I would like to draw a simple but profound thread of understanding in speaking about salvation. These few words by Jacob moments before he died are full of meaning and reality.
For Thy salvation I wait O Lord (Genesis 49:18).
This is the first time in the scriptures where salvation by God Himself is made direct reference to. It is the Hebrew לִֽישׁוּעָתְךָ֖ קִוִּ֥יתִי יְהוָֽה׃ (yâshuwʿah). The word ישׁוּעָתְ is used in speaking of God deliverance. This same deliverance of God is used later in the Psalms and in other passages of scripture, but here in this verse this is the first time the word is used. It is the same in meaning as God is my deliverer. The Hebrew word ישׁוּעָתְ as used in Exodus 17:9 וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֤ה אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ בְּחַר־לָ֣נוּ is translated Joshua. The greek name iesous (Ιησου̂ς) [Jesus] is a transliteration of the Hebrew, Joshua, meaning Jehovah is salvation. Literally, Jesus Saviour. When Jacob spoke these few words he was just moments away from death. In his last words to his 12 sons, Jacob spoke about the Saviour. His hope is evidenced in his words For thy salvation I wait O Lord. The fact that these words were spoken in the context of Dan, which means God is my Judge has a deeper meaning also. Yet what is singularily profound about Jacobs words, is that he idetifies in his faithful prophetic speech that salvation is the name of the Lord Himself. The Lord is salvation. This is precisely in keeping with the words of Simeon whilst under the annointing of the Holy Spirit he prophesied for my eyes have seen Your salvation as he lifted Jesus in his arms (Luke 2:25-30).
In seeking to speak of and to understand the meaning of salvation we can only begin and end with speaking about Jesus Himself. If we did no more than to seek to comprehend the Lord Jesus, we would have comprehended everything which could be comprehended about the meaning of salvation. Yet to many believers salvation is not the Lord Himself, but many things, such a being born again, or else a being saved from sins. Whilst these things are true, they do not speak of the whole meaning of salvation because these two things though wonderful, do not speak fully of Christ Jesus, His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, a seating down at the right hand of the Father, and His coming again to establish His everlasting Kingdom as judge of the living and the dead. All of this speaks of salvation because all speak of Christ. Therefore let us comprehend once and for all time that salvation is Christ and not many things.
The Scope of Salvation
Given that it is men who are saved and that being saved means to be saved from sin as well as delivered from the power of sin it is not only legitimate to seek to understand what constitutes a man, but it is necessary if we are to come to a comprehensive and biblical understanding. Similarly in speaking about sin and the power of sin we must make the same enquiry.
Moses writing the first five books of the bible wrote in Genesis And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
καὶ ἔπλασεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον χοῦν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐνεφύσησεν εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ πνοὴν ζωῆς, καὶ ἐγένετο ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν. (Genesis 2:7)
וַיִּיצֶר֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֗ם עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ ֣אֲדָמָ֔הוַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה׃ (Genesis 2:7)
The Outworking of Salvation
The apostle Paul in writing to the church at Thessalonica wrote these words And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
αυτος δε ο θεος της ειρηνης αγιασαι υμας ολοτελεις και ολοκληρον υμων το πνευμα και η ψυχη και το σωμα αμεμπτως εν τη παρουσια του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου τηρηθειη πιστος ο καλων υμας ος και ποιησει. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
In the Greek pneuma (πνευ̂μα), the spirit refers to the breath of life. The Greek word used in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 for spirit comes from the root word pnoe (πνοή), akin to pneo, to blow, lit., a blowing, signifies (a) breath, the breath of life. This same word is used in the Septuaginta which is the Greek word (πνοὴν) in the passage from Genesis 2:7.
In the Greek psuche (ψυχή), the soul, or life, is rendered heart in Eph. (6:6). It is the same Greek word used in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. It denotes the seat of the personality as well as the power of volition (choosing}.
In the Greek soma (σωμα) is the body as a whole, the instrument of life, whether of man living, e.g., Matt. 6:22, or dead, Matt. 27:52; or in resurrection, 1 Cor. 15:44; or of beasts, Heb. 13:11; of grain, 1 Cor. 15:37-38; of the heavenly hosts, 1 Cor. 15:40.
The above Scriptures and their Greek Old and New Testament equivalencies are not presented as fully as they could be. For example the Greek word used for body in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is different to the word dust used in Genesis 2:7. Clearly this is because Genesis is dealing with the original material of the body from which the body was moulded. Whereas 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is an apriori conception of what the body itself is as a living biological entity after God breathed into the form of man, the breath of life. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is speaking of living people whose bodies were clearly post Genesis 2:7. Whereas Genesis 2:7 is a narrative of how the body came into existence as an biological entity as well as the original material used.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God! That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. John 3:5-8
απεκριθη ιησους αμην αμην λεγω σοι εαν μη τις γεννηθη εξ υδατος και πνευματος ου δυναται εισελθειν εις την βασιλειαν των ουρανων το γεγεννημενον εκ της σαρκος σαρξ εστιν και το γεγεννημενον εκ του πνευματος πνευμα εστιν μη θαυμασης οτι ειπον σοι δει υμας γεννηθηναι ανωθεν το πνευμα οπου θελει πνει και την φωνην αυτου ακουεις αλλ ουκ οιδας ποθεν ερχεται και που υπαγει ουτως εστιν πας ο γεγεννημενος εκ του πνευματος John 3:5-8 Novum Testamentum Graece.
The words which I want to look at from this passage in John are:
water, born, flesh, spirit and Spirit.
The greek word for water in this passage is υδατος which comes from the root hudor (ὕδωρ). It is translated water and is used in a number of ways, but it is always literally representative of the elemental substance, water. The English word Hydro comes from the greek root. Contextually it may be used to denote the fact that whilst still in the womb we were sustained in water. Just as the physical heart is surrounded by amniotic water so we see that when the Lord was pierced blood and water (John 19:34) flowed through the wound, speaking that His amniotic sack had been pierced in order to pierce His heart for our sakes. It is also used in the context of the Lord baptism with water by John. It is the same elemental water which was used when we were baptised with water.
There are five references to being born in this passage from John chapter 3: 5-8.
The 1st (v5) γεννηθη comes from the root gennao (γεννάω) it means is born.
The 2nd (v6 i) γεγεννημενον is what is born.
The 3rd (v6 ii) is also γεγεννημενον.
The 4th (v7) is γεννηθηναι and means to be born.
Finally the 5th (v8) the greek is γεγεννημενος which is translated who is born.
Clearly all of the syntactical usage is derived from the root with morphological variants which are semantically implicit in the English usage but not necessarily carried in the English usage. The root however is the same in meaning as the word "genesis" and speaks primarily not to an individual, but of the beginning of something as well as something after the likeness of its beginning. This does of course apply to individuals but its contextual and semantic emphasis means it could be written all humanity is of the flesh of Adam, but to enter the kingdom of God a man of Adam needs also to be born of the Spirit of God as well.
There are two references to the word flesh in verse six.
The first greek usage (v6 i) is σαρκος which comes from the root word sarx (σάρξ).
The second usage (v6 ii) is the root σάρξ itself.
Although the word sarx (σάρξ) is used to denote the physical body it is also used morphologically (v6 i) to denote of the likeness of flesh. This is the first usage here and semantically carries not only an implication of the substance or physiology of the body (v6 ii), but the very nature of a man (v6 i). So that a literal translation of this verse would be that which is of fleshy Adam is flesh after Adam flesh. In context this verse expressly excludes the spiritual component of a man because the spirit is dead in Adam, after his likeness, and therefore all men need to be born again by the Spirit of God in order to become that which is of the Spirit is spirit (v6).
Just as the word flesh is used flesh begotten of flesh so the word spirit is used in this same way.
There are four references to the word spirit.
The first is πνευματος and comes from the greek word pneuma (πνευ̂μα). However this first reference (v6 i) speaks of the Holy Spirit.
The second usage is πνευμα which in English would read spirit (v6 ii) and would in a prepositional greek form be written to be spirit. In the greek it is written πνευματος πνευμα εστιν and would literally be translated Spirit spirit to be. To make rational sense of this one would have to give the whole literal transliteration as follows:
το γεγεννημενον εκ της σαρκος σαρξ εστιν και το γεγεννημενον εκ του πνευματος πνευμα εστιν (v6)
what is born of the flesh flesh is and what is born of the Spirit [to be] spirit is (v6 i & ii)
The third (v6 iii) reference, to spirit in this passage John 3:5-8, is πνευματος. This is the same as (v6 i) in meaning. It speaks of the Holy Spirit.
The fourth usage is πνευματος (v8) and speaks of the Holy Spirit.
No where in this passage is the greek word psuche used (soul). What is being spoken about has to do with the condition of all mankind needing to be saved. At a personal level it speaks of an individual needing to have their spirit made alive by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord spoke all of these words and so in them it is possible to see the infallibility of His speech. Just to draw this wonder out a little the word πνει (to blow) is from the same root as the word pnoe (πνοή) of which the word πνοὴν used in Genesis 2:7 is translated blew. Just as the English breath of life makes reference to and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7), here in John 3:8 the word wind which "blows where it will" is the greek word πνευμα, denoting spiritual life or the giving of spiritual life. What is lost in Genesis is found by Christ. Even the precise syntax of the Lord words in speaking the words what is born of the Spirit is [to be] spirit is perfect. At that moment the Lord must of necessity speak of that which is to be because He was not yet resurrected from the dead. The first man Adam became a living soul, the last man Christ became a life giving spirit.
Enough is said here to give anyone an opportunity to seek the Lord about this business of the soul and the spirit as two distinct realities. It is not a reality which unbelievers need have any concern over. They are yet dead. It is something those who are alive in Christ have to work out. Many saints rightly point out that the soul itself is sometimes used in the sarx sense of the word, instead of the psuche sense of the word. This is because when the soul itself is governed by the principle of the sinful body (the power of sin) the soul itself becomes like the body. It is only when men and women are driven by their bodies that they easily recognise sin for what it is. Yet when the soul is subjected to the lusts of the flesh, the soul itself will sin. This means the mind and the emotional inclinations and will or volition is brought into slavery once more to the flesh (Sarx).
A real danger for believers lies in failing to recognising a more subtle reality than the rather obvious certainty of being born again. This is when the soul itself is not denied as a source of power to serve Christ, and instead informs and governs both the body and the mind bringing them into subjection, but denying the power of the spirit yet exercising the power of volition (will power). This is the aesthetic route to spirituality. The true route however if neglected is also consequentially problematic as well. This true way of walking is according to Christ Himself. It is the way of the cross. It is self denial and obedience unto death of the self. This is the failure out of which many spiritual abuses arise because this is the road of self effort and all of its consequences both for those who labour and those who are served. In the end, self will behave like a lord and will rob others of their righteous inheritance in Christ. This is a fearful and dangerous place to be. It will result in the strictest judgement of the Lord at His return. Many are there who labour in this way. May the Lord have mercy. It is a simple thing to comprehend that we have sinned when we lie or steal or else realise we are become jealous of another mans possessions. It is much harder to understand and realise that the soul itself as the power of individual life, whilst it may not necessarily sin, is still unprofitable in serving God. When the soul itself is in the obedience of the spirit and walks in it, the soul is most beautiful and pleasant. If not and the other reality is prevalent then the soul becomes like a devil. In short the soul is the power of an individuals life. It is the mind, heart and volition.
These three components or out workings of the life of the natural man may not always be sinful in themselves. A great many people seek to live natural and reasonable lives and succeed in many regards. A believer is no less the same. The difference between the believer and the unbeliever is that the believer knows that they must serve God as well as live a personal life before men. It is in this obedience of serving God that the soul itself becomes an obstacle to success. We are encouraged to walk in the spirit. Only then is the soul itself denied as a source of power and the power of the soul is subject to a renewed mind. This renewing of the mind is an outcome of being taught and led of the Holy Spirit in communion with our own spirits made alive in Christ Jesus. Soul power is not only useless to God when it is unrestrained by the Holy Spirit, but it is a very real danger to oneself as well as others.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds (Matthew 16:24-27).
Before we can begin to make sense of this passages of Scripture there is one thing which we have to ask ourselves.
Are we saved by faith, and that without works? Or are we saved by faith in Christ working in and through us? In short, whilst we may comprehend that the gift of life is truly a gift of God, evidenced by being born again
..does God give us newness of life, or newness of life and abundance of life? Answering this question and what it means will prove more fully the meaning of biblical salvation. Living it will prove more fully in the end to be the measure of biblical salvation and true holiness. (John 10:10).
Biblically salvation is not a thing or an experience. It is essentially a life relationship with God through Christ. More accurately salvation is Christ Himself. To believe that we are saved must of necessity mean that we have believed into Christ Jesus. It must mean that we have believed with such power that God imparts the life of Christ into us, and at the same time we ourselves become in Christ. The power which makes this possible is faith to believe in Him. It is a gift from God and it has life changing consequences. The life which is changed is our own life, but it is more than just a change of mind, or a feeling or even a matter of our own will, even though in that instant we have agreed with the witness of God that we are sinners and that Christ died for us and was raised from the dead.
In the first instance this changed life is a spiritual change. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. So it is our spirit which is changed. It is changed by being made alive. We were once dead in trespasses and sins and then we became alive to God and Christ by the Holy Spirit working in us. The life which our spirit received at this instant is not simply a spiritual life but it is the very life of Christ Himself. Yes our spirit is made alive but it is made alive by Christ Himself indwelling us by the Holy Spirit. From this moment we are no longer separate from God, alone and without hope, we are in a life relationship with God in Christ and Christ henceforth lives in us. This is the beginning of salvation.
The Right to become the Children of God!
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:6-13).
In this passage from John being saved is expressed as the right to become the children of God, yet it is the same in meaning as that which we all agree with when we speak of being born again. The word right in this passage in the greek is exousia (ἐξουσία). In english it is the root of the word excused or permitted. I needed to be excused in order to believe. It could also in context of the passage be said I needed a reason to believe. Or it could be said I needed power to believe. Or it could be I needed the light to believe. Finally it could be said I needed faith to believe. In literal translation the word exousia (ἐξουσία) means being given the right, ability and power to become something else. This something else is to become the children of God. This means born of God. Lastly the qualifying condition to receive this power is receive Him and believe in His Name.
In view of all this reality we would have to ask what Jesus intended us to mean by His words in the passage from Matthew 16: 24-27. After all Jesus is telling us that we have to lose our lives in order to find our lives. Not only this but Jesus is telling us that if we save our lives we will lose our lives. If you think about this these words of the Lord dont appear to make any rational sense. How can a person lose their life by saving their life. At the same time save their lives by loosing their lives?
Believing in Jesus is not something which God Himself forces on anyone. He desires it, He longs for it as it were, and He makes it possible, yet in the end He requires a response. This response may be many things outwardly but inwardly it must be an active desire to receive Christ according to God will, by a power of faith given to make it possible. Yet this possibility, in the first instance has to do with accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour. It results in being born again. We know that it is spirit which is born of Spirit. So we know that the first consequence of believing in Christ by faith is that we receive newness of life. In looking at this passage from Matthew 16:24-27 we will see that the word life is the same word which in greek is translated soul. Therefore how reasonable is it when Jesus said whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it?
Perhaps one reason why we are disinclined to look into this too much is because these words of the Lord are preceded by the words If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. they are also followed by a sort of explanation as to what might be at the root of the difficult meaning of lose and save. For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life? Then in provocation of the flesh we read For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds. To the natural mind there is no doubt that these verses about cross bearing, gaining the whole world, and the Son of Man rendering unto everyman according to his deeds, is indeed a provocation. It shrinks back and looks for any meaning other than the implication in the words themselves.
To make sense of this we need only remember that though we are born again it is the spirit that is born of the Spirit. The natural mind doesnt get born again. It has to be renewed. The whole encouragement of the Lord is predicated on a willingness not only to believe in Him, but a willingness to follow after Him (Lit: to go the same way) and this means the cross and not seeking to gain the whole world, and it means loosing ones life in order to find it again. The only thing we really need to understand is how do we lose our lives and what does it mean to find it again?
The words which are difficult in all of this are Life, Save & Lose.
τοτε ο ιησους ειπεν τοις μαθηταις αυτου ει τις θελει οπισω μου ελθειν απαρνησασθω εαυτον και αρατω τον σταυρον αυτου και ακολουθειτω μοι ος γαρ εαν θελη την ψυχην αυτου σωσαι απολεσει αυτην ος δ αν απολεση την ψυχην αυτου ενεκεν εμου ευρησει αυτην τι γαρ ωφεληθησεται ανθρωπος εαν τον κοσμον ολον κερδηση την δε ψυχην αυτου ζημιωθη η τι δωσει ανθρωπος ανταλλαγμα της ψυχης αυτου μελλει γαρ ο υιος του ανθρωπου ερχεσθαι εν τη δοξη του πατρος αυτου μετα των αγγελων αυτου και τοτε αποδωσει εκαστω κατα την πραξιν αυτου (Matthew 16:24-27). Novum Testamentum Graece.
The word life mentioned five times in verses 25 and 26 is psuche (ψυχην). It is literally the mind, emotions and the will. The word save in verse 25 is σωσαι from the root word sozo (σώζω). It literally means to preserve ones soul. One variant of the root word means healing or wholeness. The word lose in verse 25 is απολεση and comes from the root apollumi (ἀπόλλυμι). It means to be destroyed. Given that the thing which will be destroyed pertains to the psuche or soul then it speaks of having ones mind disturbed or else ones emotions disturbed or being dealt with contrary to what you yourself would want at that moment. In context, when Jesus returns do you have a mind to be with Him in His kingdom, to enjoy the kingdom and do you want (will) to be in the kingdom? The word find in verse 25 is ευρησει from the root heurisko (εὑρίσκω). It literally means to discover something. To put it into context. When the Lord returns do you want to discover that you are rejected from entering into the kingdom or do you want to discover that you are welcomed as a faithful servant? The English word heuristic comes from this greek word and it means to find by discovering or searching. (Seek first the Kingdom of God).
Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it
(1 Thessalonians 5:24)
It needs to be said that we dont have the natural ability in ourselves either to believe into Jesus and we dont have the natural ability to follow after Him either and go the way of the cross. Even if we catch sight of how precious these things are we really dont want to be found having fabricated the whole thing ourselves. The heart is wicked and more deceitful than we are able to know or comprehend (Jeremiah 17:9). Our only hope lies in yielding ourselves in obedience to Christ Himself and allowing Him to work in us according to His perfect will and good pleasure. In this we will become rich participants with Christ beyond our present comprehension and in that we will find ample satisfaction for our souls when we find ourselves with Him in His Kingdom where He is King of Kings and we are become the manifest sons of the living God.
We clearly need to be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven when Christ returns. We know from Revelation that this kingdom of our God and Saviour will be for a thousand years. Thats an awful long time to wait until you finally get to comprehend if your name is written in the Book of Life if you find yourself rejected and in distress of your soul when Christ returns. There are two types of gain in the Matthew passage. They are gaining the whole world or gaining the kingdom. Choose now which you desire. Will it be your own prosperity, comfort, pleasure and satisfaction of the soul; an easy life of self interest. Or else choose the way of the cross, deny yourself and gain the kingdom.
If health, wealth and prosperity still sound good to you then may God have mercy on you even as we should all ask for mercy and an opportunity to serve faithfully according to God and not a man. Amen and Peace.