Apr 04, 2016 by Rik Bokelman

What It Actually Means To Be Saved - According To N.T. Wright

"Many Christians use the word 'saved' as a term of going to heaven but for Paul, being saved means being rescued from becoming dead." That's what N.T. Wright says in conversation with HelloChristian.com. We asked the leading British New Testament scholar and retired Anglican bishop 8 questions on a variety of topics. Today: What does it mean to be saved?

"The word 'saved' of course implies that you are being rescued from something. Many Christians use the word 'saved' as a term of going to heaven but for Paul, being saved means being rescued from becoming dead. Salvation ultimately means salvation from death. What causes death is when people give their hearts and their lives to things which are not God because God is the only source of life."

"If you worship idols or whatever you're saying that you want to get life from these things - but they cannot give you that. They can give you little bits of pleasure but they cannot give you life. So salvation is rescue from idolatry and death. And between idolatry and death is this word “sin” because sin is what happens when you are worshipping an idol, whether it’s money or sex or power - you will do things which are sub-human which are not genuinely human. They are not reflecting God in the world and do not reflect the world back to God. Sin is missing the mark of genuine humanness."

"When Paul talks about being saved, he is talking about being saved from – therefore death and the idolatry that causes it and sin that is half way in between - so that’s a big package. For Paul, if somebody is not saved and says: 'I do not want to worship God. I do want to worship these idols. I do want to get my life from these idols rather than God,' then he says the answer is death and you are saying that you truly want to stop being a human being." 

All the language about eternal death in the New Testament is quite scary and Paul uses that language in the Thessalonian letters and sometimes he says that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom and that’s the ultimate kingdom of God, the renewal of all things. There is no room for human character that worships idols because this is God’s kingdom and so that is rather our choice and it’s about being a genuine human or not being human any longer at all so that’s really the meaning of that."

But often if you ask a regular Christian what it means to be saved someone responds by saying: 'Jesus paid for my sins and now I can go to heaven. I will not go to hell.'
"Yeah, I just said that Jesus rescued us from sin. But in the Bible it’s not just one thing; sin is what happens when you worship idols which means that you are not living as God wants or in other words you're like someone who's falling off the cliff. And yes, Jesus died for our sins. That's clear again and again... But the aim of that is to rescue us to be truly human. His aim is not primarily to die for us so our souls can go to somewhere else than hell. That’s only what certain Christians think."

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