Salvation: A Summary Of The Usage Of The Word “Save” In Scripture

By Benjamin Winslett

The concept of Salvation is one often over simplified and therefore misunderstood in our present day. Generally, when one reads scripture and comes across a derivative of the word “save,” the concept of spending eternity in Heaven comes to mind. While there are many occasions in the Bible where this word does indicate salvation from sin, the word was more general in its original usage. Sometimes this word has reference to being delivered from an enemy while other times it refers to being delivered from the influence of the wicked. Thus, it has been the practice of Baptists for hundreds of years to differentiate between eternal salvation (salvation from the penalty of sin) and temporal salvation (a deliverance we experience in our lives on earth which does not have eternal ramifications).

It is the intended purpose of this article to give examples of each type of salvation as found in scripture.

Defining our Terms

While I prefer the Oxford English Dictionary of Historical Principles, I will provide a few definitions available online for your consultation.

Scripturally speaking, salvation is a synonym for deliverance. This is demonstrated by the New Testament quotation of a passage from the book of Joel (in the Old Testament). In Joel’s writings, we read “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” When cited in by New Testament writers, this text appears as “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13). From this we conclude that salvation can be defined as deliverance. To save is to deliver. To be saved is to be delivered.

From the dictionary of, the following definition is available*:

Save, sozo

1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction

a) one (from injury or peril)

1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health

1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue

b) to save in the technical biblical sense

1) negatively

a) to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment

b) to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance

This definition will agree completely with the theology presented in my opening paragraph. To save is to deliver, whether from eternal ruin or from a temporal danger or destruction.

From the Oxford English Dictionary**:


[with object]

  • 1keep safe or rescue (someone or something) from harm or danger:she saved a boy from drowning
  • prevent (someone) from dying:the doctors did everything they could to save him
  • (in Christian use) preserve (a person’s soul) from damnation.
  • keep (someone) in health (used in exclamations and formulaic expressions):God save the Queen

Finally, this definition is found at***:

Save, verb (used with object)

1. to rescue from danger or possible harm, injury, or loss: to save someone from drowning.

2. to keep safe, intact, or unhurt; safeguard; preserve: God save the king.

3. to keep from being lost: to save the game.

4. to avoid the spending, consumption, or waste of: to save fuel.

5. to keep, as for reuse: to save leftovers for tomorrow’s dinner.I realize that the pasting in of the above quotations from three separate dictionaries is a bit overboard. However, given the amount of objection I have received in the past to the concepts expressed in the article, I find it necessary to remove any doubt in the minds of the reader as to the legitimacy of these concepts based upon grammar. Given the fact that “save” is often defined as the rescue from harm or injury, it is not beyond reason that Scripture many times incorporates this word to imply deliverance from an ill threatening us here in time.

Examples in Scripture

In this section, I will given an example of salvation with a study verse and explanation, followed by a list of other verses I believe deal with the same context or principle. A note, this list is not exhaustive. There are hundreds of occurrences of save, saved, or salvation in scripture. I intend only to use enough to prompt scholarship.

Usages with Eternal Consequence

Saved from the penalty of sin

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. – Matthew 1:21

This text from Matthew uses the word save in reference to the legal work of salvation accomplished solely by Jesus Christ on the cross. This is redemption. Christ alone has saved His people from their sins by dying in their stead. He, their great High Priest, made one offering, that of His body, upon the hill of Golgotha.

Other verses with same usage: Matthew 18:11, Matthew 19:25, John 3:17, Acts 15:11, Romans 5:9-10, Romans 11:26, 1 Timothy 1:15, 2 Timothy 1:9, Hebrews 7:25.

Saved from our natural state of death in trespasses and in sins (eternal)

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) – Ephesians 2:5

This usage of the word “saved” describes an event referred to as the New Birth, quickening, regeneration, etc., and describes how God rescues us from our natural state of death and depravity.

Other verses with same usage: Ephesians 2:1-10, Titus 3:5

Usages with Temporal Consequence

Saved from Enemies

And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. – Numbers 10:9

This is the majority usage in the Old Testament. More times than not, when the word “saved” was used in the Old Testament it was describing deliverance from Israel’s enemies or from a personal enemy (especially in David’s Psalms).

Other verses with same usage: Deuteronomy 33:29, 2 Samuel 19:9, 2 Samuel, 22:4, Nehemiah 9:27, Psalms 18:3, Psalms 44:7, Luke 1:71.

Saved from a sinful lifestyle and the penalties thereof

And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. – Acts 2:40

This is the one of the most prevalent usages of “save” in New Testament Epistles and describes the deliverance we experience in accompaniment to discipleship. While only Christ can redeem and only the Holy Ghost can regenerate a dead soul, we can assist in the conversion of an individual to the truth and thereby “save” them from this untoward generation. Various occurrences of this word in the scriptures teach that a minister can save himself and his hearers, a spouse can save an unbelieving partner, and the preaching of the gospel saves those who hear and believe it (as a continual process, not a one time event).

This deliverance involves many things including preaching, scripture, gospel conversion, obedience, repentance, practical godliness, baptism, taking up one’s cross, etc.

Other verses with same usage: Mark 16:16, Acts 2:21, 1 Corinthians 1:21, 1 Corinthians 10:33, 1 Thessalonians 2:16, 1 Timothy 4:16, 1 Corinthians 7:16, 1 Corinthians 9:22, 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, 1 Peter 3:21, James 1:21.

Saved from physical destruction or infirmity

Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. – Acts 27:31

Many times the word simply means “to deliver from harm.” Sometimes the harm was a physical illness, drowning, or preservation through a time of war. Sometimes (but not always) the deliverance was from a calamity resulting in personal sinfulness (thus, to turn from the sin would bring about salvation from its penalty).

Other verses with same usage: Matthew 8:25, Matthew 14:30, Matthew 16:25, Matthew 24:13, Luke 7:50, Luke 18:42, Acts 16:30-31, Romans 10, Romans 11:14, James 5:15, James 5:20.

A final word

This concept is not presented to the reader as an attempt to “explain away” any scripture or concept therein. To the contrary, it is intended with the goal of being as absolutely precise with God’s word as we can in the pursuit of accurate Biblical scholarship. Paul wrote Timothy and instructed him to “rightly divide the word of truth.” The proper understanding of the various usages of the language found in scripture is, quite literally, the very act of “rightly dividing.” Let us be as the noble Bereans and search the scriptures.



Originally published August 2012

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