THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST
Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
Our present subject brings before us a very different aspect of the Truth from that which engaged our attention in the last article: a greater contrast could scarcely be imagined— Christ the Servant, Christ the Sovereign; subject to the will of Another, exercising His own imperial pleasure; and that, at the same season! Truly, "Without controversy great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). In passing, let it be pointed out that the seeming conflict between the Divine justice and the Divine mercy, between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, between the Christian's being "under grace" (Romans 6:14) and yet "under law" (1 Cor. 9:21), between salvation itself being both a "gift" (Eph. 2:8) and a "reward" (Col. 3:24), presents no greater paradox than the above. Our bounden duty is to believe both sides of the paradox as they are revealed in the Scriptures, going as far with each as Scripture goes, and leaving with God the perfect consistency between them.
The Greek word for "Lord" means one having personal right to rule, such as is exercised in the guiding and governing of a family; more properly it signifies a master or governor over servants, who are bound to obey him. Such a Governor and Ruler is Christ, whether we consider His title to this dominion or the exercise of it. He has this title to universal Lordship by creation (John 1:3)—having made all things. He has the right to dispose of them; by sustentation (Col. 1:16)—as the Preserver, He has the right to rule all things; by Divine appointment (John 3:35)—all things having been committed unto Him; by personal fitness (Col. 1:19).
There is a twofold "Lordship" belonging to Christ: one which is natural, absolute, underived, pertaining to Him as He is simply considered as second Person of the Trinity, to whom all the dignities and royalties of the Divine nature do belong, equally as to the Father and the Holy Spirit; which Lordship in all Three is founded upon Their joint concern in the making of all things and also in the governing of them.
But there is also another "Lordship" pertaining to Christ, namely, a derived and dispensatory one, which is established by the counsels of God for the effecting of all His works both for and unto Him; which Lordship is proper and peculiar to Christ considered as God-man Mediator, to whom as such "all power" or "authority" has been given unto Him "in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18); "And has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man" (John 5:27). It is this delegated or mediatorial Lordship of Christ which we are now to contemplate. It was of this that Peter spoke when he said, "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). There is a "made" lordship of Him who yet, by virtue of it, made all things. Paul also referred to this when he said, "whom He has appointed Heir of all things" (Heb. 1:2): "Heir" here is equivalent to "Lord," and "appointed" to "made." Christ's being "Lord" evidently imports an office and economy committed to Him and undertaken by Him, as "Christ" also does. As "Lord" Christ has been appointed by the Godhead to "rule over all things." He Himself avowed, "As You have given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him" (John 17:2). Now it is a serious mistake to suppose that our blessed Redeemer only entered upon this office at His ascension, as it is to think that He has ceased to be Servant and no longer obeys in Heaven. Luke 2:11 emphatically declares, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." True, there was only an initial entering upon that office at His birth, the full assumption and exercise thereof awaiting His exaltation; nevertheless this, as we shall see, was real.
If we go carefully through the four Gospels with this thought before us, we shall catch many glimpses of Christ's execution of His Lordship even during the days of His flesh. Listen to His words when the poor leper came to Him for healing, "And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will, be clean" (Matt. 8:3). See Him cursing the fig tree (Matt. 21:19)—none could rightfully do so, save the Maker and Lord of it. Behold Him giving orders for the winds and waves to be still (Matt. 8:26). Ponder His repeated, "Truly, truly, I say unto you": none other ever used such language. Observe Him authoritatively bidding disease to flee, and the dead to arise. See Him casting out demons, and causing them to quake before Him. What demonstrations were these that He who had taken upon Him the form of a Servant, had not relinquished His Lordship.
Appropriately was His name called "Wonderful" (Isaiah 9:6). Again and again He referred to Himself in this character. To His disciples He said, "Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest" (Matt. 9:38). When bidding them ask for the use of the donkey and its colt He said, "You shall say the Lord has need of them" (Matt. 21:3). He commended His Apostles for owning Him as such: "You call Me Master and Lord; and you say well, for so I am" (John 13:13). His commissioning of His servants evidenced the same fact (Matt. 10:5-7; 28:19). His implicit demand for obedience from His followers showed the same thing (John 14:15). His possession of the keys of death and Hell (Rev. 1:18) manifest His high dominion. His appointing of officers in the Church exhibits His Lordship (Eph. 4:11, 12). His rule over the churches demonstrates His sovereign dominion (Rev. 1-3). His opening and shutting of doors for His servants (Rev. 3:7) clearly displays His Lordship. His rewarding of His saints (Rev. 22:12) witnesses to this truth. His destroying of His enemies (Matt. 22:13) will solemnly attest it.
A word upon the character and scope of His Lordship. He is "Lord of all" (Acts 10:36), "Lord over all" (Romans 10:12), and Lord by whom all creatures and things exist and are held together: "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him" (1 Cor. 8:6)— "one God" in three Persons; "one Lord" or Mediator. All things are of God originally, by Christ derivatively. This fact will be universally acknowledged at the last day, when "every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Phil. 2:10).
He is not only a universal Lord, but an all-powerful one, for He "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:21). He is an unrivaled Lord, the "only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 6:15). We trust that what has been brought out above will enable the reader to distinguish clearly between the Deity and the Lordship of Christ. In His person He is very God of very God. But when He took manhood into union with Himself, as Mediator the office of universal Lordship was delegated to Him. That office He assumed at His birth, executed throughout His earthly life, continues to discharge in Heaven, and will for all eternity. Even on the new earth the Lamb occupies the throne with God (Rev. 22:1). May Divine grace move each of us to say from the heart, "My Lord, and my God!" (John 20:28).
What are our responsibilities under such a Lord? First, to serve Him only—not sin and Satan: "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve" (Matt. 4:10). He is to be served unreservedly: "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord" (Col. 3:23). He is to be served diligently: "Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11). He is to be served perpetually: "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:8). May Divine grace enable us to heed that exhortation, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" (Col. 2:6).