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Great are the Offices He Bears (2): Lordship

T Wilson, Glasgow

In his first address to his nation on the Day of Pentecost Peter declared, "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made this same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2.36). The resurrection of his Lord was undeniable, and the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit had provided incontrovertible evidence of Christ’s exaltation as well as His resurrection. To the unbelieving Jew the man who had hung on the cross was Jesus of Nazareth; to those who repented and were baptised that day He was now the Lord Jesus Christ. To many Gentiles of that period, especially to a centurion, Caesar was Lord. Nonetheless, addressing a Gentile audience in the centurion Cornelius’ house, Peter testified of Jesus Christ that "He is Lord of all" (Acts 10.36). The continuing record of Acts acknowledges the One who is now Lord and Christ (Acts 11.17; 15.26; 16.31; 20.21; 28.31).

We recall that the angelic announcement which filled the watching shepherds with fear and great joy was accompanied by a most unusual sign - a "babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" - thus identifying "a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2.11-12). To this child belonged Lordship because of His eternal glory - albeit that glory was then veiled in flesh. Throughout the Lord’s public ministry, many did call Him "Lord", often out of respect. The initial earnestness of the rich young ruler was reflected in his deferential addressing of the Lord: "Good Master (or Teacher)" (Mk 10.17). Bartimaeus addressed Him as "Rabboni", as he asked that sight be granted to him (Mk 10.51), while others like the leper used the common word for "Lord", as did the centurion intervening on behalf of his palsied servant and the two blind men, also seeking sight (Mt 8.2,6,8; 9.28). It is difficult to assess the depth of conviction that caused them to use the respectful title, "Lord". However, there is little doubt about Peter’s understanding of Christ’s authority, when, near to Caesarea Philippi, immediately after confessing Him as "the Christ, the Son of the living God", he addressed Christ as Lord in a well-intentioned rebuke: "Be it far from thee, Lord" (Mt 16.16,22). Peter owned the absolute authority of Christ.

In the AV translation of New Testament four distinct words are translated "Lord", three of which refer to our Lord. One is the word for the owner or master who exercises power over, for example, a slave; the second (from which the English word "despot" comes) describes one clothed with absolute authority and wielding unlimited power; the third, from which the word Rabbi is transliterated, emphasises responsibility in teaching. Three other Greek words relevant to a consideration of the Lordship of Christ are translated "Master": one is better rendered "Teacher" (whence our adjective "didactic" - (Mt 8.19 et al); the second of that group implies the superintendent over workers (Lk 5.5 et al); the third stresses leadership or guidance (Mt 23.8,10).

In the AV of the Old Testament, twelve Hebrew words are translated "Lord". The commonest was to the Jew that most revered of names, the name Jehovah, occurring almost 7,000 times. Deuteronomy 28.58 instructed Israel to "fear this glorious and fearful name". In the Septuagint, 6,000 of the occurrences of the Hebrew word "Jehovah" are translated by the Greek word for the master of the slave. Hence, when we meet phrases that have an Old Testament background they may not refer to the Lord Jesus. Such phrases include:

• "The angel of the Lord" Matthew 1.20
• "Lord of heaven and earth" Matthew 11.25
• "the hand of the Lord" Luke 1.66
• "the Spirit of the Lord" Acts 5.9
• "the word of the Lord" Acts 8.25.

Although the title "Lord" is used extensively of our Lord Jesus in the New Testament, it is also used of the Holy Spirit in 2 Corinthians 3.18 (JND, RV, AV margin), and of the Father who, Luke notes, had wrought signs and wonders by the hand of His "holy child Jesus" (Acts 4.28-29).

With the Lord’s ascension and His being set down on His Father’s throne (Rev 3.21), the testimony of Scripture is unquestionably emphatic in respect of His Lordship. Romans 10.9 emphasises its importance in the preaching of the gospel, where confessing with the mouth "Jesus as Lord" (JND, RV) is required. Let us not minimise the importance of this confession for it is an acknowledgement of Christ’s deity. Similarly, due emphasis on His deity was necessary in any claiming to speak by the Spirit of God: "...no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Cor 12.3). Romans 14.9 reveals Christ’s Lordship as a purpose of His resurrection: "For to this [end] Christ died and lived that he should rule over both dead and living" (W Kelly), where the AV has, "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived". Christ is Lord "that he should rule over both dead and living".

In Romans 14, the apostle is dealing with diets and days which were causing some tensions between Jewish believers and those from pagan backgrounds. Moses had delivered to the Jews a dietary code forbidding certain foods (see Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14), and a calendar in which certain days were to be observed (see Exodus 23; Leviticus 23; Numbers 28, 29). Those ordinances some Jews continued to observe after salvation, and may have expected other converted Jews and even Gentile believers to keep them. In that context the apostle emphasises that the brother, whom some might criticise on such matters, was not their possession - he belonged, and was responsible, to the Lord who had bought him with a price (vv.4,8; see also 1 Cor 6.19-20). God Himself had received, and was now upholding, that brother (vv.3-4). How dare any one seek to cause him to stumble?

In the context, Paul places himself among all believers in Christ: "none of us" (v.7), "we live…we die…we live…we are" (v.8), "we shall all stand" (v.10), "every one of us" (v.12), in order to establish principles that every child of God should observe.

1. The renunciation of selfish living, that none should live or die unto himself (v.7);
2. The orientation of Christian living – he lives unto the Lord (v.8a);
3. The appreciation of the Owner’s rights, whether we live or die (v.8b);
4. The installation of Christ as the Lord of the dead and the living (v.9);
5. The evaluation of Christian service at the judgment seat of God (vv.10-12, JND, RV).

Verse 7 is not addressing how our living affects others, as undoubtedly it does, but is considering how Christ affects us in life and in death. Is Paul exhorting his readers not to live to themselves and not to die to themselves? No! He is underscoring a direct consequence of Christ’s death and resurrection. From the moment we turned to Christ we were numbered among those who do not live unto themselves. The immediate response of the Christian, from the moment of conversion, is set out in the question first heard on the Damascus Road: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9.6). That same response was inherent in words uttered at around the same time in Damascus by "a certain disciple…named Ananias": "Behold, I am here, Lord" (Acts 9.10). The world has never been the same since those two men bowed to the Lordship of Christ, and said, "Lord"!

2 Corinthians 5.14-15 also sets before the soul the true meaning of Lordship. There, constrained by the love of Christ, we accept that we have died with Christ to all that motivates the man or woman without Christ.

Writing at the time when there were 60,000 slaves in the Roman Empire, Paul knew the import of the language he used, as he spoke of Christ as the "Lord both of the dead and the living" (Rom 14.9). The slave possessed nothing. He controlled nothing, not even his own time. He could not declare, "Not so, Lord", as Peter once tried to say (Acts 10.14). In his epistles there were features that Paul commended in a Christian slave serving an earthly master - features of which the Lord Himself would approve. They were: "singleness of heart", serving "from the heart" (literally "from the soul"), the fear of the Lord, and "good will" - that generosity of spirit which seeks the best for others (Col 3.22-23; Eph 6.6-7). If these are expected in a Christian slave serving an earthly master, how much more should Christ, the heavenly Master, expect of every saint.

To be continued.

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