The earliest believers ascribed to a penniless carpenter the loftiest of titles.
In the United States of America we have neither royalty nor nobility. All citizens in our republic, regardless of pedigree or personal achievement, enjoy equal rights (theoretically, if not always in practice). So it stretches the imagination for us to grasp the meaning of lordship in other societies where titles are of prime importance. And it takes an even greater stretch to grasp the meaning of Lord as used in New Testament times. It was, for instance, the designation of Caesar. The emperor of Rome, lord over a far-flung domain, stood in lonely eminence on his pinnacle of authority and glory, the absolute ruler before whom both high and low bowed in homage.
It is amazing, therefore, to consider what the followers of a certain homeless, jobless, penniless carpenter did. They took the loftiest title in their culture and ascribed it to their ignominious leader, who had died in shame as a condemned criminal on a Roman cross. They went everywhere, defying Caesar’s lordship in order to proclaim the lordship of their discredited master. At the risk of death—and that possibility of martyrdom became in many instances a bloody actuality—they boldly declared that God had enthroned this Jesus as “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
They taught, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). They preached that this Jesus had “died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Rom. 14:9).
They claimed for Jesus a lordship that included not only the Roman Empire, but the entire cosmos, a lordship over life and death and eternity ...1
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