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What is Salvation?

Therefore, the goal and expression of “salvation” is really the “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” which means, you are immersed in God’s presence, communication, and life. This is the opposite of living “in the flesh”—human weakness without God’s empowering, leading to death. A “man of the Spirit” or a “man of God” in the Bible is one who was a prophet: one who lived in the voice, obedience and power of God to heal and deliver from demonic influence. This is “salvation” in the New Testament. This essentially charismatic experience is flatly denied in traditional Protestantism (e.g., Sect. 1, Westminster Confession).

So, to “repent and be baptized” means to choose the basic way of “hearing” to the Spirit, to be “washed” of that former way of thinking/heeding (the source of all “sins”), and then entering into the realm of God’s Spirit—the power of revelation and power, “cleansed” of demonic input.

One example of how far the Protestant notion of “salvation” drifted is the case of the Philippian jailer: “What must I do to be saved” came to mean: “How can I have my sins forgiven and go to heaven?” Talk about “demythologizing!” What he was asking was, “The government is going to kill me and enslave my family if these prisoners escape! How do I avoid that?” Paul’s answer was the universal answer to all the desperate situations of all mankind: “Have faith (hear God’s voice and obey) in the Lord Jesus Christ—all that he taught and modeled about hearing and obeying the Father/Spirit—and you will be rescued from every evil—in God’s own way!”—including the problem of the prisoners escaping.

The basic difference between traditional “salvation” and that of the New Testament is as follows:

Traditional emphasis: 1) man in sinful state going to hell. 2) ordo salutis, behaves ethically, 3) qualifies for heaven

New Testament emphasis: 1) man denying revelation from God (Rom 1); life in chaos, suffering penalties of Dt 28; 2) hears/heeds revelation, repents (heeds God, not serpent), is “baptized” in Spirit, able to hear and obey and become a charismatic evangelist/disciple as per mandate of Mark 3:14-15 (actually, the mandate for Adam—all mankind), and further spelled out in, e.g., Lk 9&10, Mt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8. The New Testament emphasis on “salvation,” then, is not on getting “saved” from hell, but to become a Spirit-filled disciple as the New Testament defines it.

In both cases, of course, hell and heaven are ultimate factors. It’s just that the New Testament concentrates on the here-and-now and how to be “providers” of God’s “grace/charisms” whereas in the Protestant system you are “saved” to be a permanent, paying “consumer” of ecclesiastical services, including “salvation.” I realize this is an extreme caricature of these positions, but it’s to show the contrast.

Bottom line: I don’t think we should assume the Protestant meaning of “salvation” if we are to get at the New Testament goals for human existence. According to tradition, “salvation” was getting rid of sins to qualify for heaven. According to the New Testament, “salvation” was deliverance from a demonic way of knowing to a life of revelation in the Spirit of prophecy and power—obedience to God and assuming the mandate of Mark 3:14-15.

Feedback is appreciated.

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Category: In Depth, Summer 2015

About the Author: Jon M. Ruthven, Ph.D., spent his entire adult life in ministry, starting with David Wilkerson in Boston and New York City in the mid-60s. After spending a dozen years pastoring, a couple a years as a missionary in Africa as the head of Bible school, he ended up teaching theology in seminary for 18 years. Always interested in training and discipleship, Jon is developing a radically biblical approach to ministry training that seeks to replicate the discipling mission of Jesus in both content and method. Jon has written numerous scholarly papers and books including On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Postbiblical Miracles (1993 and 2009) and What’s Wrong with Protestant Theology? Tradition vs. Biblical Emphasis (2013). He continues to emphasize the biblical grounding for a practical ministry of healing, signs and wonders in the power of the Spirit. Facebook.

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