Truth, Understanding, Insight

How Jesus Saves

1st October 2012, hej


1) Who is the Saviour?

There is so much focus from Christians on how the death of Jesus saves. But is the substance of what it often said borne out by the text? Is the focus on this one event, the death by crucifixion, missing some elements of the broader picture of salvation?

The Saviour

There are 37 references to Saviour in the KJV in both Old and New Testaments. There are a few more where the same Hebrew word is translated salvation. The first occurrence gives the most important meaning.

The God (Heb: Mighty Ones) of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou save me from violence. 2 Samuel 22:3

The next reference is to a human saviour.

And the LORD gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians: and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents, as beforetime. 2 Kings 13:5

The psalms are clear,

For thou art the God of my salvation; Psa 25:5
In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Psa 62:7
They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt; Psalm 106:21

Then Isaiah speaks of God sending a saviour. In this way God is a saviour.

And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. Isaiah19:20

When and how were people saved for 4000 years before Christ? In what way were people saved?

For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Isa_43:3
I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. Isa_43:11
Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. Isa_45:15
Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Isa_45:21
My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. Isa 51:5
Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me. Hos_13:4

Has anyone been saved yet if they are all awaiting the resurrection as Paul says in Hebrews 11? When shall the earth see the promised salvation, finally? When...

...all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob. Isaiah 49:26
Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, .. thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob. Isa iah 60:16
For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. Isaiah 63:8
O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night? Jeremiah 14:8
I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

Our Lord's mother quotes,

My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Luke 1:47

The one who is sent to be a saviour as it was written is Christ (from Greek) which is Messiah (from Hebrew) For more see Christ Messiah

Luk_2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Joh_4:42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Act_5:31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
Act_13:23 Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:
Eph_5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Php_3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from where also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Yet Paul says that God is our saviour,

1Ti_1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;
1Ti_2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
1Ti_4:10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

Paul explains the mechanism of salvation as Christ abolishing death

2Ti_1:10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

Tit_1:3 But has in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;
Tit_1:4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Tit_2:10 Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
Tit_2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Tit_3:4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
Tit_3:6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

Paul says that God is our saviour and he speaks the Gospel from God, and it is due to Jesus (Hebrew Y'shua) being sent by God that he appears as our saviour.

Simon Peter speaks of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ five times (2Pet 1:1, 1:11, 2:20,3:2,3:18 )

John is very specific,

And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

Jude also speaks of God our Saviour as One and 'only',1Jn_4:14

To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Jud_1:25

In this we have established that it is emphasised through all scripture, that God is the only saviour, and that he has sent saviours. The Father sent the son. We have established that one who is sent as a saviour by God whether it be temporal or eternal, is a saviour, but the power and glory rests with God. Our Lord witnesses twice (so it is established) where his power was from,

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. John 5:19
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. John 5:30
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:5

We see how we can achieve nothing unless we be 'in Christ,' and how Christ could do nothing unless he does the will of the Father who sent him.

2) For Righteousness Sake: The obedient Son

How many brush over this incident of Jesus's baptism?

Then come Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

But John forbad him, saying, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and come thou to me?”
And Jesus answering said unto him, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness.”
Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Mat 3:13-17)

Look at the deep importance to our salvation of these words! Because he did what the Father wanted, though he had no need of Baptism (rather John felt he, John, had need of baptism!), he is commended, not just as a son, but as a son that has pleased his Father.

Do we wish to please God? John was not baptised it seems, as it was not required of him by God. John was asked to baptise and prepare the way. It was required that our Lord be baptised. Why?

Jesus gives us the answer that he had to fulfil, or to do certain things, one of which was to be baptised.

Why was Jesus baptised? There is one key imperative, a command of our Lord, “follow me.”

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Mat_4:19
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Mat_16:24 Mar_8:34 Luk_9:23
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Mat_19:21 Mar_10:21 Luk_18:22

In parable he says “And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”: John 10:4,5,27

If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. John 12:26

These are among the last recorded words of our Lord himself.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16)

There are two components in following our Lord. Belief in the gospel and obedience of baptism.

What is the gospel?

What does the scripture say?

Firstly it is the Gospel of the kingdom,

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. Mat_9:35

When introducing the gospel our Lord quoted a slab from Isaiah,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)

The gospel is very specific things, all fitting under the description of 'the Year of the Lord'.

The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (Gal 3:8)

Paul connects the Gospel with the grace of God,

But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. (Act 20:24)

Paul defines the Gospel in length to the Corinthians,

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also you are saved,
..I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures (O.T); And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Notice how the emphasis is even, as he does not dwell on the death, rather he goes straight onto the ressurection. Then he goes onto the evidence for faith

And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. ..

The focus of Paul's preaching was, according to Paul, that Christ rose, not so much that he died,

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

Now we see Paul defining the crucial point,

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Therefore the most important fact of the gospel is that Christ rose! Paul goes on,

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. .. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

Then we see Paul shifts the emphasis to the end of this process, which is the kingdom,

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he has put all things under his feet. But when he says all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1Cor 15:1-28).

Thus the Gospel is fundamentally all about the end of a process which is God being all in all. We are dying unto death, ans so salvation is a process of being saved until salvation. For the majority of people who take on the hope of salvation will have first perished, before the resurrection. But having taken hold of that hope, even before they die they have the assruance of ressurection. The ressurection of Christ is the assurance of the avaliablity of ressurection to salvation.

Why then the focus on the death? We don't know. It's become iconic, perhaps. How do you put a picture for Christ risen? Let us have a look at the death.

3) For Righteousness sake: The second great act of Obedience

It was written in many places in the Old Testament, most notably in Isaiah 53, that there would be a suffering servant.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. (Isa 53:7-8)

Was not the desire to kill the son by the leaders also part of the transgression of the people of God? Who in the end stood with Jesus? Not one. It was Judas' own transgression to betray him. The truth is that it appeared that the powers, the religious leaders, of the people of God were against Jesus. The leaders had made their feelings plain, so that none dared oppose them. The Lord said,

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. (Mat 11:12)

And he later said,

When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness. (Luke 22:53)

This is why as Jesus was dying there was darkness placed over the land from the 3rd to the 9th hour, so all could see that that was how God thought of the transgression of the people.

But there is another side, the scriptures make it clear that Jesus had a choice as to whether he would submit to let that power given to darkness do it's will. We see here God standing back and letting his human opposition, the leadership of Judea, the earthly leaders of the people of God, to do what they wished. It was not even all the leaders, as there were at least two exceptions, but it was clearly the most powerful of the leaders. The record we have has a witness that there was a struggle for obedience. Our Lord knew he could opt out. He says so directly to Peter,

Think thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? (Matthew 26:53-54)

The record has the struggle so great that even before he faces his blood being poured out, he poured it out in the struggle to overcome.

And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:40-44)

Luke says he was strengthened. Matthew says there were three prayers,

Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and finds them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that does betray me. (Matthew 26:38-46)

Matthew implies that having overcome and submitted to God's will, he went out to meet his betrayer. Mark puts it this way,

And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mark 14:34-36).

It is a fact therefore that there was another possible outcome. But it is absolutely without point to speculate what would have happened. In this instance Jesus submitted to the will of his Father. There are three records, three witnesses that labour this point. We are given the answer as to why,

But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? (Matthew 26:53-54)

Why had the Scriptures (by which he meant the Old Testament) required that it must be this way? Because it was God's will. From the beginning after the first sin he required that the class of men called the 'seed of the serpent' be allowed to bruise the heel of the 'seed of the woman', or Eve's son. Yet the 'seed of the woman' would bruise the head of the seed of the Serpent. This was God's promise to the world. If one wishes to go further, we are given an answer,

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been his counsellor? (Romans 11:33-34).

We see therefore from the records of the events that our salvation was dependent on Christ's obedience to his Father, and that in that obedience what was written was fulfilled. Not only was Christ strengthened, but in addition his death was short. Jesus was dead after a mere six hours, the two with him were still alive at the evening, and would have been alive much longer except for the Sabbath. We see a compassionate Father allows for the witness, but shortening the time of suffering for a son who had pleased him.

Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:29-32)

Paul puts it like this,

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (Php 2:8-9)
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

Because of this obedience, others sins are covered, if they submit also in obedience in baptism, then they are associated with the death, and so also the resurrection

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (Romans 6:4-5)

The gospel is about the resurrection and beyond that. It is a resurrection to finally achive salvation in eternal life in the kingdom, where the end is that God is all in all, as one in unity.

A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. (Psalm 133:1-3)

The good that God does as saviour, comes down like dew upon the mountains of Zion, and is here described as the blessing of people in unity alive for evermore.

And where in all this is the 'icon' of the death? Wasn't the death of Jesus a six hour wonder? Is not the importance of the gospel based on the resurrection? Is not our Lord alive forevermore? Is not the fact of our salvation that we trust and have faith in in the resurrection and in what is to happen next? We might believe the witnessess to the ressurection, and know it is a histrical event, but there is much more faith required in believing and trusting what has been written about the Kingdom.

I will declare the decree: the LORD has said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen (nations) for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Psalm 2:7-12).

This is also the gospel. This article does not deal much with the Apostle Paul's comments on the events. To conclude, the Apostle Peter makes a interesting comment on salvation and also warns us to be wary of those who wrest Paul's words.

Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him has written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:14-16)

In other words beware of thinking too hard on Paul's words without knowing all the scriptures: beware of taking them out of context. Peter took from Paul's writings was that longsuffering was a key. Longsuffering, for us, goes with a life of obedience. And in this life of longsuffering and learning obedience, to the aim of being blameless, there is our salvation. Jesus by his own obedience made a way, a path, to the destination which is salvation. We have to follow him. Each of us has also to follow and prepare the way of Yahweh. John was 'the voice of one crying in the wilderness, but his words were an instruction to that generation and to us,

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (Mark 1:3)

The Apostle John witnessed, “He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness,

'Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.'” (John 1:23)

For more on the process of salvation The End of Faith