chrestus this way. But wait, it gets even better! The Greek word the Jews chose to translate Joshua is another set of healing/doctor terms: iesous, or even iason. (“Jason” means “from the healer”.) The hero Jason, of the Argonauts, was famous for having done what? Stealing the golden fleece, an artifact with magical healing properties when laid on people. (My namesake was, unfortunately, a pretty cruddy guy. :wink: )

There are in fact such things as golden fleeces from that area of the world, up into Siberia: it’s a way of harvesting gold (still used today by some people, or so Tom Clancy says) by putting a fleece into a river for a period of years allowing it to pick up gold dust. But the healing-properties of the fleece resemble a mustard-sulfur plaster.

Yep, pretty much. :mrgreen:


Meanwhile, the main biblical Greek word to save is {so_zo_}; but I haven’t been able to trace its meaning backward other than (by context) to rescue or keep, like clutching to one’s chest.

(So the Greek word ‘savior’ {so_te_r}, does involve the idea of being held close by God, Jeff. :smiley: )

On the other hand, the Greek word for safe (safety, safely) used in the NT is usually {asphallo_}, which means not-to-trip!