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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; 50:6), but he is also a gracious savior, abounding in steadfast love (Ex. 34:5-7; 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…For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isa. 43:1-3). This doctrine is then restated and affirmed in the most exclusive of terms: “I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior” (Isa. 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; John 4:42). 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).

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. In fact, this is the clear-yet-mysterious answer revealed to us in Scripture. The “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10) 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 who is declared to be the Savior. He is “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” [1] And one of the clearest places we discover this doctrine is in Paul’s letter to Titus.

Salvation in Titus

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. They serve as a powerful testimony to the deity of Christ.[2] But one passage in particular stands out above the rest:

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 (Titus 2:11-14).

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” (Titus 2:13).

Jesus Christ: Our Great God and Savior

There are several features of this verse that are important to consider.

  1. 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”; both phrases refer to the same person, though they describe it in different ways.[3]
  2. 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).
  3. This verse describes Jesus’ appearing as “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior”. Jesus is the glory of God the Father (Luke 9:28-35; 2 Cor. 4:4, 6; Heb. 1:3), as well as the grace (Titus 2:11), goodness, and loving kindness of God (Titus 3:4).
  4. The adjective “great” is never used to describe God in the New Testament; God’s greatness was/is always assumed. Therefore, applying this term to Christ would have been rather significant.
  5. The way this verse is laid out in the original language makes it clear that the terms “God and Savior” both refer to Jesus (cf. 2 Pet. 1:1). [4]

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: 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.”[5]

Why Does 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). In other words, to profess to worship the one true God, 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 (cf. John 1:1-3, 14, 18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Col. 1:19; 2:9; Heb. 1:1-3)

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!” (Rev. 7:9-10)


[1] The Nicene Creed
[2] M. J. Harris, “Salvation,” ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 763.
[3] 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.
 [4] 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.
[5] Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 10.

Matt Bedzyk is the lead pastor at Elmira Christian Center. He received his Master of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matt and his wife Brianna have one daughter: Lorien Grace. In his spare time, you can find him reading, playing music, enjoying coffee, and supporting Manchester United. You can follow him on Twitter @mattbedzyk

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