What does it mean to get 'saved'?
In today's modern church; it means something quite different from what it meant to the first-century church, or does it? Most Christians today will tell you that you must be baptized in water to be 'saved'; in many churches, it involves what is sometimes referred to as 'walking the aisle', and letting your request be known publicly, as well as your desire for the waters of baptism, and your decision to 'ask Christ to come into your 'heart'. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with all of this ( ? ), but is this really what Peter had in mind when he wrote, 'Be saved from this perverse generation'?
When the Christ ( Messiah-Anointed One ) came into the world, Gabriel told His earthly father to 'call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins' ( Matthew 1:21 ): in the historical context, I believe that we may note here, that Jesus earthly ministry, as He, to my knowledge, never strayed beyond the boundaries of the land of Israel, had in mind the Jews as His people, for as He told the woman at the well, in John 4:22, 'salvation is of the Jews', but in the covenant context of Scripture, I believe we would do well to remember that we are His people ( the Church, the Body of Christ-Galatians 1:23, Colossians 1:18 ( Romans 12:4 &; 5 ), and the true 'Jews' ( Romans 2:28 & 29, 9:6-8 ( Galatians 3:7 ), and that His finished work on the cross was more than sufficient ( infinitely so ) to do just that, to save His people from their sins.
What was this 'perverse generation' that Peter warned the people about?
In this warning statement; Peter used the same Greek word ( genea- 'an age', referring to the period or the persons ) as Jesus did in Matthew 12:39, in describing the Pharisees, when He said 'an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign' ( Deuteronomy 32:5 ). Of this 'generation' God spoke these words, 'They shall not enter My rest', quoted by the writer, in Hebrews 4:3 & 5. I have used the phrase, previously, that 'Jesus came to save us from ourselves: I still believe this is a true statement in many ways. There were several ways that the Gospel writers and the apostles spoke, or wrote, of salvation, or 'being saved'; referring sometimes, even to a more physical, bodily salvation. Peter wrote of a 'salvation ready to be revealed in the last time'( I Peter 1:5 ); this, you must realize, was well after Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, and thus is referring more to this physical salvation that I alluded to. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, reassuring them that 'now our salvation is nearer than when we [ first ] believed'. Is Paul telling them ( and us ) that they had not been redeemed, that Christ's sacrificial work on the cross had no been completed until He returned in glory, or was he referring to their physical salvation ( deliverance ) from the 'ministry of death' ( II Corinthians 3:7 ), the oppression of Ist-century Judaism? The KJV translates Philippians 1:19, 'For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayers, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ' ( the NKJV clarifyingly ( and more correctly, maybe ) translates the Greek soteria, as 'deliverance' ). As above; we know, or assume, that Paul had already accepted the finished work of Christ, after he had been 'startled' on the road to Damascus, and had his eyes opened, and had said 'the sinner's prayer' ( I Corinthians 15: 9 ), so he could not have been referring, as many put it today, to the salvation of his 'soul' ( I Peter 1:9 ). I believe, as above, that he was speaking of the deliverance that he wrote of longingly, throughout his letters ( Roman 16:20 ), and which I described above, a physical ( though metaphorical ) deliverance from the constraining influence of the Judaizers.
Can we be 'saved' today?
In certain circles, there is a more or less running debate, as to whether 'salvation' is correct terminology, used to refer to the moment when our 'eyes' are opened to the realization, and acceptance of what Jesus did for us. In the sense that I outlined above, that much of the salvation that Paul, the most prolific writer in the Greek Scriptures, wrote about, was the physical ( yet metaphorical ) deliverance from the bondage of old covenant Judaism; we cannot expect, nor should we expect salvation, although I believe it could be argued, and very well, probably, that many followers of Christ today experience much the same sort of oppressiveness, though more on a spiritual, or emotional, level than in the 1st century, and earlier. Although many have experienced a sort of 'salvation', or deliverance, from the oppression of 'churchianity', as some have called it, I believe that unbelievers today, are not so much 'saved', as have their 'eyes' opened ( Paul's experience was a picture of this ) to the saving fact ( reality ) of what Christ did, in His sacrificial Life on earth.
What about the covenant, brother?
I have often repeated the phrase ( not so much lately ), 'I was saved 2,000 years ago'; this never went over real well, for some reason, maybe because of the 'cornfield'[ I was in at the time. I sorta doubt if I even realized the gravity of that statement back then, either. The thing that has always concerned me about the too free usage of the phrase 'get saved', or just 'saved', is that it conveys the idea, whether purposefully or ignorantly, that the saving work of Christ ( Matthew 1:21 ), accomplished on the cross was not sufficient; to be 'saved', we must accept His free gift, believing that it was for us. While I will admit that we must agree with Him, and repent of our selfishness ( even self-righteousness ), in order to be a true follower, and experience the joys of His Kingdom, the point is, and always has been; Who does, or did, the work of salvation? Do we, or did Jesus? Are we saved, only after we 'walk the aisle', and say 'the sinner's prayer', or were we saved when the Christ died on the cross 2,000+ years ago, and rising again, presented the blood for OUR atonement, although this salvation was not actually realized ( and for some, is still not realized ) by those for whom it was made?
Covenantally speaking ( for there is but one covenant, and we are all in it, like it or not! ), we can say, along with those in the first century, who actually knew Christ ( 'according to the flesh' ), and 'walked by His side in the way' ( Luke 24:13-32 ) that we were saved, and that we are being saved ( from ourselves though, not in that sense above ).
May God bless you with this. Charles Haddon Shank