Are We Saved by Health?
Some people seem to think so.
I have heard that the Bible uses the same word for both “health” and “salvation.” Does that mean that we have to follow health laws in order to be saved?
First, it must be made clear that no one is saved by simply (or painstakingly) following any law; we are saved by grace made available through faith—period. There is no salvation by works of any kind: no salvation by Sabbath; by diet; by exercise; or even by CELEBRATIONS, CREATION, NEWSTART, or whatever acronym used to describe health principles.
It is vitally important to understand this, since salvation is arguably the overarching theme of the entire Bible. We must get that right. Salvation and health are expressions of God’s love for us; their requirements are born of grace and bathed in the hope that one day we may be as God originally intended. Once that is clear, we have a context for discussing the issues of health, healing, and wholeness.
The Bible uses several words that are translated as “health”; so while it is true that the Greek word for salvation, sozo, as you said, is translated as “health,” not every word that is translated “health” is also translated “salvation.”
Health has multiple dimensions: physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and mental (thinking/reasoning/knowing). From the viewpoint of the Old Testament, the Hebrew concept of shalom best describes the complete well-being that Adam and Eve enjoyed in Eden. As soon as humankind strayed from the God-ordained path, we lost this and needed a process to restore us to being whole again.
God provided a Savior, and all that we need, to accomplish His saving of us: rescue, restoration, and renewal. The process of salvation is a healing process, so salvation and complete health go hand in hand. Physical healing can be thought of as a tangible and visible representation of the intangible and often invisible spiritual healing that is taking place.
Health, or “wholeness,” is the state of being perfectly and completely well in body, mind, emotions, relations, and spirit. It is a gracious gift of our Creator, who desires our total well-being. It is the end point of the process of salvation: complete sanctification and restoration. Just as the process of salvation requires our cooperation with our Savior, so does our physical healing. We respond to His call to live a better, more abundant life in Him and in cooperation with the laws of health.
We are healthier when we responsively link with the Source of meaning, live in a community of mutually sustaining and nurturing relationships, and lean into a future of hope and assurance. God’s message of health and wholeness is a message of love, and we have the privilege of responding to that reality and assurance of His grace.
Our prayer for you is that “God himself, the God of peace, [will] sanctify you through and through” in “your whole spirit, soul and body” (1 Thess. 5:23). Shalom!
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.