Jesus as Lord

The title “Lord” is the second most frequent designation for Jesus in the New Testament. And it’s title that we need to understand. Why? Because the title, “Lord” surely is the most exalted title that is conferred upon Jesus. Because it is the title “Lord” that is probably the most difficult for God’s people to grasp. And this particular title that we as American’s today, in the United States have trouble with, because none of us have ever had a flesh and blood king who sits and rules over us. This very idea of having one “Lord” to set and govern us is something that we have never experienced. I mean the whole concept of “Lordship” being invested in only one individual is foreign to us in our American culture. But beloved this is the bold claim that New Testament asserts for our Saviour Jesus Christ. That He alone is the Sovereign authority and imperial power over the entire universe.

In our New Testament we use the Greek word kuris, which is translated as our English word “Lord.” This Greek word was used in several ways, but its most common usage was as a polite way to say sir. Like in our English word sir, it can be used in an ordinary way, that’s the way it was with the Greek word kurios. There is a common everyday use of the word, and there is a less common, or special use. In England, men were knighted and they were given the title sir, showing that they were now elevated from the common use of the word to its special formal use. So it is with the Greek word kurios, in its special formal use in the title if “Lord” was given to men who were in the higher aristocrat class. The title was used in a figurative way to indicate the Jesus in the New Testament was Kurios or Lord.

Jesus was called “Master” by His disciples, the Apostle Paul would often open his epistles saying, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word, which Paul uses here to describe himself as a servant, is the Greek word doulos. Now there can’t be a servant, or doulos without there being a “Lord,” kurios. Paul said, “ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20. We can plainly see that God’s people are the possession of Jesus Christ; He is our Master, and our “Lord.” Jesus owns us, but He is not a “tyrant lord,” as is often the case with worldly lords. No, unlike the nature of the world, our “Lord” sets us free in our natural earthly servitude, which is the bondage of our sinful nature, setting us free to serve and glorify Him. It’s only in Christ that we are free. For he says, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Its only by and through our relationship in Christ Jesus our Lord as His servants we are truly liberated from the bondage of the world!

And the third important meaning of the title “Lord” is its Imperial use. It is given to kings that have absolute sovereign ruler over a people. We see it used that way in a political way today. When we look at the Greek Old Testament title of “Lord” we find the word kurios, which was translated from the Hebrew word adonai, which is a title for the Lord God Himself. This word Adonai is used in the place of the Hebrew word “Yahweh” which is the sacred name for God, of which the Hebrews believed, was too sacred for sinful man to even speak, so they used Adonai in the place of the unspoken word “Yahweh”  to call attention to God’s absolute power and authority over the entire universe. When we find the adonai in a passage it is always printed as “Lord.” Just Like in Psalms 8:1, “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the heavens.” In Hebrew it would read, “O Yahweh, our adonai, how excellent!” The Hebrews would use the word Yahweh for the name of God and adonai is used as His title.

Look at Psalms 110:1, which is quoted more than any other Old Testament passage, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Here we find Yahweh speaking to adonai, who is seen as being David’s Lord and He is seated at God’s own right hand. So in the New Testament (Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:43; Heb. 1:13) where this title is given to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is seen as being “above every name.”

Thus, we have Jesus being seated at the right hand of God, elevated to the seat of cosmic authority, having all other authority in both heaven and earth given into His hands! Now He rightly receives the exalted title of Adonai, which formerly only belonged to God the Father. When we refer to Jesus, as being “Lord of lords” there is absolutely no doubt about what is meant! We are saying along with sacred scripture, that all other authority is set under His authority.

The title of “Lord” is used so often in the New Testament Church that the English word for church is taken from it. The Greek word ekklesia comes from the word ecclesiastical, which in the Greek Septuagint is used to designate the gathering of Israel, summoned for the purpose of worshiping God. Thus we see that the word ekklesia used in the New Testament translated as “church” describes the whole body of Christ (Matt. 18:17; Eph. 1:22; 5:23). Jesus says in Matt. 16:18, “upon this rock I will build my church’ (ekklesia); ‘and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” So we find that the word church is the “people who belong to Adonai, or the Lord.”

Also look at the passage in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord’ [Adonai], ‘but by the Holy Ghost.” No man can even declare in his heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, except the Holy Ghost reveal it to him from heaven.

In the early church, God’s people were considered to be criminals by the Roman government because they refused to honor the emperor with the exalted title Kaiser kurios which means “Caesar is Lord,” even at the cost of their own lives. When they were called to do so, they would instead say, “Iesous ho Kurios” or “Jesus is Lord.” They believed in being good citizens, they would render “unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's” (Matt. 22:21). They refused to give to Caesar the title Lord which only belonged to Jesus Christ, and they were willing to give up their very lives to maintain that assertion.

Elder Thomas McDonald