10. Jesus Christ as Lord

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 18 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture this morning is from Romans 14:7-9, and our subject: ‘Jesus Christ as Lord.’

“For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 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. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” 1

On several previous occasions we have dealt with the doctrine of the Lordship of Christ. It is a subject which is well-nigh inexhaustible. The most common title or term applied to our Lord Jesus Christ in Scripture is simply ‘Lord,’ ‘Kurios (κύριος).’ It is used at least six hundred times, and it could run to seven to eight hundred times in the New Testament. No other term is used more often in the New Testament with regard to Jesus Christ. Obviously it is important, and yet, strangely enough, no other designation given to Jesus Christ is more condemned in this century. Vast segments of the Christian church believe that Jesus Christ is not Lord until the millennium, or until Heaven.

One of the healthy results of the persecutions and the Christian school battles has been the revival of this term, so that many have gone to the court under the banner of ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.’

‘Lord,’ as we have seen on other occasions, means absolute God, property owner, and sovereign. Paul repeatedly ties the Lordship of Jesus Christ to His office as covenant man, the head of the new humanity.

Now, we are all born in the old Adam, in Adam I. But Adam I does not own us, nor is he our Lord. Our relationship thus to Adam II is radically different; we are not only members of His humanity, born again of Him as we were born originally of the first Adam, but He is our Lord, our absolute property owner.

Charles Hodge has said with respect to verse seven of our text:

“No Christian considers himself as his own master, or at liberty to regulate his conduct according to his own will, or for his own ends; he is the servant of Christ, and therefore endeavours to live according to his will and for his glory. They, therefore, who act on this principle, are to be regarded and treated as true Christians, although they may differ as to what the will of God, in particular cases, requires. No man dieth to himself i.e., death as well as life must be left in the hands of God, to be directed by his will and for his glory. The sentiment is, ‘We are entirely his, having no authority over our life or death.’” 2

This means, first of all, that we cannot, because of the doctrine of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, approach Jesus Christ or God the Father, or God the Spirit, and see our faith, our religion, as an area of free choice. One of the greatest heresies of the modern age is that man today says that the state is an area of necessity, but religion is a matter of choice; you can take it or leave it, it is a matter of option. This is altogether wrong, and a monstrous evil. It is an upside down view of the world.

Jesus Christ being Lord means that we have no option where He is concerned, nor can we regard our relationship to Him and to His Word, to His law, as a matter of choice, as a matter of option. We are required under penalty at the court of Almighty God to submit to Him, totally. This is what Heaven and Hell are all about.

The state is not the area of necessity. We only obey in the area of civil government insofar as God’s word requires us to, for conscience’s sake. Necessity is from the Lord, and the state is not the Lord; it cannot lay the necessity upon us, only Christ can and does.

Then, furthermore, because we are the Lord’s property, Paul declares that our life and our death are totally His to command. Many moderns assert the Lordship of the individual life, and they see life as man-centered. But what Paul says here in these verses is simply that your life and your happiness are not the issue; it is the Lordship of Christ. You either submit to Him, or pay the penalty.

So we are required to submit because God declares it must be so. To refuse to submit is suicidal, for He is the way, the truth, and the life; to reject Him is to choose death. And so Paul is emphatic: we cannot live to ourselves nor die to ourselves, for our purposes, but only for the Lord’s.

Then next in verse nine we are told that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ establish His dominion over us:

“For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” 3

By virtue of His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ is Lord. Our Adam has destroyed the power of sin and death, He has made us members of His household, His kingdom, and commanded us, Luke 19:13 tells us, to “occupy till He come.” His authority is both over time and eternity, over the living and the dead. One scholar, Ethelbert Stauffer has said ‘Kurios,’ Lord, is the richest title of Jesus.4 Its meaning is clearly royal, in an absolutist sense. Our Lord quotes it precisely in that sense of Kingship, because He cites Psalm 110 in Mark 12:35-37. Peter again cites Psalm 110 in Acts 2:30-36, and he declares that Jesus Christ is Lord, the great priest-king, ruler of all the earth, and all the nations are subdued under Him.

The Bible always describes God, in fact, as Lord. The whole of the Old Testament speaks of Him as Lord. It is the most common title of God, the Father of Trinity, in the whole of Scripture. As a matter of fact, because the Hebrew aversion to taking the name of the Lord was so great that they avoided the use of it insofar as possible, we find that the Old Testament again and again replaces the name of God ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Jehovah’ with ‘Adonai,’ ‘Lord.’ So that the term ‘Lord’, absolute property owner, absolute Lord, is used in the Bible as identical with the name of God, and in the New Testament this same term, ‘Lord,’ is applied to Jesus Christ. He is, Revelation 19:16 declares:


His Lordship, thus, cannot be postponed till the Millennium, nor to heaven. It is the immediate result of His atonement and His resurrection. Paul says again and again that the Resurrection made Jesus Christ Lord over all, and in Colossians 2:13-15 he says that all principalities and powers without exception were placed under Jesus Christ by His resurrection. He declares in Colossians 2:13-15:

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them...” 5

What Paul says here is that first of all, Jesus Christ by His Lordship triumphs over all powers and principalities, and destroys their dominion over His new humanity, over us. The “spoiling of all His enemies” means their public humiliation. He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them. We miss the whole point of the death, the atonement, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, if we fail to see that it was the public dethroning of all of Christ’s enemies. They were openly shown by the cross to be dethroned and impotent, and Christ openly set forth as the great and cosmic Lord. The Greeks might call that cross foolishness, but for us the empty Cross is the symbol of the total defeat by our Lord, our Federal head, of all our enemies.

Furthermore, Christ as Lord accomplished this victory by redeeming the humanity given to Him from sin and death, by blotting out the death penalty of the law against us, so that we now have no criminal record before God. The entire penalty has been paid, the record of it has been blotted out, and God declares through the prophets of old that “He will remember our sins no more,” so that they disappear from the very mind of God. We are quickened, we are made alive, we are regenerated, and our sins are forgiven.

Now, Scripture is clear that God alone can forgive sins. Even the enemies of our Lord stressed that point in Mark 2:1-11. When our Lord told the palsied man: “Thy sins be forgiven thee” They immediately said: “who can forgive sins but God only?” At least in that respect we would have to say that the enemies of our Lord then were wiser than men are all around us today, and in the church. The forgiveness of sins is not a human prerogative, it is a mark of Lordship, it is a royal pardon from the throne of Almighty God.

Hence, no man can forgive sins on his own terms, or because he loves someone and wants to see them forgiven. No. Forgiveness of sins can only be in terms of the Word of God, not in terms of human feelings.

Paul stresses this forgiveness of sins, their blotting out. He declares that our Lord takes them “out of the way.” They are no longer an impediment, not something we can stumble over. They have been blotted out, they have been “taken out of the way,” so that we do not stumble over them.

Moreover, we are not only told that we are “quickened,” that is, made alive; but we are “quickened together with him.” Thus the legal date of our rebirth is the resurrection. Even though we were born in this century; long before our existence we were made alive in Jesus Christ. Although the date of our regeneration may be a very recent thing. Now we are born, reborn, alive with Him; but long ago it was accomplished, now applied to us.

Lordship means ‘rule,’ it means ‘dominion,’ and we are told to pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” 6 Jesus Christ is Lord. This is one of the great and triumphant facts of Scripture, one of the great sources of our hope. Because we are emphatically told by Scripture as we have seen, that all our enemies have been destroyed by Jesus Christ, and we are to go out in the confidence of His victory and occupy till He come, we are not told that this occupation is an easy thing, but we are told that it is an assured conquest, because He is king of kings, and Lord of Lords.

Let us pray.

* * *

Our Lord and our God, we thank thee that in Jesus Christ we are more than conquerors; that He is our Lord, and that we are not alone, that He has subdued all our enemies before us; and has declared that the last enemy, death itself, will in due time be destroyed. Give us grace our Father day by day to keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus Christ, not to be shaken by the turmoil and troubles of our time, but to know as we see this turmoil, that it is thy hand at work to tear down the things that are of thine enemy, that only the things that are of Jesus Christ might remain. Bless us ever in thy service. In Jesus' name, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] In the first part you indicated that we are responsible directly to God and not to the state I believe? I have people who constantly tell me: “render unto Caesar those things that are Caesars.” Well, you know, could you expand on that a little for me please?

[Rushdoony] Yes, that is one of the problem verses of our day, in that it is one of the most misused, and it is one of the verses I get more questions asked on than almost any other and I am always glad to answer.

Now, the whole point of that episode was that the scribes and Pharisees together with agents of the Roman authorities, came to our Lord and asked Him a trick question; they wanted to destroy His influence. There was a tax revolt in those days, and so they asked Him a question about it: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” If He said “no,” He would have been arrested. He would’ve been popular with the people, but He would have been arrested. If He had said “yes,” then the whole of Israel, even those who paid taxes, would’ve turned against Him, because even those who paid hated the Roman tax, and it was intensely unpopular with them.

So what we have here is a trick question designed to destroy Him, whichever way our Lord answered. But our Lord so answered it that He gave a tremendous answer. He said:

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

Now, what they had asked was: “Is it lawful to render taxes unto Caesar?” But the word they used meant to give as a gift; that was the implication. Our Lord said: “give back to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God the things which are God’s.”

Now, what was the meaning of that? First of all, He was making clear to them that Caesar was their Lord. He was providing them with their civil protection, their government, because of their sins. So “give back Caesar what is due, because Caesar is giving you something.” But if you render to God the things that are Gods,’ in other words, “if you obey His law-Word, if you tithe, if you live according to His Word by faith and obedience, you are not going to have the problem you do with Caesar.”

If for example, the Christians of this country today began to tithe, all those who claim to be Bible-believing, they would be able to create Christian schools for all the children of this country, Christian hospitals, and a Christian welfare system to replace what we have today. Well, since between sixty-five and eighty-five percent of your taxes depending on where you live go for health, education and welfare, you can see what would happen to Caesar in a hurry. So, our Lord said very definitely, as long as you are going to trust in Caesar and depend on Him - and they had become totally political in their outlook, their hope was in politics - the only argument is, who is going to be their Caesar, a Jewish one or a Roman one? And they had brought the whole trouble upon themselves. They had been an independent country, they had been in a long Civil war, until it was inevitable that somebody was going to invite someone else in to help them, and they were going to take over. But if they would render to God the things that were God’s, then Caesar would soon disappear in His power.

The key today, therefore, to dealing with Caesar is to render unto God the things that are God’s. And of course, this is the problem today. I don’t have time to talk at great length about what is happening in the Christian school movement, I was talking to a group of Christian school administrators in a meeting in Visalia yesterday, and one of the things that I pointed out was that they should not be surprised at what was happening. Why? They are threatening the life of the state schools; that as of this year is a $90 billion a year industry. And even non-Christians are recognizing that by the end of this decade it may be a dead industry as far as the state is concerned; a minor factor. We don’t take $90 billion away from the state without trouble. And how are we doing it? By rendering unto God the things that are God’s, our children.

You see, this is what it means to render unto God the things that are God’s. We are threatening them now, and they are upset. So what our Lord was saying: “Render unto God the things that are Gods, and you won’t have this problem with Caesar.” You can have a generation as I have seen, of conservative movements come and go- and they are all negation, they are against what the Liberals are doing. What good has it done? People have spent billions of dollars fighting socialists, and we have got more socialism. It is only when you build Christian schools, when you build things Christian, that you begin to make a change, that’s what our Lord meant.

This is why one German scholar who is not a Christian said that that was perhaps the key moment in the whole of the New Testament, because our Lord there struck at the whole power of the Roman Empire and of statism. I think he was right.


[Audience Member] I was speaking, with a friend, to some students from UCLA who were Iranian. And they were questioning him about the various things that Carter is doing against Iran. And the students were saying that they didn’t feel that it was making any difference, because the issue is completely an emotional one. How does one deal with an issue, as they put it, completely on an emotional basis?

[Rushdoony] I think they are right that the issue is a highly charged emotional issue with the Iranians. However, there is no question that emotions have their roots in a faith. The Iranian faith is a false one. Radical Moslem leaders have led the people of Iran away from the modernization and the Westernization of their country, in the name of an Islamic Republic. However, that faith is going to prove a false one, because they have no real answers to the problems which confront them. Now, how long it will take for that faith to collapse I don’t know, but what is taking place in Iran is the progressive fragmentization of the country.

There is nothing to unify the country now. You have a number of people who do not share the faith in an Islamic Republic - a very sizeable and I believe evil Kurdish minority wants a Kurdish Republic. The fiercely independent lords of Lorestan, the mountain areas, certainly want no part of what the rest of the country wants. Many of the simple peasants feel they had it better under the Shah. There are a hundred thousand Bahais who are being savagely persecuted; they don’t like it, nor do the Christians.

In other words, the Islamic Republic means a return to a past, and it means a fragmentization of the country and their eventual destruction. The press talks a great deal about the resurrection of Islamic faith and culture. I think they are overstating it. I think that all the Islamic countries are very much threatened, not so much because of the Islamic impulse, but Marxist impulses which are very strong underground, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. That is the real threat, and sooner or later the Islamic Republic idea and the Marxist ideas will clash in these various countries.


[Audience Member] Is the Moslem population north of Iran in the Soviet Union having an Islamic revival there, too?

[Rushdoony] Well, I don’t know what is happening within the Soviet Union of course, but I think one thing that does mark these Moslem peoples is that so many of the leaders in the Revolutionary impulses, as well as the Islamic Republic movements are students who have been West. And one thing that does mark them is a strong sense of inferiority. They may rail against the United States, they certainly don’t want to go home in most cases. They know the difference between life there and here.

As a result, their position is not a very coherent one, they have a deep loyalty to their past, but their past is an idealized one, and it has been a very ugly one by and large. So what are they going to hearken back to? Well, they are looking back to something more than a thousand years ago, supposedly, shortly after Mohammed, an idealized version of what life was then; but they have no program. Like the anarchists and Marxists of the last century who believe they could have a revolution and usher in a utopia, they are going to be disillusioned very quickly, just as already the Chinese are. After all, today Mao Zedong is being denounced in China by the new regime. They are moving away from pure Communism to pure totalitarianism, the idealism is disappearing in both countries, and it is a bid for power. It will be the same thing in these Islamic countries, it will be a power-strategy, and it will be without any redeeming character, and so they will lose, ultimately, any popular support.


[Audience Member] Could you comment on the Petris bill?

[Rushdoony] The Petris bill is now before the finance committee of the state legislature. The fact that it is there is altogether wrong, there is nothing in the bill that has to do with finances, this is SB 1493. So we do need to write to our state senators to tell them to get 1493 out of the finance committee and onto the floor, and also to vote through 1632, both of which deal with a corporation act to amend it, and also to try to get SV 1502, Senator Briggs Bill, which deals with the churches ministries to the children, voted again by the committee, it failed by one vote to get to the floor.


[Audience Member] Could you comment on hybridization?

[Rushdoony] The word ‘hybridization’ is used very, very vaguely and loosely in our time. What is forbidden in the Bible is, well, what the mule represents, a cross that is sterile. Now, if you get a seed catalog you see all kinds of hybrid plants advertised, most of these are not ‘hybrid’ in the sense that they will not reproduce themselves. They in most cases reproduce, but they do not reproduce true to the cross, they will revert to one or another strain.

So that word is very loosely used. We are forbidden the hybridization that produces sterility, very strictly forbidden that.


[Audience Member] The church for the most part has applied to the states in many years past for a franchise which will give them tax exemption, and they have become corporations, is this the first mistake that the church made, and is this an acknowledgement that the state is over the church?

[Rushdoony] No, there is, I believe, a radical misunderstanding of what this means. First of all, not until 1952 I believe, was it required that any church go to the state or to the IRS to apply for a tax-exempt status, that constitutes an establishment of religion by the IRS. Previously, simply by being a church they were tax-exempt. Moreover, contrary to the argument of the IRS, the tax exempt status of the church is not a subsidy from the state, but it is independence from state control, then with regard to incorporation. The whole idea of incorporation comes from the doctrine of the church. The word ‘corporation’ or ‘incorporation’ comes from ‘corpore’ body, a body that does not die. Well, that is the doctrine of the church in the New Testament, the church is the body, the corporation of Jesus Christ, He is the head; it has a continuous existence, we are all members of His body.

Now, the monarchies picked up that idea of incorporation from whence you get the old cry: “The king is dead, long live the king” in other words, one man dies but the kingship continues to live because it is a corporation. Businesses picked up the idea of incorporation, a continuing body. Well and good, there is nothing wrong with that being done, but what we need to defend is the fact that the doctrine of corporation comes from the church, and the church is the one great and true corporation. So instead of the church having borrowed something from the state there, the state borrowed it from the church. The only true and eternal corporation is the church of Jesus Christ.

Well, our time is up, let us bow our heads now in prayer.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 Ro 14:7–9.

2 Hodge, C. (1882). A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (New Edition, p. 662). Louis Kregel.

3 Ro 14:9.

4 “[O]f all the christological titles the richest is that of ‘Lord’.” Ethelbert Stauffer. New Testament Theology. Translated by John Marsh. Fifth Edition. London: SCM Press Ltd., 1948

5 Col 2:13–15.

6 Mt 6:10.

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