I haven’t visited “the jargon of the redeemed” topic in quite a while, so let’s take another reflective (and critical) examination of an expression church people are prone to toss casually about in their church-talk, but an expression which non-church people probably find peculiar. Today’s critical examination of ecclesiastical jargon will analyze the term “get saved” (or got saved in the past tense).

Is the expression found in the bible, like so?

And the jailer asked, “Sirs, what must I do to get saved?”

And they replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt get saved.”

Hmmmmmm . . . I don’t think so. Anyone familiar with that narrative in Acts recalls that jailer asked “What must I do to be saved,” to which Peter replied, “Believe, . . . and thou shalt be saved.”

So where does “get” saved come from?

I don’t know!

I checked a fairly extensive concordance (the NRSV version) and found no instance of “get” combined with saved occurring anywhere in the bible . . . Not even “get” having the noun salvation as a direct object. “Get saved” is beginning to look like bad grammar, or at least bad linguistics, which perhaps suggests the term was coined generations ago in backwoods pulpits by unsophisticated pulpiteers, for whom the expression had the right “ring” to resonate in the hearts and minds of their equally unsophisticated audiences.

I’m no soteriologist (fancy seminary word for one schooled in the study of the doctrine of salvation), but I’m inclined to suspect that there actually is a theological objection to making the verbal saved into the object of the transitive verb get (or got), considering that salvation in the Christian sense is the free gift of divine grace, whereby man can do nothing on his own to “get” it. As a free gift, then, getting saved just doesn’t make any sense because the expression in that context implies man does something in his power to obtain something he is powerless to get. As a result, the New Testament’s consistent combination of forms of “be” with saved are not only syntactially and linguistically preferable, but also more accurate in identifying being saved as a state of being rather than as something you get, the same way you might get a bag of sugar at the grocery store.

So what’s the conclusion of it all? For me, as a believer and a linguist, I’ll just eradicate the expression from my personal vocabulary. While I hardly condemn anyone who continues to use the expression, I simply respond to my own perceived calling (as linguist, poet, and rhetorician) to find fresh and accurate expressions for the stale terminology of religious tradition and dogma.

Photo credit: The cariciature of the famous preacher C. H. Spurgeon is from the Wikipedia article on “Preachers.”