We should be exceedingly grateful for the emphasis today on the Lordship of Christ. It is the same emphasis which we find in the works of Dr. Abraham Kuyper on the Kingship of Christ. We think in this connection of his inspiring work on Pro Rege (“For the King”). We must stress the Lordship of Christ over against tho superficial gospel which we often hear in fundamentalist circles which tells the lost sinner that all he needs to do to be saved is to “accept Christ as his personal Savior.” The error implicit in this well known phrase is that saving faith is merely the acceptance of Christ as our Redeemer while according to Scripture it is also a surrender of oneself to Christ as Lord.
Our Catechism begins so beautifully with a most remarkable confession of that Lordship where it teaches that our only comfort in life and death is that we “with body and soul, in life and death, are not our own, but belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” The Teacher does not say that our comfort is that Jesus Christ belongs to us but rather that we belong to Jesus Christ.
Let us by all means have more emphasis on the blessed and inspiring truth that Jesus Christ is Lord; that he is the King of our hearts and our lives and that we are bound to confess him and to serve him in every realm of legitimate human endeavor.
In view of what has just been said it may puzzle us that the liberals today put so much emphasis on the Lordship of Christ. (See the quotation above from United Evangelical Action.) But it must be remembered that there is a liberal, or heterodox, as well as an evangelical, or orthodox, interpretation of that Lordship. Only the latter is based on Holy Writ.
The liberals hold that Christ’s Lordship means simply that his teachings are authoritative for all of life: for our personal conduct not only but also for the family, for the nation, and for all the ramifications of our national life and our international concerns. His law of love must govern all of life’s relationships.
It is easy to see that this presentation of the Lordship of Christ lends itself beautifully as a basis for the social gospel, which is directed only or primarily to the improvement and betterment of social conditions. It is also clear that this view of Jesus’ Lordship is welcomed as a doctrinal basis for the world-wide ecumenical movement; that is, the movement to bring about the external union of all denominations. The great stumbling block to such a union, namely the orthodox teachings about the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, his substitutionary suffering and death, his physical resurrection, and his visible return to earth, will then be removed. The priesthood of Christ has been denied in the interest of his prophetic and kingly office.
However, according to the Scriptures, Jesus’ prophetic work, that is his teaching, has no power over the hearts of men apart from his priestly work of substitutionary sacrifice on the cross and his present intercession at the right hand of God (See John 6 on Christ as the bread of life, on eating his flesh and drinking his blood). Christ’s teachings pointed to the cross as the only ground and foundation of our salvation. Nor do men love these teachings and have the spiritual power to observe them unless Christ as King regenerates them by his Spirit.
Moreover, Jesus’ Kingship, or Lordship, is inseparable from his priesthood. Christ is the Lord only of those whose sins he paid for. He is our Lord only because he purchased us with his blood. This is the weighty truth expressed in the Catechism section referred to above (Q. and A. 34), “Why do you call him our Lord? Because he has redeemed us, body and soul, from all our sins, not with gold or silver, but with his precious blood, and has delivered us from all the power of the devil, and has made us His own possession.” Note that the whole of our salvation, our objective redemption (purchase) and our subjective deliverance (regeneration ), is presented as the ground for Christ’s Lordship. We are his own possession only because he bought us with his blood and saved us by his Spirit.
All of this implies that Jesus Christ is not and cannot be acknowledged as Lord except by those who are forgiven and born again. We may summon the nation to acknowledge Christ as Lord, and we should not fail to sound forth this challenge; but the challenge is not merely that men shall listen to his teachings and obey his precepts. It is basically the challenge to repent of sin, turn to Christ Jesus as the divine Savior, accept him as our Lord and Master, and therefore to demand that all those who have surrendered to him shall regulate their Jives by his will.
The summons to bow before Christ as Lord is first of all the summons to seek divine forgiveness through the shedding of Jesus’ blood and the renewal of our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
“No man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:3).
All of this implies that when we write or preach about Christ as Lord we should take pains to state just what we mean by his Lordship.