ST ANDREW’S OCCASIONAL PAPERS
JESUS THE SAVIOUR
- What is a Saviour?
The Old Testament book of Judges covers the period between the death of Joshua (Moses assistant and successor, who had overseen the partial conquest of Canaan by the Israelites) and the rise of Samuel (the prophet who was guided to anoint the first kings of Israel, Saul and David). Yet this was a time of anarchy with no clearly defined leader, as the last verse of the book states, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25).
However the book of Judges focuses on eleven men and one woman whom God raised up to temporarily lead His people. Some of these are described in detail (e.g. Deborah (chapters 4 &5); Gideon (chapters 6-8) and Samson (chapters 13-16)), others get only a mention (e.g. Shamgar (3:31)). However there is a basic pattern to the accounts of the twelve: the people turn away from God; God punishes them, often at the hands of one of the surrounding nations; the people repent and ask God for help; then God sends a “judge” who saves the people – for a time at any rate – then the cycle repeats.
So the “judge” was really one who saved his people and so the title “Saviour” could well be used instead. Thus a saviour is one who saves those who are in trouble and cannot help themselves.
- Why do we need a Saviour?
You may well say, “That’s all very well but what has it got to do with me? All those things happened over three thousand years ago and, anyway, we live in a free country – we aren’t being punished by another nation.
Yes, that is all very true, but it misses the essential point. These things happened to the Israelites because they turned away from God and no one can deny that both as a nation and individually we have also turned away from God.
But, again, you may say, “I have never done anything very wrong, I’ve never been arrested or convicted of any crime. I try to help anyone in need, I’ll do my bit…”
This, too, misses the main point. Good as we may try to be, we just do not me et God’s standard because He asks for, nay demands, perfection, and by that criterion we all miss the mark. St. Paul put it like this, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
So each one of us needs to be saved from the consequences of our failure, in other words each of us needs a Saviour.
- What sort of a Saviour do we need? [a] An all-knowing One
If God’s standard is one of perfection, and it is because Jesus told us that it is, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), then our Saviour must be able to take everything about us into account. Every little failing on our part must be known – in fact a Saviour will need to know us better than we know ourselves! This is because we rarely face up to how much we miss the mark of God’s standard. We pat ourselves on the head, as it were, and say, “Well done, a good try, a pretty acceptable attempt” – when in reality, we have missed the mark. A miss by 1% is just as much a miss as one by 10% or 99%.
- What sort of a Saviour do we need? [b] A sinless One
If you had wandered into a marsh and found yourself up to your waist in mud, it would be no use for a would-be rescuer/saviour to come wading out to you for he or she would find him or herself equally stuck!
In just the same way we need a Saviour who is not tainted like we are. If He was, then He would be barred from God’s presence and could not plead on our behalf. So the only hope is to find someone who has never, ever given in to temptation and sinned.
- What sort of a Saviour do we need [c] A powerful One
A saviour has got to save or he or she will not be a saviour! A saviour does not stand on the sidelines and shout out encouragement to others performing a rescue. Instead, he or she will get stuck in, leading from the front. Now such an action requires strength: Samson, the last of the Israelite judges, was renowned for his strength which was in some way connected with his long hair. Once his hair had been cut he lost his strength and was captured by his Philistine enemies (Judges 16:19-21). While they maltreated Sam son they foolishly failed to notice that his hair was growing again and with it his strength was returning. So Samson was able to wreak a terrible revenge on the Philistines (Judges 16:22-30) and so save his people.
In a similar way we need a powerful Saviour, One able to defeat all the wiles of the devil (1 John 3:8).
- Where will we find a Saviour like that?
If you read the book of Judges to find out all about the folk whom God used to save His people, you will find that while they were able to do the task to which they were called, they were far from perfect people. The Bible is realistic – it describes them “warts and all.” So we cannot look to the world to produce the Saviour we need, One that matches the criteria we have discussed. No human being is all-knowing, certainly not one is sinless and although some are very powerful, there is always a limit to their power. So, if we cannot look to the world we must look to God. And there we find our Saviour in Jesus Himself. If we apply our three tests we find: [a] Knowledge “[Jesus] did not need man’s testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man” (John 2:25); “Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him” (John 6:64); [b] Sinlessness “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46); “But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5); [c] Powerful “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power” (John 13:3); “Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven, and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him (1 Peter 3:21,22).
So the Bible is quite clear that Jesus is fully “qualified” to be our Saviour.
- How does Jesus save us?
In section 2 we reached the conclusion that we all need to be saved from the consequences of our failures, of our sins. Now St. Paul tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), Not the dramatic deaths of Ananias and Sapphira who sinned by lying to the Apostles (Acts 5:1-11), but being cut off from God in the life to come. What Jesus did was to take the consequences, the punishment, the death due to our sins on to His own shoulders (Isaiah 53:6). He died on the cross, His death replacing ours. Then His resurrection became our resurrection and we are restored to fellowship with God.
But all this came at tremendous cost willingly born by our Saviour, Jesus. Not only was He nailed to a cross in one of the most barbarous modes of execution known to man, He also knew for the only time in His whole existence, separation from His Father, separation that would have been ours if He had not saved us. The separation He endured brought forth that terrible cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). At that point, more than any other, Jesus knew the cost of becoming “the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:14).
- What do we have to do?
The early church grew through the witness of the apostles because people were challenged and convicted by the new teaching. The cry was heard, in the words of a jailer, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30,31).
So that is all that is demanded of us. In order for Jesus to become our Saviour, we must believe and trust in Him. But when we have believed He calls us to reach out to others, “And this is His [God’s] command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another…”(1 John 3:23). Very simple, but comprehensive and life changing. But remember, it is the only way, there is no other, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” said Jesus. (John 14:6).
You might like to reflect on this quotation from D.A.Carson in his “A Call to Spiritual Reformation”:-
“If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, He would have sent an economist. If He had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, He would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, He would have sent us a politician. If He had perceived that our greatest need was health, He would have sent us a doctor. But He perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from Him, our profound rebellion, our death; and He sent us a Saviour.”
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. © 1973,1978,1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder and Stoughton, a member of the Hodder Headline Group. All rights reserved.