“…he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy,
through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
A story has circulated about a famous skeptic, who on his deathbed, allegedly tried to hedge his bets on the afterlife with the following non-prayer: “O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if there be a soul, from hell, if there be a hell.” The sad truth of this little “prayer” is that even if one omits the statements of doubt, it expresses the view of some today. God, and the salvation God offers, is viewed as something which could come in handy after death but essentially has little to do with life on planet earth.
How unlike the much broader Biblical understanding of salvation. In the gospels, the word that is sometimes translated “saved” is just as often translated “healed.” When Jesus healed a woman with a chronic hemorrhage, he told her “Daughter, your faith has healed [saved] you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Salvation was not viewed merely as an interaction that impacted one’s eternal resting place but was something that impacted life, restored relationships, and created health and wholeness in the here and now.
In his book on Acts, Charles Talbert writes, “Salvation in Luke-Acts encompasses the whole person. The physical healings of the bodies of the afflicted are foretastes of the resurrection from the dead, just as one’s conversion is a foretaste of the ultimate redemption from all evil. There is in Luke-Acts no reduction of salvation to a purely spiritual transaction any more than there is a reduction of it to a purely physical reality. The whole person is affected.”
If we reduce salvation to giving mental assent to doctrinal facts, however important those facts may be, then we have sold the Christian life short indeed. The salvation that God offers us, which certainly includes everlasting life, is a gift which is intended to have a transforming effect upon us in our earthly lives, our physical bodies, our personal relationships, and our daily choices. May we enjoy God’s salvation, then, and be transformed by it day by day, as we await that great day when faith will be made sight.