The knowledge of salvation in forgiveness

When we recognize we are in a forgiven state, we can then operate within that condition in a manner that honors the Creator of the universe.

When we recognize we are in a forgiven state, we can then operate within that condition in a manner that honors the Creator of the universe.

When John the baptizer was born six months ahead of Yeshua, his father, Zechariah, was provided a prophetic utterance by the holy Spirit regarding the work of his newborn son.

Luke 1:76-77 – “And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”

Zechariah prophesied that his son John would give God’s people “knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.” What does this mean?

Well, if we look a little more closely at the underlying terms in the Greek text, we can see that a more literal rendering might be something like, “to give salvation knowledge to [the] people of him, in forgiveness of [the] sins of them.” To me, one of the most striking differences is the substitution of the preposition “in” for “through.” God’s people would have “salvation knowledge” in forgiveness of their sins, not through forgiveness of their sins.

This subtle difference is captured in the literal English versions such as the Young’s Literal Translation, Weymouth, Literal Standard Version, Aramaic Bible, American Standard Version, Berean Literal, and the English Standard Version. Almost all other English translations will use the word “through” or “by.”

So what’s the big deal? Why is this significant?

The HELPS Word Studies concordance elaborates:

“en (a preposition) – properly, in (inside, within); (figuratively) “in the realm (sphere) of,” as in the condition (state) in which something operates from the inside (within).”

To be forgiven is to be in the condition or state of forgiveness. The prophecy states that it is in this condition that one has a recognition, a knowledge and understanding of one’s “saved” state. By contrast, if the knowledge and understanding of salvation must be present first which then provides the vehicle through which forgiveness is provided to the individual, then we are by default limiting forgiveness to those who are exposed to and understand this knowledge. This in essence restricts God’s ability to forgive anyone unless they have the proper and right knowledge.

On a casual reading of this passage, this may not seem like it has any bearing on anything. But let’s run this logic out a little to see where it leads.

What about those who may not have the ability to grasp the gospel message, such as those who are mentally challenged? Does this mean that they can’t be forgiven because they can’t understand the knowledge of salvation? What about infants and small children who have not gained the ability to reason about life and eternity, can they not receive forgiveness?

Interestingly, Yeshua states that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are innocent as children.

Matthew 18:1-5 – At that time the disciples came to Yeshua and asked, “So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? ” He called a child and had him stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child ​– ​this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me.

Can a child understand all of the complexities that surround the concepts of salvation and forgiveness? Yet, Yeshua says it is this innocence and humility which is the basis of those populating the kingdom.

The crux of the issue determines in a large way how we approach the whole concept of evangelism and outreach. Modern models of evangelism focus so intently on providing information about salvation, trying to convince people of the reasonableness of the gospel message, that we lose sight of Who is it is Who is really responsible for the forgiveness of an individual. Yes, we have to provide non-believers a general understanding of the biblical worldview, but it is not that knowledge specifically that provides forgiveness. It is God, and God alone, who draws people to himself and forgives them.

Yeshua taught that those whom God would call would listen to him.

John 6:44-45 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to me ​– ​”

This misapplication of this “knowledge principle” is one of the main reasons why churches and individuals head down a road of compromise with the world. They start to operate on the principle that if the information is just packaged correctly, more people will get saved. This, in turn, leads to “seeker sensitive” churches and materials in an attempt to reach the widest possible audiences.

It sounds logical and good on the surface, but what it ends up doing is watering down the kingdom message of the gospel to make it more palatable to more people. In so doing, it is robbed of its power by the nature of what it is: a message that is designed by God to set people apart and call them to be holy, not to compromise with the standards and sensibilities of the world.

Paul writes about it this way:

1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-24 – For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved. … For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Messiah crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Messiah is the power of God and the wisdom of God…

See, it is not some knowledge of salvation that we need to convince non-believers of; it is foolishness to them. But the message of the Messiah bringing the kingdom of God through the cross, a message of self-sacrifice and renunciation of worldly values, this is the light that shines in the darkness, and whoever will may come.

No, Zechariah’s prophecy, which literally says “you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation in the forgiveness of their sins,” has a much simpler meaning and message. It is that those who have already been forgiven (God’s people) will have a recognition, a knowledge and understanding, of their salvation from everything and all that is opposed to the perfect will of God. That is its simple and beautiful message to those who are forgiven. They will be able to rejoice within the influence of the forgiveness they have already received, having a full understanding and appreciation of all from which they have been forgiven.

When we recognize we are in a forgiven state, we can then operate within that condition in a manner that honors the Creator of the universe; we can be truly holy for the rest of our days.

Luke 1:73-75 – He has given us the privilege, since we have been rescued from the hand of our enemies, to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness in his presence all our days.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Believers are not just the light of the city on a hill, but also the salt of the earth

Right doctrine should result in compassionate actions.

Matthew 5:13-14 – “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Because these two metaphors of Yeshua appear back to back in this passage in Matthew, most traditional commentators will apply a similar, combined meaning to both. An excerpt from Matthew Henry below will illustrate this point:

“Mankind, lying in ignorance and wickedness, were as a vast heap, ready to putrify; but Christ sent forth his disciples, by their lives and doctrines to season it with knowledge and grace. If they are not such as they should be, they are as salt that has lost its savour. If a man can take up the profession of Christ, and yet remain graceless, no other doctrine, no other means, can make him profitable. Our light must shine, by doing such good works as men may see. What is between God and our souls, must be kept to ourselves; but that which is of itself open to the sight of men, we must study to make suitable to our profession, and praiseworthy. We must aim at the glory of God.”

What I like about this quote is how Matthew Henry captures the idea that salt and light have to do with both the believers’ “lives and doctrines.” What is believed as doctrine should naturally pave the way for actions in life that support those beliefs.

The way I view this passage is in a similar way, with light standing for doctrine and salt standing for the physical things we do in interacting with the world around us. To me, this distinction is provided by the metaphors themselves.

For example, the light of the city on a hill simply radiates into the darkness, and can be seen even from a distance with no direct interaction with anyone; it just shines. To my way of thinking, this stands for believers being examples of righteousness based on the truth of what they believe. When doctrine is rightly aligned, the individual’s personal actions and habits are also aligned with the truth, and these can become a shining example to all those who see it.

By contrast, salt can only affect its purpose when it comes in physical contact with that which it is designed to preserve or cleanse as an antiseptic. In this sense, I view the “saltiness” of believers as those physical acts of compassion that are conducted in the process of reaching out to, as Matthew Henry puts it, the putrefaction of “ignorance and wickedness” among men. Believers must have a right doctrine, yes, but also right actions of compassion among non-believers. Otherwise, anytime someone believed in Messiah, they would simply be instantly transported into God’s presence. No, the reason we remain on this earth after the new spiritual birth is to be the light to the rest of the world with right doctrine, and to be the salt of purification to the world that is in many ways is considered rotting in its own ignorance and wickedness.

This purification involves believers being compassionately involved in providing real, tangible help to those who need it. If we are correct in our doctrine but it doesn’t spur us on to purifying actions in the world around us, then what good is that doctrine? Yeshua puts it this way:

Matthew 5:13 – “But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

If we are not exhibiting the salt of compassionate actions towards those around us, then our light becomes nothing more than an unattainable beacon of hypocrisy to a world that can only be preserved with our participation in helping to meet their physical needs. Instead, as our compassionate interaction with the world around us is recognized for its genuine intent, then the light of the true doctrine of the kingdom that we hold becomes brighter and more visible, allowing more individuals to be drawn to the truth of that light.

Don’t just be the light, remember to actively be the salt, too.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.