Defining salvation according to the Bible is yet another instance in which simply getting out a dictionary or “going to the Greek” is useless.  Knowing the Greek word for “salvation” (“soteria” – rescue or safety either physically or morally, deliverance, preservation) doesn’t really help. Understanding salvation according to the Bible requires looking at how God has defined it in the context of His word.  It’s only then that we can fully understand what biblical salvation is and how it applies to us.

How Scripture answers "What is salvation according to the Bible?"

Salvation according to the Bible is man’s opportunity to triumph over physical death and live eternally8. God wants all mankind1,2,8 to be saved by belief in Jesus and His gospel message1,2,4,5,6,7,8. Salvation is both a moment in time1,3 as well as a continued state of being1,4,5,6,8. Salvation’s “moment” is only possible by and through Jesus Christ1,2,4,5,7,8 and is thanks to His completed mission on earth. It then must be maintained1,5,8, or not “neglected”4, by those that came to obey of/by their own free will1.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Go out and make followers of all the people, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to abide by all that I [Jesus] have commanded.  Behold, I will remain with you to the end of this age.
The very close of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life on earth.  This address was made to the eleven apostles (vs 16) and similar accounts are given at the end Mark (
Mk 16:15-16
) and Luke (
Lk 24:45-47
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus summarized discipleship or the “making of disciples” as two things: (1) being baptized in the name of (authority) the unified Godhead, and (2) teaching them to obey the commandments.

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.
Because your servant [Simeon] has seen your [God] salvation prepared by you for all people – a light for revelation to Gentiles and glory for your people of Israel – I can now die in peace according to your word.
The infant Jesus is being presented at the temple to observe what was written in the Law of Moses (vss 22-24).  They encounter Simeon who was a devout Hebrew who had been promised that he would see “the consolation of Israel” (vs 25) before his death.
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus was the salvation that was seen by men, coming for both the Jews and the Gentiles (all mankind).

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Each day, as they attended the temple and broke bread together in their homes, they received their food with thanksgiving, praising God and enjoying the good will of the people. And God added to their number each day those that were saved.
Describing the days immediately following the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 were saved upon the hearing of the gospel message from Peter and the apostles.  Those “added” or “being saved” has already been defined by verse 41: “So those who received His word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”  Scripture later refers to this group of saved believers as the “church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1, 11:22, 15:4).
Scripture-block application to this question

Salvation is a moment in time that begins when one is “added” [to the church] by the Lord.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Those “added” or “being saved” in verse 47 has already been defined by verse 41 as “those who received His word [and] were baptized, and there were added that day…”. Their baptism in water was the moment in which they were added by the Lord to the church and body of Christ.

For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The message spoken through angels was “firm” (rigid).  However, an “escape” is provided with the “great salvation” (new message/covenant) which was spoke first by Jesus and then those who heard him (apostles).  Their preaching (“witness”) was confirmed by God with miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit.  These signs and gifts were distributed by God’s authority.

The Hebrews letter is all about holding firm to the gospel message and showing why it was better than what the Jewish Christian had left behind (the Mosaic law).  In the opening of this letter, the writer is reminding of Jesus’ superiority over the angels (chapter 1).

Scripture-block application to this question

God’s salvation was communicated by Jesus and confirmed by eyewitnesses.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Salvation can also be “neglected” by those that already received it (which is the audience he is writing to).

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

You, however, should continue in what you learned and confidently believed, having been instructed from childhood with the Scriptures, which give you the wisdom leading toward salvation through belief in Jesus Christ.

Paul is writing to the younger Timothy and giving general advice about his work in preaching the Gospel. Paul has repeated contrasted those that are teaching false doctrine and their motives for doing so against how Timothy should conduct himself, which leads to this opening transition of “But as for you…”.

Scripture-block application to this question

Salvation comes from (e.g. “thorough”) belief in Jesus, but must be kept or maintained by “continuing in” God’s word.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

The entire books of 1 and 2 Timothy (and Titus) show Paul’s grave and urgent concern over the younger Timothy (and Titus) keeping/maintaining their salvation and not being pulled back by worldly desires or false teaching.

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Give thanks to God, since He chose you to be saved through the setting apart by the Spirit and belief in the gospel – to this He called you by “our gospel” in order that you may obtain glory shared with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica where he is warning them about coming destructive forces to the faithful – those that succumb even being helped by God who “sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,” (vs 11).
Scripture-block application to this question

One is saved (e.g. “called”) through belief in the gospel message (e.g. “truth”) and being set apart (e.g. “sanctification”) by the Holy Spirit.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

The prophets prophesied about the salvation through Christ (or, “grace that was to be yours”) and wondered themselves about the timing and person that would be Jesus as they predicted His sufferings and glories.  Yet, they were told they were serving someone else with the things (prophesies) that have now been fulfilled (“announced”) in the revelation of the gospel by the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s letter(s) of encouragement to the saints that were facing great persecution and longing for their reward in Christ Jesus, revealed to them in the “last time” (vs 3). He goes on to tell them to be prepared for “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs 13).

Scripture-block application to this question

Salvation was something the prophets preached but it wasn’t fully revealed to them. Salvation wasn’t fully apparent until Jesus Christ came and preached the gospel message.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
God hasn’t planned wrath for us, but to achieve salvation that is through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that regardless is we live or die physically, we may live eternally with Him. Therefore, encourage and build each other up just as you’ve been doing.

The closing admonitions of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians that begins back at the beginning of chapter four (“Finally, then, brothers…”). Among other things, Paul turns to remind them that the “day of the Lord” has not come yet, but will still come “like a thief in the night” (vs 2).

Scripture-block application to this question

Salvation is God’s intent for everyone and is “obtained” through Jesus alone. It is eternal, triumphing over the physical, and necessitates persistence by those that have been saved.

Leave your comment below…

…and if you’re wondering more about what we’re doing and why, here are some links we hope can help explain it (and maybe even get you excited about contributing):

what do you think?

related to 'What is salvation according to the Bible?'

lend your own study to the discussion

PUBLIC COMMENT POLICY: While your email is required, it will not be posted publically.
All comments are vetted for potential spam before being published, but will not be restricted otherwise.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments