The foundational Christian confession is that Jesus is Lord. We find this at the very beginning, and there is no hope without it. As we have been making our way through the Creed, we have addressed who Jesus is. But what do we mean by Lord?
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Summary of the Text:
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9–10). “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).
This is the confession that is unto salvation. Two organs are involved—the mouth and the heart. If you confess that Jesus is Lord with your mouth, and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him up from the dead, then the end result is that you will be saved. According to this message, salvation is the result of believing something about Jesus and confessing something about Jesus. But what?
Jesus is Jehovah:
First some background. YHWH (or JHVH) is the covenant name of God, the name by which God was known to Israel. These are four consonants in Hebrew known as the Tetragrammaton. The vowels can be supplied in different ways. One common way is to speak of Yahweh. Another is to take the consonants JVVH and combine them with the vowels of Adonai (another name for God), which then gives us Jehovah.
And now it gets interesting. The prophet Joel says this: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32). Joel was obviously written in Hebrew, and the word rendered here as Lord is YHWH. This verse from Joel is quoted by Paul, and is part of our text (v. 13).
Now the Greek word for Lord (kurios) has the same range of meaning that it does in English. It can refer to God, Lord of heaven and earth, and it can also be used of Lord Highfalutin, stone cold member of the aristocracy somewhere. So when we are called to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, which kind of lord are we talking about?
The answer is straightforward. In Romans 10:13, the word kurios is used to translate the Hebrew YHWH. Whoever calls on the name of YHWH/kurios will be saved. But just a breath earlier, Paul had insisted that we had to confess with our mouth that Jesus was Lord in order to be saved. Piece all this together, and it is most plain that the fundamental Christian confession is that Jesus is Jehovah. Jesus is to be identified with the covenant God of Israel.
The reason this didn’t throw the early Christians (who were devout Jews and ardently monotheistic) is that YHWH or Jehovah in the Old Testament was on the one hand the Most High God, and also manifested Himself in bodily ways, whether as the angel of Jehovah, or as the name of Jehovah. A visible Jehovah was not unknown to the Jews. Jehovah did not become visible for the first time at Bethlehem; He became man.
Incidentally, some modern writers make a “thing” out of using the name Yahweh. This is not wrong, but we must not be over-scrupulous about it. Remember that Paul referred to Yahweh and used the word kurios.
Authority in Relationship:
Christ does not wield authority over His people from a remote distance. He has true authority, but He holds this authority in a particular way. His is the authority of bleeding sacrifice. “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:13–14). The fact that Christ washed His disciples’ feet did not detract from His authority; it was the foundation of His manifested authority. The ultimate foundation of His authority is of course who He is. But Him washing the disciples’ feet revealed what kind of authority it was, and is, and forever will be.
But in case we are tempted to hide our emotional cowardice under the camouflage of something we like to call “servant leadership,” it must be emphasized that servant authority is true authority. “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
As we come to imitate the Lord in all that we do, it must be said that feminism comes in many forms, including the kind that pretends to have nothing to do with feminism. We need to take care not to confound sacrificial leading with cowardly following. They are not the same thing.
Savior and Lord:
Christ is not divided. That means we cannot shop for different aspects of our salvation a la carte. In some fundamentalist circles it is common to hear people saying that receiving Christ as Savior and receiving Him as Lord are two different things—as though someone could be saved by Jesus without paying the slightest regard to what He taught. But half a Christ is no Christ, and no one was ever saved by no Christ.
It is also worth mentioning that we have confessed our faith in “Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord.” We are confessing the fact that Jesus has been enthroned over absolutely everything that exists, which means that His Lordship of Heaven and earth is the basis for my confession that He is my Lord. He is a king who has been crowned and enthroned over His people, and the message has now come to me that it is time for me to bend the knee.
It does not run in the other direction. Jesus is not campaigning for president. It is not the case that if we only get enough people to “make Him Lord of their hearts,” then we could really get some momentum going, and then elect Him to something. Jesus is Lord already. This fact is declared to us. It is preached. We believe it, not to make it true but because it is true.