Storied Salvation: Part XI

God as Savior

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope” 1 Tim 1:1.

God the Father, Yahweh, is savior.[1] The emphasis in evangelical Christianity has been to view Jesus as the means of salvation, our personal lord and savior, the atonement, our ransom, and he being the one from whom we must beg forgiveness. In this sense, he has become the object of faith for many, having their soteriological fixation upon him. Appealing to the Trinity – where Jesus is God and therefore both Jesus and the Father can be called “savior” in the same sense – may seem to resolve the issue for some. The problem is that none of the NT writers ever make this claim. Not only is God the savior in this text, but throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. There is no question that Paul knows Jesus’ role in God’s salvation-history and it is also evident that he makes a distinction between them. Paul – whose Bible was the OT – has drawn his perspective from there, not from Augustine. God saves, the Messiah carries it out.

Atonement theories must also be taken into consideration on account of what Jesus’ death did in securing salvation. For instance, some have Jesus paying a debt for humanity thereby saving man from God. A helpful example is the responsible party for the Exodus event. Obviously, the power was Yahweh’s, since Moses was a man, but still the text interchanges between Moses’ action and that of Yahweh in numerous places. Here is an example:

“You yourselves have seen what I [Yahweh] did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself [Yahweh]” Exo 19:4. 

Yet when speaking to Moses, Yahweh said, 

“your [Moses’] people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt” Exo 32:7 (cf. Num 21:5).

“God’s work as Creator (whether recognized or not) actually and always precedes God’s work as Redeemer. Moreover, God’s redemptive work does not put an end to God’s creative work; God’s work as Creator continues through and beyond such historical redemptive actions. The language of ‘salvation’ has reference to both the effects of redemptive actions as well as to the effects of distinguishable acts of continuing creation (e.g., healing; gifts of food and water in the wilderness). Redemption does not do away with the life-giving effects of the Creator but stands in the service of them. The objective of God’s work in redemption is to free people to be what they were created to be, the effect of which is named salvation." [2]

[1] 2 Sa 22:3; Ps 17:7; 106:21; Isa 43:3, 11; 45:15, 21; 49:26; 60:16; 63:8; Jer 14:8; Hos 13:4; Luke 1:47; 1 Tim 2:3; 4:10; Tit 1:3; 2:10; 3:4; Jud 1:25.
[2] Terence E. Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation (Abingdon Press, 2005), 10.

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