Is it Christ the Savior who saves us? Or is it Christ the Lord who saves us? Or is it both? Who is it that we are really trusting for our salvation? What is our understanding of who Christ is when we place our faith in Him? What characterizes that faith? Here is where I think the church is in conflict. To a large degree, I believe the church is guilty of presenting a faulty gospel message.
What do I mean? I think there is confusion regarding how we should present Christ, and who the listener should perceive Christ to be when they believe in Him. Typically, we teach (and witness) that it’s Christ The Savior who saves us. We emphasize Him as Savior, and of course He is. However, I believe we often fail to make it clear who The Savior actually is.
Technically, it’s Christ The Lord who saves. Thus, it’s Christ The Lord who is The Savior. While Christ the Savior is one of His titles as the Savior of the world, I don’t believe that it’s as much a title as it is something that He does for us. Jesus is The Savior because saving sinners is what He does. On the other hand, Christ the Lord is a title of essence. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, I believe that is something we must make clear when we share the gospel message with others. If we present Christ simply as Savior, while neglecting to present Him as Lord, we are not presenting a complete picture of who He is. Furthermore, we are not presenting Him as the Word of God does. We’re not placing the emphasis where it belongs.
I looked up every reference in the New Testament for the word “Savior,” as it relates to Christ, and there are only a handful of verses. On the other hand, the references for “Lord,” as it relates to Christ, are far too many to count or to list here. But the emphasis in the New Testament is clearly on the Lordship of Christ. I will list some of the more important references as it relates to Christ and to salvation, and I will comment on a few of them:
From the very beginning Jesus is announced as a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. It’s important to understand that it is Christ the Lord who is the Savior..
According to Acts 2:36, it was important for the Jews to understand that the One they crucified is both Lord and Christ.
Notice how the apostles presented Jesus as they gave the gospel message, it was the Lord Jesus that they referred to.
Who did the people turn to in Acts 9:35? It was to the Lord. Those who believed in Joppa, believed in the Lord. So too today, those who come to faith in Christ must turn to the Lord.
The good news of peace was preached through Jesus Christ, who is “Lord of all.”
Men of Cyprus and Cyrene, when they preached the gospel message, preached the Lord Jesus. “And a great number who believed turned to the Lord.”
Here Paul reveals that the substance of the gospel message he preached consisted of “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Repentance, a turning away from our sins, is necessary because it is Christ the Lord we trust in. As Christ the Lord, the only acceptable response to His authority is to humble ourselves before Him in willing submission.
The gift of eternal life is “in Jesus Christ our Lord.” In this chapter Paul teaches that we are either slaves of sin or we are slaves of God and of righteousness.
Here Paul is very clear about who we must place our faith in: “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord,” “for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing riches on all who call on him.” “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This is how Paul preached Christ. He did not preach a shallow, easy believism type of message. He preached Christ as Lord. He emphasized His authority over our lives. When someone considers the message of Christ, this must be one of those things they must consider. People need to know that trusting Christ is more than getting a ticket to Heaven, but that it’s a life-changing decision they are making, a new direction they are choosing for their lives.
Here again it’s clear that when Paul preached the gospel message, he preached Christ as Lord. And here our understanding is broadened even more, for here we learn that the very reason Christ died and rose from the dead was for the purpose of being our Lord. We have cheapened the gospel message by not placing the same emphasis where Paul did. It’s easy to accept Christ as Savior when you think it won’t cost you anything.
1 Corinthians 2:8
Why did the rulers crucify Christ? Because they didn’t know they were crucifying the “Lord of glory.” If they had known, they wouldn’t have done so.
1 Corinthians 6:11,14,17
We are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:26-27
2 Corinthians 3:16
The veil of blindness is only removed when one turns to the Lord.
2 Corinthians 4:5
This statement by Paul is huge. Paul makes the plain statement that what he proclaimed was Jesus Christ as Lord. This was the substance of his message when he preached the death and resurrection of Christ. He let everyone know who it was that paid the price for their sins. This knowledge by those who hear requires a response of complete surrender of their lives to Him. This surrender is what must characterize our faith in Christ, or it’s not saving faith.
Someday everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. If that will be the confession of every unbeliever, then surely that must be the confession of those who place their faith in Christ.
Our Savior is the Lord Jesus Christ, and it’s His return that we await.
Who did the Colossian believers receive? Here Paul says it was Christ Jesus the Lord. And why was it Christ the Lord that they received? There can only be one reason, it was because it was Christ the Lord who was proclaimed to them. They understood who Jesus was and who they were receiving.
1 Thessalonians 2:15
2 Thessalonians 1:8
1 Timothy 6:15
2 Timothy 2:19
2 Peter 1:11
2 Peter 2:20
2 Peter 3:2
2 Peter 3:18
In 2 Peter, he refers to Christ four times as “our/the Lord and Savior.” Each time Peter places the title of Christ before Savior. As with Paul, Peter placed the emphasis on the Lordship of Christ.
I think it’s significant that this verse refers to Christ as the “Lamb.” It was the Lamb who was sacrificed for our sins, yet it is the Lamb who “conquers.” Why? Because He is “Lord of lords and King of kings.” And look who’s with Him. It’s the “called and chosen and faithful.” At conversion, the called and chosen recognize who Christ is in His authority, and they remain faithful. True faith is an enduring faith, characterized by a surrender of one’s life to Christ.
The last two verses of the Bible end with references to the Lord Jesus. I think that’s significant, as if that is what we are to keep in mind, and what our message about Jesus should emphasize.
The overall message of the New Testament is that Christ is Lord. It’s not just Christians who are to know this. It’s everyone — especially those who are presented the gospel message. Not to preach Christ as Lord and our accountability to Him, is irresponsible. Furthermore, to some degree, we misrepresent Him if all we do is present Him as Savior. We can never go wrong when giving as much information about Jesus as we can. On the other hand, we can do great harm by providing only a very limited picture of Him. The more about Jesus a person knows, the better they’re able to make a decision for Christ. Knowledge is power. On the other hand, a shallow message can produce false conversions.
If the Bible teaches that we must place the emphasis on the Lordship of Christ when presenting the gospel message, then it follows that we must also emphasize the necessity of surrendering our lives to His authority. The very title of Christ (Lord) implies and demands our full submission, and so that is the message we must get across to people. When a person considers Christ as Savior, they must see Him in His authority, that it was the King of kings and Lord of lords who paid the price for their sins.
Faith has to be according to truth. If our faith is based on an incomplete picture, or according to error, then a person’s faith will be invalid. If a person hears nothing but the death and resurrection of Christ, but hears nothing else about who Christ really is or of His Lordship over our lives, then a person may look at Christ simply as an easy way out of hell and into Heaven, but has no understanding that He is to rule our lives. If a person goes into this with every intention of living the same life of sin, then it will result in a false conversion.
The basis for our salvation is faith in Christ The Lord (as the One who paid the price for our sins) — meaning, that at the point of conversion we recognize Christ as our authority, and willingly surrender our lives to Him. Our faith is intertwined with the honor we give to Christ as Lord. We cannot separate the two. This has nothing to do with gaining God’s favor through our own efforts; this is simply recognition of who Christ is and responding accordingly. It’s a decision we make in our hearts to give honor to Him through a surrendered life. It’s a new Master we choose to serve, a new direction we choose to go with our lives. It’s a new focus on our relationship with God. Saving faith is empty without the correct object of faith, and that object is Christ The Lord.
Lordship salvation is not a “works-salvation,” and that is because of who Jesus is, and what it is that characterizes saving faith. Our faith must be in Christ The Lord, which, by His very title implies a surrender of our will to His authority. Saving faith is directly linked to the Lordship of Christ. Faith is empty, without power, apart from an awareness of, and a submission to, His authority.
This is not works, but an attitude of humility that honors Him for who He is. It’s a decision we make in our heart to yield our life to Christ and to His will. It’s a decision we make to turn from going our own way to go God’s way, as David said, “I have chosen the way of faithfulness” (Ps. 119:30). Our life is now God-ward instead of self-ward. If this is not the attitude of our heart when we place our faith in Jesus, then it’s not true saving faith, for in that case there would be an absence of awareness of who Christ is as Lord. The emphasis of the New Testament is that Christ is Lord, and that’s where Paul placed the emphasis when he preached the gospel. Should we do any less?
I believe we gain entrance into the Kingdom of God via Christ the Lord, when we realize it was the Ruler of all who died on the cross and paid the price for our sins—and, as the only appropriate response, we turn to the Lord as the new Master of our lives. It’s an attitude of our heart that says, “I have been master of my own ship all my life, and now I surrender my life to Christ to be my new Master.” Our belief and acceptance of what Christ did for us on the cross is connected to the awareness of who Christ is in His glory as Lord of all, and of the awareness of what our response is to be to His authority—which is a humble, whole-hearted surrender of our lives to Him.
“True faith follows the One we profess to believe in.”