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DELIVERANCE AND THE BIBLICAL CONCEPT OF SALVATION
by bruno sebrechts
3/16/2021 / Salvation
In the Old Testament, the word “salvation” has its root in the Hebrew word yasha, “to be wide or roomy,” in contrast to “narrow or restricted.” It refers to delivering from distress or danger, or from a restricted condition in which victims are unable to free themselves. It first appears in Exodus 14:30 to speak of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. In the New Testament, the Greek sozo, “to save,” parallels this Hebrew word, thus carrying the Old Testament concept of deliverance over to the New Testament. There the idea of “rescue” or “deliverance” also includes recovery, safety, healing, and preservation.
In contemporary evangelicalism, the idea of salvation is often limited to the initial experience of “getting saved.” But Scripture adds to this one-time event (Eph 2:5) an ongoing salvation (Rom 5:10; Heb 7:25; Jas 1:21) and a future one (Rom 5:9). This means that we are saved, are being saved, and will be saved. When salvation is spoken of in the past tense, this refers to the big change occurring at our conversion—our being joined to Christ, our justification in him (1 Cor 1:30), the deliverance from the penalty of sin, and from the power of darkness. An example of the concept of justification can be found in current criminal justice systems, when an offender is no longer punishable for offenses he has committed (e.g., cases of force majeure or legitimate defense). Biblical justification, however, is not based on a special circumstance in the life of the offender, but on an act of God—through the bearing of our debt by Jesus Christ as our representative, and our union with him. Justification is the legal basis for the restoration of the relationship with God, and for a fundamental change in our position and identity as a citizen of God's kingdom, forgiven, and reinstated—all within God’s grace.
The present tense of salvation refers to our ongoing deliverance from the power of sin, the power of the flesh, and from the evil powers of this age. Consequently, Christ delivers us from old habits, from the old self, and from related powers of darkness.
Justification and regeneration should be seen as “inseparable twins.” Justification delivers us from Satan’s legal authority; regeneration enables us to experience victory over the old life and its dark powers. This is accomplished through the ministry of the indwelling Spirit, and is based on the work of Christ and our trust in him. Without continuing salvation—or God’s ongoing redemptive work—our spiritual life loses its dynamic. A distinguished preacher from a previous generation referred to this process as “progressive salvation”:
"Ah, brethren! that notion of a progressive salvation at work in all true Christians has all but faded away out of the beliefs, as it has all but disappeared from the experience, of hosts of you that call yourselves Christ’s followers, and are not a bit further on than you were ten years ago;… like some weak band of invaders in a strange land, on the borders and coasts, instead of pressing inwards and making it all your own. Growing Christians—may I venture to say—are not the majority of professing Christians". (Alexander MacLaren, 'Romans and Corinthians'. Exposition of the Holy Scriptures (ca. 1900), Online http://www.ccel.org/index/author/M.
More than a century later, an evangelical theologian wrote on the subject of past and present salvation: “One of the greatest problems in evangelicalism is that many Christians who are saved are not being saved.” (See Radmacher, 'Salvation', Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000, p. 144.)
Since salvation concerns the power of sin, the world, and the powers of darkness, we should not limit the progressive dimension of salvation to victory over sin, for progressive deliverance from the influence of the powers of darkness may be needed as well.
Jesus taught us to pray daily for deliverance from the evil one (Matt 6:13). Although this is not mentioned in the context of demonization, it generally indicates that we should not take all deliverance for granted. And in Ephesians 6:11, Paul points out the necessity of wearing spiritual protection, using imagery that blends the passive aspect of salvation with our active response. His combative language is to make us aware that everyone is still dependent on Christ’s protection.
What would be the consequence if a person failed to handle the armor, and failed to live in God’s redemptive truths? What does it mean when someone is hit and wounded by the fiery darts of Ephesians 6:16? We affirm that this will lead to disrupted functioning and restricted freedom, for the spiritual reality requires vigilance and perseverance. We must walk in the blessings of our salvation to be victorious against the powers of darkness.
As described in the first chapters of Genesis, the serpent unleashed a battle against God’s rule, with the human heart at stake (Gen 3:15), and that battle still continues. At the end of the Bible, we read that Jesus will victoriously conclude this battle (Rev 19:13). Only in his future kingdom will every influence of the enemy vanish.
Specific Problems and General Principles
Even though the Bible offers clear answers to all necessary questions regarding spiritual life, it does not explicitly address all specific situations. The causes of demonic suffering are plenty and often very specific. These specific situations should be dealt with within the aforementioned general biblical principles. Paul wrote that the present world is characterized by the dominating influence of demonic powers, but he affirmed that believers are principally delivered from these powers (Eph 2:2). In one sense, we are already delivered, but in another sense, experiential deliverance is something to attain.
This two-fold aspect of deliverance is also seen in Paul’s approach to the Galatians. The fact that they were still in danger of spiritual bondage is an important theme in his letter to them. He started the letter with a general statement about deliverance: “He gave himself for our sins, to deliver us from this present evil age” (Gal 1:4). Obviously, he was not referring to deliverance just from a particular period, because such dualism was foreign to Paul (i.e. physical time and space versus the spiritual realm). He instead referred to an ongoing deliverance from the evil powers that rule this age. Christ, who “gave himself” as a sacrifice to save us, reminds us of the Passover Lamb, a ritual that sealed the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt; from the Pharaoh and his gods. However, it also contained an “already but not yet” aspect. Although the grip of the Pharaoh was broken, and a judgment on the gods of Egypt had been executed, the Israelites were chased by the Pharaoh’s army shortly afterwards, and they still had a long way to go to become completely free from the influence of idolatry.
As God did for the Israelites, so Christ defeated the powers of evil to enable a new exodus. But we are still in a time of transition from living under old, evil influences to living fully in newness and in the victory of Christ (see Eph 6:12).
At the end of his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes that the "new creation" is our perspective and challenge: "What counts is the new creation" (Gal 6:15, NIV). The church still endures labor pains, but also represents sure hope for a new world. When our lives are fully entrusted to Christ in all aspects, we will experience his victory.
However, because Christ was not given his rightful place in the lives of the Galatians, they were still (or again) infested by the spiritual powers of the old order (Gal 3:1; 4:3, 9). The freedom provided by Christ was hindered, because they were still receptive to the hidden influences of the powers of darkness.
Note that Scripture—here in Galatians and elsewhere—usually describes the activities of the powers of darkness in very general terms. Only in a limited number of specific cases do we find more specific statements.
The fact that deliverance from the evil powers of this age is a progressive process is consistent with the concept of progressive, ongoing salvation. Of course, this does not mean that we must accept the whims of the enemy until we are completely delivered. God cares for his children, even his most vulnerable ones. The Lord promised to be a wall of fire around the ruins of Jerusalem if they would only begin to rebuild the walls (Zech 2:5).
God’s grace and care stays with us in spite of our flaws. A child of God is never at the mercy of evil spirits, but if there are areas where evil spirits still have a hold, particularly where the believer fails to live according to God’s truth, God wants to educate to make him more victorious, whether promptly or progressively (Phil 1:6).
God saves us by intervening with his grace and power—his light in our darkness. We should be renewed—in thought and in our walk—by the power of the Spirit. Result: Progressive salvation and deliverance, related to our choices and responses.
Text is available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Japanese and Farsi.
For a general treatment of the theme of spiritual deliverance, see
"Light In Our Darkness, Essentials of Spiritual Deliverance" – Bruno Sebrechts.
Humble Joy Publishing ISBN 9789083136400.
Spanish Edition ISBN 9789083136417
Bruno Sebrechts is a counselor and Bible teacher with over twenty-five years of pastoral experience. He saw God at work, especially in the healing and deliverance of the most damaged believers. His writings are the result of his extensive experience and continuous study. www.LightInOurDarkness.net
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