The earliest and shortest Christian creed is the confession “Jesus is Lord.”
The original language of the New Testament uses just two words – “Kyrios Iēsous.” English translators supply the verb with “Jesus is Lord.
Those who made this confession were identifying with Jesus in a profound way. When one made this confession, he was baptized and included in the Christian community (cf. Acts 2:36-41).
We may say without hesitation that Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, was and forever is the only true God.
- Romans 10:9 – “If you confess with your mouth (Kupios Inoous) ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
- I Corinthians 12:3 –, “No one can say (Kupios Inoous) ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”
“Paul’s insistence that, no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit has troubled later readers, since it would seem possible for anyone to say these words at will. But that misses the radical nature of this confession for the earliest Christians. The use of “Lord” in such a context meant absolute allegiance to Jesus as one’s deity and set believers apart from both Jews, for whom such a confession was blasphemy, and pagans, especially those in the cults, whose deities were called “lords.” Thus this became the earliest Christian confession, tied in particular to Jesus’ having been raised from the dead and therefore having become the exalted One” (Gordon D. Fee, I Corinthians, NICNT, p. 581).
This confession was at the same time a profound doctrinal conviction about Jesus and a radical personal commitment to Him.
Philippians 2:9-11 makes a very significant contribution to our understanding of the Lordship of Jesus.
These verses are the climax of what has been understood to be an early Christian hymn, referred to as “the song of Christ.” Here the apostle Paul presents a powerful case for the deity (Lordship) of Jesus, (the fact that He is God) with three points of application to Christ.
- Title of Deity: Lord
- Text of Deity: Isaiah 45:22-23
- Worship of Deity: “Every knee will bow to Him.”
1. The title of Deity
Consider the title of deity in verse 11 (the God title) – “Jesus Christ is Lord (Kupios).”
200 years before the birth of Jesus, devout Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek and out of reverence for God’s name, Yahweh or Jehovah, rather than translating or transliterating it, they used the Greek title “o kupios” — “the Lord.” Most English Bibles continue to use the title “LORD” for Yahweh/Jehovah. It appears thousands of times in the OT.
This being the known title for Jehovah (the covenant keeping God of Israel), it is particularly significant that the early followers of Jesus used this same title for Him. The conclusion simply cannot be avoided. For the early disciples (being of Jewish background) saying, “Jesus is Lord” was equivalent to saying, “Jesus is God.”
Think about the powerful implication here. The apostle teaches that one day there will be universal acknowledgment of the Lordship of Jesus with every mouth confessing and every knee bending before Him.
From a historical perspective, can you understand why John R. W. Stott said that,
“Christolatry (the worship of Christ) preceded Christology (the developed doctrine of Christ). But Christolatry is idolatry if Christ is not God.”
Hebrews 1:6 (referring to Jesus) says, “Let all the angels of God worship Him” (cf. John 20:27-28; Revelation 19:10).
When the risen Christ appeared to Thomas, he confessed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:27-28). This was a profound doctrinal conviction and a radical life-changing commitment.
When someone willingly confessed “Jesus as Lord” on bended knee, it resulted in a transforming dedication of life to Him. It is an acknowledgment of Jesus’ right of ownership and a commitment of lifetime servanthood to Him.
“If we claim to follow Jesus, therefore, it is inconceivable that we should spend our lives in any other way than in service. And this means that we must be able to see our job or profession in terms of service. Our daily work is meant to be a major sphere in which Jesus exercises his lordship over us. Beyond and behind our earthly employer we should be able to discern our heavenly Lord. Then we can be ‘working for the Lord, not for men’, since ‘it is the Lord Christ (we) are serving’” (John R. W. Stott, Contemporary Christian, p. 93). (cf. Colossians 3:23-24).
How anyone could acknowledge this profound conviction about Jesus without going on a radical personal commitment of lifetime servanthood on bended knee?
“For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Romans 14:9). “…you are not your own—for you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
Since we’ve been bought by the Lord Jesus at great price (His life-blood), we are under the Lord Jesus as our owner (you are not your own). We are therefore at His service as His slaves (and a liberating service it is for those who take His yoke upon them and learn from Him).
This is a radical commitment of life to the Master’s authority.
“Disciples have no liberty to disagree with their divine teacher. What we believe about God, about man, male and female, made in his image, about life and death, duty and destiny, Scripture and tradition, salvation and judgment, and much else besides, we have learned from him. There is an urgent need in our day, in which wild and weird speculations abound, to resume our rightful position at his feet. ‘Only the person who follows the command of Jesus without reserve’, wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘and submits unresistingly to his yoke, finds his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.’” (p. 91, Stott)
Someone described a servant as: “One who has no plans of his own, no time of his own and no possessions of his own—but is totally dedicated (in plans, time and possessions) to the will of his Master.”
Dr. Luke recorded a very pointed question from Jesus indicating that it is treacherously possible to make confession with the mouth—without a commitment of life to back it up. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Even more dreadful is the large number of people on judgment day who will say, “Lord, Lord…” and will be exposed and disposed as workers of sin (Matthew 7:21-23).
2. The text of Deity
This truth about Jesus is further confirmed by the next a text of deity applied to Jesus
Could you imagine the response among some of the Jewish people when Paul applied a text out of Isaiah to Jesus? Philippians 2:10-11 contains a quote from Isaiah 45:22-23. “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance” (cf. a similar application of Joel 2:32 in Acts 2:21, 28; Romans 10:13).
Philippians 2:9-11 directly applies a text referring to God to Jesus Christ.
While we confess that, “…for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (I Corinthians 8:6), the distinction does not dissolve the oneness. (cf. I Thessalonians 1:1; 3:11; II Thessalonians 1:2, 12; 2:16-17; John 8:29, 58)
3. The worship of Deity
Finally, the worship of deity ascribed to Jesus is the only fitting response to the first two points.
The end result of the self-giving humiliation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ (outlined in Philippians 2:5-8) is that 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 acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
“Consequent upon his elevation or exaltation to the highest place, God desires ‘every knee’ to bow to him and ‘every tongue’ to confess his Lordship. The repeated ‘every’ is absolute; it admits of no exceptions. If God has given this supreme honor to Jesus, and desires everybody else to honor him, then the people of God should share his desire.”
“Moreover, the apostolic statements of Jesus’ exaltation are at pains to emphasize that he was elevated above all possible rivals, indeed ‘far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come’. This is ‘the highest place’ to which God has exalted Jesus and the ‘supremacy’ which he wants him to enjoy” (John Stott, The Contemporary Christian, p. 366, Ibid)
This should be the strongest incentive to Christian witness.
If we truly attach our will to the will of God, then the zeal that motivates us in worship and witness will be that without exception (every knee and every tongue) should acknowledge the supreme honor given to Jesus by God the Father (Ephesians 1:18-22; Colossians 1:18).
“We should affirm without any sense of embarrassment or shame that he is ‘superior’ to all other religious leaders, precisely because he alone humbled himself in love even to the cross and therefore God has raised him ‘above’ every other person, rank or title” (John Stott).
The zeal of the people of God should be that without exception (every knee and every tongue) should acknowledge the supreme honor given to Jesus. Referring to those who see Christian witness as unnecessary, perhaps even a rude intrusion into the lives of others, Stott asked,
“…Have these men, then, no jealousy for the honor of Jesus Christ? Do they not care when he is despised and rejected? Do they not long, as God does, that all human beings, whatever their culture or religion, will bow their knee to Jesus, and submit to him as their Lord?”
“It is this zeal for Christ which integrates the worship and witness of the church. How can we worship Christ and not mind that others do not? It is our worship of Christ which impels us to witness to Christ, in order that others may come and worship him too” (p. 368, Ibid).