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Lordship in 1 Corinthians (1)

I Steele, Glenburn


In the New Testament, the Greek word kurios is the term most frequently translated "Lord". It conveys the thought of one who has power or authority, and also the idea of master or owner.

When applied to the Lord Jesus it signifies both His authority and His deity. Certain verses from the Old Testament which refer to Jehovah use kurios in the New Testament and are applied to the person of the Lord Jesus. Examples of this are found in 1 Corinthians as follows:

The title "Lord" is applied to the Lord Jesus in the Gospels both by the disciples and by those who came to Him for help and blessing. For example, five times in Matthew 8 He is called "Lord": by the leper (v.2), twice by the centurion (vv.6,8), by a would-be disciple (v.21), and by the apostles in the ship crying, "Lord, save us: we perish" (v.25). It is by far the most common appellation used to address the Lord Jesus in the Gospels and it is worthy of note that there is no record that the disciples ever addressed Him directly by His name "Jesus"!

However, it is when He is resurrected and ascended to God's right hand that the title takes on its full import. Peter makes this clear on the Day of Pentecost: "Therefore 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). As such He sits without a rival in the universe, supreme over all! As a consequence, no one can be saved without acknowledging the Lordship of Christ, for Paul states that "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom 10.13), and emphasises the need to "confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus" (Rom 10.9). It is also important to note that believers today can only genuinely call Jesus "Lord" by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12.3), and it is true to say that not everyone who calls Him Lord is genuine (see Mt 7.21-22).

Projecting our minds into the future, there will be universal submission to the Lordship of Christ when "every knee should bow and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2.10-11). Note the extensiveness of this - "of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth"; things celestial, terrestrial, and infernal!

John pictures the scene when the Lord returns as the warrior King to exert His dominion and authority and notes that "he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev 19.16).

There is no record that the disciples ever addressed Him directly by His name "Jesus"!

The little chorus sums it up:

He is Lord, He is Lord,
He is risen from the dead and He is Lord!
Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

For the present study we are considering the subject of Lordship as it applies in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. It is of note that it occurs over sixty times in this epistle and seven times in ch.1. This is undoubtedly because of the serious nature of the disorder and sin found amongst the Corinthian believers. It required all the authority not only of Paul's apostleship but also of the Lordship of Christ to rectify the situation!

The title "Lord" is found in every chapter except chapter 13 where no divine titles are found at all. The epistle refers to the Lord's coming, the Lord's day, the Lord's will, the Lord's table, the Lord's supper, the Lord's commandments, and the Lord's work to name but a few themes, some of which we will study in a little more detail.

1. The Lordship of Christ embraces all believers (1.2)

As Paul writes this epistle he addresses its truth not only to the Corinthians but to "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours". It is surely incumbent upon every believer to be subject to the Lordship of Christ. Thus there is a common relationship in submission to His divine authority that binds believers together wherever they may be and also compels us to be obedient to the inspired Word of God.

Those who do so, Paul states, will "call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord". That is, they invoke the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with all its authority in the varied circumstances of life. What a comprehensive resource for the child of God this is, yet perhaps so very much under utilised. When did we last really call upon Him as Lord to help us as did the believers in Jerusalem: "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word" (Acts 4.29). Little wonder that when they had prayed the place was shaken. There is power in invoking that name!

Is this where we are in spiritual experience, every day of our lives asking the question of Paul, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9.6)? There is surely a compelling requirement upon us to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ and bow to it. Does our practical living recognise His authority over us, in that we are governed and controlled by His will? Clearly this was not true at Corinth, and may be one of the major issues that we fail to deal with in collective assembly life today. How can we call Him Lord and do not the things which He says! The Lordship of Christ was brought to bear upon every aspect of their lives:

There is therefore no room for the mind of man or vain suppositions in any local assembly. Let us ensure that He is Lord and call upon Him!

To be continued.


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