Christians identify the man Jesus as “the Lord Jesus Christ,” and have done so from the very beginning of Christianity. As Peter preached the full Gospel for the first time, on the day of Pentecost, the rousing conclusion to his sermon was, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36; ESV) The phrase is thereafter found in the New Testament around 80 more times.
The title Christ, meaning “anointed,” and synonymous with the Hebrew word, “messiah,” refers to the choosing of Christ by God Himself. Priests and kings alike, in the Old Testament, were anointed with oil to signify God’s blessing upon them. Jesus is, for His people both King and Priest, and He was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, chosen to be His vessel of salvation to His people. (cf. Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38)
But why should Christians refer to Jesus as “Lord?” What is the significance therein?
The English word, “Lord,” refers to an individual of power and authority, especially in relation to self. The word comes from an Old-English word meaning, “bread-keeper.” That is, one’s Lord was the person who provided food and security for one’s self. It is, thus, in the English, a term of nobility, held over from a feudal system, given to one’s master or ruler.
The word being translated in the Bible as Lord, is the Greek, “kurion,” has a similar meaning, though a different root, and denotes a person of authority. It was sometimes used, loosely, to mean, “sir,” but most properly denoted ownership and mastery. That is, to call another, “kurion,” was to acknowledge their ownership of one’s self because of their superior authority.
Christians call Jesus Lord because He is superior to ourselves, and because He is the authority in our lives. A Christian belongs to Christ. Thus, the word, “Lord,” should be no mere casual title; rather, ideally, it should reflect the position Christ has in our lives, in our priorities, and in our decision making. He should be, literally, the most important person we know.
This prominence is His, by right. It belongs to Him because He is the Son of God, our Creator, and the sustainer of life. (cf. Colossians 1:16) It belongs to Him because He alone has the words of eternal life, and there is no other name given under heaven by which men must be saved. (cf. John 6:68; Acts 4:12) It belongs to Him because He is God’s chosen man, made both Priest and King. (cf. Acts 2:36) It belongs to Him because He has died for us, and has risen from the dead, the first-fruit of the resurrection. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 20) It belongs to Him because God has given Him all authority, and all that we do, whether in word or in deed, should be done in His name. (cf. Matthew 28:18; Colossians 3:17)
However, there are many who will call Jesus Lord, but they do so, not because they truly want to belong to Him, but rather because to them it is just words without any truth meaning.
Jesus Himself understood this would be the case, and asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46; ESV)
If Jesus really is Lord of your life, then it follows naturally that you will have the desire to conform your life according to His direction. It follows naturally that you will have a willingness to do the things He tells you to do, whether for your own salvation or for the salvation and good of others.
Do you call Jesus, Lord?
If you believe that He is indeed the Savior of men, risen from the dead, and given authority in all things by God the Father, then it is completely proper that you do so.
But if you call Jesus, Lord, you need to be clear in your mind what that means to you. You need to know why you call Him Lord, and be willing to conform yourself to His will. To make a
difference in your life, it needs to be more than a meaningless title, used out of habit. It needs to be a statement of faith. A declaration that you belong to Him and will live your life accordingly.
If you would like to learn more about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.