Being Saved by the Gospel

Tenses matter.  Paul told the Corinthians they had received the gospel (1 Cor 15:1) which saved them–past tense.  But then he said the gospel is also the message “by which you are being saved” (1 Cor 15:2)–present tense.

Put another way, sinners never exhaust their need for the gospel.  We need it to become Christians, and we need it to live as Christians!  The gospel is the message for both justification and sanctification.

Christians must hold to the gospel which saved them, for its work in their lives continues by the power of God.  The Christian life should be gospel-centered because it is driven by God’s grace from beginning to end.

Paul told the Corinthians they would hold to the gospel “unless you  believed in vain.”  This means growing in the gospel is evidence of salvation.  On the other hand, not holding to the gospel is evidence of unbelief.  Are you holding to the gospel today?

The gospel is for Christians–which sounds like a good book.  :)

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3 thoughts on “Being Saved by the Gospel

  1. Mitch, you know I don’t deny the essential nature of the gospel for growth of believers. However, I don’t agree with a grammatical argument you make. You say that verse 2 says that the gospel is the message “by which you are being saved” and that this is the present verb tense. Although this present progressive tense is translated like this in the ESV, if the basic present tense (which is what you said the verb was) is used in the Greek, then the NASB and NIV can rightly translate this phrase to “by this gospel you are saved”. With this in mind, it can be reasonably argued this is referring to the fact that one is saved, and this by the gospel but not that one is in process of keeping oneself saved through the gospel. This is just some food for thought!

    • Lydia, great to hear from you!! Hope you’re doing well in New Orleans. Stacie and Jensen say hi too.

      Regarding my post, when I described the verb “being saved” as present tense, I simply wasn’t intending to get into Greek grammatical complexities. But you raise points that warrant some response, so here it goes:

      When the present tense is used in Greek, its aspect focuses on an event’s development or progress and is sometimes called “progressive” (a reference for this tenet is Greek grammarian Daniel Wallace’s book The Basics of New Testament Syntax, specifically pp. 219ff.).

      Therefore, although the NASB and NIV aren’t wrong in their translations, the ESV brings out the nuance which is inherent in the present progressive tense: “being saved.” The NIV is not a word-for-word translation, but the NASB was the closest before the ESV came along. Now, arguably, the ESV is the most accurate when it comes to word-for-word Bible translation.

      But back to my point. In 1 Cor 15:2, Paul is talking about something more than the fact that they are saved. So I insist that my grammatical argument is sound. In the end, not a translation but the tense and aspect of the Greek verb must be given trumping power.

      And, contextually speaking, since Paul uses past tenses in 15:1, it makes sense that he sets up a contrast for a present progressive tense in 15:2: they received the gospel he preached and have stood in it (15:1), and this is the same gospel which is presently saving them (15:2).

      In your second to last sentence, you used the phrase “not that one is in process of keeping oneself saved through the gospel.” If you thought that I was arguing that believers keep themselves saved, that would not accurately reflect what I’m saying. I’m not sure if you thought that though. But just in case…

      The Greek passive voice (“being saved”) argues against believers saving themselves by holding to the gospel. Instead, the Greek implies a divine passive, indicating that it is God and God alone who has saved them and is saving them. We must hold to the gospel, trusting that God is powerful enough to save and sustain us in faith. And he is.

      Thanks for the interaction on my blog post. And thanks for being such a careful reader. That will serve your studies well!

      Hope you had a great Christmas and New Year! The Chases need to plan a trip to New Orleans… :)

      • Hey Stacie and Jensen (and of course you too, Mitch)!

        Ok so, my questioning of your argument was based on my knowledge of Spanish and English grammar. There is a distinction in both of these between present and present progressive tenses, and I assumed that the same held true in Greek. But evidently, I’m wrong. I’ll take my first Greek class in the fall hopefully. :)

        I know that the NIV isn’t a word-for-word translation but rather seeks to capture in English the ideas presented in the written Word of God. You say that the ESV is arguably the most accurate translation…and it seems that the reason that it is only arguably the most accurate is because many argue that it is overly Reformed in the word choices used for translation. I acknowledge that making a translation not reflect the opinions, beliefs, and understandings of the translators is basically impossible. This holds true with translation to and from any language and no matter the situation, theological or not.

        I didn’t think that you meant that believers are working to keep themselves saved through their own means. Your discussion in this blog and what you taught in your sermons while in Santo clearly do not promote this. I was afraid that you might think that is what I was saying and tried to avoid it by qualifying my comment with the phrase “through the gospel.” You and I both believe that we are saved only by the gracious gift of salvation that comes from God the Father through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. I think where our opinions differ here are in relation to the ability of humans to respond (but I’m not really interested in getting into that discussion right now) and even more so in dealing with perseverance of the saints. You believe that continual outward evidence of the genuineness of conversion is necessary while I hold more to the “once saved, always saved” than that.

        But don’t worry about me and my doctrine: I believe that change/transformation is an integral part of being a new, redeemed creature in Christ. However, we as new yet still sinful humans cannot fairly gauge the difference between a period of rebellion and an ungenuine or vain conversion experience or someone else’s life. We should practice church discipline towards those who confess Christ but are living in disobedience to His Word. If they are repentant, there should be reconciliation and restoration in the Body. If they are unrepentant, they should be treated as an unbeliever.

        I know I’ve gone off on some tangents, but these are the things on my mind.

        Christmas and New Year festivities were wonderful for me, and I hope the same is true for my dear friends the Chases! Y’all do need to come to New Orleans and are more than welcome whenever it is good for y’all, except the weekends of March 19 and 26 because I won’t be available to play hostess. I love and miss you guys!

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