Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Are You "Saved," or Are You "Being Saved” (1 Cor 15:2)

Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved (σωζεσθε), if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain” (ESV).

This is one of the main verses used when speaking of the three “times” of salvation — past (on the cross), now (as we walk the path), and the future (Day of the Lord). I was asked the other day whether σωζεσθε should be translated“are saved” (NASB, NIV, HCSB, KJV) or “are being saved” (ESV, NET). In other words, is it an aoristic present or a continuous or even a futuristic present?

There are varied and unrelated translations that go with either, so part of the answer is, yes, you can translate it either way. But why the difference, and which is to be preferred?

Fee and Garland see the progression of the verse as going from the past (“received”), present (“stand”), and the present process with the future reality (“are being saved”), understanding that salvation is in one sense a process that will not reach completion until the Day of the Lord.

That there is a future aspect to salvation is undeniable. Rom 5:9 makes it explicit. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved (σωθησομεθα) by him from the wrath of God” (see also 1 Thess 5:9-10). More importantly, because of its contextual proximity, is 1 Cor 1:18 where the continuous (or imperfective if you wish) participle σωζομενοις requires a present sense. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (ESV). Surprisingly, most translations go with “who are being saved” here even if they say “are saved” in 15:2, but this is required by the obviously continuous “are perishing.”

So which is to be preferred? Thiselton says the commentaries are agreed that the continuous aspect “is to be explicated” as it “denotes what is done for them in the future,” and think this is best in this context. What would it mean if Paul said they “are” saved “if” they persevere? Not sure that makes sense. The necessity of perseverance and the meaning of the passage does not make sense if in fact the person’s salvation is in every way wholly accomplished in the past.

I know this is constantly a hot topic, but I guess part of your decision comes down to your theology. (What doesn’t?) But as I see it, it makes less sense to say they “are saved if” and more sense to say “are being saved if,” and I would point primarily to 1 Cor 1:18.

Ever since I started pastoring, I think this has been the main question that haunts me. What is a Christian? What is a simple, straight forward, easy-to-understand answer that makes use of all biblical data?

For me, it is Jesus’ gate and path analogy. Being a Christian is a being a follower of Jesus. You start following at the gate, continue following as you walk along the path, and at the end of the path of perseverance is life. So for me, it is easy to say that while I celebrate the finished work of Christ on the cross and the underserved, grace-filled, regenerative work of the Holy Spirit at my conversion, there is a very real sense in which my salvation is an ongoing process culminating in glorification, provided of course that I hold fast to the gospel.

Isn’t that what Paul is saying?


According to the New Testament, Jesus came "to heal the broken-hearted" and, "to set the captives free". According to Jesus, if we listen to him, we will know the truth and the truth will make us free. Jesus says several times, "to those who overcome..." and Jesus in Matthew says, “those who endure to the end shall be saved". Elsewhere in the New Testament the Greek “sozo” literally means "heal, do well, make whole" and is correctly translated in NKJV several times as "being saved.” Salvation is clearly an ongoing process, as Paul says, for now we see "in part" and again Paul says, "not as if I have attained, but I press on. . ." and again Paul says, if we think we know, we know nothing as yet as we ought to know and again Paul says, “my heart's desire is to know Jesus better and better”. And again Paul says, that we need to “work out our own salvation”, for it is God within us who “works” in the present tense. Obviously, Paul believed he needed to become better than he already was. To pretend that salvation is not an ongoing process is to pretend that Peter, James, John and Paul were already perfect and had no sin and, to pretend salvation is not an ongoing process is to deny the very reason why Jesus died, which is to save us from what keeps every man, woman and child on earth from being as free as we would like to be. Sin is why where ever we go, we can observe people trying in various ways to be more free than they already are. Like the Bible says, Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted and to set the captives free, clearly an ongoing process.

I totally agree. The focus always seems to be "I am saved" yet Paul said "It is in hope that we are saved"--that is, when we are saved it is precisely how we are saved--"But hope already obtained is not really hope. For what a man already has what does he yet hope for. But if we do not have what we hope for then we wait patiently for it." Peter said our Salvation is a Salvation ready to be revealed on the Last Day. Why is the focus always "I am saved, I'm saved" if the Bible makes it clear that the totality of God's Salvation cannot be obtained in an instant? It seems like a distraction from Satan to keep people from finishing the Path they have started.

I want to use what you wrote here in a little book about salvation self published. I will name you and the website as the source. I think you did a beautiful job and I do not want to have to re-do it in my own words. I do not intend on making a habit out of this, but I think not that many people are going to read it anyway. Any problems pleas let me know and I will change it around and take your name out. [email protected]

Excellent article! In 2019 I read through the New Testament with my orange highlighter, highlighting all the verses I could see that pointed to salvation. I found it very interesting and eye opening. And now that I am moving into the Catholic Church, this article you wrote is totally what Paul is saying throughout his letters. Thank you for the article and your work.

A great piece of work. Salvation is truly a process not an event. We are copiously reminded and cautioned of how the rebellious Israelites lost the opportunity to enter Canaan even though they all crossed the red sea. Our current status as believers is that we are God's ELECT (I Peter 1:2). A president elect is not yet a president until he has been sworn into office. In between the times, he can lose his presidency. As far as God is concerned He has accomplished His part of our salvation so we can count on the security of God's gift of salvation which He will not revoke. Our part of the deal however, is to receive, keep and work out God's given salvation. We can run it down to ground zero and perish if we lose our guard.

The KJV ONLY people use this to make a big deal about attacking any Bible that's not a KJV. Both ways mean the same thing.

A hard and honest look at Romans 2.5-11 shattered my former theology and has lead me to this: Our sins have been atoned for, Τετέλεσται, paid in full. The question remains: will one now live for the will of God? The cleansing of the atonement provides a place of residency for the Holy Spirit, which is an ἀρραβὼν, a down payment, and with which we are sealed with unto/until the Day of Redemption. Through the Holy Spirit we must: 1. Use spiritual gifts to build one another up in Christ, and 2. Strive to mortify our sin as an act of gratitude for having them atoned for (Romans 8.12-13). This will be evaluated on the Day of Judgment (Romans 2.5-11 and Matthew 25.31-46), and those who have failed will be deemed worthless servants and cast into outer darkness (Matthew 25.14-30). Not as pleasant as my former theology in which I assumed my ticket to heaven was punched, but for me there is an undeniable cohesiveness which is indeed leading me to work out my salvation with fear and trembling.

My comment is on the part about the walking on the path example. Salvation, as the Bible speaks of it, is very much a one-time event. A few of those examples are when Jesus himself spoke of himself being similar (using the words translated 'just as') to the bronze serpent Moses lifted up, that if any look at him, would be saved (John 3:14-15). It doesn't speak of looking at him continually as the way we are saved. Ephesians 2:8 says that it is by grace you have been saved (i.e. done). Romans 10:9 - "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts God raised him from the dead, we will be saved.", so a promised result. I haven't seen anything scriptural to say that when we become a new creation, after the old has passed away, that salvation is an ongoing process. Only sanctification, the continued process of being made holy by God. Open to discuss