The message that Jesus preached was the gospel of the kingdom of God. A simple definition of a kingdom is a domain where a king rules. (see: Part 2) The kingdom of God implies a King and Jesus is that King.
We find Jesus introduced as Lord and referred to as Lord close to 3,000 times in the New Testament. Jesus demonstrated his Lordship – His rulership over creation – by turning water to wine; through bread and fish multiplied; even through His authority over the elements. He commanded the wind and waves; He exerted authority over demons and the domain of darkness; sickness and disease, etc.
The Lordship of Jesus Christ is apparently one of the most neglected or least understood aspects of Jesus. As incredible as that statement sounds, the lack of understanding of His Lordship is clearly evident in the lives of many who claim to be Christians, as evidenced by the general lack of response to it in the lives of those who claim Him as their Savior.
For example, in the religious “Bible belt” region of this country (USA), polls state that a phenomenal 83% of the population believe in a literal physical return of Jesus to the earth. Yet, the most casual observer can easily conclude there is a vast difference between a right knowledge about Jesus and a faith in Him that produces changed lives.
At the same time, Scripture points to the fact that a belief about Jesus as Savior is not the same as a surrender to Jesus as Lord. In fact, one very grave problem within western Christianity has become an “easy believism” that is void of repentance and Lordship. That is, “faith” without repentance; “salvation” without sanctification; “mental assent” without life changing surrender. He is not a Savior whom we have the option of establishing as Lord of our lives; rather He must be acknowledged as Lord, then He will save us.
In our zeal to be theologically “proper” regarding the grand theme of grace, modern Christianity has often been guilty of presenting a “gospel” of faith without Lordship, a cheap “grace” that’s not really grace but licentiousness.*
(licentiousness = absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness – note Jude 1:4 “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”)
This “grace” is justification of sin without repentance on the part of the sinner. It is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance. It is Church membership without Church discipline; communion without confession, faith without action. It is wanting Jesus as Savior but not as Lord – wanting Him to save us but not to rule over our lives. Costly “grace” recognizes the call to discipleship that Jesus expects in light of our redemption.
Christ gave all for us and expects nothing less in return. Our relationship with Him is the “treasure in a field” for which a man sells all he has to purchase; or the costly pearl a man gives all to acquire. It is the call of Jesus for which a disciple leaves his nets, forsakes all and follows. Such Gospel demands total surrender. It says “If you receive me as Lord, I will save you”. It is costly because it costs us our life, but is redemption because in exchange we gain that which is true life, that which is eternal.
This final dimension of His lordship is clearly stated in Acts 2:36: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” and… Phil 2:5-11: “…Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name…,”THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, THE LORD!
This final clarification of Jesus as Lord by the Father – even over the hearts of every man, – gives the conclusion of the matter. He is Lord of all. We are all destined to acknowledge it by the confession of our tongue and the bending of our knee. Acknowledging Him as Lord implies putting faith in His saving power while giving him right to rule over our lives. It is a gospel that includes BOTH – repentance AND faith. The fact is, everyone WILL acknowledge Him as Lord. Every individual may do so willingly now, for which there is great benefit; or with great regret at the final judgment, in which case there will be great remorse. Nevertheless, He is Lord!
Part One – The Inevitability of the Kingdom
Part Two – The King of the Kingdom