Jesus as Lord in Acts and in the Gospel Message -- By: Darrell L. Bock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 143:570 (Apr 1986)
Article: Jesus as Lord in Acts and in the Gospel Message
Author: Darrell L. Bock


Jesus as Lord in Acts and in the Gospel Message

Darrell L. Bock

[Darrell L. Bock, Assistant Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary]

Nothing is more precious to evangelicals than the gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. The coming of the Savior to redeem men from sin and to offer eternal life through faith is the message that all Christians are commissioned to take to the world. Yet within evangelicalism there is a dispute about how to present the confession that represents the saving response to this gospel message.1

One side of the debate argues that Jesus must be confessed only as Savior, and not as Lord (i.e., Master of one’s life). The gospel involves faith in Jesus’ redeeming work as the God-Man. To add a confession of lordship to the gospel is to run the risk of destroying the grace focus of the gospel, for how much lordship is enough to qualify as saving faith? According to this view the term “Lord” refers to Jesus’ divinity. This side can be called the Jesus-is-Savior view.2

The second side in this debate argues that Jesus is to be confessed as Lord (Master) as well as Savior. The gospel involves a call to repentance as well as to faith. To confess the lordship of Jesus is not a mere confession of deity; rather it is a confession of total submission to the personal Lord, a commitment to obey in every area of life. In this view, to offer Jesus as Savior only is “easy believism.” One does not choose to make Jesus Lord, He is Lord of all. If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. To leave saving faith to anything less than a confession of Jesus as Lord ignores the

discipleship teaching of the Scriptures and forgets that the basic definition of “Lord” is “master,” “ruder,” or “owner.” This view can be called the Jesus-is-Lord view.3

A key point of contention in this debate is the term “Lord.” It is clear that the two views define this term differently. Does it refer to a confession of deity only (the Jesus-is-Savior view)? Or does it refer to a confession of submission of one’s life (the Jesus-is-Lord view)? Appeal on both sides is made to Romans 10:9–13. But the problem with this text is that the passage provides no clear definition of Paul’s understanding of the term “Lord.” Rather, Paul seems to assume that all know what it means from its use in the context of preaching the gospel message, a context that is the background of...

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