Jesus Christ, Savior or Lord?
There is a strange Gospel abroad in the land today. It is the gospel of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, without acknowledging Him as Lord. The purveyors of this new gospel are alarmed lest someone add works to the gospel of grace. They are quite convinced that Christ’s Lordship has no place in the message of salvation. It is, they insist, a doctrine for Christians, not for unbelievers. Using logic, they usually reason as follows: any inclusion of Lordship of Christ in the presentation of the gospel becomes a demand for good works, and we know that works have no place in the gospel of grace. Therefore, they assure men that if they will “only” or “simply accept” Jesus as Savior, they shall assuredly have eternal life.
Every Christian should be vitally concerned about the purity of the gospel. However, we must be careful to believe and proclaim the whole gospel, not a water-down counterfeit devoid of saving power.
Who is Jesus?
A critical question is this: who IS the Savior? Is He Jesus? Is He Christ? Is He Lord? The Bible repeatedly identifies Him by three names. He is the “Lord Jesus Christ.” What do the names mean? Jesus is his human name. It means “Salvation.” The angel told Joseph, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). He is also “The Christ.” Christ means “Anointed one.” It is a title, not strictly a name. It denotes an office, like the office of priest or king. In this case, the office is that of Messiah. He is the Christ because there is only one. God prepared one Messiah who can save men from their sins, and Jesus is that promised Messiah. He is also “Lord.” Lord means “Master, Owner, Boss.” Ultimately, it speaks of the One True God, the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” the sovereign Master of the universe, the One to whom obedience and worship is due.
Jesus is Lord
These three names properly identify the Savior, for each identifies a different aspect of His character. He is one person. He is revealed in three names. IS it possible to have Jesus as Savior without receiving Him as Lord? Can you divide Christ? Can you take one-third or Him or two-thirds? How ridiculous! You either receive HIM–all of HIM–or you do not. YOu cannot receive Christ as Savior without also receiving Him as Lord.
Notice how often Scripture emphasizes His Lordship. “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’” (Acts 16:30, 31). “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the LORD Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Rom. 20:9, 13). Many similar texts could be cited.
Lordship is an Attitude
It is true that no one understands all the claims of Christ’s Lordship at the time of conversion. And it is also true that no one has ever succeeded in perfectly obeying all of Christ’s commands, either before or after salvation. The struggle to surrender to Christ as LORD is a continuous conflict with the Adamic nature which begins at conversion and ultimately ends only when we arrive in Heaven. The more a believer grows in grace and knowledge of God’s Word, the more he understands the claims of Christ’s Lordship, and the more he will yield to his Lord. Viewed from this perspective, submitting to the Lordship of Christ is a birthmark, or fruit, of true conversion. It is the essence of the believer’s progressive sanctification as he continues along the narrow path that leads to Heaven (Matt. 7:14).
However, it is EQUALLY TRUE that no one may receive Christ as SAVIOR WHO IS UNWILLING to receive Him as Lord. We cannot pick and choose. We cannot have salvation on our own terms. Salvation is by believing God’s revelation. Some preachers may offer salvation without any surrender. Jesus Christ does not. “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33) “Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21)
The heart of the issue is the attitude of the heart. A believing heart is a surrendered heart. Saving faith yields to Christ as Lord, even though the full implications of that surrender will take a lifetime to understand. It is not possible to have Christ as Savior now, and later, after salvation, decide whether or not you want Him to be your Lord. If He is not your Lord, He is not your Savior. Perhaps this is the best way to explain the difference between believing in the head (intellectual faith), and believing in the heart (surrender).
Do You Have a Savior?
This somewhat theological debate has very practical implications. Do you claim to be a Christian? If so, it is because you have “believed” the message of the gospel–the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as your substitute, in payment for your sins (I Cor. 15:1-4). The question is, which Jesus Christ did you receive? There are many, you (Matt. 24:23, 24). Did you believe in a Christ who offers to save you from the penalty of your sins, but makes no demands upon your life? Then I must tell you that you are trusting an idol, a mental fabrication, a false god without divine power to save.
Or, did you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Christ of the Bible, the Sovereign Master of the universe who shed His blood for your sins and lays rightful claim to your heart and life?
If you have received this Christ, then you have God’s salvation. “He that hath the Son hath life: He that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:12)
It is not a matter of DOING anything more than believing in order to gain salvation. However, it IS a matter of believing the whole message of salvation; of receiving as your Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, and not some false god. If there is little subsequent desire to please Him after you “believed,” then you must not have received Jesus as Lord. The issue of yielding to His Lordship is wrapped up in the question of saving faith. When Jesus is LORD (Owner Master), there is little quarrel with His demands. We know He has every right to command us, and we do not question that right. When we think we have a Savior who has no right to make demands upon our life, we are deceived. There is no such Savior. Jesus Christ, Savior or Lord? He’s both. Do YOU have a Savior? “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”