Got Saved or Got Started? (Running the Race)

Got Saved or Got Started? 
Robert Wurtz II

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46–47 ESV)

It has been around a hundred years since Billy Sunday broke with the Biblical tradition of describing the significance of a person making a step towards Christ in conversion. Whereas the language of “hopefully converted” or something similar had been used, within thirty-nine years of his ministry the churches went from “X number of people were hopefully converted” to “X number of people got saved.” The significance of that change cannot possibly be over stated. Instead of thinking of salvation as a crisis event leading to a process and a future consummation; salvation was thought of from the word go as a consummation. In other words, “I got saved” suggests that the race is completed; when in reality, it has just gotten started. 

I suggest we break with Billy Sundays language all together and begin referring to the experience of new converts as “got started” instead of “got saved.” But far be it from me to arrogate to myself the authority to make such a change; however, even great Biblical scholars such as the late John Lightfoot (1602–1675) would probably agree. In fact, in commenting on Acts 2:46-47 he wrote:

“Salvation is a thing of the present, as well as of the past and future. The verb is used in all these senses in the New Testament. Thus, we were saved (not are, as A.V.), Romans 8:24; shall or shalt be saved, Romans 10:9, 13; ye are being saved, 1 Corinthians 15:2. ‘Godliness, righteousness, is life, is salvation. And it is hardly necessary to say that the divorce of morality and religion must be fostered and encouraged by failing to note this, and so laying the whole stress either on the past or on the future — on the first call, or on the final change. It is, therefore, important that the idea of salvation as a rescue from sin, through the knowledge of God in Christ, and therefore a progressive condition, a present state, should not be obscured, and we can but regret such a translation as Acts 2:47, ‘The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,’ where the Greek implies a different idea” (Lightfoot, “on a Fresh Revision of the New Testament” quoted in Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament).

The great Greek scholar A.T. Robinson comments on this verse two significant things. First, “if the Lord only always “added” those who join our churches.” He is suggesting here that there are people who are added to the churches that God did not add. Second, “those that were being saved (tous soœzomenous) is better translated as ‘those saved from time to time.’ It was a continuous revival, day by day. Soœzoœ like soœteœria is used for “save” in three senses (beginning, process, conclusion), but here repetition is clearly the point of the present tense.” The great Greek commentators John Lightfoot, Marvin Vincent, and A.T. Robertson all agree that both Greek words for salvation are used in the sense of:

1. Beginning of salvation (crisis event or “was saved”)
2. Process (are being saved in the present tense)
3. Conclusion (will be saved finally)

Since the days of Billy Sunday when the concept of salvation and the language of “got saved” began being used — people now think of salvation as something that happened in the past. To most people, it is a completed action. The best way I could illustrate this is by Paul’s use of the running motif. 

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” (1 Corinthians 9:24 KJV)

“I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:26 KJV)

“Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Galatians 5:7 KJV)

“Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” (Philippians 2:16 KJV)

The writer to the Hebrews adds this admonition:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1 KJV)

Every race has a beginning, process, and conclusion. If we lose sight of this or if we misrepresent what it means to be converted and regenerated then we falsely represent the nature of the race. To say, “X number of people got saved” is to imply that the race is completed. It sounds like something has been attained. When in fact, there has only been a beginning. In many cases, it is not even a Biblical beginning because Paul told the Galatians (who did run well), “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3 NKJV) Paul’s idea of a beginning is beginning in the Spirit to be followed by a process of being made perfect by the Spirit (as opposed to what the false teachers at Galatia had introduced — a process of being perfected by the flesh).

In modern times races often begin when the official fires a real or electronic starter pistol. Imagine how insane it would be for someone heard the shot and was then told that they “got raced.” In a figure that is what has been happening for multitudes. It’s like they heard the sot and went over and sat down on the bench as if the race is over. But it has just begun! You didn’t “get saved” you merely “got started.” Again, “wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…” 

For the last one hundred years people have been being told they “got saved.” How much more right would it be to say that they “got started.” What if for the next hundred years ministers and evangelists reported “X number of people got started!” It would leave the convert with an impression that there is now a race to be completed. You’re not done! You just started. Therefore so run, not as uncertainly. So run, that ye may obtain.    

Run For Your Life!

Run For Your Life!
Robert Wurtz II

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. (Genesis 39:11, 12 NKJV)

There are some temptations, which the most effective means of avoidance is not a protracted argument, prayer, rebuking the devil, or anything else: it is to run for it! Joseph understood this. It’s as if the man was fleeing from a thousand pit vipers. Time was of the essence. He was mere seconds away from total destruction. Solomon tried desperately to instill in his sons the wisdom Joseph was moving in. He wrote, For by means of a harlot A man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life (Proverbs 6:26 NKJV). The KJV uses the phrase, “a whorish woman…will hunt for the precious life.” Hunters go to great lengths to conceal themselves in order to ambush their prey and take them unawares. Joseph understood that he too was being hunted; so his instinct was to run.

A Mighty Hunter of Souls

No matter what form it takes, fornication (sexual immorality) is a mighty hunter of souls. The time would fail to discuss how men like Sampson, David, or cities like Sodom and Ephesus had been reduced to a crust of bread by sexual immorality. Sampson carried off the gates of Gaza, but was effectively “slain” by a whorish woman. Sampson was not the type of guy to run from anybody; hence, his downfall. There are some situations where the only solution is to make a break for it; scram; beat it; get out of Dodge; head for the hills; clear out; bolt; or any other imperative verb phrase you can think of. The way you win the battle against fornication is to flee in fear for your life!

Flee Fornication

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18 NKJV).

Although the world makes light of sexual sins, the Bible places the strongest possible warnings against them. Sexual immorality is a sin against one’s own body that effects a person in a way different than any other sin. All of the terrors of Dante’s Inferno do not rival the warnings in the New Testament. Paul writes:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 NKJV)

This is not an isolated passage. In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul gives a similar list and then adds this statement, I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. The great Greek scholar of the late 19th century, A.T. Robertson, gives this comment, “Do not be led astray by plausible talk to cover up sin as mere animal behaviourism. Paul has two lists in 1 Cor. 6:9, 10, one with repetition of oute, neither (fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, or malakoi, abusers of themselves with men or arsenokoitai or sodomites as in 1 Tim. 1:10 a late word for this horrid vice, thieves, covetous), the other with ou not (drunkards, revilers, extortioners). All these will fall short of the kingdom of God. This was plain talk to a city like Corinth. It is needed today. It is a solemn roll call of the damned even if some of their names are on the church roll in Corinth whether officers or ordinary members.”

Making a Break For It

Except for people born with the gift of being eunuch, human beings have a preprogrammed, God-given, natural desire for procreation. It was given to Adam and passed to his progeny in order to replenish the earth. It is a good, natural desire. The problem is when that good natural desire is fed by impure thoughts and images until it becomes an unnatural lust. This is why we must abstain from the very appearance of evil. Lust is a desire that seeks to control you. The more it is fed, the more powerful it becomes. People do not just wake up one day and start breaking boundaries and doing unnatural things. It comes as a direct result of feeding a natural desire until it becomes a controlling lust. Solution? Run! Turn aside! Discipline your eyes and ears! Don’t allow your mind to be filled with impurity. 

The famous last words of a Christian are “I can handle this.” You and I are no match for fornication or anything that would lead to fornication. The only way to fight the battle is to flee! Avoid the source of temptation. If you can’t handle it, get rid of your TV, computer, cell phone, iPad or anything else that the devil is using to hunt your soul. Jesus said if your eye offends you, pluck it out! It sounds harsh, but once Sampson’s eyes were put-out by the Philistines, he could finally focus on God again. I’m not telling you to pluck out your eyes, but I am saying get rid of whatever would lead you into sexual impurity of mind, and or body. Amen. 

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