By Bishop Kenneth Myers
Someone wrote a question about whether faith alone was enough for salvation, or whether works were necessary too. Now, that’s an age old question over which whole denominations have become two whole denominations. Talking about it at all is like walking through a mine field. But I’m pretty sure we’ll just all blow ourselves to kingdom come unless we start out with some definitions.
Now, the first definition – no, the only definition – that most people offer is a definition of the word works. Are works necessary to salvation? Well, buddy, how do you define works? Oh, I define works as saying no to sin, repenting, doing good things, praying, giving, you know – that sort of thing.
However, I don’t think the definition for “works” is the most important one in the discussion. I think the definition for salvation is much more important.
What do we mean when we say “saved”?
Saved, in the Bible, is sozo. It means three different things:
- to be rescued
- to be healed
- to be brought to wholeness and completeness.
One might ask, “Saved from what?” And some people would mistakenly say, “Saved from God’s punishment.” But it isn’t God we need saving from, he’s the one who does the saving. What we need saving from is (a) sin, and (b) death, and (c) the screwed up consequences of our sinfulness.
So, God becomes flesh – lives, dies, and rises again – in a movement to save (sozo – rescue) us.
But it doesn’t end there – the end goal is not just rescue – but sozo – being healed, being brought to wholeness and completeness; that is, restoration. God desires us to be, in the words of Paul, “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8.29). God desires us to be like him. And that involves change. That comes through process, and through union with him.
So, what is salvation? It is the defeating of sin and death through union with God and being conformed to Christ.
Now, with that definition, ask the question again – Are actions necessary for salvation?