Who Is the Savior?

One of the most glorious truths we learn about God from the Old Testament is that he is the Savior. Not only is he the sovereign Creator (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:9-11) and righteous Judge of all the earth (Ps. 7:11; Ps. 50:6), but he is also the gracious Savior, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:-57; Ps. 68:20; 86:5-15). The Old Testament in its entirety is, in one sense, the history of God’s saving and redemptive acts.

In Isaiah, the Lord declares to his covenant people: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isa. 43:1-3). This truth is then restated and affirmed in the most exclusive of terms: “I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior” (43:11; see also Isa. 45:21; Hos. 13:4).

However, centuries later, we come upon a band of lowly shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night near Bethlehem, surrounded by the shining brilliance of the glory of the Lord, and hearing the angelic proclamation: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11; cf. 1:47). This child, born of the virgin Mary, was given the name Jesus, for he had come to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21-23). And this indeed is what he accomplished by his sinless life, his obedience unto death, his resurrection, and his ascension to the right hand of the Father. Jesus Christ is the “Savior of the world” (John 4:42; Acts 5:31; Phil. 3:20; 2 Tim. 1:10).

Are THere Two Saviors or One?

Is there a contradiction here? If there is no savior besides the Lord, and if salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8), can there be another savior? The only way our answer can be “yes” is if this other savior is actually not another but God himself. And this indeed is the clear-yet-mysterious answer revealed to us in Scripture. The good news of great joy proclaimed to the shepherds that night long ago was that the Lord their God, the Holy One of Israel, their Savior, had come to dwell among them in the person of Jesus: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Therefore, throughout the New Testament, it is not just God the Father but the Lord Jesus Christ—the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God— who is declared to be the Savior. And one of the clearest places we discover this doctrine is in Paul’s letter to Titus.

Our Great God and Savior

Compared to its length, the book of Titus refers to the truth of God as Savior more than any other book in the New Testament. Paul speaks of God the Father as being our Savior (Titus 1:3; 2:10; 3:4) as well as Jesus Christ, God the Son (Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6). These references to “our Savior” are found coupled together in each chapter, with God mentioned first each time and Jesus shortly after, and serve as a powerful testimony to the deity of Christ.[1]

But one verse in particular stands out above the rest. It is found in Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul declares that the one who has given himself for us to redeem us is none other than “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2:13). There are several features of this verse that are important to consider. First, grammatically, “Jesus Christ” is said to be in apposition to the preceding phrase. This means that it essentially serves as an alternate name for “our great God and Savior.”[2]
Second, the way this verse is laid out in the original language makes it clear that the terms “God and Savior” both refer to Jesus.[3] (A similar construction is found in 2 Peter 1:1: “…by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”)

Third, the adjective “great” is never used to describe God in the New Testament. God’s greatness was assumed, but to apply this term to Christ would be rather significant. Fourth, we know that Paul is clearly referring to Jesus by this phrase since it is the Son, not the Father, who will be revealed at the second coming (Matt. 16:27; 1 Tim. 6:14; 1 Thess. 4:15-16; 2 Thess. 2:8).

Finally, this future appearance of Jesus is described as “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior.” Jesus is the glory of God the Father (see also Luke 9:28-35; 2 Cor. 4:4, 6; Heb. 1:3)! But in this letter, Paul also refers to the first coming of Jesus—his past appearance—by saying that the grace of God has appeared (Titus 2:11), and that the goodness and loving kindness of God has appeared (3:4). In other words, Jesus is the grace of God made manifest. He is the goodness and loving kindness personified. He is the glory of God incarnate.

So, who is the Savior? Is God the Savior or is Jesus the Savior? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Our Triune God is the Savior. The message of both the Old and New Testaments is that salvation belongs to our God. It is purposed by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Spirit. As Fred Sanders writes, “Christian salvation comes from the Trinity, happens through the Trinity, and brings us home to the Trinity.”[4]

Why Does ANY OF This Matter?

This of eternal significance because, as Jesus himself taught, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). The Apostle John also makes this teaching abundantly clear in his epistles when he writes: “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; 2 John 9). To profess to worship the one true God, and yet deny the teaching of his only-begotten Son—as well as his apostles and prophets—that he indeed is God the Son, is to fail to worship God rightly.

If the Jesus you claim to believe in for salvation is not your “great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13), the eternal Word (John 1:1-3, 14, 18), “God over all, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5), and the one in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Col 1:19; 2:9), then you are believing in a false Christ and are still in your sins. If your confession is not, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28), you have not believed or obeyed the Son, and the wrath of God remains upon you (John 3:36). This is the truth that Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other religious groups need to hear.

But the good news of great joy remains that salvation belongs to our Triune God, and he is mighty to save (Zeph. 3:17).

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).

 


[1] M. J. Harris, “Salvation,” ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 763. See the discussion in Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2008) 173-185.

[2] Andreas J. Köstenberger, Benjamin L. Merkle, and Robert L. Plummer, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016), 103-04.

[3] The notes from the NET Bible provide a helpful explanation: “The construction in Greek is known as the Granville Sharp rule, named after the English philanthropist-linguist who first clearly articulated the rule in 1798. Sharp pointed out that in the construction article-noun-καί-noun (where καί [kai] = “and”), when two nouns are singular, personal, and common (i.e., not proper names), they always had the same referent” (https://net.bible.org/#!bible/Titus+2).

[4] Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 10.

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