What is the meaning of salvation? Is it a place, a destination, a state of mind—or what? Many people speak of “being saved.” But what does that mean?
What is salvation? A concise definition can be summed up in one word: deliverance. But deliverance from what? When the Israelites came out of Egypt and reached the Red Sea, Moses told them to “stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD” (Exodus 14:13). In this case, God provided a physical deliverance for Israel from the armies of Egypt.
In the New Testament, the term “salvation” is especially used to refer to the great deliverance from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death (Romans 6:23). That is why the book of Hebrews calls it “so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:3).
Why salvation is necessary
Why does man need to be saved? First, we go back to the time when man was created by God. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being [soul, King James Version]” (Genesis 2:7).
Later, the prophet Ezekiel noted that all souls (living beings) belong to God. “Behold all souls are Mine; the soul of the father, as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). This is repeated again in verse 20: “The soul who sins shall die.”
Every human being (except for Jesus Christ) has sinned. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
So man needs to be saved—delivered from eternal death—and to be given the gift of God, which is eternal life. That is why salvation is necessary, and why Jesus came to the earth as a human being. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Salvation is only possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
What Jesus did to make salvation possible
Jesus gave His life for us. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus gave His life, a life of perfection, without sin, so that we can be saved. Our salvation comes through the acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice. It is by His shed blood that salvation is now made possible for all humans. But we need to accept His sacrifice and turn from sin.
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).
Jesus’ instructions about salvation
Jesus was once asked a question about how to inherit eternal life (which is the end result of salvation).
“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’ So he answered and said, ‘“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”’ And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live’” (Luke 10:25-28).
Earlier, another man asked Jesus, “‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments’” (Matthew 19:16-17).
What is salvation? It is a gift, and it cannot be earned (Ephesians 2:8). Yet we have been called to be “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Keeping the commandments and laws of God are some of the good works Jesus told us we need to do. “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4, King James Version). Transgressions are violations of God’s law and His way of life. Therefore, our transgressions against God’s law have to end.
The road to salvation
Jesus came to die for our sins, which are actions that break God’s law. He paid the penalty of death for us, so that we can have eternal life. He reconciled us to God the Father, justified us of our past sins through His blood. Hence, upon our repentance of sins and the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our salvation—our deliverance from eternal death—is possible.
But we cannot continue to break God’s laws! “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). The apostle Paul again pointed out this principle in verse 12: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.”
Paul then asked an important question: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).
The answer is obvious—sin leads to death, obedience leads to righteousness. The apostle Paul understood that he would receive a crown of righteousness at that time (2 Timothy 4:8). He also understood that this promise was for more than just him—“but also to all who have loved His appearing.” That means receiving eternal life when the salvation process is complete.
So, the question remains for us—are we on the road to salvation? If not, we need to start! For further information, please read the accompanying articles on repentance, faith and salvation, and our free booklet Change Your Life!