Friday, August 30, 2013

Redemption vs. Salvation

Recently I wrote on how "acceptance" and "tolerance" are often used as synonyms when they really denote two separate ideas. Today I'd like to do something similar, but this time I'll be pulling from the theological lexicon. Let's talk about the difference between "redemption" and "salvation."

We know that "redemption" and "salvation" both generally refer to our being freed from our sins and their eternal consequences. We speak of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, which freed us from our sins, both as his "saving act" and "the work of our redemption." So it would seem like these two words essentially mean the same thing, like "song" and "ditty," or "politician" and "crook." Right?

Well, not quite. Not all crooks are politicians.

Redemption and salvation refer to two aspects or, perhaps, two levels of our being freed from sin. On one level, Christ's sacrifice pays the debt for the sins of all humanity, thus opening the possibility for every single human being to return to the friendship of God, if they have faith in Jesus, repent of their sins, and are baptized (Acts 2:38). Redemption is the paying off of the debt, the paving of the highway to heaven, the printing of the "Get out of Jail" cards.

On another level, when a person is baptized into Christ's death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5), the effect of the redemption is applied to the individual person; that particular person's sins are forgiven them, and that particular person returns to the friendship of God. This is salvation: when you step into the First Bank of Christ and accept the offer of "debt forgiveness," when you take the on-ramp for the highway to heaven, when you cash in your "Get out of Jail" card. Salvation is redemption applied to the individual.

If we equate these two words, confusion can creep in. We remember a few months ago when Pope Francis spoke of how "the Lord has redeemed all of us," and the secular press took that to mean the pope was announcing a belief in universal salvation; that is, the pope said that Christ had given everyone the opportunity to be saved, but the press took that to mean that everyone will be saved. It's the difference between "7-11 is giving away free Slurpees, you just have to go and get one!" and "7-11 is giving away free Slurpees, and they're delivering them to your house!" An important distinction!

Our English language is a hodge-podge of German, French, Latin, Greek, and whatever else the Anglo-Saxons could borrow. This amalgamation has blessed us with over half a million words at our disposal, each with its own subtleties and nuances. Let's use them to the fullest!

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