[Diocesan Bishop of Kunnamkulam-Malabar Diocese, Marthoma Church]


In theology, salvation is a vitally important concept in all religions. The word 'Salvation' is widely used in spirituality either one way or the other. Many words like deliverance, emancipation, liberation, restoration, redemption, purity, eternal life, enriched life, Moksha, Mukthi etc. are used synonymously to the term salvation. In relation to this common religious tendency, there is huge human flow for pilgrimages to places of different religions like Maramon, Parumala, Manarkadu, Velankanni, Sabarimala, Holy Land, Mecca etc., within the context of the history of salvation. To gain religious merits is the core theme of all pilgrimage and the main objective of human life is salvation. Those who decline to expose their wish for salvation in expressive words also have an inherent consciousness about their salvation. Even people, who have never been exposed or agreed to the concept of God or life after death, also have the innate desire for salvation in their innermost mind, whatever may be their philosophical justifications for atheism. It is inferred that the 5.5 billion people of 6 billion population of the world are theist and all of them seek for salvation. Christianity is exclusively the religion of the salvation of the soul for life eternal.

In the secular world, the word Salvation is elucidated in different meanings. Material gains, saving from natural calamities, dangers, sickness, epidemic, economical advantage, promotion, foreign trips, passing examination, attaining high posts, all type of worldly achievements and saving someone or something from harm or from an unpleasant situation, come in the purview of salvation. A family who won Lottery of 100 Kg gold and 12 Crores rupees is named after as 'Golden Family' and it is considered as salvation in secular view. While the spiritual world is concerned with salvation of the soul for life eternal, the secular world, however, is concerned with creativity in the life of culture, in the life of society, which fully are processes, transpiring within the world.

Salvation in the Old Testament is not discussed primarily in terms of deliverance of the soul, but in terms of belonging to God as His own people and getting delivered from their enemies, hardships, bondage, epidemic, natural calamities, sickness etc. etc. God was the deliverer for them and hence He was their savior. In Exodus 14:13 we read; "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today." Major portion of the references of the words 'Save' or 'Salvation' in the Old Testament is concerned with national deliverance from enemies and from other difficulties in their life, though all these deliverance foreshadowed Israelís ultimate redemption with the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included material and temporal deliverance from danger and apprehension. God did not deliver them by their guns, bows, their might or their wisdom, but He delivered them by His mighty hand, at His own discretion. As believers, we must recognize that our deliverance from problems in this life also comes always from God. Many Scripture portions especially in prophecy of Isaiah show that the creator of Israel calls Himself the only Savior and Redeemer of Israel.

Regardless of age or dispensation, God is always the author of Salvation. In the New Testament, the word Salvation is used in an entirely different context. Here the word salvation denotes a spiritual deliverance. There are many people who preach Prosperity Gospel in some Christian groups. Their doctrine says that God will grant wishes to the faithful, especially those wishes involving material wealth. In many public sermons and teachings this perverted ideology of salvation is being promulgated. These types of erratic ideologies are to be considered as the aberrance from the New Testament teaching of Salvation.

The verbal form of the word Salvation can be seen in many places in the New Testament. 'You shall call His name Jesus, a Savior, for He will save His people from their sins.' [Matthew 1:21] In saving them from sin, He saves them from wrath and the curse, and all misery here and hereafter and redeems them from all iniquity by the great salvation, which he has wrought out through His birth and death. A very honorable testimony is borne to Jesus as a Savior, by old Simeon, after seeing the promised infant child Jesus at the Temple of Jerusalem. Endued with a prophetical spirit, he used the noun form of the word by which he meant Him also as consolation of Israel: 'For my eyes have seen Your salvation' [Luke 2:30] Christ is not only the author of Salvation but also the author of His peopleís comfort and consolation.

While Paul and Silas were closed in the prison, we see the prison-doors were thrown open, and the prisonersí fetters were knocked off. In this fright, the Jailer drew his sword, and was going to kill himself, to prevent a more terrible death on account for the escape of his prisoners. In the consternation while seeing none of the prisoners slipped away, he earnestly enquired Paul and Silas; "Sir, What must I do to be saved?" The Apostle had shown him the sure way to salvation; "Believe in the Lord Jesus, you and your household will be saved". There is no other way of salvation than by Christ, and no other way of our being saved by Christ than by believing in him. This was very much in concurrence with teaching of Jesus; "I am the door and those who enter through me will be saved." [John 10:9] Jesus had well emphasized the same theme regarding eternal life in His interview with Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies." It is quite evident from the words of Jesus, how we can gain salvation and eternal life. The prime cause of the Salvation is the faith in Jesus Christ and keeping a personal relation with Him.

Salvation by faith never walks empty-handed, but it accompanies with assurance, which really affects our whole attitude and behavior as Christians. It should be well blended with enlightening ideals of Christian mandate for compassion, sharing and humanitarianism, sought to alleviate suffering and injustice and to improve society. Salvation is a personal experience, which also involves a human measure. Assurance of salvation invigorates and reinforces the believer in his spiritual journey to actively incorporate their faith with human interactions with society in our daily lives. That is why Jesus concatenated the commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself', along with the first one, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind'. The Holy Church exists for the world in order that the world may know its true being. It is called for the service of mankind and this is not an election to privilege but to a serving engagement.

Scripture teach us that prime requisite of salvation is the unequalled faith in God integrated with a justifiable interaction with co-beings. In His public mission manifesto, Jesus well exhibited the humanitarian process of the salvation. His mission was in accordance to the behest of the salvation plan; "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." [Luke 4:18-19] Nothing is perfect of its own. Personal experience and realization of it in our social life are the two aspects of salvation as the two sides of a coin. Believers are partakers of this great experience.

Zaccheus had a good estate, position and he was with great financial possibilities. What he was lacking in his life was salvation and he was laying up his treasure for himself. We see a great change in Zaccheus through his earnest desire for salvation and the assurance he received from Jesus that his house got salvation.

  1. Conversion of knowledge to Experience:
    Zaccheus had great knowledge of the genealogy and its importance. Knowledge about God cannot be replaced for the experience with God. In the life of Zaccheus, there was a willfull attempt of conversion from knowledge to experience. Sadhu Sunder Singh, who is known as the Apostle from India, could advance in his Gospel mission when he changed his knowledge of God to his personal experience. Many, who had learned in Sunday School could not fare well in their family relations or their interaction with people of other religion as they could not convert the religious knowledge gained to real life experience. How many of us have the internal impulse and enthusiasm to configure our knowledge to a real personal experience with Jesus?

  2. Conversion of hurdles to possibilities:
    Zaccheus had two hurdles in front of him. The great crowd around Jesus and his short stature were the hurdles in front of Zaccheus to meet Jesus. Many people feel conscious about their shortcoming and never try to come out of it. Zaccheus' determination to see Jesus, along with a strong desire to obey God and humiliate himself, made Zaccheus mighty in spirit. Many children in orphanages are overcoming their helplessness and gaining great achievements in their life like Zaccheus surmounted his impediments.

Many people are keeping superficial or peripheral relation with God. To be honest, many have accepted a concept of the God of the Bible and whittled it down to a manageable proportion; they re-fashion God to fit their expectations and to serve their desires. The affiliation of modern society had diminished to casual relationships. Many people, once they pose to grow in relation with God, restrain their association with society. Personal interest became the propensity of the modern world. Conflicts in relations of husband-wife, relatives and neighbors upsurge for petty material possessions. Massacre, political strife, religious hatred, character assassination etc. became the very fabric of our contemporary world. Killing people in perverted pretext of safeguarding sectarian religious interest, became a masterpiece of the society. Relationship of Zaccheus with Jesus has created a change in his life style with retrospective effect. Once Zaccheus repented and resolved to share half of his wealth to the poor, he re-established a right relationship with society and his co-beings.

Zaccheus could restore his eligibility of sonship of Abraham by restoring his relationship with people, which was lost by his prior misdeeds. When we restore our relation with God and with our co-beings, we restore our eligibility of sonship of Lord. Faith in Lord intermingled with a tolerant, merciful and charitable approach with our neighbors is the need of present age as part of accomplishment of salvation. Though we may be enjoying our richness, position, fame and status in the church and society, are we really experiencing the salvation in our personal life? In order to experience the personal salvation we should take help of Holy Spirit.

[Extract from Message delivered at Maramon Convention 2005
Original in Malayalam : Translated by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]

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