Finally, what does it mean to claim Jesus Christ as Savior? A story from the book of Acts can help us understand this affirmation:

The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God. (Acts 16:29–34; italics added)

In this passage, we find a jailer afraid of the consequences of the supernatural release of those in his charge. It is so distressing that he is ready to fall upon his own sword for failing in his responsibility—in anticipation of the consequences that will come from his superiors when they learn of his failure. Finding Paul, Silas, and the other prisoners still in their cells allows the jailer to recognize a healing grace that cannot be given from the empire but can only be experienced from the life-saving actions of those who he would otherwise destroy. This passage is a model of how God’s grace is given, free and clear, to those who would just believe.

While being “saved” has many theological implications, it should be noted that the Greek root of the word for salvation theology, Soteriology, is Soter. Like “Lord,” this word was also used as a title for Caesar, the “Savior” of the world. When we embrace Jesus as Savior, we reject the oppressive powers, or “Caesars,” of the world. Claiming Jesus as Savior means that destruction, ill intent, and evil are not for us. We are choosing to separate ourselves from that suffering, instead reinforcing the hope that we can be saved by God. Salvation gives us a sense of hope that something different can and will happen. Our own salvation is intertwined with God’s acts of grace:

God acts with grace; we respond with gratitude. God claims us as beloved children; we proclaim God’s saving love. God redeems from sin and death; we rejoice in the gift of new life. This rhythm of divine action and human response—found throughout Scripture, human history, and everyday events—shapes all of Christian faith, life, and worship. (W-1.0102)

Systematic theologian Christopher Morse once taught students that “sin is simply humanity’s separation and hiding from God.” It started in the garden when the first humans withdrew from God to hide after eating from the Tree of Life. With grace, we strive to move back into that close relationship with God.

If what God eternally rejects throughout all creation, with the fire of a love that remains unquenchable, is every opposition to our being loved into freedom, including our own, then the hellfire and damnation of Judgment Day is precisely the one true hope of all the earth. The old question of whether or not grace is “irresistible” only becomes a problem when theology forgets Who it is whose judgment is confessed to be coming. What else is the Crucifixion if not the resistance to grace? What finally does a Resurrection faith refuse to believe, if not that the resistance to grace is ever its cessation?”[1]

For Reflection and Discussion:

What does it mean to think of grace as “being loved into freedom”?

In your leadership, how have you understood or experienced salvation as coming into better relationship with God?

[1] Christopher Morse, Not Every Spirit: A Dogmatics of Christian Disbelief (Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press, 1994; 2nd ed., 2008), 340-41.