1. Why Jesus Christ Is Important
Christianity is dependent upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. Without him, there would be no such thing as Christianity, no such people who call themselves Christians. For this reason, it is important for Christians to know who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
But what of those who are not Christians, who claim no allegiance to Christ? Is Jesus important for them? The answer to this is obscured by the many “portraits” of Jesus in popular culture: There is “hippy Jesus” who roams around freely with a flower in his hair, spreading love, sunshine, and butterflies to all; there is “cosmic-killjoy Jesus” who paces back and forth in heaven, waiting for someone to have fun before throwing down a bolt of lightning at them; there is “boyfriend Jesus,” about whom seemingly every Christian musician writes in their songs; there is “prosperity Jesus” who wants to grant material wealth and happiness to all who will simply have enough faith in him; there is “new-age Jesus,” a spiritual guru and helpful teacher like many before and after him; you get the point.
Now, if we are talking about any of those pictures of Jesus, then the answer to our question is: No. That “Jesus,” whichever one he may be, is definitely not important for anyone, precisely because that Jesus does not exist. But what if the Bible paints a different picture of Jesus? Would that Jesus, the real Jesus, be important for them? What I hope to show here is that the real Jesus is actually the most important person in the entire universe, and therefore deserves the full attention, reverence, worship, and obedience of all mankind, not just Christians.
2. “Jesus Christ is Lord”
One of the most fundamental statements for Christians is that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” This short phrase probably functioned as a creed or statement of faith in the early church, and it certainly distinguished Christians from Roman citizens who would say that “Caesar is Lord.” Paul teaches us that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). But what does “Jesus Christ is Lord” mean?
A helpful way to think about this is to consider what “Lord” means in Scripture: to be “Lord” means to have 1) absolute authority, 2) complete control, and 3) pervasive presence. We see this three-fold pattern in Exodus 20 when God gives the Ten Commandments. In verses 2-3, we read, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” All three points are present: 1) The Lord God declares his absolute authority over the people by telling them they shall not have any other gods before him; 2) The Lord God demonstrates his complete control over both nature and redemption by reminding his people of how He rescued them from their captivity in Egypt; 3) The Lord God descends to be present with his redeemed people and speak to them.
All this to say, when Christians declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, we mean that he is absolutely authoritative, completely in control of all things, and pervasively present in all of reality. All of his words deserve our complete obedience. By his power he upholds the universe (Hebrews 1:3), working all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11). From this we can see that “Jesus is Lord” sets Christians apart from all other religions and political commitments. Allah is not Lord. Joseph Smith is not Lord. Buddha is not Lord. Donald Trump is not Lord. I am not Lord, and you are not Lord. Jesus Christ alone is Lord.
Let’s look now at Colossians 1:15-22 to gain further insight into this magnificent truth.
3. Lord of the Cosmos
We read: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him” (vv. 15-17). This entire passage deserves extensive thought and reflection (which is forthcoming), but for now let me highlight the fact that Jesus Christ created all things and that all things were created for him.
When I say that Jesus is “Lord of the Cosmos,” I mean to say that, by virtue of all things being created by and through him, he is the King of the universe. Since he created all things, it follows that he exists absolutely. That means that he does not need anything outside of himself in order to exist. In eternity, all that existed was the triune God, each Person in loving relationship with the other two Persons of the Godhead. That is, before the world was, God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, existed in perfect union and loving harmony. Oh, the depths of the being of God!
But look also at the fact that all things were created for Jesus Christ. How astonishing it is that all things were created for him! Everything that exists, exists solely for the praise, honor, and glory of Jesus Christ! Jesus is the “end” and “goal” and “purpose” of all creation: that the creation might give to him what is properly his, namely glory, reverence, obedience, honor, praise, worship, and so on. That is what it means that Jesus is Lord of the Cosmos. All things, including you and me, are subject to him, and he alone is King.
4. Lord in the Church
Note also that Jesus “is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (v. 18). Having seen that Jesus is Lord of all creation, we now see in the words of Paul that Jesus is the Lord of the Church. Is there a more neglected teaching in the American church today than that Jesus is Lord of the Church? Perhaps we affirm this with our lips, but our lives surely betray us. I submit to you that if the American church as a whole recognized this, a great many errors would be remedied.
For example, perhaps we would realize that Christianity generally and our worship services specifically are not actually about us. They’re about him (“that in everything he might be preeminent”). Perhaps we would come to see that when teachers disregard Scripture, they are ultimately disregarding Jesus Christ, who is the primary content in Scripture. Perhaps we would see that false teachers who do not teach what accords with Scripture, like Joel Osteen, do not really belong in the church. Since Jesus is Lord of the Church, it follows that whatever he has taught us in Scripture is the exact same message that we should teach today. If we do not teach that same message, we are not worthy of the name “Christian.”
5. Lord on the Cross
These are sharp statements, to be sure. But when we consider this next point, we will see why I have placed such an emphasis on the previous one. On what grounds is Jesus Lord of the Church? That is, how did Jesus “become” Lord of the body of believers? Paul tells us: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross…he has now reconciled [you] in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (vv. 19-20, 22).
Jesus Christ, Lord of the Cosmos and Lord of the Church, the God-man, died upon a cross in order to purchase a people for himself and to make them holy and blameless. In another place it is said that Jesus “obtained [the church] with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Jesus Christ is Lord of the Church precisely because he died to purchase the church for himself.
How utterly shocking is the Christian faith! The one who created all things and for whom all things are created, “became flesh” (John 1:14), fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17) “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Romans 8:4), died on the cross in order to “cancel the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (Colossians 2:14), and was “raised [back to life] for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
How supreme is our Savior! By virtue of who he is (as Lord of the Cosmos) and what he has done (as Lord of the Church), all Christians everywhere proclaim: “Jesus Christ is Lord!”
Thanks for reading. Have any additional thoughts? Leave a comment below if you feel so inclined.