I have long heard (and long said) that the dearest word in a sinner's vocabulary is grace. Of course, I still believe it is a dear and a powerful word — but another word is challenging its place in my heart.
It's struck home as I have been preaching a series on the much-neglected letter to Titus. Among the many delights in this letter is Paul's repeated use of a particular title for Father and Son. Here are my translations of the relevant verses:
There it is, the glorious, lovely word: Savior.
Note how Paul alternates: first, he calls the Father Savior, then the Son; then the Father again, then the Son; and yet again the Father, then the Son. One pair in each chapter.
It is a lone word, but so packed with meaning, with instruction, with assurance.
First, in that word Savior lies all my humiliation and self-denial. Savior tells me that I am lost, helpless, hopeless, and without resources within. Savior informs me that I do not merely need God's assistance or encouragement. I am not in need of a Partner, a Helper, an Enabler. I don't need a Co-Signer.
My case is far, far worse. My lot is not unfortunate or challenged; it is a disaster and a devastation. No part of this process can be left with me nor entrusted to me. God does not stand on the shore, calling to me "Swim harder! You can make it!"
No, Savior tells me that I am floating placidly on the ocean bottom, without the least ability to do for myself. A hand out or a hand up would be wasted on me. Nothing less than a Savior will do.
And, second, God is that Savior. This word tells me that Father and Son have undertaken — not merely to try to save me, not to offer salvation to me, not to call me to salvation, but — to save me. This puts the entire burden of the entire enterprise on their shoulders.
And such shoulders! This is the Father who authored the entire plan of salvation in the dim ages of eternity past! This is the Son who mediated creation and carries out the Father's plan, which involves the Father pouring out the Holy Spirit on me richly (richly!) through Jesus the Son. Other shoulders would buckle; other would-be saviors could fail, would fail.
But if Father and Son commit themselves to be my Savior, is there any chance of failure, any possibility of my ultimately being lost? Were that the case, given that God is "the unlying God" (Titus 1:2), He could not in all honesty have taken on Himself the grand and glorious title of Savior. He would have had to style Himself "Salvation-Attempter," or "Good-Hearted Would-Be Rescuer," or "Benevolent Halfway Helper."
But glory to His name, both Father and Son created, chose, and called themselves by a title that proclaims hope and assurance: Savior.
This is worth a moment's more reflection. Suppose you were languishing in despair, and one of your fellow sufferers cried, "We're saved! Help is on the way!"
"Who?" you gasp.
"A bureaucrat!" came the reply.
Would you rejoice?
Then suppose instead that the answer was "It's... wait... yes, it's God! It's the God who called the universe into being with a word, who gives life to all, who holds all the stars in His hand, and carries everything by the word of His power! God is coming to save us!"
Would that be worth a cry of exultation?
That title Savior calls me to look away from myself, from my every effort and trait and attribute. It bids me leave off constant morbid introspections, incessant spiritual pulse-taking. It beckons me to look to Gethsemane, to see the Son committing Himself to drain every last drop from the cup. It points me to Calvary, where He hangs forsaken by the Father, not for His sins, nor to "try to" save me from my sins, but to be able to end it all with the glorious shout "It is finished!"
It directs me to look to Father and Son, and to call God not only Savior, which is marvelous enough; but, through the glorious Gospel, to call God my Savior.