Herbert E. Douglass, Th.D.

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Spectrum June 25-July 1, 2005: Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Words fail us all when we try to embrace the mystery—the depth and height wrapped up in our week’s theme.

“Lord” and “Savior” are not new Christian words. For many hundreds of years the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans had their religious “lords” and “saviors.” Bowing to one’s lord or savior was not optional; it dictated much of their lives, even to demanding sacrifice of time, assets, and even life itself. When New Testament writers employed these time-honored words in describing the young Christian’s loyalty to Jesus Christ, no wonder Roman authorities were curious and then challenged.

How did it all happen? No famous bloodline, no highly placed family, no academic credentials!  Just a baby boy born in an obscure Galilean village called Nazareth!  Not even born into a respectable village family!

Bored shepherds heard it first: A baby born “this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). But the shepherds made the connection—our Lord and Savior, remembering mysterious predictions in the Law, Prophets and Writings. They hastened to find “the Babe lying in a manger” (2:16).  And Mary “pondered” these unspeakable events “in her heart” (2:19).

The boy grew “strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him (2:40).  He grew as all boys and girls should grow, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, learning as all children must learn, no advantages (except that He chose His mother).

Years later He was the traveling Teacher, not unlike other attractive and engaging educators.  And they rejoiced with His insightful talks and His remarkable skill in healing the sick.  But not yet their Savior!

Until that hot summer day in Sychar, a city of Samaria. This time not bored shepherds but a village hussy living on the edge of society.  Of all things, she made the connection and her discovery shared with her neighbors led “many” to “believe” [have faith] in this traveling Jewish teacher.  But when they spent some time with Jesus, they believed [had faith] “because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:39-42).

Hard to believe, I know, a beaten woman on the other side of the tracks could grasp the mysterious theme in her Scriptures (Pentateuch) but the straight-arrow Jews could not make the connection because of the preconceptions that veiled their minds.  Not until after the Cross, it appears, did any of the disciples call Him “Savior.” “Messiah,” yes, (Matthew 16:16) but not yet “Savior,” especially “Savior of the world!”

Even after the Cross it took time for the disciples to call Jesus “Savior of the world” as well as “Lord.”  In replying to the high priest and his henchmen, Peter upheld Jesus whom “God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel” (Acts 5:31).  Not yet the “Savior of the world!”

Paul, it seems, was the first to get the larger picture.  Seeing Jesus as the “Savior of the world” opened the gospel to lands beyond Israel! In his pastoral letters Paul emphasized this world-embracing good news: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4). This insight became the steel in Paul’s backbone: “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe [have faith]” (4:10; 2 Timothy 1:14; Titus 1:3).

What does all this mean?  Men and women sail in uncharted waters without a reliable compass; unseen winds blow and the hoped-for port eludes.  We need a Savior at the helm of life.  Men and women battle with passions gone bad; bad choices make it worse.  We need a Savior to help us pull life together and make sense out of the future.

But how does all this work? Peter eventually got it together: Jesus is not really our personal Savior unless we make Him our personal Lord: “An entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11; see also 2:20; 3:2, 18). Paul was equally clear (1 Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:4).

All Christians are adrift who worship Jesus as Savior without making Him Lord. All this plays out when we hear the mantra: “I accept Jesus as my Savior.  He paid the price for my sins on the Cross. He paid it all and there is nothing that I can do other than to accept what He has already done.”

No Lordship in that misplaced worship!  No understanding of the ellipse of salvation. Just as we cannot have water unless we join hydrogen and oxygen, so we do not have salvation without joining Christ as our Savior with Christ as our Lord. 

We do not understand Grace without the experience of Faith.  Grace is the Savior of the world’s gift to “all men”; faith is man’s response to God’s grace.  Grace comes with God’s two hands—pardon and power.  Faith accepts these gifts with a hearty Yes to whatever God wills for men and women of faith to do.

We can say it differently: Jesus is our Redeemer and our Ruler. Assurance of salvation, perfect trust in Christ as Savior, happens when we openly acknowledge Jesus as our Ruler, our King, and our Lord—and are joyfully compliant with His wishes. Ah, the genuine ring we call “faith.”  What a way to begin three month’s of Sabbath lessons and discussion.  No teacher should ever run out of material!


  1. When we introduce God to nonChristians, whether in Mongolia or in Maine, are we making it clear that Jesus is the “Savior of all men?” In other words, He is not the Christian’s Savior but the God who is searching for all His children everywhere.  Will this make a difference in our evangelistic sermons and in our neighborhood introductions to Jesus?


  1. If God is what Paul and Peter said He is, what is the Christian’s appeal to men and women everywhere?  Do we say that Jesus is merely offering salvation, take it or leave it?  Or do we make clear that salvation is God’s gift to “all men” (John 3:16) and He wants all men and women to realize it is already given—and for them to take it as their personal gift from their Heavenly Father? And all He wants in return is our trust and willingness to follow Him wherever He leads.


  1. How can we best clarify in today’s spiritual fog that faith in Jesus is one side of the coin; on the other, is His commandments that will identify His people?


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