Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Jesus Christ – Our Gloriously Divine Mediator Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We now come to a text where Paul explicitly calls Jesus God.

Jesus Christ as our great God and Savior

As if what we have already seen from Paul wasn’t clear enough to prove that he truly believed that Jesus is God Almighty, the following text should eradicate all doubts:

“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon 'Iesou Christou),” who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed (hina lytrosetai hemas apo pases anomias), and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession (kai katharise heato laon periousion), zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:13-14

Not only does Paul call Christ our great God and Savior, he has also adopted what the OT says concerning Yahweh and applied that to the Lord Jesus! 

According to the prophetic writings, Yahweh is the only great God and Savior who redeems a people from their lawless deeds to be his own possession:  

“And now if ye will indeed hear my voice, and keep my covenant, ye shall be to me a peculiar people (laos periousios) above all nations; for the whole earth is mine.” Exodus 19:5 LXX – cf. Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2

For you are great (hoti megas ei su), and do wonders: you are the only [and] the great God (su ei ho theos monos ho megas).” Psalm 85[86]:10 LXX

“Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his lawlessness (kai autos lytrosetai ton Israel ek pason ton anomion autou).” Psalm 129 [130]:7-8 LXX

“For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure (periousiasmon autou).” Psalm 134[135]:4 LXX 

“And I will make them a nation in my land, even on the mountains of Israel; and they shall have one prince: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided any more at all into two kingdoms: that they may no more defile themselves with their idols; and I will deliver them from all their lawlessness (pason ton anomon) whereby they have sinned, and will cleanse them (kai kathario autous); and they shall be to me a people (laon), and I the Lord will be to them a God.” Ezekiel 37:22-23 LXX

Dr. James R. White explains how the language employed in Titus 2:14 confirms that Paul was identifying Jesus as Yahweh: 

“Another contextual clue confirms the assertion of the deity of Christ by Paul. Verse 14 says that Christ intends to ‘purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.’ To the person whose ear is attuned to the words of the Old Testament, this is a phrase that would bring to mind none other than Yahweh himself… 

“What is not immediately apparent by simply looking at the English text is that this passage from the psalms uses the same terms found in Titus 2:14. Specifically, ‘to redeem’ in the psalm is the same term used by Paul of the redeeming work of Christ, and the term ‘iniquities’ in the psalm is the term translated ‘lawless deed’ in Titus. While it is Yahweh who redeems His people in the Old Testament, here it is Christ. But there is more…

“Here [Ezekiel 37:23] Yahweh again speaks of His redemption of His people, and again Paul uses the same terms to describe the work of Christ. Specifically, the word ‘cleanse’ is the same in both passages, as is the word ‘people.’ Just coincidence? Not at all, for there is more

“The phrase ‘My own possession’ is the same in Exodus, where Yahweh speaks of His special people, and in Titus, where Christ has a people for His own possession. Deuteronomy 7:6 and 14:2 make the same statement. Anyone familiar with a ‘redeemed people’ in the Old Testament would recognize that Paul is applying the same terms used of Yahweh there to the Lord Jesus here. The context, then, is one that would find no problem at all in calling Jesus ‘God and Savior,’ since it has freely applied to Him words that had been used by God’s people for centuries to describe Yahweh, their Savior.” (White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN 1998], 5. Jesus Christ: God In Human Flesh, pp. 76-77; bold emphasis and comments within brackets ours)

Robert Bowman concurs with Dr. White:

“So far the exposition has depended somewhat on our previously drawn conclusion that Titus 2:13 calls Jesus Christ ‘our great God and Savior’ (although some aspects of the exposition have provided further support for that conclusion). We have been arguing that if Jesus is here called God, it must mean that he is Yahweh, not some inferior deity. 

“When we come to verse 14, though, even this assumption is not necessary. In fact, it would not be too strong to say that even if we did not have verse 13, verse 14 alone as applied explicitly to Jesus Christ would be sufficient proof that Paul thought of Jesus as Yahweh.

“The line to be considered here, ‘that he might redeem us from every lawless deed,’ is essentially a quotation from Psalm 129:8 LXX (130:8 Heb.). The Psalmist expresses the hope that the Lord ‘will redeem Israel from all his lawless deeds’ (kai autos lutrôsetai ton Israêl ek pasôn tôn anomiôn autou). Paul applies this in the first-person plural to we who believe in Jesus Christ, i.e., the church. Once again, what the OT said Yahweh would do, the NT says Jesus Christ has done… 

“Woven together with the quoted words of Psalm 129:8 LXX are words taken from Ezekiel 37:23. There Yahweh says, ‘I will deliver them from all their lawless deeds [apo pasôn tôn anomiôn autôn], in which they sinned, and I will purify them [kathariô autous], and they will be my people [laon], and I the Lord will be their God [theon].’ Notice that both OT verses speak of the lawless deeds; the Psalm speaks specifically of being ‘redeemed’ from them, a term picked up in Titus 2:14. But the primary text on which Titus 2:14 appears to be based is Ezekiel 37:23. Yahweh speaks of delivering Israel ‘from all their lawless deeds,’ of ‘purifying’ them, and says that the result is that they will be his ‘people.’ What is startling here is that whereas in Ezekiel, Yahweh is the one who will cleanse them to be his people, in Titus it is Jesus Christ who cleanses us to be his people. Now we have Jesus not only doing what the OT said Yahweh would do – save and redeem and purify us – but doing it to make a people for himself, whereas the OT said that Yahweh would do these things to make a people for himself, i.e., for Yahweh. In short, what the OT said would be done by and for Yahweh, Paul says was done by and for Jesus Christ… 

“The Greek word periousios (‘own possession’), used in the NT only in Titus 2:14, appears only five times in the OT, always as a modifier of laos (‘people’), and always with reference to Israel as a people for Yahweh’s own possession (Ex. 19:5; 23:22; Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18). Its first occurrence, in Exodus 19:5, is as part of the foundational description of God’s intention for Israel (presented after they have escaped into the wilderness and just prior to the giving of the Law). Thus, the expression laos periousios would be immediately recognized as a description of Israel that has now been applied to the church. Exodus 19:5 is also applied to the church in 1 Peter 2:9, where peripoiêsin is used instead of periousios.

“In Titus 2:13-14, then, Paul applies the title ‘God’ to Jesus Christ. Paul characterizes the nature of Christ in the way the OT characterizes the nature of Yahweh (as the ‘great’ God). He speaks of Christ doing what the OT said Yahweh would do (save, redeem, and purify his people) and of doing it to create a people for himself, just as the OT said Yahweh would do for himself. In this one sentence, then, Paul attributes to Jesus Christ titles, characteristics, works, and honors reserved in the OT for Yahweh. The evidence is overwhelming that Paul was intentionally speaking of Jesus Christ as Yahweh, the great God and Savior.” (Sharp’s Rule and Antitrinitarian Theologies: A Bicentennial Defense of Granville Sharp’s Argument for the Deity of Christ, pp. 39-40; bold emphasis ours)

This explains why Paul could speak of God and Jesus both being our Savior all throughout this short epistle:

“not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Titus 2:10

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace FROM God the Father AND Christ Jesus our Savior.” Titus 1:1-4

In fact, the inspired Apostle refers to both God and Jesus as Savior in a context where he describes salvation as the work of all three divine Persons of the Godhead!

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7

Genuine Christians are those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit whom God the Father has poured out upon all true believers in his love and mercy because of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, resulting in our justification! 

Hence, if you asked this blessed and beloved Apostle how many Saviors do Christians have, he would respond by saying only one since he was in complete agreement with the Hebrew Scriptures:

“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:10

“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.’” Isaiah 43:10-11

“Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:21-22

“But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior.” Hosea 13:4

And yet if you asked him whether salvation is a work equally wrought by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, he would say absolutely! 

No wonder the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ was forced to come up with the glorious doctrine of the most Holy and Blessed Trinity!

Williams thinks he has a response that undermines the explicit witness to the Deity of Christ found in Titus 2:13. Here it is again:

"Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ."

And now here is what Williams said in response to a Christian named madmanna who cited this text to refute Williams’ distortion of Biblical teaching:

Paul Williams said, on November 7, 2011 at 8:29 pm (Trinity Questions)

Titus 2 v 13. “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”.

Firstly, there is a consensus amongst biblical scholars that this letter, claiming to be from Paul to Titus is a forgery. The late great biblical scholar Raymond E Brown (I had the privilege of hearing him lecture on Paul at Oxford University) in his An Introduction to the New Testament writes ‘about 80 to 90 percent of modern scholars would agree that the Pastorals [1 & 2 Timothy and Titus] were written after Paul’s lifetime, and of those the majority would accept the period between 80 and 100 as the most plausible context for their composition.’ p668. I agree with this assessment. 

So I start from the basis that this letter is not by Paul, and was erroneously believed to be by him when it was chosen for inclusion into the NT.

Secondly, your translation

Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ

(American Standard Version)

does not speak of Jesus Christ as ‘God’ – it speaks of God and then of Jesus. 

There are several problems with Williams’ claims. First, notice that when it is convenient Williams will quote the Pastoral Epistles (PE), e.g. 1-2 Timothy and Titus, to prove his case much like he did in his debate with Latham. Yet he will not hesitate to call into question the reliability of these same sources whenever they are used to refute his assertions! Unfortunately, such blatant inconsistency is typical of the followers of Muhammad, especially those that are actively involved in spreading the lies of Islam like Williams.  

In fact, Williams just posted a blog article on December 22, 2011 titled, "How Good Logic Leads to Good Theology," where he refers to WHAT THE APOSTLE PAUL WROTE about God's nature in 1 Timothy 6:15-16 in order to disprove the Deity of Christ! Can Williams make it any more obvious of just how dishonest and inconsistent he truly is?(1)

Be that as it may, since these writings are reliable enough for Williams to use to make his case then consistency and integrity demand that he accepts the fact that they are also credible enough to refute and expose him. He cannot have his cake and eat it too. 

Second, it is ironic that Williams mentions Brown’s Introduction to the New Testament without bothering to inform his readers that in this same work Brown actually makes a strong case for Pauline authorship, thereby going against the supposed 80-90% majority who do not think that Paul wrote the PE! For the details please consult the following rebuttal.

Third, it is irrelevant to our argument whether Paul wrote the Epistles since the case for the Deity of Christ doesn’t depend upon this point. One can deny Pauline authorship and still conclude that these writings explicitly affirm that Jesus is God incarnate. After all, the non-Pauline authorship of the PE didn’t stop Williams from quoting 1 Timothy 2:5 against Latham. Therefore, if the PE are reliable enough to prove Williams case then they are also good enough to expose him.

Fourth, Williams needs to do more than merely appeal to an English translation to make his case. He needs to actually examine and address the particular Greek construction that is used in Titus 2:13.

Titus 2:13 is an example of what Greek scholars call a Granville Sharpe construction. Evangelical author and apologist Robert M. Bowman Jr. provides a helpful explanation of what this all means: 

In Greek, when two nouns of the same case are connected by kai (“and”), and the definite article appears before the first noun but not before the second, both nouns refer to the same person if the nouns are (1) personal, (2) singular, and (3) non-proper nouns, and if the nouns are (d) not normally paired semantically as denoting two persons. (Sharp’s Rule, p. 5)

That Titus 2:13 is an example of such a construction is easily proven by looking at the underlying Greek text:

tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon ‘Iesou Christou
   the great God   and Savior   of us   Jesus Christ

Notice that there is only one definite article (“the”) that appears before the word “great,” which makes it a Granville Sharpe construction. This means that there is simply no way of getting around the fact that Jesus is expressly called our great God and Savior in Titus 2:13. 

This same construction is also found several times in 2 Peter where Jesus is identified as both God and Lord:

“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (tou theou hemon kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou):” 2 Peter 1:1

“For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (tou kyriou hemon kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou).” 2 Peter 1:11

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (tou kyriou [hemon] kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou), they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.” 2 Peter 2:20

“that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior (tou kyriou kai soteros) through your apostles,” 2 Peter 3:2

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (tou kyriou hemon kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou). To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

We, thus, have two inspired Apostles explicitly testifying that Jesus is our God and Savior!

To conclude, it is obvious that Latham was correct since in Biblical Christianity there is no fallible, imperfect human being that stands as a mediator between God and man. Rather, the message of Christianity is that God came to the earth in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ to redeem mankind from their sins and to make intercession for believers:

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:19-21

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God AND THE EXACT IMPRINT OF HIS NATURE, and he upholds the universe BY THE WORD OF HIS POWER. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Hebrews 1:1-3

“who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life… This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” Hebrews 7:16, 22-28, 8:1-2

Hence, the Christian intermediary is none other than God himself, the eternal Son of the Father, who came to do for his people what they could not do for themselves!

“‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:21-23

So much for Williams’ cheap debate tricks and deceptive methodology. 

Further Reading

For sources defending Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles, and articles refuting the assertion that the NT contains forgeries, we recommend the following resources:

J. P. Holding, The Authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles

Holding, Trusting the New Testament: Is the Bible Reliable?

George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary)

D. A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament

Glenn Miller, Are some of the NT letters 'pious forgeries'? Part 1Part 2

Daniel B. Wallace, Review of Bart D. Ehrman, Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why The Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are Part 1Part 2Part 3

Michael Licona, Review of Bart D. Ehrman, Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why The Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

And for more on Sharpe’s rule we suggest consulting the following articles and book:

Robert M. Bowman Jr., Sharp’s Rule

James R. White, Granville Sharp's Rule Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1

Daniel Wallace, Sharp Redivivus? - A Reexamination of the Granville Sharp le

Wallace, Granville Sharp's Canon and Its Kin 


(1) Christians aren't the only ones who are noticing just how inconsistent Williams truly is. Here is what a Muslim wrote concerning Williams' blog article, "How Good Logic Leads to Good Theology", where he uses 1 Timothy 6:15-16 to prove that Paul's concept of God undermines the Deity of Christ:

freepalestinerightnow said, on December 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Salam aleikum Paul,

I admire your debating skills and am a frequent visitor to your blog. I have question concerning this post. In earlier debates and posts you’ve made the argument that we can’t trust Paul and that Paul’s writings can’t be used as evidence of what Jesus believed. So, I just wan’t your input on how you on the one hand say that Paul is unreliable (which I totally agree with) and on the other hand use portions of his writings to prove your point? I’m not being judgemental, just wan’t to know your reasoning here, since it can be beneficial to muslims who encounter Christian apolegetics.