[B18] The Lordship of Jesus Christ

For a man to be able to say that Jesus Christ is his Lord means not only that He is recognized to be truly the Son of God as well as the Son of man; but it means also the unreserved acceptance, in true faith, of Jesus Christ as his deliverer from sin and death and devil. In the sense of this article Jesus Christ is not the Lord of any person who is trusting for salvation in anything save Christ alone. The work-righteous man, who is trusting in his own goodness, in his own efforts, for salvation, cannot truly say — Jesus Christ is “my Lord.” It is simply not true. He is trying to be his own lord.

Table of Contents

18. The Lordship Of Jesus Christ

Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. — [Phil.] 2:11.

In the common speech and literature of Christians there is often but little discrimination shown in the use of the names of our Savior. He is spoken of as Jesus, Christ, or Lord, or by the various combinations of these names, with little regard to the distinctions these names indicate. And we lose much by our carelessness.

Jesus is the human name of the Savior. It designates His manhood, His life of lowly service, His sufferings and death for our salvation, the type and pattern for our living. Christ is our Savior’s official name. It indicates the office in the fulfillment of which He, as the God-man, redeemed the world; it reminds us that He was the world’s great teacher, and high priest. The name Lord indicates the Savior’s oneness with the everlasting Father, His divinity, His absolute sovereignty over all things.

We like the name Jesus. And it is a precious name. Without it we would be hopeless. It tells us about love, and mercy, and condescension for the purpose of rescuing us from sin and death and the power of the devil. The name Christ has an appeal for us. It reminds us of the meeting of God and man in one mysterious person. This name also stands for service on our behalf, service begun in heaven, continued on earth, and resumed again in heaven. But how much do we like the name Lord? We admire the name when it indicates limitless power and authority exerted in our behalf. But where there is a lord there must be subjects. And the more absolute the lordship of the ruler the more complete must be the obedience of the subject. We want Jesus to be just what that name means, we want Him also to be our Christ, do we really want Him to be our Lord, with all this word implies?

This is the point we will consider today. We will take as our subject,

The Lordship of Jesus Christ

We will treat of His original, inherent Lordship; His acquired Lordship; and His actual Lord-ship.

I. Jesus Is Lord Because of His Inherent Nature As God

Jesus Christ is Lord over all things by virtue of His original inherent nature as the eternally begotten Son of God.

Every title of honor, majesty, and sovereignty which makes eternal God Lord of the universe belongs wholly to Jesus Christ also by virtue of the oneness of His Divine nature with the eternal Father. Jesus Christ is the Lord of all things, not simply as a prince or noble may rule a province by right of appointment on the part of the reigning sovereign; Jesus is Lord because He is, in the fullest sense of the word, one with the Father. Jesus Christ is Lord, not because He has been given this office, but because He is eternal God in His own right, and in His own nature.

“Jesus Christ … our Lord.” This is the well grounded confession of every one who repeats the Apostles’ Creed. And it is founded on any number of the clearest statements of God’s Word. Jesus Christ is the world’s law-giver. He has the right to prescribe conduct, to impose penalties, to bestow rewards. He has the right to do this by virtue of His authorship and ownership. “By Him were all things made.” By their very nature, if they were true to it, all things are obligated to bow in submission to Jesus Christ. And to Him will all things finally have to give an account. And there is no more asked of us, oh children of men, than is asked of the angels in heaven.

Christ’s lordship is absolute, not in name only, but in reality. As in the beginning He spoke the word, and what He willed was done, so with a word He could speak this universe back into the nothingness from which it came. With a word he could bring every one of the sons of men into the dust at His feet, as it happened to the vicious band which came to take Him captive on the night of His betrayal. But though Christ Jesus holds the universe in the hollow of His hand, and overrules the general history of the nations so that in the aggregate there is an unceasing coming of the Kingdom of God; yet, in this life, He does not force any individual to do otherwise than that individual wills to do.

This is the day of grace. This is the day when love and mercy hold the reins of government, and make their appeal to the children of men. Amnesty is now proclaimed to offenders, and full and free pardon to all the contrite. But this day of grace is rapidly passing away. One of these days the world will awake to find that it is gone. Then will be the day of final reckoning. The Lord Jesus, to whom already the angels and authorities and powers have been made subject, will exert His limitless lordship over the children of men. Every knee will have to bow before Him then. Those who have lovingly bowed the knee in the obedience of faith, will do it now to receive upon their brows the fadeless crown. Those who have persistently refused all overtures, despising every offer of mercy, will now have to bow the knee in acknowledgment of Christ’s lordship, and have fastened upon them the shackles which will forever doom them to wander, as slaves of their own evil passions, in which they have now been confirmed, in the shades of eternal darkness.

II. Jesus Is Lord Because of His Work

Let us notice, in the second place, that Jesus Christ is “our Lord” in a special sense because of the work which He, in the course of time, has done in our behalf.

Jesus Christ is now the Lord, not only as the Son of God; but as the God-man. He is “our Lord” because He has purchased and won us from all sins, from death and the power of the devil. All men ought to be subjects of Christ the Lord because He has the right to exercise lordship over us by virtue of purchase, the conditions of transfer being duly executed, and the bond thereof properly sealed.

This is the point of view from which Luther treats the whole second article of the creed. He says:

“When asked, what do you believe in the Second Article concerning Jesus Christ? Answer briefly, I believe that Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, has become my Lord. And what is meant by becoming Lord? It means that He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death and all misery. For before I had no Lord and King, but was captive under the devil’s power. I was condemned to death and entangled in sin and blindness.”

Man was created a child of God. Because he was made in the image of God, man was given lordship over all earthly creatures. To be a child of God means to exercise lordship. But man sold out his birthright. And he sold it for a mess of pottage. When he sold his birthright as a child of God, he sold his right to lordship, and became a slave, a slave to his own evil passions, a slave to him who implanted, and cultivates, these evil passions — the devil. It was in the beginning, as it has been ever since, man thinks he is gaining freedom when he throws off God’s authority. The truth is that he is buying, and at an awful price, the heaviest, and, in the end, the most galling, of chains.

Being “our Lord,” if we had been innocently brought under the dominion of Satan, it would have been the duty of God to effect the deliverance of his enslaved children. But we were brought into servitude by fault of our own. And God was under no obligation to secure our release. However, God had a father’s love for his children, and a father’s interest in them, rebellious and unfilial though they had proven themselves to be. He, accordingly, resolved on their deliverance. And having resolved on this course, to carry it out became an obligation, an obligation which He owed, not to us, but to Himself.

Jesus Christ, the eternally begotten Son of God, the second person of the adorable Trinity, is the One who left the throne of glory, came down to earth to effect our deliverance, and to bind Satan with the chains torn from our own fettered limbs. As the God-man He met the demands of righteousness by taking on Himself the law ordained for man’s observance. He paid the demands of outraged justice by suffering the penalty for our transgressions. The enemy’s power over man was broken. The gates of our prison were thrown open for our escape. The doors of the Father’s house were opened for our entrance.

Thus did Jesus Christ become Lord in a double sense. Eternally He was Lord because He was God, because all things were His created subjects, because of the absoluteness of His power over all things. In the fullness of time He became our Lord in still this other sense; by espousing our cause, by defeating our enemies, and making it possible for us to escape from our bondage.

III. Is Jesus Actually Your Lord?

Finally; let us ask ourselves individually, and with all sincerity, the question, is Jesus Christ actually “my Lord?”

It may be asked, does it not follow that if Christ Jesus has broken Satan’s power over man, if our debt has been fully paid, and all our obligations met, that we are free? that Christ Jesus is our Lord? This is by no means the conclusion which necessarily follows. Suppose that somewhere a disaffected, and disloyal province was set upon by the ruler of an enemy country, driven into a trap, and threatened with destruction. Suppose the rightful sovereign of these people went to their assistance with an effective force, beat off their enemies, and said: See what I have done for you, I will forgive your past disloyalty, be again my loyal subjects, enjoy my favor. You see what dangers threaten you. Come back into allegiance, enjoy the peace and plenty which my government assures. These people would be foolish in doing so, but they could continue to be not only disloyal but ungrateful. They could say, we did not ask for your assistance; we are able to take care of ourselves; and if it comes to an issue, we would rather be this other king’s subjects than yours.

This gives us an illustration of the situation as it exists between man and God, between man and Christ Jesus. He is Lord by a double right. He is going to be Lord eternally. And the time is going to come when, in fear and trembling, all men will have to own His Lordship. And yet He may not be “our Lord” in the sense in which the words are used in the Apostles’ Creed. Let us, then, see what it means when we here confess Jesus Christ to be “Our Lord.”

For a man to be able to say that Jesus Christ is his Lord means not only that He is recognized to be truly the Son of God as well as the Son of man; but it means also the unreserved acceptance, in true faith, of Jesus Christ as his deliverer from sin and death and devil. In the sense of this article Jesus Christ is not the Lord of any person who is trusting for salvation in anything save Christ alone. The work-righteous man, who is trusting in his own goodness, in his own efforts, for salvation, cannot truly say — Jesus Christ is “my Lord.” It is simply not true. He is trying to be his own lord.

These two little words “my Lord” mean still more than this that we look to Jesus for our salvation. They mean a great deal more than most of us have rightly learned. Let us remember that lordship means ownership. Is Jesus our Lord? If so it means that we recognize His right to direct and control our lives. It means that our will is surrender to His will, that our whole life is put at His disposal, that all that we have is held subject to His orders, that we hold nothing too dear to give back to Him at His request.

How often, oh, how often, Jesus Christ is not allowed to come into full Lordship in our lives. How often we are self-willed. How often some chamber, or chambers, of our hearts are kept closed against Him. We complain of His dealings with us. We doubt His love, His care; though it is written, and all experience proves, that as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him, and maketh all things work for their good. Let us take Jesus as our Lord in the fullest sense of the Word.

“All hail the power of Jesus’ Name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.

“Let every kindred, every tribe,
On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of all.

“O that with yonder sacred throng,
We at His feet may fall;
We’ll join the everlasting song,
And crown Him Lord of all.”

By God's grace, each week LutheranLibrary.org will present a new message on the basics of the Evangelical Christian Faith. Our guide is the Small Catechism, as expounded by Traditional Pastor Robert Golladay. May this series bless and inspire you.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Series B – The Apostles’ Creed

Publication Information

  • Author: “Golladay, Robert Emory”
  • Title: “The Apostles’ Creed”
  • Originally Published: 1917 by Lutheran Book Concern, Columbus, Ohio.
  • Lutheran Library Edition: 2020
  • Copyright: CC BY 4.0