SALVATION, the primary meaning

It seems through various reasons, most of us have not been taught the primary meaning of salvation. Now, since salvation is the kernal and center of the Gospel, then the primary meaing of salvation is of utmost importance.
We tend to think the primary meaning of salvation is “going to heaven” or being given the right to heaven, or that Jesus took away original sin and our sins thus opened the gates of heaven for us so that it is possible to enter heaven.

All true, but still, this is not the primary meaning.

Let us see what Jesus teaches through the primary teacher of His Church, the Popes.

                                       As the kernel and center of His Good News, Christ proclaims salvation, this great gift of God which is liberation from everything that oppresses man but which is above all liberation from sin and the Evil One, in the joy of knowing God and being known by Him, of seeing Him, and of being given over to Him.  

Evangelium nuntiandi
Pope Paul VI

The subject of proclamation is Christ who was crucified, died and is risen: through him is accomplished our full and authentic liberation from evil, sin and death; through him God bestows “new life” that is divine and eternal. This is the “Good News” which changes man and his history, and which all peoples have a right to hear.
Mission of the Redeemer
Pope John Paul II

To the question, “why mission?” we reply with the Church’s faith and experience that true liberation consists in opening oneself to the love of Christ. In him, and only in him, are we set free from all alienation and doubt, from slavery to the power of sin and death. Christ is truly “our peace” (Eph 2:14); “the love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14), giving meaning and joy to our life.
**Mission of the Redeemer **
Pope John Paul II

Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act.
Veritatis splendor
Pope John Paul II

It is clear from these teachings and many more, that the primary reason Jesus suffered and died was to take away the inclination to sin, (concupiscence)  that dominates us.   Thus according to the Church, the primary meaning of salvation is liberation from the strong inclination to sin.

Lets see some more:

“Before the Redemption, mankind was enslaved by sin, inclined to dominate rather than serve, living for self and not for others. But by the mystery of his Cross and Resurrection, we have been given the freedom and grace to live no longer for ourselves but for him. What a wonderful gift from Christ, our Saviour!
It was precisely for this reason that Christ died for all of us, to liberate us from the bond of selfishness from which by ourselves we could never escape, to make us free, and to enable us to live for him. This is the gift which Christ won for all of us: clergy, religious, laity.”
**Address of Pope John Paul II **
to Clergy, Religious People and Laity
Cathedral of Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea)
Tuesday, 8 May 1984

It is in the saving Cross of Jesus, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, in the Sacraments which flow forth from the pierced side of the Redeemer (cf. Jn 19:34), that believers find the grace and the strength always to keep God’s holy law, even amid the gravest of hardships.
Veritatis splendor
Pope John Paul II

It would be a pernicious illusion to claim that one is acting in accordance with the Gospel without receiving strength from Christ himself in the Eucharist, the sacrament he instituted for this purpose. Such a claim would be a radically anti-Gospel attitude of self-sufficiency.
Priests Are Ordained to Celebrate Mass
General Audience — May 12, 1993
Pope John Paul II

Again, careful reading of the Church’s teaching makes it clear that the primary reason Jesus died for us was to make available the grace to keep His teachings, to keep God’s holy law, thus to live for Jesus, and thus be free from the slavery of sin, and that this grace of salvation is made available through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. So the Eucharist is the primary means through which we receive the grace of salvation. That is why the Church teaches it is at mass that Jesus carries on His work of salvation by making available the grace He merited on the cross. We need this grace constantly to free us from the inclination to sin, from concupisence. With this grace we can overcome our mortal sins, (after confession) such as alcoholism, drug addiction, hatred, anger, lack of love, pornography, homosexuality, adultery, etc, etc, etc.
So, not only is this meaning of salvation the primary meaning, it is also the central point of the whole Gospel, the whole Catholic faith in other words.
The Church teaches:

                                       101 "The message of Jesus about God is Good News for humanity. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God; (328) a new and definitive intervention by God, with a transforming power equal and even superior to his creation of the world. (329) In this sense, "Christ proclaims salvation as the outstanding element and, as it were, the central point of his Good News. This is the great gift of God which is to be considered as comprising not merely liberation from all those things by which man is oppressed, but especially **liberation from sin** and from the domination of the evil one, a liberation which incorporates that gladness enjoyed by every man who knows God and is known by him, who sees God and who surrenders himself trustingly to him". (330) Catechesis transmits this message of the Kingdom, so central to the preaching of Jesus. In doing so, the message "is gradually deepened, developed in its implicit consequences", (331) and thus manifests its great repercussions for man and the world."


Thus, from learning what the Popes teach, we can now go back to the Catechism and find the teachings there:

                                        [size=2]211. By giving his life to free us from sin, Jesus reveals that he himself bears the divine name: "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will realize that "I AM"." [[23]]("file:///home/dennis/Daddy/Apologetics/Apol.%20St.%20Peter/Homilies,%20teach/Church%20Docs/Homilies,%20teach/Church%20Docs/Catechism%20of%20the%20Catholic%20Church.html#6G23")[/size]

Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  1. Christians believe that "the world has been established and kept in being by the Creator’s love; has fallen into slavery to sin but has been set free by Christ, crucified and risen to break the power of the evil one…"
    Catechism of the Catholic Church.

456 With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven…"
Catechism of the Catholic Church.

[size=2]549. By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, [274] Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, [275] but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage. [276]

[/size] Catechism of the Catholic Church.
601.“He died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures”
The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin.
Catechism of the Catholic Church.

So, while it is true that salvation also means that Jesus pain the eternal penalty and made it possible for us to be united with him in heaven, it seems the primary meaning is that Jesus came to free us from the slavery of sin by earning the grace of salvation, or sanctifying grace which lessens the inclination to sin and increases our love of Jesus so that we are less inclined to sin. Thus, we are freed from the slavery of sin.

**Scripture is a witness to the teachings the apostles handed down through the Church. **

“you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matt 1:21

Notice that it does not say, "save His people from the fires of hell (eternal salvation), but save His people FROM THEIR SINS.

Thus, the primary reason Jesus came was to save us from the inclination to sin.

      "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. " **Matthew 20: 28**

To ransom means to free a slave, prisoner, captive for a price.

Again, Jesus came to give His life as a ransom. But, we can only be ransomed if we are either slaves, or prisoners, or captives. But, the only thing we are slaves to is sin, prisoners to is sin, captives to is sin.

By His suffering and death out of love, Jesus earned the grace that frees us from being a slave to sin, from being a prisoner to sin, from being a captive to sin. Again, the focus of salvation is being freed from the slavery of sin.

Lets see what else Jesus says.

“He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,”** Luke 4:14, 17-21). **

But, we have no knowledge of Jesus letting the oppressed go free, or proclaiming liberty to captives.
But scripture uses these terms in regard to those oppressed by sin, captives to sin, blinded by sin.

So again, scripture is in conformity with the Word of God the Church has handed down from the apostles.

“For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

“for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world”** John 12:47**

John 8:34
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
John 8:36

"Our old self was crucified with him so that…we might no longer be enslaved to sin"
Romans 6:6

The Church also teaches that this grace which frees us from sin is far from 100%. The more we receive the sacraments, esp. the Eucharist in PRAYER, the more we receive the grace to be freed from the slavery to sin. But we also must obey, fast, suffer with Him, pray to the saints, etc. to make more of this grace available.

From the teachings of the Church on morality and from this grace that Jesus makes available by the cross, through the sacraments, the Church hopes individuals will be changed and then society will be transformed for the good.


What does this have to do with apologetics?

It seems to me, that when the Church focuses the meaning of salvation on being freed from the slavery of sin, the scriptures make more sense than the Protestant interpretation that focuses on going to heaven.

For example.

“whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved”

“for by grace are you saved by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God”

And there are many others in which the word “saved” or salvation is used and the true meaning is to be freed from the slavery of sin, but Protestants force the interpretation to refer to final salvation.

“for by grace are you saved by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God”

In other words, Protestants try to use this verse to imply that by grace and faith alone we will be “saved”, meaning final salvation.

But, if we use the more common usage that “saved” means being freed from the slavery of sin, and apply it to this verse and similar verses, it makes much more sense.

For it is by grace that we receive at baptism that we are first freed from the slavery to sin.
**The Catechism in 1213 reads:
"Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God"

Thus the verse in Ephesians

                                 "for by grace are you saved  by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God"

 makes much more sense when we give the word "saved" the meaning of being freed from sin, that is, freed from the strong inclination to sin. 

This grace was free, we did not earn it, we did not even have to obey, though we do have to be repentant and reject satan and sin. Of course, this grace also gives us the right to heaven. But, again, the primary emphasis is on being freed from the slavery to sin.

So, “for by grace are you saved by faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God” doesn’t make sense when Protestants imply this means final salvation, for we know that we also must obey Jesus to enter heaven. But it does make much more sense when we interpret it with the rest of scripture and Church teaching to mean freed from the slavery to sin.

Does anyone agree ?

It seems like no one ever heard these teachings clearly before since I am getting no comments.
Heck, even the Protestants don’t want to say anything.
I think they are scared that when they give their quotes like " “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

Now if we see the main purpose of justification is to be freed from the slavery of sin, well that takes kind of takes the wind out of their sails. If we see salvation as primarily the work of Jesus to free us from the misery of sin, rather then primarily as going to heaven, well all those verses which only mention faith and “saved” or faith and salvation or faith and justification kind of lose their power to cause confusion.


Another example, Protestants are always quoting this verse to imply that obedience has nothing to do with eternal salvation, going to heaven.

Ephesians 2:8-9
**8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

**If you notice they always used the word “saved” in this verses in the context of going to heaven, or final salvation. But we see that Jesus came to save us from our sins, meaning free us from the slavery of sin by reducing the inclination to sin (concupisence) and by increasing our love for Him so we don’t want to sin.

Thus, the meaning of “for by grace are ye saved through faith”, really means “for by grace are you freed from the slavery of sin, by faith, not of works, lest any man should boast”

Also, by “works” he doesn’t mean obedience, he simply means that this grace we received at baptism, was a free gift and it was not based on anything we did to deserve it. But we receive this gift to be freed from our sins, so that we can obey. That is why the next verse reads,
** “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”**
Here he uses the word “good works”, meaning obedience.
That is the whole purpose of salvation, being free from our sins, so that we can obey now and in the future obey Jesus in heaven where there is no sin.

So St. Paul is NOT referring to final salvation, but the beginning of salvation when we are saved from from our sins, freed from our sins.
This corrected interpretation doesn’t sit well with their philosophy that comes from Luther and Calvin.

Again, the very reason Jesus suffered and died was so that we COULD obey the commandments. Because if we don’t obey the commandments, we separate ourselves from God. Sin is rebellion against God. So if we die in this rebellion we cannot enter heaven. We would not want to enter heaven. Thus, the very verse they quote to try to show we don’t have to obey God, actually means that the reason we are saved, freed from our sins, is so that we can obey God and thus enter heaven in the future.

This is a constant error you hear when listening to Protestants. They constantly interpret the word “saved” to mean final salvation, when St. Paul most often uses it to refer to the beginning of our salvation when we are “saved”, that is “freed” from the slavery of sin.

This error seems to influence Catholic theologians. For it has seldom been made clear to me and other Catholics the true teaching of the central point of Gospel, that Jesus came to free us from the slavery of sin. We receive this grace to be freed from our sins in the sacraments, baptism at first, but especially through the eucharist. Thus we do go to mass to get something out of it. We go to mass to be freed from our sins, that is, to receive more of sanctifying grace that frees us from the inclination to sin and increases our love of Jesus so that we don’t want to sin.
This salvation, this freedom from the slavery of sin continues into the next life where we will be in union with Jesus forever in heaven.

As usual, it’s unsafe to generalize about Protestants. I come from a Wesleyan "Holiness’ tradition and we certainly believed that salvation was primarily about being free from sin. “Holiness” people like to quote “without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

I think you’re getting no comments because most people reading this thread think what you are saying is obvious. That is at least my impression. I’m sorry that you were not taught this, but I was–as a Protestant!


That is great, and I wish all protestants were taught the necessity of holiness. Too often all I hear is that any thing we do to affect our eternal salvation is called “works”, and then it is condemned as “earning” our salvation.

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