“I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ . . .”
If those are the first words out of an athlete’s mouth after a big win, we’re pretty sure we have an evangelical on our hands. As unnatural as those moments feel at times, many of us appreciate the heart behind it. Even if we cringe, we want to simultaneously celebrate that good instinct for a Christian to acknowledge Jesus not only as rescuer but also master.
“Lord and Savior” became a kind of evangelical calling card in the last generation, and for good reason. The phrase comes out of the 1980s battles on “lordship salvation” (even with its roots planted firmly in 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18). Could a truly born-again person receive Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord? Can you pray a prayer, walk an aisle, sign a card, and receive Jesus’s saving, but not his lordship?
The most compelling voices in the controversy stood with their feet steadied on the rock of God’s own words, and argued that to receive Jesus savingly is to receive him as all that he is — “Jesus is Lord.” You cannot reject his lordship and still have him as your get-out-of-hell-free Savior. No one knows all that his lordship means when we first believe, but as we learn more about the real Christ, we receive him as all that he is.
Is ‘Lord and Savior’ Enough?
I’m thankful for those who fought for Christ’s lordship a generation ago, and continue to proclaim it today. And in the days and context in which I pastor, I’m finding “Lord and Savior” to be both essential and inadequate. More needs to be said about who Jesus is for us.
When we stand over the Lord’s Table at our church each Sunday morning, and as we teach our children at home and in Sunday School, we don’t stop at identifying Jesus as “Lord and Savior.” We’re finding it’s all the more helpful to add a third title to this well-worn evangelical phrase — to help clarify what kind of Lord, and what kind of Savior, we embrace Jesus to be.
What Kind of Lord?
What kind of Lord is Jesus? The kind who not only deserves our obedience, but wins our admiration. He is the kind of King we not only acknowledge with our taxes and military service, but with our adoration and delight.
He is not a selfish lord, but a self-sacrificing lord. He’s not a mean lord, but a kind one. He is not the insecure, cowardly Prince John who opposed Robin Hood, but the winsome, magnanimous King Richard, a king for whose return his subjects longed. He is not a lord like Scar, but like Mufasa. Not Denethor, but Aragorn. Not the White Witch, but Aslan.
“He is not a selfish lord but a self-sacrificing lord.”
He is the kind of Lord who is also our greatest treasure — a lord so good that we would sell all that we have to be his glad servants giving ourselves to the treasure he is (Matthew 13:44). He is our Pearl of Greatest Price (Matthew 13:45–46). Not only have we seen that he is powerful, but we “have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:3). He is not a lord we disdain, but one we admire. He is a giving lord, not an exacting lord (Matthew 18:27). He is “the Lord Jesus Christ himself . . . who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace” (2 Thessalonians 2:16).
He is not just “Lord,” but also “Treasure.” He is the kind of lord in whom we delight.
What Kind of Savior?
And what kind of Savior is Jesus? The kind who not only deserves our gratitude, but wins our love. He is the kind of rescuer who plucks us from fire, and who is himself the waters of life.
He is not like a lifeguard who saves us from the undertow to hand us off to our family, but like our own father who rescues us from the riptide for himself to give us the longest, sweetest, and most memorable hug we ever had. His rescue is not like that of a paramedic, fireman, police officer, or soldier honorably “just doing my job,” but in his rescue he demonstrates his personal, covenantal, eternal love for us. Our salvation doesn’t show his commitment to his work as much as his commitment to his child.
He is not just “Savior,” but also “Treasure.” He is the kind of Savior who is also “a treasure in the heavens that does not fail” (Luke 12:33).
What Kind of Treasure?
And just as Jesus being our “Treasure” flavors what it means to receive him as Lord and Savior, so also his lordship and his deliverance inform and enrich the enjoyment of our Pearl of Great Price. What kind of treasure is he? Not a thing we buy and hide and rule over, but a person we gladly obey and to whom we happily give our allegiance. This is the kind of Lord-Treasure he is.
“Our salvation doesn’t show God’s commitment to his work as much as his commitment to his child.”
And Jesus not only stands above us and receives our worship, but he is the one who stooped so low for us and got beneath us to serve us. He is the kind of Treasure who did not regard equality with God to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking our form and being born in our likeness. And as human, he humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6–8). This is the kind of Savior-Treasure he is. This is the kind of Savior for whom we would “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
God has highly exalted him and given him the name above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9–11). He is the kind of Treasure who gladly saves us and whom we gladly call our Lord. Jesus is our “Lord, Savior, and Treasure.”