It has been said, “One who studies only the Bible doesn’t know much about it.” This statement recognizes the fact that we are so greatly removed from the original languages. Even what we can read “in black and white” is just a translation and “some things do get lost in translation.” Conversely “commentaries written by men are just that” and not the Word of God. I admit at times, early in life, I blindly disregarded God’s Word because reading and understanding modern human writings was an easier choice compared to following 2 Timothy 2:15.
Instead, consider supplementing your personal Bible study with reference books of the original language: dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, and the like. Any human comment(ary) must refer back to God’s Word or it is opinion. Discern what God meant by where, how, and in what context He used words versus what someone says He meant.
As we explore our topic, we will consider both words, Lord and Savior, their generic and specifically divine uses, and introduce another word that may help blend the two together and clarify our understanding of His role as both our Lord and our Savior.
Jesus Christ, Our Lord (Romans 1:4)
The word kurios, translated “lord,” may also be translated as “master” when referring to one who is in control of another person (Acts 16:16-19; Eph. 6:5-9) and “sir” in situations of cordial politeness (John 4:11-19, 49; 5:7). It is also used and typically translated “lord” when referring to an owner of a thing. Each references, at its root, the ultimate power to control the fate of a person or thing.
Jesus is referred to as the Lord of inanimate objects. He’s Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8,; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5). Since He and His Father are One (John 10:30), He is also Lord of heaven and earth (Matt. 11:25; Luke 10:21; Acts 17:24) and Lord of the harvest (Matt. 9:38; Luke 10:2). None of these come as a surprise since He is Lord of everything that exists (Ps. 24:1; John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6).
Neither is it a surprise that He is Lord of His people, since they are His (Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 6:2). In fact, He is Lord of all people (Acts 10:36; Phil. 2:11) even of those that are called lords (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). Incidentally, what comes to mind when you hear “Jesus is Lord of lords”? Replace the word “Lord” with any of our definitions. He is Master of masters. He is Controller of controllers. He is in control of those who are in control. He decides the fate of those who decide fates. He is Lord of lords…and King of kings or Ruler of those who rule and reigns over those who reign.
But our topic says “our Lord.” Is He? There are two answers to this question because there are two points of view, one objective and one subjective. If we stand back and view our relationship with Him as the Creator and the Creation, then absolutely yes, He is everyone’s Lord as we noticed earlier (Acts 10:36; Phil. 2:11). He is Lord of all and one day all will admit that fact. Yet if we consider our personal relationship with Him, and ask, “Is Jesus my Lord?”, there may be a different answer. We’re given the opportunity in this life to voluntarily submit to Him and have Him as our Lord (Josh. 24:14-24). We can choose to do otherwise and often we all do fail to submit to Him and allow our lives to be mastered, controlled, and owned by Him.
Some years back, I saw a little skit exemplifying this very thing. The stage was the life of a little girl and in the middle of the stage was a throne. As the skit began, she was on the throne of her life and various individuals would come on stage representing friends and acquaintances, each putting her in different situations. She was in charge and did what she willed. Shortly, one friend actually brought in another friend whose name was Jesus. Jesus and the little girl were introduced and the friend helped the little girl understand who Jesus was, what He had done, what He offered the little girl, and what He required (Matt. 7:21). Essentially, He wanted to sit on the throne of her life. She agreed, got down out of the throne and Jesus sat down becoming her master.
Friends and acquaintances continued to come. In each situation, she’d ask Jesus what she should do. She would obey, even if she didn’t like His answer. Her friends wouldn’t understand her choices and might ridicule her but she obeyed. As the situations became more intense, she began to argue with Jesus and even try to squeeze herself into the throne with Jesus. At the climax, she shoved Jesus out of the throne of her life and she sat down. She was back in charge. Jesus stood up from the floor, dusted Himself off, and simply asked her, “What are you doing?”
Brothers and sisters, have you ever been there? Have you ever been at a point where you could imagine that Jesus was asking you, “What are you doing?” Maybe you’re there now. Maybe you’re in that far off country eating pig slop. Someone is waiting for you. Come to your senses and do yourself a favor. Go home and be willing to owned. Instead, you’ll actually be treated like family (Luke 15:11-24).
Is He your Lord? Objectively, He is whether you like it or not and one day you’ll admit that He is Lord. Subjectively, only you and He know the answer. If He isn’t on the throne of your life, get out of His way and let Him be your Master, your Controller, your Lord.
Jesus Christ, Our Savior (Titus 1:4)
The word soter, translated “savior,” is defined as just that, a savior, a deliverer, a preserver. At that, I think of a life preserver without which we would lose our spiritual life, drowning in sin and its consequences. Maybe you think of something else but roll those words over in your mind and get a good picture of the act of saving. In case that were not enough of a word picture, we look beyond the word to its root.
So often we learn more about a given word by researching its etymology. The noun soter has its root in the verb sozo which is defined as “to save” but also “to make well,” “to restore to health or heal,”, and “to make whole.” Hopefully the analogies are obvious. Jesus Christ, our Savior makes us well from the disease of sin, restores and heals our sin-sick soul, and makes our spiritual life whole again.
He is Savior in both His accolades and in His actions. Let’s observe His accolades as Savior. He is the promised Savior (Acts 13:23), the Savior of His body, the church (Eph. 5:23), and, as pointed about above, the Savior of the world (John 4:42, 1 John 4:14). Even His human name, Jesus, means savior, deliverer, and rescuer (Matt. 1:21). Let’s also notice His actions as Savior. He gives repentance and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31), abolishes death and brings life and immortality (2 Tim. 1:10), and is the medium through whom God richly poured out His Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:4-6).
Without any of these facts about or deeds done by Jesus Christ, He would not be our Savior because we would not be saved, nor made well or whole, nor restored to health or healed. He is the Savior of the world because all humanity has the opportunity to have this salvation (Tit. 2:11) but He is, most affectionately, pictured as the Savior of His people (Matt. 1:21; 23:37).
Let’s stay with our last reference (Matt. 23:37), where Christ says He longed to gather the children of Jerusalem as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing. Google images of a hen with her brood. That’s the picture Christ is sharing. He, with arms out-stretched, gathers, covers, and protects those who are His family, or at least He wants to. He desires to self-sacrificingly suffer by sheltering those He loves so dearly, but He is brought to tears by those who “were not willing.”
Are there benefits to being “gathered” to the Savior of the world? Certainly so. There is fellowship with Him and the Father (1 John 1:3). There is life in the light without darkness (John 8:12; 12:44-46; 1 John 1:5-7) but with godliness and contentment (1 Tim. 6:6-10). And just as we see in Matthew 23:37, there is a family (Eph. 2:19-22; Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim. 3:14-15).
Have you been gathered to Christ? Are you gently nestled close to Him…or have you been unwilling? Only in Him who is the fullness of the deity (Col. 2:9) can every spiritual blessing be found (Eph. 1:3). He invites each of us as a group and individually to come to Him (Matt. 11:28-30).
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
It is interesting that these exact words are only found three times and each is in the book of 2 Peter (1:11; 2:20; 3:18). Paul does mention the idea once and so does Jude to some degree, but only Peter pens “κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.” But before we comment on that, let’s have a few thoughts on inspiration.
I would never argue against the fact that all scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and I, in no way, acknowledge or subscribe to neither dynamic inspiration nor limited inspiration. However, it is noteworthy that each pen-wielder of our New Testament has a personal style. The elite education of Paul can be seen in the letters he penned (large compound words and long sentences) and likewise for John and his lack of formal education (small words and short sentences, yet just as profound). Luke, the physician, has his personality revealed as well. We also have Peter, who, by inspiration, openly admitted that some things Paul wrote were hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16).
Peter, like John, came from a simple life and was promised to be transformed from a “human who fished” into one who “fished for humans” (Luke 5:10). His is the only pen that writes “our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” and only three times in only one letter. Why him and no one else? I’m not sure that question can be answered this side of eternity, but let it suffice to say that all scripture is God-breathed and the roles of both Lord and Savior are not contradictory but complementary in every way.
The Good Shepherd (John 10)
It seems the roles described separately by the terms Lord and Savior may come together in the role of Shepherd. Jesus shows the Good Shepherd is Lord of the sheep because He owns them (John 10:14) and He even calls them “My sheep” (v. 27). Jesus also indicates that the Good Shepherd is Savior of the sheep because He lays down His life for them (vs. 11, 15) and provides life to them (v. 28).
Consider Psalm 23:1-3 where David wrote of the responsibilities of a shepherd as fulfilled by God. He, as Lord, commands His sheep making them to lie down and leading them. He, as Savior, provides His sheep with that which is required for life (still waters and green pastures) and even restores their very soul.
I close by asking the reader to examine Ezekiel 34 and notice the word pictures God uses of how His sheep were being treated and how He would treat them, being their master and their healer. Also recall the parable of the lost sheep and the risk the Shepherd takes and the care He provides (Luke 15:4-6) all because of His compassion for them (Matthew 9:36). Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, truly is the Good Shepherd.
Robert worships at the Seneca Church of Christ in Seneca, SC, with his wife, Heather, and their daughter, Savannah.