Richard’s Complete Bible dictionary defines the Biblical concept of the word “savior” in this way: One who delivers another from some physical or spiritual plight. The Old Testament portrays God as Israel’s Savior from foreign enemies in such expressions as “God our Savior” (Ps. 65:5). In this sense the term “savior” is not so much a name as it is a descriptive term, stressing that God is the One who intervenes with saving acts. In the New Testament, “Savior” is applied to the Father (1 Tim. 1:1; Tit. 1:3), but more often refers to Jesus (Jn. 4:42; Phil. 3:20; Tit. 3:6). In His death and resurrection, Jesus became the “the Savior of the world” (1 Jn. 4:14). His saving act rescues all who believe from every consequence of sin.
Names are very important in Scripture for in their meaning they reveal such things as nature, character, position and accomplishment. When either God or Jesus is “named” in such a way, the Scriptures are directing us specifically to that aspect of their Being. This is particularly important in regard to Jesus. God the Father through the angel Gabriel specifically tells Mary that the Son she will bear is the Savior by designating the name He will receive (Lk. 1:31). Matthew fills in this picture even further when it is explained to Joseph why this particular name will be the name of this Child (Mt. 1:20). The name Jesus (Yeshua in the Hebrew) is a variation of the name Y’hoshua (Ye-hoe-shoe-uh), or Joshua as we say it in English. It finds its roots in the most holy name of God, Yahweh, and can also be used as the masculine form of the word salvation. Literally translated it means, “Yahweh saves”. The angel tells Joseph that he is to name the child “Yahweh Saves” in that it designates the nature, character, position and future accomplishment of this most precious child and signifying to us God’s way of salvation, an accomplishment that only He can fulfill. For Matthew there is also a greater significance to this name as he sees God’s word through the prophet Isaiah being fulfilled in it (Mt. 1:20-23; Is. 7:14).
The Book of Acts is filled with passages that attest to the fact that Jesus is the Savior and that He came to save people bound by sin (Acts 5:30-32; 13:23). It also holds accounts of men who thought they could do the same. Herod Agrippa (also called King Herod in Acts but not to be confused with his grandfather who was instrumental in the Christmas story) was such a man. The account of his speech to the crowd at Caesarea Maritima is documented by several historians, most notably Josephus, but it is also recorded in the Book of Acts (Acts 12:1-4, 20-24). If you’ve ever been to the amphitheater there you can imagine the scene- the seats crowded with an audience out to pay homage to the emperor Claudius. Herod Agrippa in a garment woven with silver threads is conducting the opening ceremony. The perfect acoustics allowed his voice to travel above the noise from the crowd and the waves. The sunlight bouncing off the ocean gave his appearance a heavenly glow. But his status and wealth most likely impressed the crowd even more. Why wouldn’t a man like this be akin to a god? When the crowd called him such he neither affirmed nor denied it but Luke notes this greatly displeased the Lord (v.23). And like all human saviors it didn’t take much to bring him down. Luke states he was “eaten by worms”. Prestige, status, power, all these attributes seem humanly appropriate when it comes to the ability to save people.
But who would have expected a baby to be the ultimate Savior? A baby appears to us no more able to save the world than he is able to run across the playing field of a Red Rover game to unfreeze all the captured players. Yet the Bible tells us that this is what Jesus came to do and did (Rom. 5:6-10)! Because the Law required a perfect sacrifice for the covering of sin, Christ lived a sin-free life in perfect fulfillment of those requirements (Mt. 5:17). As the sinless One, He was able to save us from the fate of sin- death (Jn. 3:16-17; Rom. 3:21-26, 10:11-13; 2 Cor. 5:21: Eph. 5:23; Phil. 3:10; 1 Tim. 1:15, 2:3-6; Tit. 3:4-6; Heb. 2:17-18; 1 Jn. 2:1-2, 4:9-10). And that my friends is why the Baby of Advent is truly the Savior of the World (Lk. 2:10-11)!
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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