Union University R.G. Lee Society of Fellows

"The Lordship of
Jesus Christ"
Philippians 2:5-11

by Dr. Roger D. Willmore
Pastor, First Baptist Church
Boaz, Alabama

Dr. A. Ray Newcomb

   Soon after I became a Christian I was introduced to the Keswick Christian Life Convention, a convention for deepening of spiritual life. The Keswick Convention began in Keswick, England in 1875 and since that time has heralded the message of victorious Christian living, practical holiness and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Throughout my Christian pilgrimage I have taken seriously the claims the Lord Jesus has placed upon my life. To me the most important truth in the Christian life is the truth of the lordship of Jesus Christ.

   Lordship is inseparably linked to the name of Jesus.  The text before us makes this clear.  Paul said, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:9-11 NKJV). Jesus came from heaven to earth, contracted Himself to the measure of a virgin’s womb, was born in Bethlehem, lived a perfect life and died on a cross an atoning sacrificial death, was buried in a tomb and was raised victoriously, and ascended into heaven to occupy His throne in Glory where God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.

   Lordship was at the very heart of Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross. Paul makes this clear in Romans 14:8-9 (NKJV): “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.  Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ died, and rose and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”

   R. G. Lee spoke of the sovereign authority of Jesus’ name in a sermon entitled The Name Above Every Name, from Philippians 2:9-10.  He said, “The transcendence of the name of Jesus and its everlasting glory depend upon the work accomplished at the place called Calvary and at the open grave.”

    “It is because of that, dear friends, that He stands out today the First Begotten from the dead, ‘that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.’ ‘His name shall endure forever.’”

   “When the names of earth’s benefactors are no more remembered, when the achievements of science are no longer of value, when the guesses of philosophers are seen to be in vain, when time shall be no more – multitudes, in praise of Him in gratitude for salvation through His name, will still sing the song of Moses, and of the Lamb of enduring name.”

   “When the Caesars and Charlemagne, the Napoleons and Wellingtons and their so-called splendid victories are forgotten, the multitudinous trophies of His saving power, in enjoyment of His endless fruits of His blood-bought victories, will sing the praises of His peerless name.”

    “There never was a name like the name of Jesus – so representative of sacrificial love at its best. And someday, ‘every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord … to the glory of God the Father.’” 1

   When the lordship of Jesus is a settled issue in the Christian’s life, all other issues are settled.  It is my privilege and responsibility to teach the members of my congregation what the Bible says about serving God; witnessing and soul winning; stewardship of time, talent, and treasure; faithfulness to God’s work; missions; and many other aspects of Christian responsibility. I contend that if the Christian has settled the lordship issue, then all other issues in his life are also settled. When Jesus is Lord of a person’s life, he will fulfill his duties, obligations, and responsibilities with joy.

   S.M. Zwemer makes a sobering statement about the lordship of Jesus Christ: “Unless Jesus is Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” This is a challenge to all Christians to bring every area of our lives under the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ. In our lives there should be no rivalry for His throne.

   The lordship of Jesus has both future and present relevance in our lives. Read the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:9-11 (NKJV): “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This passage has both future and present application.

   There is coming a day when every person who has ever lived will bow and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But for the Christian that great confession should be an everyday reality. A Christian should live moment by moment in faithful submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

   While attempting to know more about the lordship of Christ and at the same time yield more fully to His lordship, I discovered that I, in presenting this glorious subject to others, made an appeal to people that was incorrect and potentially misleading. There was a time when I would conclude my sermon by making an appeal to my hearers to make Jesus Lord of their life.  The Lord knew the intent of my heart, but I am not as sure that the same was true of those who heard my appeal. We do not make Jesus Lord – He is Lord!  Now, when I preach on the lordship of Christ, my appeal to those in the audience is not to make Jesus Lord; I now appeal to them to surrender their lives to the sovereign rule and ownership of the Lord Jesus Christ.

   The central message of the Bible is that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”  I must say again that the most important truth in relation to the Christian experience is the lordship of Jesus Christ.  If this is true, and I do believe that it is, should it not compel us to make the preaching of this message a matter of priority and urgency? Could it be that the source of defeat, discouragement, and despair in the lives of some Christians is, in large part, the fact that they are attempting to live the Christian life in their own strength and power?  They have not yet discovered the truth taught by Paul in Philippians 4:13 (NKJV): “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

   When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, it involves a recognition of His lordship, for the Savior who saved us when we received Him by faith is the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot and do not receive Him as Savior only. We receive Him as Lord and Savior. However, for some yielding to Jesus as Lord is subsequent to their conversion. It may be a few months later, or for some, many years later. This was my own experience. I did not willfully reject the lordship of Christ; I simply did not know about His lordship. He was presented to me as Savior at the time of my conversion. I was introduced to Him as Lord several years later. However, let us note that this is not intended to be the biblical pattern.

   We must not fail to communicate the “whole council of God.” He is both Lord and Savior.

   I. What Does It Mean to Say That Jesus Christ is Lord?

   For Jesus to be Lord of your life means that He is the ruler, the boss, the master of your whole life. He cannot be Lord of a part – He must be given control of the entire life - the whole life.

   When thinking about the whole life of a person, we must think of various parts that make up a person.  Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”  I Thess. 5:23, (NJKV).  Paul makes it plain that the whole person is made up of spirit, soul, and body. A person has an inner, private, unseen-to-the-natural-eye aspect of life and he has an outer, visible, and public life that is seen and heard by those with whom he comes in contact day by day. Jesus desires to be Lord of the seen and the unseen, the visible and the invisible, the private aspects of our life and the public aspects of our life. He wants to be Lord of our spiritual life and of our physical life.

   The inner sanctuary, the spirit and soul, contains the mind, the emotion, and the will. It is in our spirit and soul that we think, feel, choose, decide, dream, and plan. Battles are fought and won or lost on the battleground of our private life. Is Jesus Lord over this area of your life?

   The writer of Proverbs said. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7, NKJV).  In Proverbs 4:23, he wrote, “Keep your hearts with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (NKJV).

   Don’t underestimate the importance of our private life. Although more attention is often given to the physical body, our true spiritual health is determined by the spirit and soul – not the body.

   The outward life expresses the inner life. The outward life involves our eyes, our ears, our lips, our hands, our feet, our entire body. Our public life is expressed by what we see, what we say, what we hear, where we go, and what we do. It is so important that Jesus be Lord over our public life.

   We need to see the public life in the context of home life, the workplace, the classroom, and the neighborhood. We need to see it in its relationship with friends, family, work colleagues, neighbors, and classmates. We need to see it in its attitude toward possessions, obligations, and responsibilities, and the use of time and resources.

   If we agree with the view of S. M. Zwemer (“If Jesus is not Lord of all, the He is not Lord at all”), then there are many areas of life that must come under His lordship. Is Jesus Lord of your thoughts? Is Jesus Lord of your emotions? Is Jesus Lord of your speech, of your relationships, of your possessions?  Is Jesus Christ Lord of your whole life?

   II. What Does It Involve to Say That Jesus Christ Is Lord?

   What must a person do in order for Jesus Christ to be Lord of his life?  The easy answer is, “Yield your life to Him.” This involves taking your hands off the controls of your life and allowing Him to be in control.

   Such an important question requires more than a surface answer. For Jesus to become Lord of a person’s life involves absolute and total surrender. I can think of no better example of total surrender than F. B. Meyer. He was a Baptist preacher and pastor of Christ Church in the heart of London in the nineteenth century. In the midst of a successful ministry, F. B. Meyer confessed that something was lacking in his life and ministry.  J.H. Jowett recounts the following story: “Dr. Meyer has told us that his early Christian life was marred and his ministry paralyzed just because he had kept back one thing from the bunch of keys he had given to the Lord. Every key save one! The key of one room was kept for personal use, and the Lord shut out. The effect of the incomplete consecration was found in lack of power, lack of assurance, lack of joy and peace. The joy of the Lord begins when we hand over the last key. We sit with Christ on His throne as soon as we have surrendered our crowns, and made Him sole and only ruler of our life and its possessions.”3        

   F. B. Meyer experienced the lordship of Jesus Christ when he handed over the last key.  He had kept back the key to one room in his life and it brought great defeat. Remember, if He is not Lord of all (of every room), then He is not Lord at all. Have you yielded keys to every room in your life? Does He have the key to every room in your private life? Does He have the key to every room in your physical/ public life? Is there a room marked “private – keep out?” If so, you must be willing to surrender that key to the Lord.

   There is a second element to yielding our lives to the Lord. In addition to absolute surrender, there must also be an acknowledgment of His ownership. Paul addressed the subject of ownership in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (NJKV).

   We are not our own. We were bought at a price. We belong to Jesus. We are His purchased possession. When a person yields to the lordship of Jesus Christ, he or she acknowledges His ownership and gives up his or her personal rights.

   Yielding to the lordship of Jesus Christ also involves total and unreserved obedience. If He is the Lord of your life, you are going to do what He tells you to do.

   If asked what I consider to be the most important word in the Christian vocabulary, I would say, “Obedience.” We move forward in our spiritual growth in direct proportion to our obedience to the revealed truth of God’s Word.

   I like to read the account of Elijah’s response to God in 1 Kings 17 and 18. The Word of the Lord came to Elijah, and he did what God told him to do. Several times God spoke and Elijah obeyed. As a result of his obedience, Elijah was used in a powerful way to exalt God’s name.  His response to God’s Word was always immediate and exact. He did precisely what God told him to do as soon as God told him to do it. Remember that delayed obedience is the same as disobedience. Lordship involves obedience.

   Jesus raised an important question: “But why do you call Me `Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say” (Luke 6:46, NKJV)? Are you doing what the Lord has instructed you to do? Are you doing it immediately and exactly? Are you obeying God?

   Stephen Olford recounts a wonderful story about an incident in the life of his friend and mentor, Graham Scroggie. Dr. Scroggie was speaking at the Keswick Convention in England on one occasion when he was approached by a young woman who had been greatly stirred by his message on the Lordship of Christ. Walking up to him at the close of the service, she said, “I want Jesus to be Lord of my life, but I am afraid God will send me overseas as a missionary, and I don’t want to go.”

   Opening the Bible to Acts 10:14, Dr. Scroggie explained the utter absurdity of Peter’s answer. You will remember that God had given Peter a vision of a sheet in which were all manner of four-footed animals, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.  And a voice came to him, “Rise Peter, kill and eat.” But Peter answered, “Not so, Lord.” (See Acts 10:12-14).

   Dr. Scroggie went on to explain, “A slave never dictates to a master. Therefore, to say ‘Not so, Lord’ was impertinent!” “Now,” advised Dr. Scroggie, “I want you to cross out the two words ‘not so’ and leave the word ‘Lord’; or else cross out the word ‘Lord’ and leave ‘not so’.” Handing her his pencil, he quietly walked away.

   For some time she struggled. Then he returned. Looking over her shoulder, he saw a tear-stained page. The words ‘not so’ were crossed out. With a glad light in her eyes, she repeated affirmatively, “Lord!” “Lord!” “Lord!”  No longer would she dictate. She was now His disciple, and He was her Lord and Master. 4

   What a powerful story! Is your obedience up to date?

   Finally, the lordship of Jesus Christ involves willing service.  There must be a time in your life when you, like the prophet Isaiah, are willing to say, “Here am I Lord, send me.”

   A number of years ago my wife enjoyed attending an annual Bible conference in Asheville, North Carolina, sponsored by Columbia Bible College. It was there that I was introduced to the three A’s of Christian service: Anywhere, Anytime, and Any cost. The lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives involves our willingness to go where He sends us, when He sends us, regardless of the cost. Is Jesus the Lord of this area in your life? Can you honestly say, “Anywhere, Lord! Anytime, Lord! Any cost, Lord?”

   The Christian life is a wonderful life. Christ has made every provision for His children to live full and abundant lives, but there is a cost involved. Such a life does not come cheaply nor easily. The life Christ has for His children requires that we die to ourselves. There can be no rivals to the throne of our life.  It is to be occupied by Jesus alone.

   I am forever spoiled. Soon after I became a Christian and at the time that I was dealing with God’s call upon my life, I was introduced to Stephen F. Olford. The lordship of Jesus Christ is the theme of his life and ministry. How Dr. Olford came to know Jesus Christ as absolute Lord of his life is a thrilling testimony. The following portions of Dr. Olford’s testimony are taken from My Most Memorable Encounter with God.

   “My restoration from a period of backsliding was a memorable crisis. In fact, this return to the Lord consummated in my call to the ministry. At the time I was in England, studying to be an engineer, but God made it abundantly clear that His plan for my life was to serve Him as a preacher – anywhere, at anytime, and at any cost.”

   Following his theological training, Dr. Olford spent seven years as a Scripture reader (chaplain) during World War II. Then came a time when he became increasingly aware of a deep inner dissatisfaction. Something was missing.  His soul hungered and thirsted for the presence of God and the power of His Spirit.  Dr. Olford continues:

   “This led to action. Clearing my calendar for a period of two weeks, I decided to retreat to some quiet place to read and wait upon the Lord. I made arrangements to stay at a little cottage in Porthcawl, on the south coast of Wales. I took with me two suitcases of books, including works of Calvin and Owen on the Holy Spirit. I also scheduled a study on such portions of Scripture as John 14-16, the Acts of the Apostles, Romans 8, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Ephesians. Morning, noon, and night I read, meditated and prayed. Gradually confusions were clarified and convictions were crystallized. As I examined the text (Eph. 5:18) within its context and compared Scripture with Scripture, I was struck with the sheer simplicity of it all. First, there was the initial acceptance of the Spirit’s control – “Be filled in the Spirit and with the Spirit.” . . . While the Holy Spirit is both contrasted and compared to wine, He is essentially a Person, and to be filled with Him is to be under His control. This led me to 2 Corinthians 3:17, where Paul tells us that “the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”; or “Where the Spirit is Lord, there is liberty.” I had always accepted the deity of the Spirit, but I had never acknowledged His lordship. I knew Jesus was Lord, and had owned that Lordship in an objective sense, but now I saw that the lordship of Christ could only be real to me as the Holy Spirit was made Lord in me. This was the crisis point in my search for freedom and fullness in my Christian life. Without reading further, I dropped to my knees and yielded everything to the reign and rule of the indwelling Spirit . . . I knew, there and then, that I was set free!” 5 What a clear and powerful testimony!

   I want to close this message with words written by E. H. Swinstead:

                        Lord of every thought and action,

                        Lord to send and Lord to stay;

                        Lord in speaking, writing, giving,

                        Lord in all things to obey;

                        Now and evermore to be. 6

By: Dr. Roger D, Willmore, Pastor
First Baptist Church,
Boaz, Alabama

________________

1  Dr. R. G. Lee, The Name Above Every Name Taken from Dr. Lee’s sermon notes, Archives, R. G. Lee Memorial Library, Union University, Jackson, TN.

Dr.  S. M. Zwemer, The Solitary Throne (London:Pickering and Inglis, c. 1937),1.

3  W. Y. Fullerton, F.B. Meyer, a Biography (Ontario, Canada: Ontario Christian Books, 1992), 58.

Dr. Stephen Olford, The Way of Holiness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 82-83.

David Enlow, ed., My Most Memorable Encounter with God  (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1977), 149-57.

Olford, 83.

About the Author

Roger D. Willmore has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Boaz, Alabama since September 2002. He has served as Minister at Large for Olford Ministries International in Memphis, TN., since 1992.  He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Jacksonville State University and the master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Luther Rice Seminary.  He and his wife Sandra have one son, Stephen Andrew.