“Jesus is Lord”: What Does It Mean?

“Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3).

Now that’s a fundamental truth to which the Church of Jesus Christ bears witness if there ever was one. In fact, it sets Christians apart from all others in the world. So what do those words mean?

Christians and even non-Christians often use the title “Lord” as a term of respect or affection for God and Jesus. We hear it in the phrases “Dear Lord” and “Lord Jesus.” Sometimes when we hear Christians pray, there is a certain sentimentality expressed in the words “Lord Jesus.” Don’t get us wrong: prayer is certainly the time and place for expressing deep affection for Jesus. Our point is that we need to know what we are saying when we say those words, and we should be sure that we mean what the Bible means when we say them. So what does the Bible mean when it says, “Jesus is Lord”?

In New Testament times, if you were to say, “So-and-So is Lord,” you would be confessing your absolute allegiance to that person as your God, as the sovereign Judge and Savior over all created things. So, the earliest Christian confession of “Jesus is Lord” meant that Jesus was God the Creator, Judge, and Savior of all that is.

We are likely to miss the astounding uniqueness of the Christian claim, however, unless we remember that the Jesus who is Lord had been shamefully executed – murdered – by crucifixion before His resurrection. Some in ancient times asked, and some today ask, Where was His lordship in that humiliating event? The answer to that question lies in remembering that Jesus had come to do His Father’s will; that is, He had come from heaven to accomplish the salvation of His sinful people (John 6:38-40). By His obedience, then, to His Father’s will, even to the point of death on a cross, Jesus demonstrated that neither sin nor death held lordship over Him. Instead, He held lordship over sin and death. To Jesus’ lordship His Father bore witness by raising Him from the dead and appointing Him as Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 17:30-31). Therefore, when Christians say that “Jesus is Lord,” they were originally and are today confessing that “Jesus, the Crucified One, is Lord of the living and the dead, Lord over sin and death, from whom, through whom, and to whom are all things.”

As we said above, this confession sets Christians apart from others. After all, for some such a claim is blasphemy: only God is Lord. To those folks Christians respond, “Jesus has demonstrated His lordship over all things, even sin and death. Worship Him as God and Lord!” To others, the Christian claim is foolishness since there is no lord but man. To these the Church answers, “God will judge the world in righteousness through the Resurrected Man, Jesus. Therefore, stop rejecting Jesus and show Him the homage He is due as Lord.” Still others prefer to worship a lord of their own making and to ignore the Christian confession. To them Christians say, “Jesus has revealed Himself as the Lord of the living and the dead. Therefore, turn from your idolatry and worship the one living and true God.”

“Jesus is Lord.” This is the fundamental and unique Christian confession. Is it yours?