The Holy Scriptures call Jesus “the Lord”, that is, the Master. This was a respectful title used by slaves towards their masters in Antiquity. This is how subordinates addressed their superiors: children and their fathers; siblings, and their older siblings—or even a younger sibling who holds a high position.
According to a Jewish superstition from the Greco-Roman era, the name ᵓAḏōnāy ᵓElōhīm replaces the words Yahwé ᵓElōhīm and ᵓAḏōnāy Yahwé, a solution that was also adopted by Christian translations, for practical reasons. Thus, wherever in the Hebrew text we have the sacred name יהוה (Yahwé), alone or in association with something else, this was usually rendered as “the Lord”. In some cases, the New Testament applies this name to Christ, as a substitute for His sacred name.
The title “Lord” has become a synonym for the Christian God, both for God the Father and for the Messiah/Christ (Luke 1:43,68,76; 2:11). Jesus took it over, in His role as the Messiah (the expected legitimate King), called “the Son of God”, as the universal King (Matthew 22:44), as well as Master of the disciples and Master of His servants.
As we have seen, the quality of ‘lord’ is applicable, in the Bible or outside it, to the highest degree of sovereignty (Daniel 1:10). An emperor or a king “rules”. But God is called “King of kings” (Emperor) and “Lord of lords”, meaning the absolute Sovereign of the universe, a title the Lord Christ holds with the same dignity.
In this capacity as sovereign, He governs through His constitution, the fundamental law, which requires every citizen of His kingdom to live not only for themselves, but for God and for their fellow man. This is summarized in the following two equal and interdependent principles: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength”; “love your neighbor as yourself”.
Since the principles of the heavenly constitution needed examples and details, at least for our fallen world, God gave man The Ten Commandments, which exemplify, in four commandments, the love of God (the true religion)…
- Respect for the uniqueness of the Lord: the prohibition against appealing to other deities;
- Respect for the spirituality of the Lord: the prohibition of any cult of images;
- Respect for the name of the Lord: the command not to use it in insults, lies, or profane words.
- Respect for the day of the Lord (the seventh day of the week): this day is dedicated to the Lord, by total cessation from profane work, by the freedom granted to slaves and working animals, and by holding meetings or spiritual activities for God’s glory.
…and, in the six commandments that follow, the love for fellow human beings (true ethics/morals):
- Respect for parents: obeying them, helping them, not despising them, not abusing them;
- Respect for human life: the prohibition on killing (intentionally or out of negligence);
- Respect for the sanctity of marriage: not committing adultery, being restrained;
- Respect for property: not appropriating, in any way, what belongs to others;
- Respect for truth and justice: not giving false testimonies/statements, which can affect others;
- Self-respect: never longing for what cannot legitimately belong to you.
Just as God sent ten plagues upon the Egyptian masters to persuade them to set His people free, so He gave Ten Commandments to Israel after He delivered them. He gave these in His role as Delivering Lord, mentioned in the preamble of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:2a). These commandments, commonly called the Commandments of God or, in short, the Commandments are mentioned in the First Testament of the Bible: “the words (commandments) of the Covenant”, the written statement of the Covenant. These are the words used in the book of Revelation to refer to the Ten Commandments when it describes the presence of the heavenly ark of the Decalogue on the day of universal judgment (Revelation 11:19; 15:5).
Christ is our Lord, first as a pre-existing, eternal God, because through Him God created the universe and, because God gave all things to Christ after the incarnation. Christ is our Saviour, because He is first our Lord, and in this very capacity as Lord He has redeemed us, because we are rightfully His—good or evil. We are His “slaves” through Creation, but also through Redemption we remain His servants, willingly subjected to Him: “in your hearts revere Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15).
Obedience to God and obedience to Christ are not different religions, because we have one God and one Lord; one kingdom. Some of Paul’s statements regarding “one God and one Lord” are misread by anti-Trinitarians, as if only the Father were God and only the Son were Lord. The Bible, however, shows that Jesus too is God, and that the Father is and remains Lord. When evil will cease to exist, Jesus will give the whole kingdom that has been given to Him back to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
Jesus’s reign is described as a kingdom. His titles, that of the Messiah (Christ) or Son of God, are royal titles. After inaugurating His public mission in Judea by baptism, He began to preach the same message as John the Baptist: repentance, in preparation for God’s imminent kingdom, also called the heavenly kingdom (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:14-15).
Jesus did not preach a new religion, but brought to light the true requirements of the Law, which Pharisaic/rabbinic Judaism had concealed (Matthew 5:17-30).
The Jews were waiting for the visible, socio-political kingdom of the Messiah in Jerusalem and throughout the world. But Jesus postponed this visible and glorious phase, and began with His acceptance as Lord/King, first in one’s personal life and in the relationships between believers. The visible phase of the Kingdom will be triggered later, after the Judgment. He described both phases of the Kingdom in His extraordinary parables, which are found in all the Gospels.
Jesus pointed to love as the only accepted motivation; to obedience towards the Lord’s commandments and instructions, and to the certainty of the last phase of the Kingdom, which will restore justice, peace, and bring the reign of eternal life. However, only those who enter and remain in the Kingdom of grace, through faith and obedience, will enter the Kingdom of glory:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)