15. Christ the Savior

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 18 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture is Titus 2:11-14, and our subject is ‘Christ the Savior.'

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” 1

There are many unbelieving and modernist scholars who have said that the New Testament was very extensively influenced by the mystery religions or cults of the Greco-Roman world. This is, of course, totally false. There was no such relationship. Now that at times some converts had ideas derived from the mystery religions can surely be granted, but there was none in Scripture. We must say, unhappily though, that today many are trying to turn Christianity into a mystery religion.

Well, what were the mystery religions? We can understand them best, possibly, by comparing them to modern lodges. They were, to a very great extent, secret societies, secret lodges; they had their own associations, their passwords, their ways of identifying each other, and all that they did was to keep a secret from the world. In those days since their ritual was rarely written it was much more easily kept a secret. These mystery religions had either an implicit or an explicit dualism. They were cults that had been derived from the Orient, and had a great deal of the Oriental pessimism and dualism, pessimism concerning this world. They were marked by initiation ceremonies. These initiation ceremonies ostensibly guaranteed the person who became a member immortality, life after death. These cults had very little in the way of morality, moral concerns were not their concerns. After all, to be interested in morality is to be interested in the here and now, in this world; to be interested, to be moral in your concerns is to say that it makes a difference whether you bear false witness or not, whether you lie or steal or commit adultery or murder. These things are important, because the present world and the world to come are both important.

The mystery religions had little or no morality. Many had sexual rites and excesses, and were feared by the Roman government as a very subversive and dangerous force. The mystery religions held that each had some semi-divine or heroic or superhuman savior, who saved them from this present life and guided them into immortality. Thus, the mystery religions provided, not so much a way of life, but an escape from this life and world into another world; they offered an insurance for immortality.

As I said, they had a low moral content; their main concern, their essential concern, almost their only concern, was life after death, salvation from death or from Hell. They were antinomian, no law of man or of the God’s could bind them. The mystery religions sometimes merged easily with faiths in spirits, in magic, witchcraft, and the like. One historian, Mattingly, in his study: Roman Imperial Civilization, in dealing with the mystery religions and the spiritus cults, magic, witchcraft, all of these, said:

“From contemptible enslavement to such beliefs, Christianity set men free.” 2

The savior and the salvation of these mystery cults, let me repeat, was governed by two essential facts; antinomianism and immortality. Does that not make the parallel to our present day and a great deal that passes for Christianity very obvious? A very prevalent antinomianism, a concern with salvation not from sin so much as from this world and from Hell into Heaven. Just recently the facts were made clear from some polls that 53.4% of all Americans eighteen years old and older claim to be born-again and to believe the Bible from cover to cover, that’s a tremendous number! And yet of all of those, only half could name even five of the Ten Commandments in any form among the Protestants, among the Catholics, only four out of ten. So much for the strength of their faith. What are they saved for, what is their concern, if it is not a mystery religion type of concern, if they are not using the Scripture in terms of a mystery religion concern?

Now the early church set itself sternly against all these mystery religions and cults. And one reason why the church called itself ‘catholic’ was precisely because of this, because of its hostility to this type of thing. Rome tried to say of Christianity: “It’s just another mystery religion.” This was widely said about the church. But the church first of all stressed the catholic nature of its faith; ‘catholic’ meaning, universal. Christ, they said, is Lord over all things and the maker of all. All men and all things, all institutions are accountable to Jesus Christ as king of kings and Lord of Lords.

Then second, they said: “Our faith is catholic because it includes all men, and every man living must come face-to-face with Jesus Christ, either as his savior or as his judge.” “Our Lord is the universal savior or judge for all men,” they declared. As a result, the church made clear that it was not a mystery religion, nor that it was a lawless group, but they were the people who alone in this world could be universal, catholic. The state could never be catholic, the state could never be inclusive of all men and all things. The state might be a world state, but it could not be a state that governed eternity; only Christian faith is universal, because only Christ the Lord is universal Lord in time and in eternity.

Now, this brings us to the subject of Christ, the savior. The Bible speaks of both God and Christ as savior. In Titus 2:10 the verse just before the Scripture we read, it speaks of the doctrine of God our Savior. Over and over again in the Old Testament God the Father is called the savior. The term is applied to all three persons. In the pastoral epistles, Timothy and Titus, Paul speaks again and again of both God the Father and God the Son as savior. God is spoken of as savior in first Timothy 1:1, 2:3, and 4:10, and in Titus 1:3, 2:10 and 3:4. And Jesus Christ, God the Son is spoken of as savior in 2 Timothy 1:10, Titus 1:4, 2:13, and 3:6. All the Trinity is involved in creation, in government, and in salvation.

Now, Paul speaks in Titus 2:11-14, of Jesus Christ as “God our savior.” First, he says, salvation is of grace because salvation is an attribute of sovereignty. Only a sovereign God can confer grace, none other. Wherever you have a claim to sovereignty you have a claim to grace. It is interesting today that our courts and the IRS will sometimes use the word ‘grace’ they will say: “you have ninety days grace to pay up.” Interesting. And inescapable. Whoever claims to be sovereign or Lord will also be the source of grace. So if you recognize the sovereignty of the Federal government, you will look to the Federal government for grace, and you will pray to the Federal government for aid, for help; and you will get it in the form of controls and welfare. But if you believe God is sovereign, then God alone, the triune God can be the source of grace.

Then second, Paul says: God our savior, Jesus Christ, gives us by His royal grace salvation. He died to redeem us. Then Paul goes on to say third, that redemption is from all iniquity or lawlessness. John tells us in 1 John 3:4 that “sin is the transgression of the law,” and Christ saves us from transgressing the law. We are not a mystery cult, we cannot be antinomian, because we have been saved from antinomianism. Salvation is, thus, the antithesis of antinomianism, because it purifies us into a unique, or the old-fashioned word: ‘peculiar’ people, a special people, who are “zealous of all good works.” Our Lord said on the night before He was betrayed: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” 3 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

Fourth, God our savior teaches us, Paul says, to “deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly.” Now that again is an old-fashioned word, and it means to live responsibly, to have a sober sense, a responsible sense with regard to all things, and to live in righteousness, that is, with justice.

So that our faith, Paul says, gives us a total prescription for living; we are God people, therefore God prescribes the way of life for us.

And fifth, he declares: salvation covers our life; in time and in eternity. Hence we look ahead to the glorious conclusion, His second coming.

Thus, because Christ is our savior, salvation is closely tied for us to dominion. The most common word for Jesus in the New Testament is ‘Lord,’ ‘He who is sovereign,’ ‘He who has dominion.’ And we have been called to be members of Him, to be priests, prophets and kings in Jesus Christ, and to be priests, prophets and kings in Him means that we stand in His power, in His dominion, in every area of life and thought.

It is an interesting fact that so widely today this doctrine of dominion which is so basic is under challenge. The people who are challenging it are trying to say that our concern is only with escaping from this world into Heaven; in other words they are reducing our faith to a mystery religion. You have one group of Protestants who say the creation mandate for dominion is altogether wrong. You have another group of the Liberal Catholics like Hans Küng who say that this was a lot of nonsense which the church gained from John Calvin, and it is time Catholics abandoned this which they learned from that man.

But the most common word for Jesus is Lord, and we are to be members of Him, to be His members discharging His duties, His functions. When our Lord was born the angelic herald said: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” 4 The Lord, and he prefaced this statement with a joyful word: “...behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” 5 Ours is not a mystery religion, ours is a faith in Christ the Lord who is the savior.

Hence we can say of our catholic or universal faith what the Psalmist said in Psalm 2:10-12

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings:

Be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear,

And rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry,

And ye perish from the way,

When his wrath is kindled but a little.

Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. 6

If we look to the Lord for grace, it is because He is sovereign. If He is sovereign and we are members of His kingdom, we are members of the only true dominion in all of creation, in Heaven and on Earth. Christ is our savior, and our Lord.

Let us pray.

* * *

Almighty God our heavenly Father, we thank thee that Jesus Christ has come, that because He is Lord, grace comes from Him and Him alone. Through His shed blood we have been made the blessed recipients of grace, of salvation. Make us zealous, O Lord, unto good works, sober or responsible in all our ways, righteous or just, godly and holy in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ who is king of kings and Lord of Lords. In His name we pray, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] Could you comment on those who are presently predicting that The Rapture is at hand? What can one say to people who predict such things?

[Rushdoony] Yes, there are a great many people now of course who are promoting the doctrine of a rapture in 1981. We need to read to them what Scripture says about a false prophet, if he prophesies a thing and it does not come to pass he is not of the Lord. They are going to find out in a year and a half whether these people who are associated with this doctrine that the Second Coming is assuredly to come in 1981 are true prophets or false prophets. Tell them then if they doubt that, they are denying God’s Word and they will have to answer to God, not you.

Any other questions? Yes?

[Audience Member] I read about a case in California against a Christian school, the parents sent them to a Christian school and the state came in and sued the parents for not sending their children to the public school, truancy I guess. How can that happen in California? We have a definite code for private schools, how can they do that?

[Rushdoony] The question is how can they do such a thing in view of the state code? The answer is very simple, the law means nothing to the bureaucracy, nothing at all. The Amish and Mennonites have won cases all the way up to the Supreme Court for the integrity of their schools. This has not prevented the Mennonites from being taken to court. The IRS regards no adverse decision as binding upon it. “You are the loser in a court, not the winner” is the attitude of the bureaucracy. If you win, they will simply start another case of the same sort elsewhere, until they win. This is why it is imperative that we overthrow, through the ballot box, the humanistic establishment that governs this country.

[Audience Member] How can they stand a chance in court if the law is there, aren’t they faced with the law?

[Rushdoony] No, they are not faced with the law in the courts, they are faced with a judge, and the judge can be a humanist too. This is why the whole legal process is difficult today, and it is going to take hundreds upon hundreds of cases and decisions to prevent us from being destroyed; but in the long run it has to be a changed people, it has to be Christians who are responsible, and half of the people who profess to be born-again Christians according to some surveys are not registered to vote. They are too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good. Yes?

[Audience Member] Some of us still remember that when Pat Brown was leaving office, he appointed two hundred and forty judges the day before he went out, now that packed the court, and then his son is appointing as we have read this last week in the Los Angeles Times, four judges, ACLU, Ralph Nader graduates and things like that, they are the judges; so I think it is quite obvious what happens in court.

[Rushdoony] Yes, and the appointments of the two Browns are not as bad as those of Mr. Carter, on the Federal bench.

Any other questions? Yes?

[Audience Member] Could you comment on the books by Verna Hall and Rosalie Slater?

[Rushdoony] Yes, there are points where I would differ, but I feel the impact of the books has been very, very fine throughout the country. I would differ primarily from their emphasis on Locke, apart from that I think their works have done some tremendous good from Coast to Coast, exceptionally fine work.

[Audience Member] We live pretty much in an anarchistic society, and you just can’t go by the law, you can’t feel safe, you can’t say: “Well, I am following the law, I am following the code.” You can’t feel safe, you can’t feel secure.

[Rushdoony] That’s right, in a godless society there is no way you can feel safe, that is why we have to work to change that. The courts are very, very arbitrary. I have been in enough courtrooms to see how arbitrary they can be, they are a law unto themselves in the courts. Not all, there are still some very fine judges on the bench who lean over backwards to be thoughtful, some very fine ones who are doing everything they can to give justice. But we do have some very bad ones on the bench, and I would say by and large California is not as bad as other parts of the country.

Well, if there are no further questions, let us bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 Tt 2:11–15.

2 Harold Mattingly. Roman Imperial Civilization. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959, 255.

3 Jn 14:15.

4 Lk 2:11.

5 Lk 2:10.

6 Ps 2:10–12.

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