They Knew Him as “Lord!”

If you were to ask the average person today who claims to be a Christian: “Who is Jesus?” Chances are you will hear them refer to Jesus as the “Savior!” Many would even claim him as their “personal Savior.” (I’m still trying to figure that one out because I wonder what is meant by the use of the term: “personal?” What is the difference between Christ being your “personal Savior” as opposed to being your “Savior?” Is there such a thing as an “Impersonal Savior?” Oh well! That’s beside the point, I was just thinking out loud.) But, I did some exegetical research on the references in the New Testament to Jesus, where he is directly and/or indirectly referred to as “Savior” and contrasted those findings with the direct and/or indirect references where he is referred to as “Lord” and I found a surprising result! In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to, directly and/or indirectly as “Savior” less than 20 times! Contrastingly, he is referred to as “Lord” nearly 250 times! The numbers reveal a startling fact! Modern Christianity knows Jesus today, primarily as “Savior,” but the original and 1st century Christians knew him primarily as “Lord!”

Now you might wonder what the point is; what difference does it make whether we know him as Lord or as Savior? It makes all the difference in the world! But before I discuss that, we need to be clear on the meaning of the term: “Lord.” In the Greek text, the word translated as “lord” is the word: “kurios.” There were four primary usages of this word in the New Testament times. First, it was used as a term of respect, much in the same way we use the term: “mister” or “sir.” Secondly, it referred to, “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he had power of deciding; the possessor and disposer of a thing, the owner; one who has control of the person, the master.” Thirdly, it was a political reference to the chief sovereign of the state; the Roman Emperor. And then lastly, it was a title given to God and the Messiah, an expression of deity.

We must note that every person who called Jesus “Lord” in the Bible was not talking about same concept. For instance, when Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4, when she told Jesus he didn’t have any utensil to draw the water with, she addressed him as “kurios,” which is translated in the English translations as “sir.” It was obvious, at that point in the conversation, she didn’t know who Jesus was. Therefore, she was just being polite in addressing him. However, when his disciples called him “kurios,” they were referring to the fact that he was their master. It is fairly obvious that they also, at that point, prior to the resurrection, had no concept of Jesus being God! They were still trying to figure out his identity. When he calmed the raging sea in Galilee, they exclaimed: “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Mat 8:27 KJV) When the martyrs proclaimed: “Jesus is Lord!” during the height of the Roman persecution, such a statement was considered an act of treason because it was directly contrary to the statement of allegiance to the Roman state: “Caesar is Lord!”

But, what should it mean for us to know him as “Lord” today? And why am I advocating that we should know him as “Lord” more so than knowing him as “Savior?” Well, it’s not really a matter of one term being right while the other one is wrong. It’s a matter of understanding who Jesus really is! According to the Scriptures, he is not the “Savior” who saves: He is the “Lord” who saves! The term “Lord” signifies who he is while the term “Savior” indicates what he did and what he does! He is not just the Savior! He is the Lord who saves! He is the Lord who is the Savior! But what does it mean: He is the Lord? Is it a reference to the fact that he is God? Yes! But that is not the primary emphasis I want to stress! The primary emphasis I want us to see is the fact that he is the master, the owner, the supreme sovereign! Jesus is Lord! Period! I’ve heard people tell new converts: “Now that you are saved, you need to make Jesus Lord of your life!” But how can we make him what he already is? He’s Lord whether we acknowledge him or not! And since when did we get the authority to “make” Jesus Lord? God has already done that! Peter preached 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.” (Act 2:36 KJV) Jesus is Lord! It is not a matter of us “making him Lord of our lives” it’s a matter of us submitting to his lordship authority!

I know I’m about to get in trouble now! But I believe the Bible teaches that Jesus must be our Lord in order to be our Savior! (I know that there are some who teach that a person can be saved and Jesus may or may not become “Lord of their lives” later on! <optional lordship, but not necessarily necessary> But, I haven’t found any scriptural basis for such teaching! How can you have one without the other? Can you split a coin and have “tails” without the “heads” and still have a legitimate coin? Is Christ divided? How can he be our Savior without being our Lord?) Consider a staple scripture that is often used to lead people to salvation:

Romans 10:9:

“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.” (Rom 10:9 KJV)

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9 ESV)

“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9 NASB)

Note that the first requirement is confessing (the Greek word is “homolegeo” it means; “to say or speak the same thing as another, to agree”) Jesus as Lord. Who and What are you agreeing with? You are agreeing with God and with what He says about Jesus being Lord. (When we “confess” our sins, it is not just a matter of us acknowledging or admitting that we are wrong, it’s also agreeing with whatever God says about our sins! It is calling our sins what God calls them!) In this text, we confess or acknowledge Jesus, not as Savior; but as Lord! Then we believe in our heart; that is we have faith, we trust in and rely upon the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead! It is then, only after we’ve confessed Jesus as (is) Lord, only after we believed that God raised Jesus from the dead, it is only then, that Paul says we will be saved!

The Bible says out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, let every word be established. So that was Paul, let’s hear Peter! It was Peter who made one-third of the less than twenty direct references to Jesus as Savior. There are five references to “Savior Jesus Christ” in 2nd Peter. But of those five references, four are: “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” In the New Testament, Jesus is rarely referred to as just, “Savior” Most of the time (nearly 250), he is referred to as “Lord!”

Well, we’ve heard from Paul and Peter, let’s hear from Jesus! Jesus said to those who would come after (that is, follow him or be saved) him:  “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 KJV) That’s Lordship talk! He said: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30 KJV) That’s Lordship talk! How did Jesus understand himself as Lord? He asked, one day: “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? (Luke 6:46 NLT) On another occasion he said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21 ESV) Clearly Jesus understood that his “lordship” warranted obedience from those who would claim him as such. The fact that he is Lord is the basis of his authority in issuing the Great Commission: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mat 28:18-20 ESV) The marching order of the church is based on the authority, not of Jesus the Savior, but of Jesus the Lord!

The evidence is overwhelming! We might want to know him primarily as Savior, but they knew him as Lord!

Comments are welcomed!

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3 thoughts on “They Knew Him as “Lord!”

  1. Submitting to Christ lordship is in the area of a believers sanctification it is not connected to a person’s receiving eternal life (justification,salvation,being saved from hell). You use Romans 10:9, if that verse is studied in its context Romans 10:1-21 the saved in 10:9 is a physical salvation from Gods wrath or from enemies of the faith . Look at Romans 10:14 How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them ?
    This verse clearly says to call on the Lord a person first has to be a believer. Google john f. hart he has a great article on Romans 10:9 here is a link http://www.faithalone.org/journal/1999ii/J23-99b.htm
    Look at Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 7:22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ 7:23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’
    In this verse what does Jesus say, only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven will enter into the kingdom of heaven. The question is what is the will of the Father that answer is in John 6:40 For this is the will of my Father – for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
    The other verses that was posted in the article are verses that are connected to the discipleship area of a believers life . over 100 times in the Bible when a condition is given for a person to receive eternal life. the only condition is belief/faith in Christ. The Gospel of John teaches that the only condition is to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and gives Eternal Life to all who will believe in Him for it. What does John 20: 30,31 say
    John 20:30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 20:31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
    The book of John the only book to make the claim that it was written to give evidence so the unbeliever may believe and that by believing the unbeliever is given eternal life. What must a person do to receive eternal life they are to believe that Christ is the Giver of eternal life to all who will believe in him for it
    John verses
    3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 3:18 The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. 3:36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him. 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 4:14 But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.” 4:39 Now many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the report of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” 4:41 and because of his word many more believed. 4:42 They said to the woman, “No longer do we believe because of your words, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this one really is the Savior of the world.” 4:53 Then the father realized that it was the very time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he himself believed along with his entire household. 5:24 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life. 5:38 nor do you have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the one whom he sent. 5:39 You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, 5:40 but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.
    6:27 Do not work for the food that disappears, but for the food that remains to eternal life – the food which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has put his seal of approval on him.” 6:28 So then they said to him, “What must we do to accomplish the deeds God requires?” 6:29 Jesus replied, “This is the deed God requires – to believe in the one whom he sent.” 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. 6:40 For this is the will of my Father – for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” 6:47 I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life. 6:50 This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 7:38 let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’”

    • The question at hand is: “What does it mean in the Bible to believe or to have faith?” In the Bible, belief or having faith is never “just” mental agreement with facts! There is the mental aspect, but it is always supported by corresponding action! According to James (See James 2:17-20), the devil believes, but obviously the devil is NOT SAVED! Belief or faith without works is dead and that kind of faith (belief) does not saved! I think that too often we force our definitions onto the biblical text. In other words, my question is this: Is “belief” or “faith” as many define it today (mental assent only) really what the Bible means when it uses the same terms? I think not! In the Bible, the head (mental), the heart (emotion) and the hand (action) always worked together. I agree that discipleship is part to the sanctification process, but can a person be truly saved and not be sanctified? Can a person be saved and yet disobey or disregard the commandments of Christ? The commandment is to not only start in Christ, but we are also to continue and grow in Christ!

      • In James 2:17 So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. 2:19 You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that – and tremble with fear. 2:20 But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless?
        what makes the demons tremble with fear their belief salvation was not offered to the demons that is why their belief does not save them God became a man to offer salvation to the human race. But still unlike humans where belief gives people eternal life and assurance, belief in demons causes them to tremble i am guessing because of fear for their future judgment they know their fate is sealed, as a person who believes has assurance of eternal life the demons have assurance of eternal punishment. these verses in James show that it is belief alone that gives a person eternal life not belief + obedience, confession, or any other action given by many different takes on the Bible. Look at the first verse in James 2:17 the faith is dead if it does not have works. for something to be dead it first has to be alive, so that faith in 2:17 was at one time alive.
        John 6:28 So then they said to him, “What must we do to accomplish the deeds God requires?” 6:29 Jesus replied, “This is the deed God requires – to believe in the one whom he sent.”
        The Gospel of John defines belief as simple trust (look at John 6;28,29), a person trust in Christ promise of eternal life to those who will believe in Him for it, no other conditions are given in the Bible when verses are studied in their context especially the study of saved, salvation and when those verses are speaking about salvation for eternal life and salvation from a physical danger, Gods wrath, enemies of the Christian faith.
        look at John John 12: 42,43
        12:42 Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue.
        12:43 For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

        Many of the leaders among the Pharisees episteusan eis auton, “believed on Him,” and yet they refused to confess their faith for fear of being put out of the synagogue (John 12:42). They hardly had submitted to the lordship of Christ or persevered in a life of good works. In fact, “they loved the praise of men more than praise from God” (John 12:43). Yet this technical term for saving faith characterizes their state of mind; they believed on Him! If one did not “know” before he came to the text that regenerate people could not be characterized by this, he would assume this applies to true Christians. Only a theological system can negate the consistent usage of this phrase in John. Could not those hypocritical Pharisees, these secret Christians, be called “carnal Christians”? Similarly, it is written of Joseph of Arimathea at the time of Christ’s burial that he “was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (John 19:38-42).

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