Friday, December 19, 2014

Reflections on the Greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ by Hugo Bouter (Part 5)

The Great Saviour
Titus 2:13

The Saviour of Israel and of the world
It is a well-known truth that God is the Saviour of His people. He was the Source of salvation for Israel of old, and they had to put all their trust in His divine deliverance. Already in the exodus from Egypt we see how God brought about His help, “the salvation of the LORD” (Ex. 14:13). And this caring and saving love of God, who time and again delivered Israel from the hands of their enemies, can be traced throughout the history of God’s chosen people. It is particularly in the book of Isaiah that God is called the Saviour of His people (Isa. 43:3,11; 45:15,21; 49:26; 60:16; 63:8).

But this “salvation of the LORD” should not only be understood in military terms, as a complete deliverance from hostile oppressors. God is also the Saviour who delivers from far greater hostile powers that are threatening man, namely Satan, sin, and death. He saves His people from all their uncleannesses (Ezek. 36:29). He opens the wells of salvation for them, and clothes them with the garments of salvation (Isa. 12:3; 61:10). It is obvious that in these Scriptures the word salvationhas a deep spiritual meaning, and implies much more than a temporary deliverance.

The New Testament fits in with this, as is obvious from Matthew’s explanation of the meaning of the name Jesus: “And you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The name Jesus means “the LORD is salvation”. Here the evangelist clearly links the meaning of this name with the salvation of God’s people from their sins. Christ was the promised Saviour, who was born in the city of David (Luke 2:11). And Zechariah prophesied about His entry into the city: “Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation” (Zech. 9:9).

But He is more than that. For He is also the Saviour of the world — as the Samaritans rightly acknowledged (John 4:42). Although salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22), it is not limited to the Jews. Since the Messiah has been rejected by His own people, God’s salvation has been offered to both Jews and Gentiles.

There is no longer any difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But there is also free grace for all through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood. He is the true “mercy seat”, or “throne of grace” where sinners can find a refuge (Rom. 3:23-25). Salvation is to be found in Him alone: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12; cf. 5:31 and 13:23).

As Christians we are looking forward to Christ’s Second Coming as our Saviour, while at the same time we look back upon His first coming in humiliation. The apostle Paul makes this clear in his letter to Titus. We are “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13,14).

Christ will return. But what is He to us? He is our Saviour, who gave Himself for us — and the cross clearly showed how far He went in this respect — to redeem us from our sins. In Him we have found full salvation, purification of our sins and deliverance from the power of sin. In Him the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men (Tit. 2:11). We can rightly say that He is our Saviour, our Redeemer, if we confess our sins and believe in Him.

The Saviour of ‘the body’
But Christ is also at this present time the Saviour of His own, for we are kept by Him on our way to heaven. Of course, His work of redemption is finished. His sacrifice is perfectly sufficient and needs no repetition. When He died for us once for all, He obtained eternal redemption for His own (Heb. 9:12; 10:10-18). What I want to say is that we have a mighty Helper in heaven who never forgets His own, who intercedes night and day for us to see us through until the end.

Therefore Christ is also called “the Saviour of the body”, that is, the Church (Eph. 5:23). He takes care of all those who are His own, and have been made members of His body. The Church is the special object of His love, and He provides us with everything we need. In a more general sense this divine care is also exercised towards all men, for “God is the Saviour of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10).

However, Christ is also our Saviour with regard to the future. We are kept through faith for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:5). Christ will appear as “the Saviour of the body”, also in the literal sense of the word. Although we belong to a new creation, we are still living in the old creation that was subjected to futility as a result of Adam’s fall. The whole creation groans and labours under the curse of corruption, and God’s children, too, groan within themselves. We are eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23).

For that purpose Christ will appear as the Saviour, the Redeemer: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20,21). So at the Lord’s coming we shall experience the power of His resurrection physically as well (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51,55; 1 Thes. 4:15-18). We owe the salvation of our whole spirit, soul, and body to Him. How great He is as our Saviour!

Our God and Saviour
We should also note the fact that He is called our God and Saviour in Titus 2:13. Without any doubt, it is very important for us to know the Lord as our personal Saviour and Redeemer. Yet this is found but once in the New Testament, in the magnificat: “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:47). It is much more common to describe God or Christ as our Saviour, which indicates that as redeemed persons, we are not alone but linked with all those who will inherit salvation.

Moreover, Christ is called our great God and Saviour here. We have already seen a few aspects of His greatness as the Saviour, but in this verse we are told explicitly that He is great. This is confirmed by the subsequent words “God and Saviour”. This verse is one of the many proofs of Scripture that Christ is truly God. There is no need to doubt His greatness, for He is the eternally blessed God Himself (Rom. 9:5).

In Second Peter 1:1 we find an almost identical expression: “Our God and Saviour Jesus Christ”. In this letter He is twice called the “Lord and Saviour” (3:2,18). Christ is Lord, and He is God: God the Son, the Creator, the eternal Word, which was in the beginning with God, and through whom all things were made (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:1,2).

But He is the Son of God incarnate. The Word became flesh; He was manifested in the flesh; in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (John 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16; Col. 1:19; 2:9). He is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20). He is God and Man in one Person. Although He was in the form of God and did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, He took the form of a servant and came in the likeness of men — yet without sin. He took part in blood and flesh (Phil. 2:6,7; Heb. 2:14; 4:15). How great is our Lord, who is called our God and Saviour here. He is the true God, and He became Man in order to be our Saviour!

The divinity of Christ is not only asserted in the New Testament; it is also found in the Old Testament (cf. Isa. 9:6 and Mic. 5:2). The Messiah is no less than the LORD Himself. The words “God and Saviour” go together, and it is a striking combination that occurs also in the Old Testament (Ps. 106:21; Isa. 43:3; 45:15,21; Hos. 13:4). The LORD is a great God, and there is no Saviour besides Him.

In the New Testament we meet this Saviour God in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is called by the same names: He is “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). He is the humble Man Jesus, who is at the same time the Christ, the Anointed of God. God has made Him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). He is the One through whom God carries out His plans, God’s Anointed who accomplishes His counsels.

In this respect it is noteworthy that the expression “God our Saviour” (or, “our Saviour God”) is very characteristic of the letter to Titus and the first letter to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; Tit. 1:3; 2:10; 3:4). This significant title shows us God’s special relationship with man in the present time. In the Old Testament He had already revealed Himself as the Creator and Judge, and also as the Lawgiver of Israel. But the present dispensation has a different character. We are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). In Christ God has revealed Himself as our Saviour, and He has stretched out His hands not only to Israel but also to the Gentiles.

God our Saviour desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world (1 John 4:14). Man has proved himself to be an inveterate sinner (both without Law and under Law). In this respect there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles. Yet, God has revealed Himself now as our Saviour on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. He has brought to light His salvation, and He offers this great salvation to all as long as the day of grace lasts.

It is not only forgiveness of sins that is offered freely, but also a complete inner renewal, a new birth for people with an evil nature, a quickening of dead sinners, full deliverance from the power of sin and death, a wholly new relationship with God. Who would neglect so great a salvation (Heb. 2:3)?

Another remarkable thing in the letter to Titus is that both God and Christ are alternately called our Saviour. This occurs in every chapter: “God our Saviour”, “Jesus Christ our Saviour” (1:3,4); “God our Saviour”, “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2:10,13); “God our Saviour”, “Jesus Christ our Saviour” (3:4,6). This proves again that Christ is one with the Father. In Him, God has revealed Himself as our Saviour, and has come down to man. God stooped low in order to redeem us.

Our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people. When He appears He will give us the full enjoyment of His great salvation according to spirit, soul and body. That is why we look forward to His coming (Tit. 2:13,14).

No comments:

Post a Comment