Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
We have seen and believe that the only begotten Son of God is very God. And because Jesus Christ is God, He is the unique Son. He alone is the eternal and natural Son of God. He alone is Savior. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
But this same Christ is also our Lord.
He who has redeemed us from all our sins has also claimed us as His own property.
We make this confession in full realization that this truth is widely rejected by Christians in our day. That there are multitudes of Christians who deny Jesus’ lordship over them is astounding to us. It isn’t astounding in the sense that we do not understand why people would take such a position. After all, to confess Jesus Christ as Lord is to acknowledge that we are small. To confess Jesus Christ as Lord is necessarily to deny oneself and to acknowledge another more important than self. We were those who had to be saved. Christ is the One who alone could save us. Doesn’t it stand to reason, then, that He has a right and a power that we do not have? Doesn’t it stand to reason that He has something more than we?
To confess Jesus Christ as my Lord is to place a limitation around myself, and to walk according to the dictates and will of Him who is higher than I. It is to acknowledge that I am but a servant, a slave. And how we hate servitude — by nature. From that point of view we can certainly understand the desire to shake off the perceived bonds of Jesus’ lordship.
But that so many would deny Jesus’ lordship is astounding simply because the Bible itself so clearly sets forth this very truth!
Jesus pointed to Himself as the fulfillment of Psalm 110, when, in a conversation with the Pharisees, He asked them, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions” (Matt. 22:42-46).
This was one of the first points of emphasis in the apostles’ preaching immediately after Pentecost (Acts 2:36): “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
How frequently in the New Testament is the Savior referred to as Jesus Christ our Lord!
Yet in recent decades there has been a rising movement in evangelical Christendom which denies Jesus as Lord. There are many who say that they love Jesus, who call themselves Christian, but who want nothing to do with a Christ who is Lord over them. In this article and the next we must give some consideration to that error.
But we immediately and openly confess that to claim Jesus as Savior is to submit to Him as Lord. Another gospel there is not!
This is a truth that bears great significance — both with respect to the assurance that is ours as Christians and also with respect to the way we live. You and I are called to stand always before Jesus Christ and to join Thomas in the confession: “My Lord and my God.”
When we confess our faith in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son, our Lord, we are confessing not only that Jesus is the only eternal and natural Son of God, but also that His lordship is unique.
Christ is Lord alone. The One God, Jehovah, is Lord over all, and He now reigns by His exalted Son, Jesus Christ.
It is exactly from this point of view that we reject categorically all religions that do not maintain this confession. True Christianity is not a religion that can be placed in categories with other world religions. We do not put Buddhism or Hinduism or Islam or Judaism as religions on equal footing with Christianity. We refuse to give legitimacy even to those sects that call themselves Christian but deny the unique lordship of Jesus Christ, the only true God. Christ alone is Lord! And He is Lord indeed.
Christ is Lord exactly as the only begotten Son of God. It is He of whom the apostle writes in Romans 10:12,13: “For the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Deny that Jesus is God, and the confession of His lordship becomes a farce. If He is a mere man, why not cast off His demands and twist His precepts to serve our own purposes? But He is not a mere man. He is God in the flesh.
As the divine person of the Son of God, Christ is Lord over all.
He is Lord by virtue of His being Creator. John writes concerning the Son of God in the first chapter of his gospel account, verse 3, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” As the owner of that creation, He rules over all and everything in such a way that together all things serve His sovereign purpose.
But when we confess Jesus as Lord, we are confessing His lordship over us. We confess the lordship of the only begotten Son of God who is Jesus Christ our Savior. He not only created. But to fulfill the eternal counsel and will of God, He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell. Unfathomably deep was the suffering of Jesus! He suffered for us, for all His people — because of our sins. He suffered and died, that we might never have to bear the everlasting and infinite wrath of God. But having accomplished the purpose for which He became flesh, this Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, was raised and exalted at God’s right hand. He is Lord indeed!
We must maintain that He is the only Lord. For “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Jehovah is Lord alone. And Jehovah reveals Himself in the face of Jesus Christ. That confession is inseparable from salvation. One who does not confess Christ as Lord is not saved.
Satan, for that very reason, would try to destroy that confession. The saints in the early church were placed before the choice of saying, “Jesus is Lord, but Caesar is also Lord,” or being executed. Satan does not want an exclusive Christianity. He strives to bring about a false Christianity, anti-Christ. So the saints were told, “You may confess Jesus is Lord, so long as you confess in the same breath that Caesar is Lord.” Their refusal to make that compromise meant for some of them that they were burned at the stake, for others that they were thrown to the lions, for others that they were roasted alive in boiling oil. By faith they walked the way of death, rather than deny the unique and only lordship which belongs to Christ Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. By faith they confessed the name of Jesus, that He is Lord alone, and that there is no Lord next to Him or instead of Him.
When we call Jesus Christ our Lord, we do not place Him in a class of lords, but we acknowledge Him as the sole Lord over us and over all.
Obviously, that bears great significance to our own lives. He is not a lord, alongside many other lords in our life. He is not a lord for one day of the week, or part of one day. When we confess Him as our Lord, our Lord by virtue of His death for us and exaltation at God’s right hand, we are confessing that His is an unlimited lordship. We confess that which is recorded in Romans 14:8: “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”
And we must recognize that Christ is not Lord because we made Him Lord. His lordship is not contingent or dependent upon anything we may do. He is not and does not become our Lord because we acknowledge Him as such and are willing to serve Him. We all are called to serve Him. But His lordship is not dependent on whether or not we obey that calling. He is Lord, Lord over every aspect of our life, at all times and everywhere. Do you confess Him as such — exclusive Lord over you?
This is one area where those who deny the lordship of Christ err grievously. Some certainly misunderstand, while others twist the Scriptures to their own damnation. The following are a few quotations from some who deny the truth that we confess:
— “Lordship salvation contradicts Scripture.”
— “This message is accursed of God.”
— “The person who preaches such a message is also accursed of God.”
— “It hinders the growth of the body of Christ — this will stop the growth of the local churches.”
These quotations are from a book entitled Handbook of Personal Evangelism, authored by Stanford, Seymore, and Streib, and referred to and criticized by Ernest C. Reisinger in his book, Lord & Christ: The Implications of Lordship for Faith and Life.
Those who deny the lordship of Christ are frequently dispensationalists. They are those who tear the very fabric of the Bible, making separation between Old and New Testaments and denying the unity of the church and the one gospel of grace. Dispensationalists generally have a Jewish and therefore earthly concept of the kingdom. Consequently, they deny the kingship of Christ over His church, and teach rather that He is King only over the nation of Israel, that earthly kingdom which is still precious in His sight. They err greatly.
They teach that the gospel of grace brings complete freedom from any demands. In 1922, Lewis Chafer, a prominent dispensationalist theologian, wrote in his book Grace: The Glorious Theme, “The Christian’s liberty to do precisely as he chooses is as limitless and perfect as any other aspect of grace.”
We insist, however, that the lordship of Christ does press upon every aspect of our lives, bringing us into willing subjection. And we charge those who deny the lordship of Christ with attempting to separate fundamental biblical truths that are meant to exist in perfect harmony with each other — truths such as law and gospel, law and grace, saving faith and good works as the fruits of that faith.
Reisinger points out —correctly, in many cases, we judge — that the father of this denial of Christ’s lordship is Arminianism, the mother is dispensationalism, with the mother’s sister being antinomianism, and all bringing their evil influence upon their daughter and niece. We make bold to say that those who deny the lordship of Christ have another gospel, which therefore is no gospel!
Saving faith, union with Christ, brings the whole man into subjection to Him. That which we think, that which we will, how we make our decisions, and the actions that we take, all are now subject to our Lord Christ. That is true because Christ Himself brings us into willing subjection to Him. That is why I Corinthians 12:3 tells us, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”