The Lordship of Christ
Mr. Leslie S. Rainey (the editor’s uncle) served the Lord for many years in Africa. He currently resides in Bermuda and is actively engaged in a Bible teaching and writing ministry.
The Lord Jesus Christ—this wonderful title is found seventy times in the epistles to the church at Corinth. If the Corinthian Christians had recognized the lordship of Christ they would have known that factions dishonored it; impurities defiled it; schisms disgraced it; but marriage depicted it; the Lord’s Supper declared it; and the resurrection decided it. Let us beware of calling Jesus, “Lord,” and disregarding His commands.
We shall consider this important theme by calling to mind several illustrative words in the New Testament, enshrining the idea of Christ’s lordship. The word which occurs the greatest number of times is “kurios” which is generally translated Master. This word is used about 650 times, and appears in every book except Titus and John’s Epistles. The main thought is “one who has the disposal of anything,” or “one whom service is due on any ground.” Christ is not only Saviour, but Master. His commands are not grievous, and His demands are not groundless. He expects loyal service and implicit obedience of His words “Occupy till come” (Luke 19:11-27). In the service of God there is no excuse for idleness or inactivity.
Responsibility is measured by opportunity, and our sphere of service in the Kingdom will be dependent on how we have traded in spiritual things down here. The example of Christ as a boy ought to be our watchword: “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). We belong to Christ who is our Master, because we are His choice by gift; His by creation; His by purchase; His by conquest; His by union; His by dedication of self to the control of God the Spirit. May we give to our Lord and Master His right, and render acceptable service with reverence and godly fear.
The next word we consider is found about fifty times in the New Testament. It is not found in the Acts or Epistles, but in the Gospels and is rendered “didaskalos,” of which the English equivalent is Teacher.
In the story of the rich young ruler, we read, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17, ASV). The mistake of the young man was in thinking that eternal life was inherited, and thus Christ is seen as the One who instructs in the way of everlasting life. Wherever the word teacher is used (Matthew 22:16, 24, 36; Mark 10:20, 36; Luke 2:46; John 3:2, 10; 13:13; etc.) it is always with a view to leading the inquirer into the knowledge of the truth.
Christ was the Prince of Preachers, and the supreme Teacher. The design of all learning is “Attendance at school, attention to the lesson, and application to work at hand.” In Hebrew the root idea of the word student is taken from the letter “r which is translated “ox-goad.” How necessary it is to be pricked or stirred up to study whether as a student or a teacher. Surely in the life of one who serves Christ as Lord there is an essential need to give diligence and discipline in the work so that we might be approved unto God and acceptable to men.
A third word that is used is very common in the Gospel of John, occurring nine times. It is “rabbi” or “rabboni” and is translated Leader.
Among the Jews of John’s time, as well as our own, a common word is “rabbi” or “rabboni,” and it is a term applied to one who leads in spiritual matters; such are greatly revered. In the Gospel of John it is applied to Christ no less than nine times and fifteen in all through the New Testament (Matthew 25:25 and 49). The rabbis of all generations aspire to be men of the Book, and are leaders among the Jewish people for their knowledge of God. In this connection Christ was an essential leader, for His delight was in the Law of the Lord, and He daily fed His soul on the Bread of God (Psalm 1 and John 6). To contemplate the life of Christ as leader is to be constrained to follow Him, for He has left us “an example, that ye should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Fourth, we are indebted to Dr. Luke for a striking word “epistates” which is translated Superintendent. How revealing is this word as seen in its context in the New Testament (Luke 5:5; 8:24, 25; 9:33, 49; 17:13). In this Gospel Christ is viewed as the Son of Man, that is, apart from human sin He is one with us, “Touched with the feeling of our infirmities”; “in all points tempted like as we are,” so “He is able to secure them that are tempted.” In the story of Peter and the great draught of fishes, it is an object lesson to teach us that the realization of our sinfulness is the revelation of His sufficiency. Only Christ can turn our failure into success as we co-operate with Him in the holy art of catching men (Luke 5:5). Truly in the use of this word superintendent, the Holy Spirit’s design is that working with Christ is more important than working for Him. What He is doing in us is more important than what He is doing through us. In Luke 8, we have the story of the Storm on the Lake, and twice this beautiful word is used by the anxious and weary disciples as they cried “Master, Master, we perish.” This may be true in the experience of one who does not know Christ as Lord. However, for all who know Him, here we have a lesson to prove the reality of faith. Storms are allowed to test one’s faith and seldom is life one smooth, continuous sailing. If Christ is in control, whether on land or sea or in the air, “in jeopardy” or in adversity it is still true, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3). In the other uses of the word we observe that as Christ is in control or superintendent of every situation, then gloom gives way to gladness, selfishness to self-forgetfulness, ignorance to knowledge, and barrenness to bountiful blessing.
In the cleansing of the ten lepers, only one returned to give thanks. Perhaps it is true today as then that all who partake of the blessings of salvation do not become worshipers. To know Christ in such a way, to cooperate with Him in His wok is the sure path to communion in His Word.
Another word which is used six times in the New Testament is “despotes” which is usually rendered Possessor. In our generation the word despot is usually associated with cruelty, but this is not necessarily so in the teaching of the Scriptures. It is used to convey the idea of ownership, as a master in relation to his slave. How beautiful it is to see that dear man of God, Simeon, who not only was Spirit endowed, but instructed and guided by the Spirit to take up the baby Jesus into his arms and confess, “Lord (my owner), now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace” (Luke 2:29).
Simeon recognized Christ as his sovereign and absolute master, even though a babe. In the second book of Timothy, Paul writes to his son in the faith about the vessels in the household of God. Here the desire of the Holy Spirit is that as vessels we might be the best, “a vessel unto honour,” and further “sanctified and meet for the master’s [owner’s) use” (2 Timothy 2:21) .
As Christians we are the property of Christ and as we are yielded to God by the Spirit we shall be useable, “prepared unto every good work.” Further uses of the word are found in Acts 4:24; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 4; and Revelation 6:10. Just as Abraham recognized the Lord as the most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, so today we must never forget that the Christian’s body has a divine and eternal destiny. It is for the Lord; it was bought; it is indwelt; it is to be raised; thus the more we ascertain His ownership, the more we shall adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
Sixth, there is a beautiful and rare word used only once in reference to this study—“kathegetes” and the English equivalent is Pattern.
How careful the Holy Spirit is to present Christ as our model here below. How we are reminded of that life as recorded by Luke: “How God anointed Him [Jesus of Nazareth] with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Paul in a masterful way traces the life of Christ in his letter to the Philippians as a Model for all Men (Philippians 2:1-30). Christ is not only the Saviour, but our Standard. As those who follow Him we must enroll in the college of Mary, and learn something of the prayer life, the holiness, the humility, the devotedness, the compassion, and the zeal of Christ. How utterly He abandoned Himself to the will and word of God. Oh! to be so taken up with Him that we might not only “occupy till He come,” but also seek to “copy Him” till we are transformed by His Spirit through the Word (2 Corinthians 3:18), into the likeness and loveliness of our Lord.
The final word in this illuminating study is “Maranatha” from the writings of Paul and suggests our Lord as Victor.
It is not a Greek word, but Aramaic or Syriac. This was the language of the common people developed during and after the exile in Babylon. In the ministry of Christ the language was used in the story of Jairus’ daughter, “Talitha cumi,” and again in relation to one who was deaf and dumb, “Ephphatha” (Mark 5:41; 7:34). According to Sir William Ramsay, after the Christian service, when the final benediction and Amen had been pronounced, the congregation would say “Maranatha.” “Maran” means Lord, and “atha” cometh. It is a word filled with hope and good cheer, and seems to have been a watchword or password of the early Christians under the heel and hate of Rome. As certain sighs today like “V” refer to Victory, so Maranatha was used by the early Christians as a symbol of faith and courage, for they believed the return of the Lord was sure. What an incentive to abide and abound, to work and win, to be patient and persistent, to live and labor, knowing that “Our Lord cometh.” Surely to meditate upon these seven words concerning Christ as Master, Teacher, Leader, Superintendent, Possessor, Pattern and Victor ought to lead us out to own the truth of the psalmist, “He is the Lord, and worship Him” (Psalm 45:11). Oh! that we might be constrained to give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name, and seek while it is day to extol His Person, and to extol the Kingdom of Jesus Christ the Lord.