The Lordship of Christ

The Lordship of Christ

F. W. Schwartz

A day is coming when Christ will be universally acknowledge as Lord. Not one dissenting voice will be heard. To the farthest reaches of the universe the confession will be completely unanimous. Without a single exception EVERY tongue shall then “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!” (Phil. 2:11). Alas that many are so slow in our own day to acknowledge Him at all.

Much of to-day’s thinking, even among true Christians, is much too vague as to the Lordship of Christ—His absolute sovereignty. The very title “Lord,” it has been remarked,” has become one of the most lifeless in the Christian vocabulary, whereas it really declares the true character and dignity of Jesus Christ” (Kennedy, quoted by Robertson). We cannot afford to be hazy about this truth. It is important beyond calculation, and upon our proper apprehension of it a great deal depends. No subject is more truly fundamental in Christian doctrine or to Christian living.

The acknowledgment of Christ as Lord is

Closely Interwoven With Saving Faith

and is utterly indispensable to a life that is pleasing to God. An adequate conception of His dignity as Lord would revolutionize our thinking, our living, our church relationships, and our witnessing. A lack of emphasis upon it is probably responsible for much of the listlessness and lack of depth so frequently met with, and perhaps also for the deplorable number of empty professions that grieve and perplex us.

This truth is of

The Very Essence of New Testament Teaching

Among the outstanding features of the New Testament are:

    1. Its proclamation of the supreme glory of Christ’s Person as the Son of God.

    2. Its insistence upon the supremacy of the claims of Christ.

    3. Its appeal for the acknowledgment of His authority everywhere and in all things.

The Lordship of Christ is

A Leading Note in Apostolic Preaching

Peter, at Pentecost, emphatically assures his hearers that “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both LORD and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Later, at Caesarea, in a reference to “the word which God sent to the children of Israel” he asserts unequivocally that “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). Paul is equally
forceful when he says, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Cor. 4:5), and when he writes of the exaltation of Christ “that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18; cf. 1 Cor. 8:6).

The Ordinary Phraseology of The New Testament

This is permeated with the thought of the sovereignty of Christ. In references to Him the title “Lord” is quite frequent. Generally the Greek word is “KURIOS,” which in many instances is used as the equivalent of the Old Testament “Jehovah” — distinctly a Divine title. “KURIOS” was the term used by Caesar when proclaiming himself God. Early readers of the New Testament, by the application of that august title to Christ, could not but be impressed with a sense of His sovereignty, as Divine and therefore absolute.

His Lordship is, in the New Testament, assumed to be

Acknowledged (Normally) By All Believers

They are designated as those who “call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:2). He, as the Object of faith, is presented as LORD. In Acts 16:31, for instance, it is “believe on the LORD Jesus Christ.” (How forcibly the use of “KURIOS” as applied to Him would strike the Philippian jailor, who knew well what Caesar meant when he arrogated the same title to himself!) In Rom. 10:9 the confession called for is that of “the LORD Jesus,” or rather, as later versions have it, “Jesus as Lord” or “that Jesus is Lord.” Compare with this Romans 6:23, where eternal life is through (or in) “Jesus Christ our Lord” (See also Rom. 5:21; 1 Cor. 15:57; 16:22).

In the light of what we have just pointed out, one cannot but wonder if we have not been mistaken in urging people, as we often have done, to “receive Christ as Saviour.” The One glorious Person is LORD and Saviour. He cannot be dissected. One is not at liberty to say “I will have Him in the one character but not in the other.” It is THE PERSON Who is received, in the fulness of all that He is; therefore not merely “as Saviour” but equally “as Lord.” This implies that submission and obedience are expected. Consistent with this we find reference made to OBEYING the Gospel (Rom. 10:16; 1 Pet. 4:17) — the term being used, evidently, as an alternative to “believing.” Such expressions as “obedience to the faith” and “the obedience of faith” (Acts 6:7; Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26) are evidence that saving faith, as viewed in the New Testament, includes obedience as an essential element.

The question will, however, be asked: “Are we to understand that there must be an intelligent recognition of the Lordship of Christ before a person can be saved?” We answer: “It is the LORD Who is presented as Saviour, and normally it is to be expected that He will be owned as such by all who come to Him.” Salvation, however, is not made to depend upon a person’s having a comprehensive knowledge as Christ’s Person and dignity, or understanding all that is ultimately involved in receiving Him. To truly trust Christ is to be saved, however little spiritual intelligence there may as yet be. But to be saved is to have been brought to Christ, and that means to have entered into a vital relationship with Him. Such a relationship, surely, cannot exist without one’s soon apprehending, at least in some measure, Who and What He is. If then there is continued in-subjection to Him or, in other words, if His claims as Lord are set aside by a refusal to do His will, especially after clear instruction has been received, would it not seem probable that He is not yet really known at all and that the individual is still unsaved?

The Normal Attitude Of The Christian

From the moment Christ is received it is one of obedience. That obedience is, primarily, to a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer is “not without law to God, but under law to Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). Alford would render this “not being an outlaw from God but a subject of-the-law of Christ.” Darby’s translation is “not as without law to God, but as legitimately subject to Christ.” He is, as Jude puts it, “our only Master and Lord” (Jude 4, RV). His commandments are to be kept; as a matter of fact the keeping or not keeping of them is evidence as to whether or not we are in a right relationship with Him (See John 14:15, 21; 15:10-12; 1 John 2:4,- 5; 3:24; 2 John 6).

His Authority Is All-Embracing

    1. It applies to each believer individually. He does not claim the loyalty of a certain few while exempting others. He is Lord, I am His subject—the one is the corollary of the other. So Paul understood the matter, and that is why he refers to himself as “the bond-slave of Jesus Christ.”

    2. It applies to every detail of the life. We are not at liberty to say, “This, but not that.” ALL is to be submitted to His authority. In reference not only to the great transactions of life, but seeming trivialities as well, the only question should be, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”

    3. It applies always and everywhere. At any time, in any place, in any circumstances, the believer is “under authority.”

Some may think they see in what has been said a denial of the believer’s being “not under the law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). They may feel that it conflicts with “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal. 5:1). There is no conflict, but, rather, when the matter is really understood, all is seen to be perfect harmony. The law (of Moses) made demands which it enforced by threats and penalties. It brought people under a “yoke of bondage.” Faith, in contrast with this, “worketh by love” (or “through love,” Gal. 5:6). The obedience expected by the Lord Jesus is a result of love to Himself (John 14:15, 21). That love exists in believers as a sequel to Christ’s own love to them (1 John 4:19). Certainly there is none more worthy, and no one more sure to kindle in our hearts the truest affection for Him, than He Whose love to us took Him even to the cross of shame. Now, it is ever love’s fondest aim to give pleasure to the one who is loved. True love to Christ. therefore, produces spontaneous, unforced, willing obedience to His commandments. Thus we have liberty and obedience in a perfect combination. This, apparently, is what James has in mind when he speaks of the “law of liberty” (James 1:25). It would be wholly impossible, of course, apart from the enabling which only the Spirit of God can (and does) impart. It is He Who transforms the affections; it is He Who implants Christ-honoring desires; it is He Who prompts the soul “to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 3:13). May He increasingly enable each of us to so enthrone Christ in our hearts that we shall gladly, enthusiastically, own Him “King of kings and Lord of lords,” in anticipation of that glad day when universal homage and submission shall be His!