This was the word which was used repeatedly by Vizzini in the Princess Bride. But Inigo Montoya responds correctly when he notably said, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” Montoya was correct…Vizzini was using the word incorrectly. Words are funny that way. The Greek Stoic Philosopher Epictetus wrote, “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”
In the English language that is often difficult to do.
We talk about things like English Muffins, which have no origination in England. We speak about hamburgers which have no ham; in the same way we speak of eating eggplant but it has no egg in it. We talk about parking on driveways, and driving on parkways. We say that a house can burn up…as it burns down. I could go on…but I am sure you get the idea. The English language may be one of the most difficult to learn, understand, or interpret.
Communication, written or spoken, is riddled with inherent complications.
We need to learn the meaning of what we say before we speak about what we think we know. When we speak about spiritual concepts or topics, we must learn the meaning that God gave to the terms before we use them.
We use several words in the Bible far too loosely and imprecisely. That is part of the problem with trying to synthesize the message of the Bible: some terms are forced to means what other terms mean and lose their own meaning in the process.
Salvation is one of those terms.
Did you know that Abraham was never spiritually saved? Have you considered the fact that Isaac was never set before the reader of the OT as a saved individual? And Jacob? What a character! He even won a wrestling match with the angel of the Lord, was renamed Israel by God Himself, and was shepherded by God personally, and yet was never identified as a saved man. But all of these men are described as having believed in God, as having walked with God, and as being with God presently. So why can’t we call them saved?
We shouldn’t refer to them as “saved” because the Bible doesn’t refer to them in that way!
Our synthesis of the Bible’s teaching is infallible only so far as we stick to what the Bible actually says. When we make affirmations that the Bible does not make, we are going beyond God’s revelation on the issues in question. We begin to assume that something is true when God never tells us that it is true. That always, without exception I think, leads us into trouble. And trust me: we have given words meanings that they can’t bear, and we have done this seemingly at every turn. That is one of the reasons for this blog: to demonstrate that our assumptions are not only fallacious, but they are malicious as well, not intentionally so, of course. But in reality still so.
Regardless of intention the affect of our words is seen in their impact.
We have talked about the word “saved” in a way that the Bible does not!
If none of the heroes of faith in the OT were ever described as spiritually saved, then we ought to begin the reformulation of our theological categories with that truth. We have not only individuals, but also a whole nation, that were never described as spiritually saved, and yet God has promised these same individuals, as well as the nation of Israel as a whole, an incredibly blessed future while they wait for it, living in His presence. And if they could be in God’s presence in heaven without being saved, then it consistently follows that there could be those today who are in the same situation: they too will be in God’s presence after they die even though they had never been saved.
Not only are we misconstruing the term salvation, we are applying incorrect ideas to it.
The Bible is about life on this earth. It is not about going to heaven and escaping hell. There is a heaven, and there is a hell. And unfortunately, there will be people in both places. But that scenario is not the lens through which we ought to read the Bible. That is at least one of the reasons that we know so little about both places, heaven and hell: the Bible simply doesn’t spend a lot of time discussing either place. Rather, almost its whole focus is upon walking with God in righteousness while one has the opportunity to do so during his life on earth. That is what man will be judged on when he stands before God. The judgment will not be a declaration about whether the person was saved or not because, possibly, the greatest number of those who had believed in God and are now standing before God’s judgment seat will never have been saved. Nevertheless, they will be admitted into heaven and possibly into the New Jerusalem as well.
Inconceivable? Not at all!
We ought to read the OT as it stands, and not read into it NT truths about others who have responded to God in faith. To assume that whatever is true of a NT person who is responding to God must have been true of the OT person is a non sequitur. If we stop improperly reading the NT back into the OT, and understand God’s revelation as the truth that He is progressively disclosing to His children, we will be more likely to gain God’s mind on the matters in question. Let’s get back to the Bible and understand it as God meant it to be understood. It has been progressively unfolded with new truths being revealed that have never been known or experienced before.
“Saved.” I don’t think it means what you think it means!
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