Continued from Part 8
Paul’s Jesus: A savior but not God
The New Testament authors make a definite distinction between the one-and-only God and Jesus, never considering them one and the same. For instance, we find this distinction expressed in the statement: “Kindness and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2). This clarifies the meaning of the preceding verse, which reads, in part, “by the righteousness of our God and of [the] Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). The author of these two verses indicates that he considers God and Jesus to be two distinct beings.
On occasion, the New Testament authors alternate their use of the term “savior,” applying it to both God and Jesus. Thus, Paul, in Titus 1:3, calls God, “our Savior,” and then in verse 4, differentiates between “God [the] Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” This does not show that God and Jesus are of one essence, but illustrates the function, which the New Testament authors believe Jesus has in God’s relationship with humanity. This function can be seen from the following discussion of what some of the New Testament authors have to say about Jesus as savior.
Paul writes: “Awaiting the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13). He designates Jesus as “our Savior,” but not as God Himself. Yet, even Paul could not deny that ultimately God is the true savior (Isaiah 43:11, 45:21; Hosea 13:4), which leads him to argue that God works through Jesus, as He worked, in former times, through others who were raised up as saviors (Judges 2:16; 3:9, 15; Nehemiah 9:27). Thus, God is still considered the ultimate and only source of salvation. However, salvation is now executed through Jesus. Accordingly, in Paul’s letters we find the Father and the Son spoken of together in connection with salvation (1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Titus 1:3-4, 2:10-13, 3:4-6). The author of Acts attributes to Peter a statement which indicates Jesus’ position as a savior: “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a leader and a savior” (Acts 5:31). This is also expressed in the statement: “the Father has sent the Son to be savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). In point of fact, even though Jesus is described as man’s savior, God is described as Jesus’ savior. The author of Hebrews writes: “In the days of his flesh, he offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the one able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his piety” (Hebrews 5:7). While Jesus is, for Paul and the other New Testament authors, the sole agent through which God deals with mankind, that is, man’s Lord and Savior, he is not at all God.