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The Saving Lord

by Mark Horne

Copyright © 2003

Awhile back, there was a big debate among Evangelicals as to whether one had to trust Jesus “as Lord” as well as “as savior. Some claimed that one could be saved by Jesus through a faith that did not involve submission to him as Lord. Others claimed that one must not only “accept” Jesus “as savior” but also “as lord” if one wanted to be certain to inherit eternal life rather than earn eternal condemnation.

According to the Apostle Paul, to be regarded as a Christian who will inherit eternal glory one must continue in the faith. Thus he tells the Colossians: “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard…” (Colossians 1.21-23a).

This faith was not merely an acknowledgement of Jesus “as Savior” but of Jesus “as Lord.” Thus Paul goes on to reiterate to the Colossians their need to persevere: “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2.5-7). One can easily see that these two passages (Colossians 1.21-23 and Colossians 2.5-7) are closely parrallel. And Paul explicitly claims that we must receive “Christ Jesus the Lord.” Plainly, those claiming the necessity of receiving Jesus “as Lord” are more Biblical in their teaching.

But I wonder if the Bible really would ever let us think that there was a difference between being “savior” and being “Lord” if we would listen to God’s Word and not to the traditions that have grown up around it.

If we think of the word “savior” as “deliverer” or “rescuer” we might realize that there is no reason to assume that the Bible is referring only to being “saved” from the eternal penalty from sin. It might also mean being rescued from sin’s power and all aspects of the curse that was placed on sin. In fact, according the first sermon of the Church, the title “Lord” was given to Jesus (whatever else it might mean) because Jesus had won all the promises as Israel’s king:

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Jesus is Lord because, like King David did in a tiny and incomplete way, he has become king and has received for us all the promises of God. Israel’s king was supposed to save Israel from all the people’s enemies. Peter preaches that Jesus fulfilled this idea of Kingship just as the angel had told Mary and then Joseph:

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1.32, 33).

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1.21).

Joseph probably thought that deliverance or salvation from sins meant deliverance from the judgment of being oppressed by the Romans, by Herod, and perhaps by a corrupt priesthood. It turns out that God had all that and something far more comprehensive in mind–something that applies to each and every believer. Jesus became Lord to save his people throughout history from their sins, not only from the condemnation for them in eternity but from their power now.

For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6.10-14).

Copyright © 2003

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