Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
Christ’s is a perfect lordship.
He owns us completely. He alone is our Lord and we are His property. Is that your confession? When we are partakers of His death and resurrection, we are the property of Christ. He owns you completely. You are His with body and soul, with your husband or wife and children, with brothers and sisters in the Lord, with all your life and possessions. All belongs to Christ! He owns us.
Do you acknowledge that lordship of Christ over you? Your heart is His, your thoughts and desires, intentions and motives. Your actions in the sanctuary and in the narthex of the church on the Lord’s Day, as well as in your home and workplace every day and every hour are His. Do you confess that?
Jesus our Lord rules over us not by force, but by the impelling power of His love. His is a rule of grace. When Christ is our Lord, His mind is our mind, His will is our will, His Word is our delight. And He alone is the One who determines not only what we shall do and say, but also what we shall think and feel and desire and by what motives we shall be governed.
The sight of our eyes, the speech of our mouth, the hearing of our ears, the actions of our bodily members, all belong to the Lord. That is the emphasis of the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 6:20, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
And when we say, “Jesus is Lord,” we imply that with all our heart and mind and soul we forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk a new and holy life.
That has several implications for our lives as the people of God.
Immediately we recognize that the gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus is at the same time a gospel of obedience. Repeatedly Scripture sets obedience before us as one of the ways in which we may be assured of our eternal life.
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (I John 2:3-5).
So the Lord Himself also said in John 14:21, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” It ought to be obvious that Jesus was not teaching a works-salvation. He was setting forth the inevitable consequences of the life of His Spirit in His own. The fruit of regeneration and faith is found in obedience and willing subjection to the lordship of our Savior.
Secondly, in the confession of Christ our Lord there is a recognition of fellowship with His body, the church. Scripture repeatedly refers to our Savior as Jesus Christ our Lord.
When we confess Christ our Lord, we seek to manifest the unity of the church and the communion of saints, doing so according to His will and in obedience to His holy Word. We seek that unity, not merely by taking care of those who are sick or in evident need, not merely by comforting the sorrowing, not merely by showing up in church with God’s people, but also by laboring to edify one another, and even by seeking out those who are walking in sin. The difficult labors of Christian discipline belong to the confession of Christ’s lordship over us!
There is far too much individualism among those who confess “our Lord” when they recite the Apostles’ Creed. We dare say that what is often meant is really “my Lord.” There are many who cherish their own private brand of religion and insist on going their own way. Many such people even avoid contact with the people of God, withdrawing themselves from the fellowship of the saints and living a life of separation from the body of Christ. But when one carefully examines that walk of life, what he really finds is the confession, “I am Lord!”
Let us well understand this confession.
The Bible does not tolerate a private religion. To go your own way, doing your own thing, thinking what you please, doing whatever you please when you please, is not acceptable to Jehovah God. He calls us to confess our Lord, comprehending the beautiful unity of the people of God and the glory of His handiwork.
Though we are all different, also in terms of education, job, social status, and even race and nationality, “There is one body, and one spirit,” writes the apostle in Ephesians 4:4: “even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
You cannot walk your own way, and confess the Lord Christ. He commands you to submit yourself unto Him and to take your place among His people. To confess the Son of God as Lord is to take your place as an active member of His body.
But there is still more.
That lordship of our Redeemer over us is all-comprehensive! It embraces us in our marriages and in our families, at home and in the workplace, at church and in the school, with all our life and all our possessions. Christ has dominion over all our relationships in this world. He calls us to fellowship only with His people, and not with those who do not confess His lordship over them.
The lordship of Christ is one of the principal reasons for Christian education. That is one reason why the Protestant Reformed Churches emphasize the importance of providing Protestant Reformed Christian schools in which our children can be taught. Our Christian faith is no mere theory. The lordship of Christ is not something reserved for Sunday, or reserved for a Bible class. That lordship of Christ must be recognized in every realm of life, and in every subject that is taught, in the programs that are put on and the discipline that is exercised in the school.
And our confession that He is our Lord implies that we gladly and willingly acknowledge His lordship, and that it is our earnest desire and endeavor to obey His precepts and to seek out His will in every aspect of our life.
Whenever the truth of Christ’s lordship is set aside, we make an abstraction of that which is meant to be inseparable from our lives as Christians.
How does our Christian faith apply during the day? Sometimes I think we and our children fail to recognize the answer to that question. The lordship of Christ is a perfect lordship, all-embracing and applicable to every aspect of our life.
But there is one more very beautiful element of Christ’s lordship over us. That Jesus is Lord also means that He is responsible for us.
That is not to deny our calling, not at all. But what it means is that our Lord keeps us and loves us, defends us and leads us on to the final victory. When we stumble and fall, this Almighty Lord, our Redeemer, stands before God and says, “I am responsible. I have purchased him, I have purchased her, with my precious blood.”
For time and eternity Christ is our Lord, responsible for us before God. Having made us His own possession, He assumed responsibility for us before God. And He alone is able to bear that responsibility. Under His lordship there is complete freedom from fear — fear of judgment, fear of death, fear of hell. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).
That is the lordship of Christ. Do you confess that Jesus is Lord? Do you endeavor to know His will and to obey no other word than His in every aspect of your life, no matter what may be the cost?
That perfect lordship of Christ was confessed by Thomas as recorded in John 20:28. Thomas confessed Christ as his Lord and his God.
That confession was the result of God’s work of grace, no question about it.
But when you read John 20, notice what the Lord said to him immediately after Thomas made his confession. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” The meaning is not that Thomas was not blessed, because he had seen his Lord and God. But Jesus would emphasize that there is a greater blessedness than the blessedness experienced by Thomas and the other apostles at that particular moment.
That greater blessedness is that which belongs to you, and all believers throughout all the generations which arose after Jesus spoke those words.
That is a wonderful application for us. Perhaps there are Thomases among us. I am sure that at some point or other in everyone’s life, there is a Thomas in his heart. That is, we want to see. We sometimes view our Christian faith as missing something. “How do I know that this Christianity isn’t just a big joke? How do I know that I indeed have a Friend that is closer than a brother, when I can’t even see that Friend?” We want to see.
Wouldn’t it have been nice, if we had seen the risen Lord on that resurrection day? Yes.
But Jesus says, what you have now is far more blessed! Why? Because faith based on the senses is necessarily limited to the senses. The disciples saw the risen Lord; but they did not yet see the truth and beauty of the resurrection. They saw the fact that Jesus had risen; but they did not yet understand the significance of that event. And why not? Because the resurrection is not merely a matter of the senses, of hearing and seeing, but of faith and the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit. Only when the Lord came into their hearts by the power of His Holy Spirit, and made them partakers of the resurrection, did they see the wonder of the resurrection and did they see their Lord, who is Christ.
You who believe, and in whom the risen and exalted Christ now lives by the power of His Holy Spirit, know Him as Lord. And when you know Him as Lord, you know that you are justified.
Thomas, by merely touching Jesus, could not feel that he was justified. That is a matter of faith. It is more blessed to believe.
How blessed are you? Christ’s resurrection is our life. But you could never perceive that merely by looking at Him. In fact, elsewhere in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus said of the rich man’s unbelieving brothers: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
To receive the Word of God, to receive the teachings of the Scriptures, to receive Christ in the preaching of the Word, is more blessed than to see Him as the disciples saw Him that day.
Thomas and the apostles had to become partakers of the resurrection by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in order to experience this greater blessing. Then they could see the blessedness of Christ’s lordship. We, too, must receive by faith the blessedness of Christ’s lordship over us. Unless that blessedness is ours, the joy of the resurrection cannot be ours.
“No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (I Cor. 12:3). When, therefore, you confess, “My Lord and my God,” as did Thomas, you also magnify the name of God. For you bear evidence of the work of the Spirit, the power of God’s grace, and the hope of life everlasting.