I heard someone use the phrase “when I got saved” the other day and it got me thinking about what a person means when he, or she, says that. I have heard it often and I am sure you have too; it usually shows up when someone is giving a testimony of faith in their life. Sometimes it is prefaced with a heart wrenching story of depravation lived by the person telling the story, or sins committed against him or her. You feel sorrow as you listen to their story, and then they say, “But when I got saved…”
Other times the story could be somewhat better. Sometimes testimonies come from people who have grown up in the church their whole life, but they inform you that it was fake for them because it was fake for their parents. They merely went with the flow, but never committed. Maybe they went to church every Sunday and thought they were saved, so they lived their life as though when sin increased so did grace. And you feel sorrow for them as well.
In the first story you feel sorrow because no one likes to hear the atrocities one commits, nor the horrible accounts of sins committed against them. In the second story, you feel sorrow because they seem to be part of the family of God, but they are rejecting the fruit of the Spirit, and thus reject Christ. The shallowness of life is unsettling. It is an odd thing, then, when someone says, “when I got saved.”
Previously I did not like this phrase. It simply sounded odd coming out of someone’s mouth, and I did not know how to process those words in my mind. Theologically they are ambiguous, and biblically they are unheard of. I began to ponder the significance of that all too common saying, and these are some of the thoughts I had.
When someone is saved, and they say it in this way, “when I got saved,” it may sound passive or active to you. That is, it may sound as though this person actively sought out salvation, found it, and took it. Thus, “I got saved,” much like you obtain anything else, a piece of fruit, a paycheck, etc.
Another way to take this phrase is in the passive sense. This way of thinking about it would mean that salvation was acted upon you by someone else. You are the recipient of the action. We could think about an emotional state, like anger. When I got angry. I got angry because of what you did, you made me angry. Thus, I got saved because of what you did, you saved me.
I prefer the passive nuance to the phrase for a few reasons. The state of “being saved” is a condition of your existence. It is not an object to be obtained actively by the sinner; it is a transference of reality from God, to you, through Christ, sustained by the Holy Spirit. God makes you saved. Therefore, when someone says, “I got saved,” they are most likely saying that they are a new creation, they put off the old self and put on the new.
“I got clean,” is something a rehabilitated alcoholic, or drug addict, would say. Prior to being “clean” they were dirty, or using and abusing. They were in a state of existence, in this case a sinful existence that led to self-destruction. However, when they get “clean” they are in a new mode of being, a clean mode, and a healthy mode, free from the bondage of addiction. It is a metaphor, I know, and metaphors break down, but it is a reflection of the salvific act.
Once, you were dirty, living in a sinful existence, your will (you may think it is free, but it is not) is bound and led by sinful desire. A will, subdued by a corrupt nature, is not a free will, but an enslaved will. Then you get saved. Once saved you live in a new existence, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Free from the chains of sinful desire and yoked by the Lordship of Christ.
I used to cringe when someone would say, “when I got saved,” but now I see the appropriateness of that awkward phrase. It is at one time a simple thing to say, and at another a rather profound statement of your existence. I once was separated from the family of God, and now, I am a child of God. Amazing.
If you would like to share your testimony, how “you got saved,” I would be more than willing to listen. I enjoy reading true stories concerning God’s actions toward His beloved creation. If you would like, you can email me your testimony at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can post it on the comments thread so others can share in your joy. I respect confidentiality, so any testimony sent to me privately will remain that way.