Introduction

This is the foundational facet of the facets of a saving faith. If we do not receive Jesus as our Lord, nothing else we do in the Christian faith will have value for us. We will be building on the false foundation very popular in the Christian church today.

Over and over again we hear pastors (and others) exhort people to accept Jesus as their Savior so they can have eternal life. But such an exhortation is unbiblical, as we will see. There are NO scriptures that tell us to accept or receive or believe in Jesus as our Savior, but many that tell us we must receive Jesus as our Lord if we would be saved.

Salvation Issue

Jesus made this a salvation issue when he said, “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins”[1](John 8:24). Who did Jesus claim to be? Jesus told his disciples, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13).  Can you have salvation if you die in your sins? Of course not! Jesus died on a cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be reconciled to God. If we could be saved and die in our sins, the Lord Jesus died for nothing.

At Pentecost, Peter told the crowd what to do to be saved: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:21). Who is the “Lord”? Is it the one God of the Old Testament? Paul explained that for New Testament believers, “for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6). Only Jesus Christ is Lord.

Paul also told us how to be saved: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9-10). When Paul says to confess “Jesus is Lord,” he is not saying to merely state a fact, but to confess him as Lord, your Lord. The verb is present tense. He must be, now and forever, our Lord if we are to be saved.

Paul told the Philippian jailor, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Paul taught, “Just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21) and “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). To the Thessalonians Paul wrote, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Scripture Defines Jesus As Lord

Jesus himself defined his lordship:  “All authority in heaven and earth has been given unto me” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus told the extent of his lordship – all authority in heaven and earth.

Peter told the Jews: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Paul described the Lordship of Jesus to the churches in his letters. To the Philippians he wrote,

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

Paul wrote the Colossians, “By him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:16-18. See also Ephesians 1:20-22, Colossians 1:15, and 2:10).

When we read that Jesus is Lord, we should recall that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, that God exalted him to the highest place, that he has the name above every name, that all things were created by him and for him, that he is before all things and that in him all things hold together, that he is head of the church, and that in everything he has the supremacy. There is none higher! Jesus is Lord of all (Acts 10:36).

Jesus not only has the supremacy in all things, Jesus is God. We know this from the confession of Thomas in the upper room where the disciples had been hiding from the authorities. When he finally saw Jesus, Thomas fell to his knees before the Lord and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus accepted his worship.

The New Testament Emphasizes Jesus as Lord

Though the emphasis is on Jesus as Savior in many churches, that is not true of Scripture. Few likely know that two-thirds of New Testament books do not even mention the term Savior. Eighteen of the New Testament books do not use the title Savior for Jesus. Neither do two of the four gospels.

It is even more amazing to note the frequency of use of the title Lord for Jesus, compared with the usage of the other titles. For example, Jesus is referred to as Lord 618 times, but only 15 times is he referred to as Savior. He is referred to as the Christ 543 times. Which titles do you think God is emphasizing?

The title Christ refers to the Messiah, the Anointed One, the one who is the object of the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah. Paul connected the dots for us when he said Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:4). The angel who announced the birth of Christ said, “A Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Yes, Jesus is the Son of God, Savior, Christ, and Lord.

Believers Received Jesus As Lord

There are only two instances in the New Testament Scripture that speak of people receiving Jesus. The first is John 1:12, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” This scripture does not overtly help, as it does not specify Jesus’ capacity.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul told us how believers received Jesus: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him” (Colossians 2:6).

The Disciples Emphasized Jesus as Lord

Peter wrote, “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15). That simple statement says it all. How are you to think of Jesus? It is as Lord!

What was the object of their teaching? Paul tells us: “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5). Paul’s statement is very important because today many churches claim to be New Testament churches, to be like the early churches of the first century of Christendom. If they truly are like those churches they will preach Jesus Christ as Lord.

It is at this very point that much of the church deceives and is deceived. Rather than preaching Jesus Christ as Lord, they preach Jesus as Savior. In doing so, they offer a false salvation, a non-biblical man-made version that will not save. When we obey Peter’s injunction, “Set Apart Christ as Lord,” our thoughts are toward him as our Master and us as his servants.

Paul comforted and assured the believers who were in a time of suffering and persecution: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

When Paul was leaving the Ephesian elders for the last time, he summarized to them his ministry: “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). Combine Paul’s statement with his famous statement to the Ephesians about grace: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith [in our Lord Jesus]—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is a perfectly acceptable rendering because Paul himself told us that he taught the Ephesians to “have faith in our Lord Jesus.”

As we have seen, there are hundreds of instances in which the title Lord is given to Jesus. We’ll mention just a few that show Jesus was preached and taught as Lord among the Gentiles. “When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord” (Acts 13:12). Paul and Barnabus spoke the word of the Lord to the Philippian jailor and to all the others in his house (Acts 16:32). In Antioch, almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord (Acts 13:44). The Gentiles were glad and honored the word of the Lord (Acts 13:48). The word of the Lord spread through the whole region (Acts 13:49).

Jesus Died and Rose To Be Our Lord

When I came upon Romans 14:9 I was very surprised. Suddenly I saw Jesus’ death and resurrection from his point of view. Paul told us:

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:9).

We know that Jesus died and rose from the dead to redeem us from our sins, to atone for our sins, and to reconcile us to God, providing by God’s grace the only way by which we can receive eternal life.

But Romans 14:9 says Jesus died and returned to life so he might be our Lord. At first that seems contradictory, doesn’t it? As usual we must reconcile the scriptures as all scripture is correct. This is easily reconciled when we understand that Jesus will be the Lord of all who are redeemed from their sins, who have their sins atoned for, who are reconciled to God and who receive eternal life through Jesus Christ their Lord (see e.g. Acts 16:31, Romans 5:31, 6:23, 1 Thessalonians 5:9). Romans 14:9 is proof that Jesus must be our Lord if we would have salvation.

True Believers are the Lord Jesus’ Bond Servants

The New American Standard Version of the Bible correctly defines the relationship of true believers as the Lord Jesus’ bond-servants. The bond-servant is a special category of servant. It is described at Exodus 21:5-6:

“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.”

This was the case of the person who had sold himself into slavery, likely to pay off his debt, but found that his condition as a slave was better than his prior circumstances. He chose to stay with his master as his bond-servant. The master often honored him with a gold earring as a symbol of his special status as a bond-servant.

The conditions of a bondservant are: (1) It is voluntary, (2) confessed publicly, (3) out of love for his master, (4) slavery – giving up everything, and (5) for life. Those are the same requirements for those who seek salvation by following Jesus and receiving him as their Lord.

The New Testament writers declared themselves to be bond-servants: Paul (Romans 1:1), James (James 1:1), Peter, (2 Peter 1:1), Jude (Jude 1:1) and John (Rev. 1:1). The Apostle John confirmed that all true believers are bond-servants of the Lord Jesus:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, . . .” (Revelation 1:1, NAS).

The concept of bond-servant is extremely important. Perhaps the term bond-slave would be even more descriptive. Slaves are owned by their master. Paul said true believers are owned by the Lord Jesus: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corin-thians 6:19-20) and “He who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 7:22-23).

Because slaves own nothing, Jesus’ requirement for true believers comes into focus as we consider our role as bond-slaves: “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Jesus’ disciples are bond-slaves. We are not to own and acquire for ourselves. Whatever we have we are to hold in trust for our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Necessary Response to Jesus’ Lordship

Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. If we could imagine ourselves appearing before the most powerful person on earth, one who has life and death power over everyone, we likely would be eager to obey that person. We would realize that if we did not obey, we could be punished, even be put to death.

Jesus is more powerful and has more authority than all the most powerful people on earth. If we declare him to be our Lord, our obvious appropriate response to him is to obey him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. The evidence of having received Jesus as our Lord is our obedience to him. Perhaps that is why the author of Hebrews said, “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). Jesus implied as much when he said, “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:24). How does love for the Lord Jesus relate to obeying him?

As we have seen from the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus is God. The first and most important command is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, our soul, our strength and our mind. The evidence of our love for God is to obey his commands (1 John 5:3). Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (John 14:15). Notice how emphatic that statement is: we will obey his commands.

The Lord Jesus expects to be obeyed. But even when he was on earth he found people following him who did not obey. He asked, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do [obey] what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Jesus also warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does [obeys] the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Everything Jesus said and did while on this earth in human form was exactly what God his Father told him to do and say (John 8:28, 12:49-50, 14:10, 14:24, 14:31). Thus, everything Jesus commanded and taught is the will of God that we are to obey.

Punishment For Those Who Disobey

The Lord Jesus then spoke about a time at the final judgment: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:22-23).  Jesus made it plain that even though people call him Lord and do various miracles in his name, he will cast them out if they are disobedient to him. He calls such people evildoers.

Paul taught the same when he warned the Thessalonians: “He [God] will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). How could obedience affect our salvation? Obedience is the evidence of a saving faith and of our love for God. Obedience is the evidence that Jesus really is our Lord and Master. Those who fail to obey actually oppose the Lord and are in rebellion against him.

Conclusion

Salvation involves believing and trusting. But it requires that we believe in and trust in the correct person. Hopefully no one in Christendom would expect salvation by believing in Buddha. Likewise, it is essential that we believe in the Lord Jesus and trust in the Lord Jesus. It will simply not do to claim you believe in Jesus as your Savior. Jesus is Savior only of those for whom he is Lord. You don’t make Jesus your Savior. You are saved because Jesus is your Lord. Those who do not follow Jesus as their Lord are not saved.

The evidence that Jesus is our Lord is our obedience to the teachings and commands of Jesus. Those teachings and commands are the will of God the Father. Those who obey the teachings and commands of Jesus do the will of God.

All of a saving faith begins with the object of our faith – the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus is our Lord and we pledge obedience to him, we receive the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit and one or more of the gifts of the Spirit. God gives us evidence that we are truly followers of our Lord Jesus.

There is a trustworthy saying that if Jesus is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all. If you are still trying to reserve portions of your life for yourself, not subjecting them to the direction of the Lord Jesus, it is time to repent of that and ask Jesus to be your Lord in every aspect of your life.

If you know you have never received Jesus as Lord, you should carefully consider what following Jesus as your Lord will mean. You should decide in advance if you are willing to pay the price (Luke 14:28-30). This is not a price to earn salvation, but rather a price you must pay if you would qualify for God’s gift of salvation. Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Are you willing to be a bond-slave and disciple of the Lord Jesus? Some falsely claim you can be saved without being a disciple of the Lord Jesus. Scripture does not support that contention. All true followers of the Lord Jesus – those with a saving faith – are his disciples.

You cannot qualify for salvation on your own. You cannot be perfectly obedient on your own. Your first step, if you would receive the Lord Jesus as your Lord is to simply bow the knee and offer to submit to his authority, guidance, and leadership the remainder of your life. Tell the Lord you will obey him as best you can the rest of your life, but only if you mean it. If you do that, the Lord Jesus will ask the Father to give you the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will empower you to follow the Lord Jesus as an obedient disciple.


Footnote:


[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ro 10:9). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.