In order to gain a fuller understanding of salvation, I want to, first, examine how it was viewed by the ancient Greek mind compared to the ancient Hebrew mind. Second, I want to consider how our salvation is to be lived out accordingly.
To the ancient Greek mind, the concept of salvation is centered entirely on the state of the soul. Salvation is right thinking by its very definition. Simply to ‘believe’ in a certain set of creeds is to know the right things. The appearance of creeds in the early church is important because they began to form what became known as the “confession of faith,” which became necessary to be received into the Christian Church. The confession of faith was what decided who was a Christian and who was not. A person who agreed with or “confessed” the correct set of beliefs gained the standing of being “saved.” It was about intellectually agreeing with a certain set of doctrines. How many times have we heard teaching in the church that emphasizes mainly right thinking? Non-believers are pleaded with to “believe in Jesus” by raising their hand, walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or signing a card. Once a person says, “I believe in Jesus,” they are proclaimed “saved.” The result is that salvation has come to be seen as merely believing in a set of facts. How many times do we see professing believers’ lives not matching up with what they believe?
Scriptural terms such as, “believe and faith” have become hollow, even though both words, in both Greek and Hebrew, also mean being “faithful.” Salvation is frequently viewed as having more to do with intellectual correctness rather than practical application. An interesting note is that the early ‘church’ remained very ‘Hebrew’ for the first two centuries and this is why there is no record of ‘creeds’ being established until later when the church became dominated by gentiles and the ‘Jewish believers’ had been chased away by the non-believing Jews and, sadly, Gentile Christians.
The ancient Hebrews viewed salvation as not merely limited to right thinking. This was because Elohiym sees a ‘person’ as one or echad (a unity). Just as the Lord is “one”, so the person, created in the image of God, is also “one.” Salvation involves the spirit, soul or mind, and the body. All three are seen as the one person. As far as life goes, there is no separation of these three.
In ancient Judaism and early Christianity salvation was seen as relationship-centered, since our Father, YHWH, is not merely a collective mind separated from humanity. Our Father is a being involved in all areas of life. So doing right deeds is the result, or the evidence, of salvation. Salvation merely begins with trusting YHWH’s words, but it is evident by right action. Salvation does not mean that we retreat from this world. Rather, it means being actively involved in changing what is wrong and sustaining what is right. ‘Peace’ in Greek thinking is to escape the pressures of life. It is the absence of conflict or a blissful state of mind. However, ‘peace’ (shalom) in Hebrew thought is to actively take part in the ‘completion’ of what is good and righteous. It is actively seeking to bring about the wholeness or completeness that can only be found in God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt 5:9) Those who pursue biblical “shalom” will be called “sons of God” because they will be very much like God.
I am not suggesting that confessing the truth is not important. Rather, our confession is hollow if our lives do not conform to Yeshua’s teaching. Throughout the entire scriptures, salvation is consistently presented as deliverance from trouble or evil. It is not about escaping to paradise or some otherworldly existence. To the ancient Hebrews, heaven is not the goal. Heaven is the reward. Deliverance in Hebrew thought was being rescued from ways that were contrary to YHWH’s ways. This is why the first word from Yeshua’s mouth, and John the Immerser, was REPENT! They both cried these words to the Jewish leadership which had gone its own way and had strayed from His ways. In fact, Yeshua literally means “YHWH’s salvation,” or “YHWH saves.” To repent and be saved, or delivered, meant to be turned 180º from the direction they were going. They were walking in darkness, stumbling along trying to find their way, listening to blind guides. Yeshua came as the light to guide their paths. He came not only to renew our minds, but also to lead us to shalom until that great and final day of deliverance. His words are our ‘spiritual food’ to feed our souls that we might grow in our relationship with Him. To the Greek mind, YHWH’s Laws, His Torah, or, literally, His “instructions” concerning our physical lives and how to live, were only for the “weak in the faith” that needed such things to guide them, for they lacked inner maturity. This doctrine unfortunately led to a distaste for the Jews or anything ‘Jewish’.
TO BE A DISCIPLE
Where does this lead us? Yeshua said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The love of YHWH, the love of God’s Word, and true discipleship are not meant to be a burden but a joy. Salvation is about Yeshua calling us to the same vibrant, exciting, interactive relationship that His original disciples experienced with Him. His desire is for us to become His disciples, too…Hebraic disciples. It’s noteworthy what the ancient Jewish Talmud says about disciples:
“…the whole world is indebted to the true disciple of the Torah. When the world looks at such a one, he who labors in the Torah for the sake of Torah alone, this is what they will see: He is called friend, beloved, lover of the Almighty One, and lover of mankind. He is clothed in meekness and reverence. He is just, pious, upright, and faithful. He is a man of peace. Through him, the world receives counsel, sound knowledge, understanding, and strength. The Torah gives him discerning judgment; to him the secrets of the Torah are revealed. He is made like a never-failing fountain, like a river that flows on with ever-sustained vigor. He is modest, long-suffering, and forgiving, yet he is magnified and exalted above all things.”
If that does not paint a picture of Yeshua, I don’t know what does. Similarly, we are called to be like Him (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). That is the primary calling of the disciple; to become like his Master. Paul writes that God is in the process of transforming Yeshua’s disciples into His image and likeness (Romans 8:28, 29).
Perhaps if we could travel back in time we could witness and experience how a first century disciple followed this Galilean rabbi; how he followed his rabbi everywhere; how he imitated his rabbi’s every word and action, because to be a disciple was all about the art of imitating the rabbi. A disciple was to do what the rabbi did, say what the rabbi said, teach what the rabbi taught, study the way the rabbi studied, pray the way the rabbi prayed, and interact with and treat people exactly like the rabbi treated them. In turn, they were to take what they learned and repeat the process with others. Short of traveling back in time to the first century, for those who now possess God’s marvelous gift of salvation and are now Yeshua’s disciples, let us strive to walk so closely with Him that the world sees Him through us and let us continue the process of making disciples for Him.
*Scott, Brad…Hebrew Mind vs. Greek Mind: Salvation and Prayer; https://WildBranchMinistry.org