We continue in our studies in Romans 9 -11 to consider the matter of Israel and her salvation from the perspective of Rav Shaul/ Apostle Paul. This desire and prayer of Paul is the Heart of the Matter that rests very heavily upon Shaul as he considers the plight of Israel.
A heart ablaze is a powerful image that like the sun, though burning with intense heat, yet it is not consumed. So this passion for the Jewish people that the great emissary of the faith expresses in this section of his letter to the Romans in chapter 10 is something that is of deep concern to him and his passion for Israel cannot be extinguished.
Icon of St. Paul
What does it mean to be saved?
This needs some explaing to those who are unfamiliar with biblical jargon. The word “salvation” [N] is one of the many Hebrew words used to signify G_d’s act in redeeming humankind:
It is important to establish the understanding of biblical terminology and particularly, both Hebrew and Greek words that effect our discussion on the subject of “What is salvation?”
Yasa [yasha] (to save, help in distress, rescue, deliver, set free) appears most frequently in the Hebrew Scriptures. Commonly, this deliverance of which the Hebrew Scriptures speaks of is material in nature, though there are important exceptions. In contrast, the employment of soteria in the New Testament, though it may include material preservation, usually signifies a deliverance with special spiritual significance. In addition to the notion of deliverance in the Bible also uses salvation to denote health, well-being, and healing.
One might say that salvation is the overriding theme of the entire Bible. But since it is a multidimensional theme with a wide range of meaning, simple definitions are impossible. The biblical writers speak of salvation as a reality with both a spiritual and physical dimension. It has individual and communal aspects to it, with an objective and subjective application, as well as an eternal and historical dimension. Since the biblical writers view salvation as a historical reality, the temporal dimensions of past, present, and future further intensify and deepen the concept.
Salvation is a process with a beginning and an end. “We are being saved or we are being delivered.”
As has been previously said, salvation involves both human freedom and divine election. We are given freedom to serve G_d, but G_d chooses who will serve him. This is a biblical tension truth, or some may say it is a paradox?
The Bible constantly speaks about salvation in the context of concrete relationships between humans and G_d. It not only includes personal salvation, but it also has a redemptive concern for the world in which we live. G_d is the main initiator throughout the process and with the example of the deliverance of Noah and his family, through to the great multitude who shout “Salvation belongs to our G_d, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ( Rev 7:10 ). It is G_D who is acting and humans responding to him.
In the Hebrew Scriptures where individuals are singled out it seems to be for the good of the community. For example, the Genesis [story] narrative develops the theme of G_d’s blessing, and though resting on certain individuals, renders them agents for some greater work of G_d. Joseph’s rise to fame in Egypt preserves the lives of his entire family (Gen 45:4-7 ).
Through Noah’s faithfulness G_d brings salvation to his family as well as animal life and subsequently to all future generations of humankind (Gen. 7-9). And the blessing of the promise of nationhood and land for Abraham was not only for his descendants, but for all families on the earth ( Gen 12:1-3 ). And after 430 years in Egypt, an entire people is delivered through Moses (Exod. 1-12). Through Esther’s rise to power the Jewish people are spared annihilation under the decree of the wicked Haman( Esther 7).
Despite the importance of human agency, salvation is attributed above all to G_d. None but G_d can save ( Isa 43:14 ; Hosea 1:7 ). He is the keeper of his flock ( Eze 34 ) and on him alone one waits for a saving word to penetrate the silence ( Psalm 62 ). G_d is the warrior and not Moses who triumphs gloriously over Pharaoh’s armies at the sea ( Exod 15 ).
Salvation is something to stand and watch, for “The L_rd will fight for you; and you need only be still” ( Exod 14:13 ). “In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength” summons Isaiah ( 30:15 ). The contents of G_d’s salvation includes personal and national deliverance from one’s enemies, deliverance from slavery ( Deut 24:18 ), ongoing protection and preservation from evil (Ps. 121), escape from death ( Psalm 68:19 ), healing ( Psalm 69:29 ; Jer 17:14 ), and inheritance of land, descendants, and long life are all part of the act of G_d’s salvation. This is not only towards his chosen people, but all humankind.
In Judaism Salvation from sin, though not a dominant concern, is by no means absent, especially in the prophets. As much as he is concerned for Israel’s national restoration, Ezekiel stresses the need for salvation from uncleanness, iniquity, and idolatry ( 36:22-32 ). Here salvation involves the gift of a new heart of flesh and new spirit, which will finally empower his people to keep the commandments, after which comes habitation in the land. In this passage, too, we encounter a common refrain: such salvation, when it comes, will be neither for the sake of Israel nor her deeds, but for G_d and his glory. Isaiah tells of a salvation still on the way, which will be achieved through the vicarious suffering of the Servant of the L_RD (chap. 53) who bears the sin of many. This salvation will last forever ( 51:6 ). The prophet Jeremiah in his famous chapter 31:31f in which a new covenant is promised.
“The days are surely coming says the L_ORD when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Jacob. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the Land of Egypt, a covenant that they broke though I was their husband, says the L_RD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the House of Israel after those days says, the L_RD. I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts and I will be their G_D, and they shall be my people.”
We should note that each of the prophetic writers express a similar notion that G_d is going to bring about a radical change, establishing a new covenant with the house of Israel.
The anticipated salvation of the prophetic writings manifests a tension similar to that which pervades the New Testament. While salvation is a fait accompli, G_d saved Israel from slavery in Egypt into a covenant relationship with himself. Israel still awaits G_d’s salvation. G_d had saved Israel in the past, and therefore G_d can be expected to deliver her in the future. Whatever else salvation may be from a biblical perspective, its dimensions of “settled past” and “anticipated future” show it in its widest scope to be an elongated reality covering the entire trajectory of history.
This recognition has helped recent biblical scholarship to avoid the earlier pitfall of relegating the role of the Hebrew Scriptures to that of mere preparation or precursor for the Gospel. One cannot escape the fact that for the Jews of the Hebrew Scriptures salvation was not an abstract concept, but a real and present experience. The psalms are replete with praise for G_d’s salvation, which is experienced as joy ( 51:12 ). It is a cup of thanksgiving lifted to G_d ( 116:13 ) and a horn ( 18:2 ). Elsewhere salvation is depicted as a torch ( Isa 62:1 ), a well ( Isa 12:3 ), and a shield ( 2 Sam 22:36 ).
The New Testament.
The name “Immanuel, ” “God with us,” signifies momentous progress in the history of salvation. In Matthew’s Gospel the angel tells Joseph that Mary’s child is conceived of the Holy Spirit, and that he is “to give him the name Yeshua/ Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” ( 1:21-23 ). The name “Jesus” (derived from the Hebrew Joshua [Yeshua]) means salvation. The purpose for the Son of Man’s coming is to seek out and save the lost ( Luke 19:10 ). The New Testament continues the Hebrew Scriptures affirmation that salvation belongs to G_d alone, but with greater specificity. Now it is G_d’s presence in and to the man Jesus that proves decisive…
In Yeshua’s teaching salvation is linked to the advance of G_d’s kingdom, which finds expression in Yeshua’s own person. The advent of G_d’s kingdom became a synonym for salvation. Yeshua deepens the Hebrew Scriptures conviction that salvation belongs to G_d, for it is in his Kingdom that the reality in which G_d reigns sovereign…That Jesus understood himself to be that harbinger of G_d’s kingdom, and is evident in the claim following his synagogue reading, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Salvation belongs to those who follow Yeshua who is the embodiment of G_d’s kingdom.
Salvation is described as the mystery of G_d that is now revealed ( Eph 3:9 ; 6:19 ); a plan conceived before the foundations of the world ( Eph 1:3-14 ); a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel ( Luke 2:30-32 ). A transition from death to life takes place( John 5:24 ). It is a message especially for sinners ( Mark 2:17 ), and a gift of grace through faith not is not achieved through any human effort [of works] ( Eph 2:8-9 )…
In response to Nicodemus’s question about how one can be born anew, Yeshua says, that salvation is a spiritual birth, a birth from above without which one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven ( John 3:1-11 ). Salvation means death to and freedom from sin ( Rom 6 ); a new perspective that transcends the human point of view and participation in a new creation ( Rom 5:16-17 ); it is peace with G_d is achieved ( Rom 5:1 ); and new life as adopted children of God is gained ( Gal 4:4)…
Salvation encompasses both the physical and spiritual dimensions of life, having relevance for the whole human person. On the physical side, entrance into the kingdom requires attention to earthly needs, especially those for the poor. Yeshua demands that a wealthy man give his riches to help the poor ( Mark 10:17-22 ).
We witness the salvation that came to Zacchaeus’ house inspired him to give half his possessions to the poor ( Luke 19:8-10 ). Care for the poor was a regular function of the earliest believing communities ( Acts 9:36 ; Acts 10:4 Acts 10:31 ; 24:17 ; Gal 2:10 ; James 2:1-7 ). But for Yeshua the physical and spiritual dimensions are held very close together. Forgiveness of sins and physical healing frequently coexist, as in the healing of the paralytic ( Mark 2:1-12 ). Other healings done in Yeshua’s name call attention to the intimate connection ( Acts 3:16 ; 4:7-12 ) among spirit, mind, and body effecting the whole person. In these examples salvation means not only forgiveness of sin but mitigation of its effects.
[In this song by Eurythmics, “I Saved the World Today,” the concept of salvation is explored in place of suffering and sadness. And this same salvation is what Yeshua desired to bring to this aching world. Jew and Gentile may experience healing, hope and restoration, together with true peace found only in and through Yeshua HaMashiach/ Jesus the Messiah.]
While Salvation’s history reaches a climax in the context of Judaism of the Second Temple era, we must remember that this is where the Messianic manifestation was realised.
To quote Rabbi Doctor Leo Baeck, the famous German Jewish rabbi and theologian, in his desire to rescue Jesus for Judaism shows that the kernel of Jesus’ teaching lies in its fidelity to the essence of Judaism and only there.
“In all his traits, Jesus is through and through a genuinely Jewish character. Such a man as he could only grow up on the soil of Judaism, only there and nowhere else. Jesus a genuine Jewish personality; all his driving and acting, his bearing and feeling, his speech and his silence, all of it bears the Jewish stamp, the imprint of…the best that was found in Judaism. Indeed that time [prior to the gifts Judaism bestowed on the church] this was the best found only in Judaism…From no other people could such a man as he arisen, and in no other people could such a man have been able to work; and in no other people would he have found the apostles who believed in him” (Jewish Perspectives on Christianity, Rothschild, p 26).
However, the universality of the message of salvation could not be contained within the bounds of Second Temple Judaism, for it was G_d’s intention as predicted through the Jewish prophets and Jesus himself that the message must also extends beyond the parameters of national Jewish identity. On at least one occasions Yeshua corrects (or at least sidesteps) national expectations concerning the kingdom once in response to the disciples’ question ( Acts 1:6-8 ) and once on the Emmaus road ( Luke 24:25-26 ). Since Jesus’ death was for all people ( John 11:51 ), repentance and forgiveness of sins were to be proclaimed to all nations ( Luke 24:47 ). This gospel, says Paul, was given in advance in the form of G_d’s promise to bless all the nations through Abraham ( Gal 3:8 ).
The objective basis and means of salvation is G_d’s sovereign and gracious choice to be “G_d with us” in the person of Yeshua the Messiah, who is described as both author and mediator of salvation ( Heb 2:10 ; 7:25 ). But the movement of Yeshua’s life goes through the cross and resurrection. It is therefore “Messiah crucified” that is of central importance for salvation ( 1 Cor 1:23 ), for “Yeshua died for our sins according to the Scriptures” ( 1 Cor 15:3 ) and was handed to death for our trespasses ( Rom 4:25). What Jesus did in our name he also did in our place, giving “his life as a ransom for many” ( Matt 20:28 ). And if Yeshua demonstrated his love by dying when we were still sinners, how much more shall we now be saved by his life? ( Rom 5:8-10 ). So critical is the resurrection to the future hope of salvation that “If Yeshua has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” ( 1 Cor 15:17 ).
John the Baptiser preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins ( Matt 3:2; Mark 1:4 ), and this message was echoed by the Apostle Peter ( Acts 2:38 ) and the Apostle Paul ( Acts 20:21 ). Yeshua said salvation required belief in him ( Mark 16:15 ; John 6:47 ).
Paul enjoined confession with the mouth that “Yeshua is Lord” and belief that G_d raised him from the dead ( Rom 10:8-9 ). The writer of Hebrews suggests that the hearing of the gospel is of no value unless combined with faith ( 4:1 ). And this is repeated in James’ epistle, were he says, that if you claim to have faith and you do not have works, your faith is dead and meaningless. Demonstrate your faith by the things that you do.
(Based on William T. Arnold’s article and modified and adapted by Roni Mechanic).
According to Rav Shaul two things need to initially happen to be saved:
An outward verbal confession and an inward belief that Yeshua is L_rd and that G_d has raised him from the dead, these are the two vital components that are required to begin your journey into life.
The fact that one acknowledges him as L_rd involves submitting one’s life the leadership of the Messiah accepting his divine authority with of the full implications of that new reality as a member of his Messianic Kingdom. There are important consequences that will begin to transpire in one’s life and then one will need to answer the question:
“How shall we then live? Judaism speaks about this as Halacha [how shall we walk?]. how do we interpret the new messianic faith and live it out in our daily lives?
There are moral and ethical implications of seeking to follow the Messiah and this should deeply impact upon how we live. As we saw in the example of Zacchaeus, his thieving and self-centred life style was instantly transformed by his encounter with Yeshua. He repaid those who he had defrauded double and also gave way half his wealth to the poor.
John the Baptizer and Yehsua both have harsh words for those who make a profession of faith and whose lives are not transformed by G-d’s life giving Spirit.
The second part of one’s confession is a belief in the resurrection of Yeshua. Shaul says that if Yeshua did not rise from the dead, then we are the most miserable of all folk, and our faith is futile (see 1 Corinthians 15). This is because not only are we believing a lie, but we are propagating a falsehood and we are are surely, self-deceived and deceiving others too.
Without the resurrection factor the Messianic house falls down and we are are indeed very lost! But, Messiah has been raised and the tomb is empty – Hallelujah!
Last year while in Israel in 2017, I was visiting Akko (Acre) and while in the Old City in the shook, I went into a barbershop to have a haircut and in the chair next to me was an elderly gentleman and he said that he was the Catholic priest of the Akko congregation in the Old City. It was just after Paschal (Easter) and Peshach (Passover). On Easter Sunday the Arab Christian believers celebrate the resurrection of Jesus/ Yehsua and as he got up to leave he said to me “Christos Anesti” – Christ is Risen [Latin: Christus resurrexit!/ Vere resurrexit! Hebrew: Ha-Mashiah qom!/ Be-emet qom! Arabic: Al Maseeh qam! Haqqan qam!] – and I responded, “He is risen indeed, hallelujah!”
(“Χριστός ἀνέστη!” – “Christ is Risen!” in Greek)
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