Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.

We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is Lord over all. But we confess that He is Lord over us, His redeemed people, in a particular sense. We must understand how that lordship was established and what it means for us.

Determined by God

Before the foundation of the world God had determined to reveal His lordship and to be known and acknowledged as the only Lord. He would do so in Christ Jesus.

From eternity God had determined to reveal His own covenant life, the life of His fellowship and love, to a peculiar people, His elect. Nor would that revelation of His covenant fellowship and love to them be incompatible with His lordship over them. For He determined that revelation and realization of His covenant of grace to be in and by Christ Jesus, who would be Lord of all.

So we read of His Son, Jesus Christ, in Colossians 1:15ff., as the “firstborn of every creature.” The reference obviously is not to Christ as the firstborn from a natural point of view. The reference rather is to Christ as the firstborn in the eternal counsel of God, the counsel of our salvation.

And then we read this concerning Christ: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”

That is the exclusive lordship of Christ Jesus. That has now been accomplished. According to this eternal good pleasure of God, the only begotten Son, the eternal Word, became flesh and dwelt among us.

John emphasizes the Godhead of the Son throughout his entire gospel account. God became flesh in Christ Jesus our Lord. This means that our Lord, whom we had rejected, and against whom we had rebelled, came very near to us, spoke to us face to face, and united Himself with us in an inseparable union. He reached down into our misery, into our darkness of sin and death, where in our folly and by the divine sentence of this same just Lord we were held in the bondage of sin and Satan because of our guilt. And He redeemed us! Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, redeemed us!

We had rejected God’s lordship over us by virtue of creation. In Adam we rebelled and refused to acknowledge Him as our Lord. We rejected His Word and subjected ourselves to the deceitful lordship of Satan, under the bondage of sin and corruption.

But when Christ redeemed us in fulfillment of God’s eternal decree, that Son of God our Lord delivered us from all the power of the devil, and made us His own property. He has redeemed us, body and soul, from all our sins. Not that He paid the price of redemption to the devil—for the devil had no right over us other than what was implied in God’s righteous sentence of death over us. But Christ, our Lord, paid the price of our redemption to the Father, whose revelation He is.

Jesus is our Lord, because He bought us! You are bought with a price, says the inspired apostle in I Corinthians 6:20. He bought us with a price of infinite measure, a price that you and I could never have paid.

Peter expounds that truth in I Peter 1:18,19: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

When you read about the appearance of Jesus to Thomas, recorded in John 20, you find that the price that Jesus paid was a price that Thomas could not fathom. He could not comprehend it, even when Jesus first stood before him in the appearance of His crucified flesh! For the price that our Lord paid was not from the treasures of His creation. Though He owns all things—all silver and gold, the cattle on a thousand hills, all fields and oxen—not all His creation would have been sufficient unto our redemption.

Christ redeemed us with His own precious blood. It was the price of eternal and infinite love! And so He accomplished for Himself the right to make us His property.

An Accomplished Lordship

By redeeming and delivering us, our Lord revealed His lordship as an accomplished lordship.

We had been His property, of course, from eternity. That is the truth of sovereign, eternal election — which also implies necessarily the truth of sovereign, eternal reprobation.

But before the bar of divine justice, in the way of God’s righteousness, this is how Christ became our Lord in the sense of which we confess Him now. He is our Redeemer and Deliverer of whom we confess, “My Lord and my God!”

He became our Lord, not merely to rule over us as possessions with which He may do as He pleases, but as a precious property of love, even as His own body. He obtained for Himself that right of lordship according to which we may once more, and now in a deeper sense than ever before in Adam, love Him, trust in Him, and serve Him as our Lord. So Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, the Lord over all by virtue of creation, now also became our Lord in unfathomable love!

But the question arises: How do we ever come to confess Him and acknowledge Him as our Lord?

That also comes by the accomplishment of Christ’s sovereign lordship!

There are those who present it far differently. Those who follow the erroneous teachings of Arminius say that this Lord of all sends forth now the message of His love as an offer to all men. He offers us His lordship instead of the deceitful lordship of the devil, and asks that we be persuaded by the sight of His beautiful love to forsake the service of Satan and to enter His service.

Such teaching is a denial of the accomplished lordship of Christ, and actually exalts man to the place of Lord alongside of Christ. By such a teaching the accomplishment of Christ’s lordship is dependent upon what man does with this supposed “offer.” We grieve that such false teaching has made deep inroads even into Reformed churches. That is not the truth of Scripture at all.

On the contrary, Christ Himself realizes His lordship also in us.

So unique is His lordship, that even our confession of Him as Lord is dependent upon His sovereign exercise of His lordship over us. For you to confess from the heart, “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord,” is only a wonderful manifestation of His mighty and sovereign lordship as executed by the Holy Spirit. That is I Corinthians 12:3: “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”

We never make Him our Lord.

No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the work of His own sovereign Spirit. And as Paul writes in Romans 8:9, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

Christ exercises His lordship over us. He Himself, having destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, now comes to visit us in our prison of sin and death, and delivers us. By the power of His Word and Spirit He dethrones the devil from our hearts. By the irresistible power of His grace, ministered in the preaching of the Word, He breaks the shackles of sin and corruption by which we have been held in bondage. He dispels the darkness of our folly, enlightening us from on high. He sheds abroad in us the love of God. All those things are the Lord’s work in the hearts and lives of His own.

And when the Lord so works in us, we come to Him. When the Lord so works in us, we see the folly of our sin, the terribleness of enslavement to the devil. When the Lord so works in us, we begin to love Him, to long for Him, to cry out to Him from the depths of our hearts. In adoration, with humbleness of heart, we cry out, “My Lord and my God!”

That truth and our confession of it also has a powerful influence in our lives. “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” (Rom. 14:8).