He is Both Lord and Christ
Romans 10:9, 10
"But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart'-- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (Romans 10:8-10).
This is a well known passage that speaks about salvation. But now notice the confession the Ethiopian eunuch made prior to his water baptism into Christ: "And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." (Acts 8:37). We often equate the two passages, suggesting that the eunuch's confession and the confession Paul is discussing are the same. But note that there is a difference. The eunuch confessed Jesus as the Christ and as the Son of God. Paul discusses confessing Jesus as Lord. There is a difference.
To confess Jesus as the "Christ" means that we proclaim that we believe He is the anointed one of whom the Old Testament prophets had prophesied. The word "Christ" is the Greek rendition of the Hebrew word "Messiah." The eunuch was saying he believed Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. This means Jesus was the one appointed by God to assume the royal, priestly office of the promised Messiah. It is necessary to believe and be willing to confess this belief. But it is not the same thing as confessing Jesus as Lord." For example, when Peter proclaimed on Pentecost that "God has made Him both Lord and Christ-- this Jesus whom you crucified." (Acts 2:36), he was saying God made Jesus two different things; Lord and Christ.
It is entirely possible to confess one's belief that Jesus is the Christ without confessing Jesus as Lord. People do it all the time. To confess Jesus as Christ is to state that we believe He is who He claimed to be; the Savior, the Son of God, the Redeemer. We do need to do this to be saved. But to confess Jesus as Lord involves not only the mouth, but is a recognition that He is our Lord and Master and that we are willing to submit to and obey Him.
Early disciples would never have disturbed the Roman authorities for confessing Jesus as the Christ. They would not care about that. But to confess Jesus as Lord and king was another matter. To say that their first allegiance was to the Lord Jesus as opposed to Caesar got many of them thrown into prison and killed. When the unbelieving Jews wanted to get Rome after the Christians, they would accuse them of accepting Jesus as Lord or king (Matthew 22:15-22; Acts 17:6,7).
Confessing Jesus as Lord
So, practically speaking, what all is involved in confessing Jesus as Lord? Well, obviously the first thing involved is speaking of our acceptance of His lordship. Our Romans text says, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord..." (10:9). But it does not end there. It only begins there.
Jesus, in fact, does not even want us to make such a confession if we are not willing to act upon it. He does not want us to call Him "Lord" and "Master" if we are not willing to commit to doing the things He says. He said, "And why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46).
Instead, our deeds need to match our words: "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." (Colossians 3:17). To confess Jesus' Lordship with our mouths while not submitting our lives to Him is empty. If He truly is our Lord, then He controls both our words as well as our deeds.
The Lord's Commandments
There simply is no other authority in the church than that of the Lord Jesus. Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28:18). The Scriptures affirm that the Father "put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church..." (Ephesians 1:22).
Sometimes, obeying the Lord may mean we must do something difficult. We might be forced to take a risk in speaking out, or confront sin, or forgo a personal liberty for the cause of Christ. Our discipleship might lead us into an undesired confrontation. Accepting Jesus' "Lordship" means accepting that we are on a collision course with the world and its false standards. We might have to struggle to forgive when wronged when we would prefer to get even. It might be that we need to change our focus and be more careful not to let our worldly ambitions to crowd out the cause of the kingdom in our daily lives. Accepting Jesus' Lordship means we are willing to submit our wills and wants to His and put His kingdom first.
Accepting Jesus' Lordship means accepting everything He has said. Notice the following Scripture as an example:
"From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.' But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's.' Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'" (Matthew 16:21-26).
Jesus made a statement that Peter did not like to hear. Peter said, "No!" But "no" is not something one says to the Lord. Accepting Jesus' Lordship involves saying "yes" to whatever He says. It involves denial of self-interests, including sometimes the giving up of life itself. But it also involves finding life; that is, eternal life. There is everlasting profit in accepting Jesus as Lord and Christ.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 7.7; July 2000