HAVE WE BEEN SAVED PRIMARILY FROM HELL? OR FROM SIN SICKNESS?
Of course disciples of Christ are saved from hell, but “primarily” is the operative word here. If we are saved primarily from sin sickness, then salvation from hell is a consequence of our healing.
It is interesting that the Greek word “σωζω” (sōzō), the word translated as “save” clearly refers to physical healing in 15 of the 103 occurrences of the word in the New Testament, and no translation renders the word as “save” in any of those occurrences.
Here are the verses in which the word must be rendered as “heal” or some equivalent such as “made well”:
Mark 5:23, 28,34; 6:56; 10:52
Luke 8:36,48,50; 17:18; 18:42
Acts 4:9; 14:9
There are other passages in which it is not so clear, but yet probable that the word means “heal.” Here is one example:
- And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it proper on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save (σωσαι) life or to kill?” (Mark 3:2-4)*
Did Jesus save the man’s life? It doesn’t seem likely that the man would have died if Jesus had not healed his hand. So it is probable that Mark had “heal” in mind here in his quote of Jesus’ question. There are also a number of other occurrences of “σωζω” which would probably be better had the word been translated as “heal”.
Jesus came into this world to save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Does Jesus save people from their sins by healing their whole persons? Giving them well-being (shalom)? Or by providing them with a “get out of hell free” card? Is Christ’s magnificent sacrifice of Himself of Calvary’s tree just a means of covering the sinner’s sin so that they can escape hell and get to heaven? Or is it a means of providing the grace by which the sinner may be healed of his sin sickness? Does God want people to be righteous? Or is He only interested in saving them from hell? If the latter, why doesn’t he just do it?Why did Christ have to die?
Jesus’ whole ministry on earth involved physical healing as well as casting out demons, and setting people free from whatever was troubling them. Even Jesus giving His life as a ransom in the place of many is a reference to his service to people. The context makes this clear:
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28 NKJV)
Jesus “gave his life” that is, used his life to serve others. “But in what sense would that be a ransom?” you ask. The Greek word “λυτρον” can not only mean the price paid for liberating a slave, but can also simply refer to the liberation of people from misery. The latter definition can be found in many Greek lexicons, for example in the Online Bible’s Greek lexicon. Louw & Nida gives the meaning of the word as “the means or instrument by which release or deliverance is made possible.” In this case the life of Christ itself, the life that He lived in service to others, was the means of their deliverance from their suffering and misery. The Abbott-Smith lexicon states that “in a general sense” the verb means “to deliver.”
Jesus Himself read a scripture from the book of Isaiah which predicted what Jesus would do in service to others, and Himself declared that He has fulfilled that scripture:
So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: *"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD." Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:16-21 NKJV)*
So Jesus gave His life—spent His life to deliver people from their misery—to ransom them from the things which trouble them.
It amazes me how many passages in the New Testament speak of “εἰρηνη”, the Greek translation of the Hebrew “shalom”. Both the Hebrew and the Greek word are usually translated as “peace.” However, “peace” is but one aspect of the meaning. “Shalom” means “total well-being” including safety, health, prosperity, completeness, and contentment. In Ephesians 6:15, Paul speaks of the “gospel of well-being” or the “good news of well-being.” He also stated in 2:17 that Jesus Himself preached well-being both those who were far off (the gentiles) and those who were near (the Jews).
And He came and proclaimed well-being to you who were far off and well-being to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:17)
Now, I write this in no way to support the modern “health and wealth gospel” which puts the emphasis on the personal gaining of health and wealth. Rather the emphasis needs to be on the health of the whole being, the health of “body, soul, and spirit”. When the sin question is dealt with—I mean the purging of sin from our lives, not the mere hiding it by the “covering of Christ’s righteousness”— the “natural” result is completeness, contentment, safety, health, and prosperity. That is not to say that safety, health, and prosperity must necessarily follow the purging of sin—many devout disciples are in danger, or in ill health, or in poverty—yet the purging of sin has a tendency to yield these three.
Now I don’t say that “εἰρηνη” never means simply “peace.” It often does. But often it also means total “well-being.” Consider the following passages when “εἰρηνη” is translated as “well-being”:
*Mark 5:34 And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in well-being, and be healed of your disease." Luke 1:79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of well-being." Luke 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth well among men of good will." Luke 2:29 "Lord, now let your servant depart in well-being, according to your word; Luke 7:50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has healed you; go in well-being." Luke 10:5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Well-being be to this house!’ John 14:27 Well I leave with you; my well-being I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 16:33 I have said this to you, that in me you may have well-being. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good courage, I have overcome the world." Acts 10:36 You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of well-being by Jesus Christ... Romans 1:7 To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and well-being from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 2:10 but glory and honor and well-being for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. Romans 3:17 and the way of well-being they do not know." Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we are made righteous through faith, we have well-being with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 8:6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and well-being. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and well-being and joy in the Holy Spirit; Romans 14:19 Let us then pursue what makes for well-being and for mutual upbuilding. Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and well-being in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.***** Romans 15:33 The God of well-being be with you all. Amen. Romans 16:20 then the God of well-being will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 1 Corinthians 1:3 Grace to you and well-being from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not a God of confusion but of well-being. As in all the churches of the saints... Galatians 1:3 Grace to you and well-being from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, well-being, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Galatians 6:16 well-being and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God. Ephesians 6:15 and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of well-being. Ephesians 6:23 well-being be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:7 And the well-being of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 May the God of well-being himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of well-being himself give you well-being at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all. 2 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and well-being from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 2 Timothy 2:22 ¶ So shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and well-being, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart. Titus 1:4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and well-being from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and well-being from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.*
In conclusion, I wish to affirm that I believe we are saved from sin sickness, and that God is primarily concerned about our total well-being and not merely that we escape hell. Indeed, as George MacDonald wrote, hell may be needed to save a person.