The truth before us as a topic is rare. It is by no means found everywhere in the theologicalBibliothek. One may scan many volumes before place is found where the subject is treated, or taken up with more than passing notice. Nor where the name Lord is explained is lordship necessarily elucidated. The subject is to be distinguished from the deity of Christ. In His person He is God of God, true God of true God. But that divine person took into everlasting union with himself true manhood, in which He was invested with the sovereign position of absolute, universal sway. The subject is also to be distinguished from the royal office of Christ. The former is a finer aspect of the latter. Christ as King governs, defends and preserves us in the salvation He has purchased for us. As Lord He has purchased us, soul and body, delivered us from all our sins with His own blood, and made us His own property (Heidelberg Catechism, 31, 34). As King He has right over us by creation. As Lord He has right over us by redemption. As King, His office is creative and providential. As Lord it is restorative. By His lordship He makes peace between God and man: “preaching peace by Jesus Christ; He is Lord of all (Acts 10:36).” He was “exalted to be a Prince and Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins (Acts 5:31)” As King He lays down His law. As Lord He writes it in the hearts of His people.
Two eminent defenders of the lordship of Christ were Geerhardus Vos and J. Gresham Machen, the former in his The Self-Disclosure of Jesus, and the latter in his The Origin of Paul’s Religion. Both of these works make very difficult reading. Nevertheless, the following is of interest from Machen. He points out that the idea of lordship was common among the heathen. For the title Eovd was current in pagan religion. “But that does not necessarily mean that the title was applied to Jesus in the first place because of the pagan usage. . . Pagan cults were entirely tolerant; worship of one Lord did not mean the relinquishment of another. But to the Christians there was one Lord and one only . . .Paul himself refers plainly to the currency of the title. ‘For though there be,’ he says, ‘that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as there are gods many, and lords many; yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things; and we in Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him’ (I Cor. 8:5, 6)…The mere fact that the Christians used a title which was also used in the pagan cults does not establish any dependence upon paganism. For the title ‘Lord’ was almost as well established as a designation of divinity as was the term ‘God'” (pp. 306, 305, 307). Christ’s lordship is therefore unique, exalted as He is “far above all principalities and powers and might and dominion.”
The title Lord is a covenant term since it has to do with the guiding and governing of a family, denoting headship over wife and children. The Lord is Masterof a family, and the covenant idea is further brought out in the O.T. form of the word, My-Lord. Many of the people of God used this form of the name,Adonai, calling Him from the heart, “my Lord.” David wrote, “Jehovah said unto my Lord. . .” Elisabeth spoke of “the mother of my Lord.” Mary Magdalene cried, “they have taken away my Lord.” Thomas exclaimed, “my Lord and my God!” Paul coveted “the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” The title signifies the Owner of the entire human family and the One to whom unrestricted obedience is due. This lordship belonging to Him by nature as the only begotten Son, the second person of the trinity, is absolute and underived. It also belongs to Him by decree as the Mediator, and is delegated and derived. “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18).” “Thou hast given Him authority over all flesh (John 17:2).” God “hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man (John 5:27).” It is not the inherent, underived lordship of the Son of God, but the delegated lordship of Christ which we now consider. Peter had this in mind when he said, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).”
Not only does He have title to His lordship, but right to it, as well. It is His right by redemption. “For to this end Christ both died and rose again, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living (Rom. 14:9).” As Lord the right of worship is due him. “He is thy Lord, and worship thou Him” (Ps. 45:11). Not only was He “born King of the Jews,” but He was also born Lord (Luke 2:11). All creatures are subject to Him, some against their wills, as the devil, his cohorts and all revolters. They say, “Who is Lord over us? (Ps. 12:4).” Or they claim, “We are lords, we will come no more unto Thee (Jer. 2:31).” They live in the spirit of, “we will not have this Man to reign over us (Luke 19:14).” When Christ came, men would have Him no more when they learned that He was not a bread-king with socialist platform. Nevertheless He imposes a ministry and service upon rebels which they perform, as He appoints, although they neither realize they are nor intend they should be instruments under His complete control (Is. 10:7). It is as Spurgeon put it. “The world has not gone to confusion; Chance is not God; God is still Master, and let men do what they will, and hate the truth we now prize, they shall after all do what God wills, and their direst rebellion shall prove but a species of obedience, though they know it not.” Others are subject to Him willingly. They are His own people. “They gave their own selves to the Lord (II Cor. 8:5).” The rest, who do not own Him, have no part with Him. “Not every one that saith unto Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but He that doeth the will of My Father (Matt. 7:21).” We willing subjects renounce the devil and all his works, the world and all its allurements, the flesh and all its dictates, which were once our lords and, at the same time, our enemies. For “other lords besides Thee have had dominion over us (Is. 26:13),” but they have all been dispossessed, like the five kings Joshua trapped in the Cave of Makkedah, there to destroy and bury them (Josh. 10:1-27). We cast down the weapons of our warfare against Him, bow under His scepter, and acknowledge Him as Sovereign Lord “to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing (Col. 1:10).” It is our desire to follow the injunction, “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him (Col. 2:6).”
Jesus, always conscious of His Godhood and Messiahship, thought and spoke of himself as Lord. He commanded His church, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest (Matt. 9:38).” That He here meant not God the Father, but himself is plain not only from what He said but what He did (Matt. 9:33, 10:1). If Jesus did no miracle, what He said cannot be understood. But Jesus will not be misunderstood. He plainly directed His apostles to speak of Him as Lord. “Ye shall say, ‘The Lord hath need of them (Matt. 21:3).'” Then He commended them for owning Him as such. “Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am (John 13:13).”
What Jesus did proves Him Lord. He touched and cleansed the lepers; He cursed the fig tree (only the Maker and Lord of every creature could justifiably do so); He made wind and waves cease their raging; cast out demons, dispelled diseases, commanded dead to rise, and where faithful preachers said, “Thus saith the Lord,” He said, “I say unto you!” Lordship was also demonstrated in commissioning His church, holding the keys of hades and of death, His rule over the churches, His opening and shutting of the doors of providence. In the future He will display His lordship in rewarding His saints and destroying His enemies.
The extent of His lordship is revealed in the teaching of His apostles. “He is Lord of all (Acts 10:36),” “Lord over all (Rom. 10:12).” All other lords are subject to Him, for He is the “only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords (I Tim. 6:15).” Before His birth, while conceived in the womb, He was confessed as Lord (Luke 1:43). All His life He was Lord, and continues so in heaven to all eternity, for He receives worship coequally with the Father on the throne (Rev. 5:13). It is the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 22:1). The great Spurgeon said, “He is God—know that, ye inhabitants of the land—and all things, after all, shall serve His will. I like what Luther says in his bold hymn, where, notwithstanding all that those who are haters of predestination choose to affirm, he knew and boldly declared, ‘He everywhere hath sway, and all things serve His might!'”
What shall we say to these things? Let us by grace, in faith, from the heart, say, “My Lord, and my God” (John 20:28). He must have our worship. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve (Matt. 4:10). ” He must be served enthusiastically: “whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord (Col. 3:23).” He must be served with all our powers: “not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Rom. 12:11).” Anyone who is a true Christian always serves Him and always belongs to Him. “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).” Many of our loved ones, aged, with long years of knowing and loving the Sovereign Lord behind them, come to their last and dying days with memory gone. With respect to those they love best, their mind is often a complete blank. This sometimes occurs in ministers of the Gospel during the last days of their pilgrimage. One aged minister, dying, suffering this loss of memory, no longer recognized loved ones. But when one spoke softly into his ear, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” he responded in rapturous voice,
“Jesus, my Lord! I know His name;
His name is all my trust;
Nor will He put my hope to shame,
Nor let my soul be lost.”