Only God and Savior

To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:25)

The word “Amen” appears hundreds of times in throughout the Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments. Some may assume that this word, commonly heard at the end of a prayer, a blessing, or doxology of praise, is simply a religious way to say, “the end.” But the word “Amen” means much more than that.

It is an expression of agreement and assent to something heard or read. We say “Amen” in response to a statement with which we agree. To say “Amen” is to say, “Yes, that’s the way it is!” When we respond “Amen” to someone’s prayer, we are saying “that is my prayer, also.” When we say “Amen” at the end of a blessing, asking for God’s grace and favor to be poured out on his people, “Amen” means “Yes. May it be so.”

Often, in the Gospels, Jesus also uses the word “Amen” to introduce a true saying. I’m sure we are all familiar with Jesus’ expression, “Truly, truly, I say to you …” In Greek, this is literally, “Amen, amen, I say to you …”  In this sense, to say “Amen” is to affirm that a statement is real and true, representing the way things really are. It is a confession of faith, bearing witness to what we believe in our hearts.

For example, in the introductory quote above from the end of the Book of Jude, the Apostle speaks of Christ as the only God and Savior, to whom he ascribes “glory, majesty, dominion, and authority” for all eternity. To this, he adds his own “Amen” as a way of bearing witness that in his heart he believes that “this is most certainly true.” But for we, the readers, it is also the opportunity for us to agree to the Apostles’ witness, saying, “Yes! This is what I believe as well!”

Speaking for myself, I am not ashamed to say “Amen” to the Apostles’ words, and let people know that this is what I believe. I acknowledge that Jesus Christ — true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary — is my Lord.  I agree with what is written in the Scriptures, that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

But I recognize that not everyone would agree such a stament. There are other faiths and other confessions in the world that would speak nothing of Christ as Lord and Savior. There are even those among our own religious tradition who regularly mouth the word “amen” but don’t really agree. They may be willing to affirm the words, but don’t believe the Word is true. As Christ himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Over the years, among people of the Church, I regret to say that I have encountered many who are not quite willing to admit that Jesus is their only Lord and Savior. To be clear, I’m not talking about atheists or agnostics, from whom one might expect doubt and hesitancy. I’m talking about people who acknowledge Jesus, know the right words to say about him, but don’t really believe there is “salvation in no one else” – because they want to preserve a little saving credit for themselves.

Ironically, I have found this especially true among Christians who claim interest in work of Evangelism. Time and time again, I heard people bear witness to salvation in Christ, only to hear them turn to their audience and say “now this is what you must do…” While some will openly speak of salvation as a “50/50” cooperative effort between God and themselves, more often, you will hear it described in the range of a 90/10 split, or even as far as 99/1. They are willing to admit that Jesus deserves most of the credit for their salvation. They may even affirm that Jesus deserves nearly all the credit for their salvation, but that last little bit they reserve for themselves.

A self-described “Evangelical” once summarized this for me when he said, “We thank God for all  that Jesus has done for us, but in the end, it comes down to how you and I respond to God that determines whether or not we are saved.”

There was a time in my life where I would have felt I needed to argue with a statement like that, providing the biblical and theological evidence for why such a statement is wrong. Being an adversarial type, I thought it my duty to set a person like that straight and make sure they came to a “right” theology. As I look back, many are the sermons and Bible studies throughout my ministry where this has been the primary theme, believing it to be what Luther called it, “the doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls.”

To be clear, over the years, my conviction and theology have not changed on this point, nor has my faith and confidence in Christ alone as Lord and Savior of the world. But as I have grown older, I have come to see taking credit for one’s own salvation as less as an error that needs to be corrected, and more simply as a confession of where that person’s faith is at in that present moment. Which is to say, when someone now tells me that they are saved because of something they have done, I simply take them at their word. I acknowledge that this is, in fact, what they believe. This is their witness.

My response is no longer to make an argument or try to convince them that they are wrong. My response is simply to bear a witness of my own. My goal is articulate what I trust and believe as clear as I can.  I have come to realize that I cannot control what someone else says or what they believe, but I can certainly give testimony to what I believe. Without speaking for anyone else, I can reserve my “Amen” for what is true of me.

Both now and when I stand before the throne of God on the day of judgment, I desire to take no credit for myself, but rather, to confess that Christ alone is my Savior. I want to say with all assurance that “truly, truly” he has saved and redeemed me through nothing I have done, but purely by his own grace and mercy.

I simply acknowledge that this is how it is for me, and how I pray it always will be. In my heart I know it is true that I can do no other than to stand with Jude and the other saints and proclaim aloud: “To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.” Only to this can I say “Amen.”

 — Pastor Steven E. King