Most Saturday mornings these days finds me pulling out the extension of my dining table, setting up extra chairs, and putting out a supply of pens, hand sanitizer, and tissues.  I make coffee and set out mugs and sweetener and cream.  All this preparation is for a group that meets together weekly to study and talk about important things, and to share the joys and pain of our lives.  Some people might call such a gathering a small group study.  We call it Life Group.

Last week we began a study of Romans, using a discussion guide written by N.T. Wright.  I was talking with one of the group members at Church Sunday, and commented that, “Well, when you take a deep dive into Romans……. you take a deep dive right away!”  She laughed almost gleefully; we are both looking forward to wrestling through this important book; gaining insight into following more closely the Lord we both love.

My main point as I write today comes out of my musing a bit over the definition of “salvation” as it is used in the first chapter of Romans.

“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16 NIV)

Eugene Peterson, in his translation, uses the word “rescue.”

“It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else!”  (Romans: 16-17 MSG)

Soteria” is the original language (Greek) word that is translated as “salvation” or “saving” or “rescue” or “deliverance” in various versions of the Bible (NET, or NLT, or MSG, or OJB).

NOTE:  I just thought to myself:  “Just a quick look at the Greek Lexicon to see what it has to say,”  ………. There was much to learn in those 20 pages (11,925 words) of language analysis and commentary on one Greek word!  Salvation – Soteria: A Greek Word Study | Precept Austin

There are several definitions of Soteria, from the analysis by William Barclay:

  • In classical Greek “soteria” means ‘deliverance’ or ‘preservation’.
  • “soteria” can be used for a person’s safe return to his own home or her own country after an absence and a journey.
  • “soteria” can mean a ‘guarantee of safety’ or a ‘security against danger’.
  • by far the commonest meaning of “soteria is ‘bodily health’. For instance, a member of the family writes home, ‘Write me a letter about your soteria,’ or, as we would say, ‘Let me know how you are.’  (Barclay)

Ummmmm… what was the point I was working on?  The reader may be asking the same question, “What’s the point?”

In my defense, I did not carry you deep into the Greek Lexicon with me. Readers have only spent a few seconds reading about “Soteria.”  I, on the other hand, have lost almost an hour and am now going to lose some sleep to finish this post!

Ahhh, yes, now to the point:

In my earliest days as a believer, I understood my salvation as having been saved from my sins that had separated me from God.  When reconciled to God, the relief and joy was measureless.

Today, now 50 years later, I know and understand even more deeply Jesus’ salvation that has gathered me to God and His people, never to be alone again.  But I also have come to know another less comfortable truth.

I originally expected to be rescued from the consequences of my sin, or if not that, then at least delivered from the results of the sins that had been perpetrated against me.  Or, if I had to wait ‘til heaven for those sorts of deliverances, “then please God, you have promised to rescue my children…(Isaiah 49:25)…. Surely you will keep them from the pain of this world; surely you will protect them; surely you will deliver them from the worst this world has to offer.”

Before I make my point for today, let me first say that I have countless times been delighted and humbled by the ways God has rescued me and those I love.  I write about those sometimes, if they were all in book form, it would take volumes to hold the stories of God’s goodness to me, right here in the land of the living.

Yes, there is plenty of evidence of God’s rescuing from troubles; it is also true that there have been many times that the deliverance I hope for doesn’t evaporate in front of me, and the pain and hardship has to be walked through.

Now back to the question in our study guide:  “How does salvation also provide a rescue from present reality?”  Here is what I wrote in my journal:

“This question gets at the key to a joyful life.  Paradoxically, It is painfully true that salvation does not rescue me from the pain of loneliness, from fear for my children, from isolation in my calling, and on and on.  In some ways, salvation, as we take up His yoke and His burden…. easy and light, yes, but a  burden at times, as we see what He sees, feel what He feels; as He looks at the world, and we grieve with Him. 

“So, from what, then, does He rescue us in Salvation?   We are delivered from condemnation and judgment, of course, but He also has rescued us from:

  • the limitations of our own strength—he is strongest in me when I am weak. (2Corinth 12:10)
  • And He has also rescued me from hopelessness—He has lifted me above the pain and grief of loss, from the sorrow that comes from a brokenness that can’t be fixed. He replaced it with an eternal Hope. 
  • His promise is, “He will make all things new.” (Rev 21:5) “I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.”  (Joel 2:25)” 

Yes, it is an often uncomfortable truth that we don’t always get rescued out of, or delivered from, the pain and vagaries of this fallen world.  The scripture is honest with us about that, “In this world you will have trouble…” Jesus said.

But then, how does it work this side of heaven?  How do we receive the fulfillment of promises like “You will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,.”(Psalm 27:13) 

The answer is in the rest of Jesus’ sentence:  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Once again, after swimming in the deep waters of the original language, and wrestling with the promises of God, I still don’t have a key to unlock the chains keeping my loved ones down; no wise sayings to solve the problems of the world.

But, somehow in the process, the load lightens; as the old hymn says, “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

The key to a life of joy is to bring the things of this world into the light of His glory and grace; we then find ourselves carried through whatever we are experiencing; His peace descends upon our minds and hearts. We are truly rescued.

I like the way Ellie Holcomb describes this experience as she sings her new song, I Will Carry You.

He will carry us; there is the hope, in the peace of His presence.

Mary Heathman

Mary Heathman

Founding Director

Mary is one of the founders of Where Grace Abounds and served as Executive Director from its inception on July, 1986 through March 31st, 2007.  She speaks and teaches at churches and conferences across the country. She has also served on several boards of non-profit organizations, is a conference speaker on a variety of topics that include: Intimacy with God, Healthy Sexuality, and leadership development.  Currently serving in leadership in her denomination, Mary’s favorite ministry roles are discipleship counseling, group facilitation, and leadership development.

Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motivation.  Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, independent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.

Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.

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