I have an interesting relationship with my parents. They are not only my parents, but they also attend the church where I currently serve as associate pastor. Therefore, I am their son and their associate pastor. From time to time, my father will joke around and say, “But you are my son first.” To that, I tongue-in-cheek respond, “That is true, but it does not negate that I am also one of your pastors!” I am not only their son. I am both their son and their pastor.
While such an illustration is meant to be lighthearted, there is a mindset among some Christians that is serious, contributing to a faulty understanding of Jesus Christ and what it means to be a Christian. There is an accepted idea that somehow a person can have Jesus as Savior but not trust in Him as Lord. They are willing to say they believe in Jesus and know He died for their sins, but they may not yet be ready to surrender to Him as Lord. They don’t think they need to trust in Jesus as both Savior and Lord to be saved.
With matters eternal, this is not an issue to overlook. It is serious and worthy of our attention to clarify. The question we must ask, then, is: What does Scripture say? The testimony of Scripture, particularly the New Testament, shows Jesus as Savior and as Lord. In speaking of Christ’s incarnation, Luke 2:11 says, “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Still, while it is true Jesus is both Savior and Lord, we have not answered the question in terms of how that impacts what it means to be a Christian.
In Romans 10 we find an answer. In the context of Romans 9–11, concerning Israel’s unbelief and God’s sovereignty over the salvation of His people, we are told that the means by which people respond to the Gospel is through the hearing of God’s Word (10:17). How does one respond to the Gospel in order to be saved? By confessing and believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Listen to the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:9–10, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
We can observe two points from this text that are pertinent to our discussion. The first is recognizing what we are confessing. We are confessing Jesus is Lord. The term here used for Lord conveys the ideas of authority. Pertaining to Jesus, it “acknowledges the superiority of Jesus over all things (e.g., Rom 10:9, 14:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil 2:11) and his universal rule over all things on behalf of God (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:25, 28; Rev 1:5, 17:14).” In other words, we could say Jesus is King. He is the King who has died to bring us into His kingdom. He died on the cross to save us from our sins. In understanding the saving work of Jesus, we must believe God raised him from the dead. He is the Lord who is over all and He is the Savior who has died for all who repent and believe.
This leads us to consider the second point from these verses. A belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord is not merely a doctrine to affirm. It is a truth to take to heart. As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul, he wrote, “confess with your mouth” and “believe in your heart”. It is not in mere words but with a sincerity of heart. This belief is not merely intellectual either. It is a belief, or trust, evidenced by actions. What is the action? Confessing your sins, repenting of them, and following Jesus Christ. How do we know how to follow? By studying and obeying God’s Word. We are not saved by our obedience, but our obedience is the evidence that we are saved. That is why it is eternally significant to understand that a Christian is one who has repented of their sin and has placed their trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
- Why is it important to understand that a Christian is one who trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord?
- Read John 14:15–17. How do Jesus’ words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” contribute to this discussion on the Lordship of Christ?
 Lo, J. (2014). Deity. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Bio: Theron St. John is a Christian young adult who is blessed to serve the Lord both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of youth and families at Blue Ridge Christian Union Church and an adjunct professor and academic advisor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis. You can check out more of his writings on his blog, www.entrustedbygod.org.