When dealing with the subject of salvation (Soteriology, meaning: ”The study of the doctrine of salvation”) from a Biblical foundation, perhaps the most well-known, most thorough, and most insightful treatment of the subject is found in Ephesians 2:8-10, which states:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
The key word concerning the subject of salvation in this text is actually a phrase in the English, the phrase is: “have been saved” (which in the Greek is a single word), sesosmenoi1 in the Greek. By examining this word, we shall uncover unseen shades of meaning. One need not ever study the original languages to understand what God is saying in His Word. Studying the Holy Scriptures in the languages God chose to communicate through has been compared to adding color to a black and white picture. The black and white picture gives meaning; color simple adds a fuller understanding, emphases, and clarity. If God chose those languages to communicate the good news to all of mankind, who are we to imply it is of no importance to search out their fullest meaning, especially in this day and age when it is so easy to do so.
Sesosmenoi is a verb, which is an action, something that is done. The following explains how verbs function in Koine Greek.
Greek verbs have five aspects: mood, tense, voice, person, and number. They reveal:
† Far more than a lexigraphical definition.
† Who is performing the action.
† Whether just one or more than one is doing it.
† When it is done.
† Whether it is a single event or process.
† Whether it is an actual happening, a command, or something wished for.
† Whether the subject of the verb is an active or passive participant (or both!).
The Greek word sesosmenoi1 is outlined as such2:
Perfect Tense: Completed in the Past, Results in the Present
Participle Mood: Indicating a Full Completion, a Reality
Passive Voice: The Subject Receives the Action – The Subject is NOT the Performer of the Action
Second Person: Applies to the Person Reading It, or Whom Spoken To
Plural Number: All May Receive, ”we,” No Exceptions
What this means is that the phrase “have been saved” is broken down as follows3:
1. It is a (Periphrastic) Participle Mood (PPM), which means; it is used to complete the idea of the main verb, it is called supplementary. An example is, the statement “he is destroying,” is changed to “he has destroyed completely,” when the verb is changed to a PPM. In the key text, it reinforces the concept of being completely saved, with no possibility of being or becoming unsaved.
The participle is a verbal adjective having tense and voice like a verb, and case, gender, and number like an adjective. Participles function as adjectives, adverbs, substantives, and verbs.
The Nominative Case means that the verb is the topic (focus, theme, and issue) of the sentence. Salvation is the focus of attention in the text: not “grace” (though, it is how salvation is obtained), not “faith” (though, it is the vehicle that delivers salvation via grace), not “yourselves” (though, people are the ones being saved), not “the gift” (though, that’s what salvation is), not “of works” (though, that is how NOT to get saved), not “lest anyone should boast” (though, that is why God will not let salvation be worked for). The focus of this verse is God’s free unmerited gift of salvation to those that will believe.
Salvation is not a trade for faith, though one must have faith to receive salvation. Because salvation is the focus and there are no conditions, the person that obtains it cannot lose it; and those that have obtained it, have done so due to a response in faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. It is in the Perfect Tense, which is an action that took place in the past, the results of which have continued to the present. It has no exact equivalent in the English, but it is understood as a past completion with the results effecting the present. This indicates that the salvation of the subject was completed in the past and continues to affect the subject in the present. Once gained, salvation cannot be lost.
3. It is in the Passive Voice, meaning that the one being saved did nothing to become saved. The action of the verb was done by someone else; in this case, God. God and God alone saves, the subject of the verb (man) has no power to save it’s (him) self.
4. It is in the Second Person, meaning what is being said is intended for the reader, the person who is reading this passage, the person who meets the conditions in the passage. Therefore, the person reading this passage, which lives by faith; shall (was-is-will) be saved.
5. It is in the Plural Number, meaning what is being said is meant for all who read it. God wants all of those who read this passage, who meets the conditions of this passage to know they are saved, though no act of their own, by His grace alone.
Main Grammatical Insight
Concerning the Participle Mood of this verse (as well as concerning other Greek words), when someone is saved, they are completely saved. They cannot be more saved, or less saved. Salvation is something that once gained it can never ever be lost; it can never ever, ever be undone. Once you have it, you have it. This rhetoric expresses the vigorous emphasis that the grammar conveys.
Positionally, the believers are made “alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised … up with Him, and seated … with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.”4 However, functionally, they are still here on earth, living out their life; living out their salvation, which is guaranteed with a seal (a promise that cannot be broken, positive proof of ownership), which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.5
An Extra Consideration ~ It is Finished, Completely…
Salvation is completely finished – no one can add to it. Salvation is something that the Christian did not gain by merit or effort; therefore, it is something that they cannot lose by effort or a lack of merit. According to the Authorized Version (King James Version), the last thing Jesus said before His death on the cross (John 19:30) was “it is finished” (Tetélestai in the Greek). Other translations render Tetélestai, either, “accomplished” or “completed,” which is closer to the true meaning. Both these words indicate more than simply finishing an act; they mean a complete fulfillment of a purpose. Resent archeological digs have shed much light on our understanding of the word Tetélestai.
The first indication that there is a fuller meaning to this word was found concerning a property deed that had Tetélestai written across it, proving that the deed holder had paid for the land completely and owned it. After this find, archeologist started noticing Tetélestai used in accounting parchments and codex’s, as a conclusion rendering that accounts were “paid in full.” And most notably it was also found on prisoner’s paperwork.
In the Roman judicial system incarceration was used (not so in the Hebrew culture) and when a person was sentenced to serve time upon conviction of an offense, there was a copy of the court transcript, which stated the charge, and the verdict, and was posted outside their cell. This was technically called a “bill of indebtedness” in the Latin, in English it’s called “a debt to society,” and in the Hebrew it was referred to as the “handwriting of ordinances,” which Paul refers to in Colossians 2:14 (“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross“). When a prisoner served a year, this would be reported on their “bill of indebtedness” until finally they had fulfilled their full sentence. They would be given this document to hold on to showing that they had paid the debt to society, so if anyone ever accused them of committing the offence and getting away with it or of being an escapee, they could produce the court transcript showing they served their sentence. When they had completed their punishment, Tetélestai, would be written across it, corner to corner, which meant the penalty was “paid in full.”
The reason this becomes important is concerning Christ’s last words, is it could be generally said: that “it is finished ,” or “it is completed,” could refer to a number of things. Jesus could’ve been saying that His life was completed, that His mission was completed, or that His teachings were completed. And while generally true, this is not the essence of what He was stating specifically. Tetélestai says much more specifically or denotatively, than it does in the general or connotation sense of the word. Jesus not only completed His mission, but much more important to the believer; He paid for their salvation in full.
The point that Christ was making is that He had done it all on the cross. This is why you and I can add nothing to our salvation; because Jesus did it completely in that He paid in full the price of our redemption.
The Timeline of Salvation
Understanding that the Ephesians passage utilizes the perfect tense, indicating it was something completed in the past, with consequences which are ongoing, in the present and yet in the future as well; displays the three tenses of salvation, past, present, and future; which can be examined in Scripture by the following passages.
Past - Having Been Saved: Ephesians 2:8-9
- Positionally Saved
- Entrance Ticket to Heaven
- Occurred at the Cross of Jesus
- Called Justification
- It Is a One Time Event
- Saved from the Penalty of Sin.
Present - Are Being Saved: Romans 6:3-22
- Operationally Saved
- by the Holy Spirit
- Moment by Moment
- Occurring in the Life of the Believer
- Called Sanctification, It Is a Process
- Saved from the Power of Sin.
Future - Shall Be Saved: Romans 8:23
- Eternally Saved
- Legally Ratified at the Bema Seat of Christ
- Occurring at the Rapture
- Called “the resurrection of our body”
- Saved from the Presence of Sin. (Based upon teaching by Chuck Missler)
When Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, He paid the full price for those sins. There is nothing that a person can do to aid in their own salvation; it is freely given by God’s grace, it is an unmerited gift, Jesus did it all. He paid the price in full, in fact to imply otherwise or to attempt to add to it is blasphemy and according to God is rewarded with hell.
When Jesus died on the cross He just didn’t finish His life, finish His teaching, finish His work; Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, He Tetélestai, “Paid it in Full.”
All Scripture verses listed, unless otherwise noted, refer to the King James Version.
1. For the sake of doing any further Greek word study, the stand-alone Romanized transliteration of the word “saved” is sozo in the Greek, Strong’s Number 4982.
2. The text used is from the ”H KAINH ΔΙΑΘΚΗ” translation by the Trinitarian Bible Society, and is a Byzantine text in accord with the Textus Receptus.
3. THE COMPLETE WORD STUDY NEW TESTAMENT WITH GREEK PARALLEL, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, PH T., AMG Publications, Chattanooga, TN 37422, USA, 1990.
4. Ephesians 2:5-6.
5. Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30.
“The difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘commitment’ is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast:
the chicken was ‘involved’ – the pig was ‘committed’.”
Taken from the “Resource Center” of: www.FaithBibleMinistries.com