Paul’s opening words to his disciple Timothy in his first letter to him say, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” That Paul identifies himself as an Apostle of Christ Jesus is a standard introduction that he uses in most of his letters, but when addressing Timothy, he adds the phrase “by the command” of God and Jesus. I can’t help but wonder if Paul’s not reminding Timothy that their role as ministers of the Gospel is not something they took upon themselves but is something that they have been commanded to do. Liefeld says, “Here, where he is going to address false teaching, he uses the unusual phrase “by the command of God our Savior.” We know from several passages that Paul understood his being an apostle as a calling (cf. Rom. 1:1) “by the will of God” (1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1), but this is the only salutation in a letter where he attributes his ministry to God’s ‘command.’”[1]

Is it unusual to refer to God as “our savior?” We usually think of Jesus as our Savior, but here Paul calls God our Savior. This term is used five out of six times in the pastoral epistles. The Old Testament is full of God’s salvation of His people. It was prominent during the Exodus. It was God that raised Moses to “save” His people. God motivated Joshua to deliver the promised land to the People. God working through the Old Testament Judges, saved His people over and over again even when they continued sinning. Salvation is all part of God’s plan for His people. He used special people in the Old Testament to accomplish His salvation, but in this present age, He uses His Son, Jesus, who is called “our hope.” Lea is correct; hope is looking to a future deliverance. “In Jesus, God had begun a process of redemption which he would consummate at the last day. Christ has become our hope since we have made him the object of our trust and look with expectancy for his unveiling at the end of time. Unlike our common English usage of ‘hope,’ which implies a desire with only some expectancy of accomplishment, the biblical usage of ‘hope’ suggests a desire with an absolute certainty of accomplishment. Our hope in Jesus will become a reality.”[2] Our lives sometimes presents us with challenges that might challenge our “hope” because it doesn’t look like we have salvation in our present circumstances. But scripture tells us that something is not hope if it is seen. Once something becomes seen, I don’t hope for it—I have it. Paul says in Romans 8:24, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

We, who believe in Jesus, can rest fully assured of our eternal destiny. God has worked out his role as “savior” for each of us in Christ. John 3:16 boldly proclaims that God’s salvation is motivated by His unique love for us. “For God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son so that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” As our “savior,” God loves us in His Son, Jesus. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrated his great love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We have assurance because our salvation is based solely on Christ’s work on our behalf, while we were utterly powerless to save ourselves. Eternal life is based on the unconditional promises of God apart from any contribution of our own, and it is received through faith alone. Our hope of eternal life rests not on ourselves but on the promise of God.

[1] Liefeld, Walter L. 1999. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Lea, Thomas D., and Hayne P. Griffin. 1992. 1, 2 Timothy, Titus. Vol. 34. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.