2.25 The Lord Jesus died and rose again, and was made Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), now mediating for us in Heaven.
The N.T. implies that to accept Jesus as Lord is the essence of the Gospel. In this sense, whoever confesses Jesus as Lord will be saved (Rom. 10:9, 13)- but to confess Jesus as Lord means a radical surrender of every part of our lives. It doesn't merely refer to mouthing the words " Jesus is Lord" . Paul found that every hour of his life, he was motivated to endure by Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15:30); this was how deep was his practical awareness of the power of that most basic fact. The Lord Jesus presents Himself to us as “the comforter”, the parakletos. But parakletos means not only a comforter, one who speaks to the heart; but also the word carries the idea of an intercessor. The related word paraklesis is translated ‘entreaty’ (2 Cor. 8:4,17). So what’s the conclusion? The Lord’s intercession for us should be understood by us as a heart warming comfort. That the Lord is our mediator is a comfort- if we reflect upon it enough.
The Lord's resurrection is the basis for ours. Despite the emotion and hardness of death itself, our belief in resurrection is rooted in our faith that our Lord died and rose. When comforting those who had lost loved ones in the Lord, Paul doesn't simply remind them of the doctrine of the resurrection at the Lord's coming. His focus instead is on the fact that " if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (1 Thess. 4:14). The reality of the resurrection must mean something to us in the times of death which we face in life. Jesus and the New Testament writers seem to me to have a startling disregard of death. Paul says that Jesus has " abolished death" (2 Tim. 1:10) in that death as the world has to face it, final and total death, does not happen to us in Christ. This is why those who truly follow the Lord will never taste of death (Jn. 8:51,52); everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die (Jn. 11:26). It really is but a sleep. I know the hard reality of the loss still hurts, still registers. But in the end, because He abolished death in Himself, so has He done already for all those in Him.
Living For Others
The fact Jesus is Lord has vital practical import for us. In Rom. 14:7-9, Paul speaks of the need not to live unto ourselves, but to rather live in a way which is sensitive to the conscience and needs of others. Why? " For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He [Jesus] might be Lord both of the dead and living" . Because He is our Lord we therefore don't live for ourselves, but for Christ our Lord and all those in Him. Jesus becomes an authority figure for us, because He is indeed Lord and Christ. This may sound obvious, but the blessings and implications of it become more apparent when we reflect how haphazard are the lives of those who have no such personal authority in their experience. They are so aimless, so easily distracted, so self-centred, because they have no sense of obligation to a Lord and Master as we have.Personal feelings of like and dislike are the only authority they have to recognize, and thus their hedonism is so haphazard in its nature. Yet for those who truly accept Jesus as personal Lord, there is a structure and purpose and order in human life which will essentially be continued in the eternal ages of the Kingdom.
If we " believe the name of…Jesus Christ" , then we will love one another (1 Jn. 3:23 RVmg.). To believe the name and to love each other are " his commandment" - singular. They are one and the same thing. This is how direct is the link between truly believing in the name of Jesus, and loving each other. One cannot truly believe in Him, in all that He was, all that He stood and died for, and all that He is…and not articulate this in some form of love for the brotherhood.
Quitting The Life Of The Flesh
When Paul exalts that Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords,
dwelling in light which no man can approach unto, this isn't just
some literary flourish. It is embedded within a context of telling
the believers to quit materialism, indeed to flee from its snare.
1 Tim. 6:6-14 concern this; and then there is the passage about
Christ's exaltation (:15,16), and then a continued plea to share
riches rather than build them up (:17-19). Because He is Lord of
all, we should quit our materialism and sense of self-ownership.
For we are His, and all we have is for His service too. And the
principle of His being Lord affects every aspect of our spirituality.
Dennis Gillet truly observed: " Mastery is gained by crowning
the Master as Lord and King" (1).
And Peter likewise says that those who reject the Lordship of Jesus
(2 Pet. 2:10) indulge in sexual immorality. The height of His Lordship
ought to mean self-control in our lives; because He, rather than
our own passions, is the Lord and Master of our soul. Joseph's amazing
exaltation in Egypt was clearly typical of that of the Lord after
His resurrection. As a result of Joseph's exaltation, no man could
lift up even his hand or foot without except within the sphere of
Joseph's power. And the Lord's exaltation has the same effect and
imperative over us. Jude 4 parallels rejecting Jesus as Master and
Lord with rejecting His moral demands. If He truly is Lord and Master,
we simply won’t live the immoral life which Jude criticizes.
It makes an interesting study to analyze the areas of Paul's writing where he makes most intense use of the title "Lord" for Jesus. One such passage is in 1 Cor. 6:12- 7:40, where Paul addresses issues relating to sexual self-control. Here the density of usage of the title "Lord" is higher than anywhere else in his writings. And he wasn't merely playing with words- the idea clearly is that the Lordship of Jesus is to have a gripping practical effect upon our lives.
Because Jesus is Lord and Master, and because He is our representative in every way, therefore all that He did and was becomes an imperative for us to follow. Thus: " If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet" (Jn. 13:13,14). They called Him " Lord and Master" , but wouldn't wash each other's feet. Like us so often, they had the right doctrinal knowledge, but it meant nothing to them in practice. To know Him as Lord is to wash each others' feet, naked but for a loincloth, with all the subtle anticipations of the cross which there are in this incident. " Wherefore [because of the exaltation of Jesus] [be obedient and] work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [i.e. in humility]" (Phil. 2:12). And so it is with appreciating God's greatness; the deeper our realization of it, the higher our response. Thus Solomon built a " great" house for Yahweh, " for great is our God above all gods" (2 Chron. 2:5). Israel prayed to God but without meaning, " though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him" (Hos. 11:7). They theoretically knew Him as " the most High" but in their hearts they failed to exalt Him. And so their prayers remained as empty words.
James 2:1 (Gk.) gives the Lord Jesus the title of " the glory" (as also in Lk. 2:32; Eph. 1:17). And James makes the point that we cannot believe that Jesus is Lord, in the Lord Jesus as the Lord of glory and have respect of persons. This may seem a strange connection at first sight. But perhaps the sense is that if we see the height and surpassing extent of His glory, all others will pale into insignificance, and therefore we will be biased for or against nobody and nothing because of the way they are all as nothing before the brightness of the glory of the Lord we follow. The RVmg. makes the point clearer: " Do ye, in accepting persons, hold the faith of the Lord of glory?" . This explains why when Paul sat down to write to ecclesias troubled with worldliness, immorality and false doctrine, he takes as his repeated opening theme the greatness and exaltation of the Lord Jesus.
There's one more especially noteworthy thing which the sheer height of the Lord's exaltation leads us to. " Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord...wherefore...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:9-12). These words are alluding to Is. 45:23,24: " ...unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength" . We all find humility difficult. But before the height of His exaltation, a height which came asa result of the depth of the degradation of the cross, we should bow our knees in an unfeigned humility and realization of our sinfulness, and thankful recognition of the fact that through Him we are counted righteous. We will be prostrated in the day of judgment before Him, and yet will be made to stand. We therefore ought not to judge our brother who will likewise be made to stand in that day- to his Master he stands or falls, not to us.
Those who make divisions don't serve " our Lord Christ" (Rom. 16:17,18 RV); if they saw Christ's Lordship, they wouldn't be divisive, but be humbled into loving co-operation with His brethren. 1 Corinthians contains many warnings against being " puffed up" (1 Cor. 4:6,8,19; 5:2,6; 13:4). These warnings often come in the context of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Passover lamb. The fact He died as He did means that we must live Passover lives without the leaven of pride and being puffed up about leading brethren etc. Perceiving His greatness will mean that we will not seek to follow men. Phil. 2:1-11 is a hymn of praise to Jesus, exalting in His present high status. But it has a context. The context is an appeal to unity and self abnegation in the service of others. This is what a grasp of His exaltation should lead to. This passage should not just be 'a difficult passage' to explain to others. Let us see the real import of it for us.
Separation From The World
As with many aspects of doctrine, it is often difficult for us to appreciate how radically revolutionary they were in the first century context; and in essence they should lose none of their radicalness with us. David Bosch observes(2): " Christians confessed Jesus as Lord of all lords- the most revolutionary political demonstration imaginable in the Roman Empire" . Philip Yancey likewise(3): " As the church spread throughout the Roman empire, its followers took up the slogan " Christ is Lord" , a direct affront to Roman authorities who required all citizens to take the oath 'Caesar [the state] is Lord'" . It hurt, it cost, to recognize Him as Lord. And so it should with us. Men and women died for this; and we likewise give our lives in response to that very same knowledge. There is a tendency, which the Lord Himself brought to our attention, of calling Him Lord but not doing what He says. To know Him as Lord in truth is axiomatically to be obedient to Him (Lk. 6:46). The reality of the Lordship of Jesus is used in Revelation (19:12, 16) to encourage the brethren to continue fearless in their witness despite persecution. Jesus is Lord of the kings of the earth; He has control over the world; therefore, no human power can harm us without His express permission and purpose. The exhortation of Ps. 110 is powerful: because Jesus is now seated at the Father's right hand, His people offer themselves as freewill offerings in this, the day of His power. They are arrayed in " holy attire" because He has been made the Priest after the order of Melchizedek- they share in the work which His exaltation has enabled (Ps. 110:1,3,4 RVmg.).
Col. 2:8,9 reasons that because in Christ dwells all the fullness of God, so far is He exalted, that we therefore should not follow men. A man or woman who is truly awed by the height of the Lord's exaltation simply will not allow themselves to get caught up in personality cults based around individuals, even if they are within the brotherhood.
Faith is also inculcated by an appreciation of the height of His exaltation. He now has all power in Heaven and in earth, and this in itself should inspire us with faith in prayer and hope in His coming salvation. On the basis of passages like Ex. 4:7; Num. 12:10-15; 2 Kings 5:7,8, " leprosy was regarded as a " stroke" only to be removed by the Divine hand which had imposed it" (4). The leper of Mk. 1:40 lived with this understanding, and yet he saw in Jesus nothing less than God manifest. Inspired by the height of the position which he gave Jesus in his heart, he could ask him in faith for a cure: " If thou wilt, thou canst [as only God was understood to be able to] make me clean" .
Love For Jesus
We believe Jesus rose and ascended. We believe Jesus is Lord. Having not seen Him, we love Him. Because He is not now physically with us, our connection with Him is not through our physical senses. It is, therefore, through our inward application of Biblical material to our minds and hearts. We read the Gospel records and epistles, we study the Law, seeking to reconstruct who He really was and is, with a verve which is generated by the simple reality of the fact that He is not physically with us. And as we do this over the years, we will have the actual sense of being confronted, claimed, taught, restored, upheld and empowered by the Jesus of the Gospels. As C.S. Lewis observed: " It is the sense that in the Gospels [we] have met a personality…so strong is the flavour of that personality that, even when he says thatwhich [on the lips of any other man] would be appallingly arrogant, yet we accept him at his own valuation when he says 'I am meek and lowly of heart'" (5).
Because Christ is Lord of all, we must preach Him to all, even if like Peter we would rather not preach to them. This was the motivational power and reality of Christ's universal Lordship for Peter (Acts 10:36). The same link between Christ's Lordship and witness is found in Phil. 2:10 and 1 Pet. 3:15 (which alludes Is. 8:13- Yahweh of Hosts, of many ones, becomes manifest now in the Lord Jesus). The ascended Christ was highly exalted and given the Name above every Name, so that for those who believed this, they would bow in service at the Name of Jesus. Peter preached in and about the name of Jesus- this is emphasized (Acts 2:31,38; 3:6,16; 4:10,12,17,18,30; 5:28,40,41; 10:43). The excellence of knowing Him and His character and the wonder of the exalted Name given on His ascension (Phil. 2:9; Rev. 3:12) lead Peter to witness. Because of His exaltation, we confess Jesus as Lord to men, as we later will to God at judgment (Phil. 2:9). According as we confess Him before men, so our judgment will reflect this. Lifting up Jesus as Lord is to be the basis of giving a witness to every man of the hope that lies within us (1 Pet. 3:15 RSV). The knowledge and experience of His exaltation can only be witnessed to; it can't be kept quiet. 3 Jn. 7 refers to how the great preaching commission was obeyed: " For his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing (material help) from the Gentiles" (Gentile believers). For the excellence of knowing His Name they went forth in witness, and moreover were generous spirited, not taking material help to enable this. The knowledge of the Name of itself should inspire to active service: for the sake of the Lord's Name the Ephesians laboured (Rev. 2:3).
Because " all power is given unto me...go ye therefore and teach all nations" (Mt. 28:18,19). The great preaching commission is therefore not so much a commandment as an inevitable corollary of the Lord's exaltation. We will not be able to sit passively in the knowledge of the universal extent of His authority / power. We will have to spread the knowledge of it to all. There may be some similarity with the way in which the exaltation of Israel / God's people was so that all men would be witnessed to (Dt. 4:6). Jehu was exalted from amongst his brethren as was Christ (2 Kings 9:2 = Dt. 18:18; Ps. 45:7) and taken up into a chamber within a chamber (AVmg), cp. Heaven itself. There Jehu was anointed, made Lord and Christ, and then the people placed their garments underneath him (v. 13) and proclaimed him to the world as King of Israel. This symbolic incident teaches a clear lesson- the exaltation of Jesus should lead us to be witnesses for Him. The wonder and joy of it alone, that one of us, one of our boys, a man like us...should be so exalted.
The greatness of Christ, the simple fact Jesus is Lord, clearly influenced Mark's witness; he began his preachings of the Gospel (of which his Gospel is but a transcript) by quoting Isaiah's words about how a highway was to be prepared " for our God" and applying them to the Lord Jesus, whom he saw as God manifest in flesh. Appreciating the height of who Jesus was and is, clearly motivated his preaching. And it should ours too. This is why Paul in the face of every discouragement could preach that " there is another king, one Jesus" (Acts 17:7). This was the core of his message; not only that there will be a coming King in Jerusalem, but that there is right now a King at God's right hand, who demands our total allegiance. The Acts record associates the height of Jesus with a call to repentance too. This is the message of Is. 55:6-9- because God's thoughts are so far higher than ours, therefore call upon the Lord whilst He is near, and let the wicked forsake his way. Because the Father and Son who are so high above us morally and physically are willing to deal with us, therefore we ought to seize upon their grace and repent.
If we truly know Jesus is Lord, in reality rather than merely in words, then we will actually do the will of the Father (Mt. 7:21,22). To call Jesus 'Lord' and not do anything actual and concrete in response means that our words are empty. It's as simple as that.
Not Being Materialistic
If Jesus is Lord, He owns all. Nothing that we have is our own. The Old Testament stressed that God's ownership of all precludes our own petty materialism, our manic desire to 'own'. Abraham refused to take " from a thread even to a shoelatchet" of what he could justifiable have had for himself; because Yahweh " the most high God [is] possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14:22,23). But now, all that power has been bestowed by the Father upon the Son. Our allegiance to the Lord Jesus demands the same resignation of worldly acquisition as Abraham showed.
Control Of Our Words
Those who do not accept the Lordship of God [or of Jesus] will have no reason
to control their words: " Who have said, With our tongue will
we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?" (Ps.
12:4). But the opposite is true; a realize of the tightness of Christ's
Lordship over us results in a control of our words, knowing that
our tongue and lips are not our own but His.
The Cost Of It
Given all these things, it deeply costs us to accept Jesus as Lord.
Yet for so many moments of each day, we deny Him His Lordship in
practice. In the first century, accepting Jesus as Lord was a life
and death issue. Pliny wrote to Trajan how accused Christians had
to both say "The emperor is Lord" and also curse Christ.
Polycarp was urged by a Roman official to submit: "What harm
is there in saying "Caesar is Lord?"", and yet because
he refused, Polycarp was killed (Martyrdom of Polycarp
8.2). It would seem that there were some Christians who gave in-
and even justified it. For 1 Cor. 12:3 warns that "no one speaking
by the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is cursed!", and
no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit".
My suggestion is that this is a reference to Mt. 10:17, which comforts
believers that when we are delivered up, "what you are to say
will be given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but
the Spirit of your Father speaking through you". It would appear
that some of the Christians who gave in were claiming that in accordance
with this verse, it was the Spirit of God which had made them say
"Jesus is cursed!" and deny that "Jesus is Lord".
Paul is pointing out that this simply doesn't happen. In our context,
the point simply is that to constantly affirm "Jesus is Lord"
demands an awful lot from us, and as in the first century, so in
the twenty first... we will be sorely tempted to think that just
a few moments of denial when in a tough situation is quite OK. But
in this there is the true test as to whether really we are under
His Lordship or not. We have no court to face, no lions to fear.
Instead, we have the court of human opinion, the lions of social
mockery, financial loss, the human negatives that arise from the
unselfish living which Christ's Lordship demands of us.
(1) Dennis Gillett, The Genius
Of Discipleship (Birmingham: CMPA, 1982).
(2) David Bosch, Transforming
Mission (New York: Orbis, 1992).
(3) Philip Yancey, The Jesus
I Never Knew (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998) p. 246.
(4) L.G. Sargent, The Gospel
Of The Son Of God, (Birmingham: CMPA, 1966) p. 28.
(5) C.S. Lewis, Fern-seed
and Elephants (London: Collins, 1975 ed.) p. 110.