Message from Tim
In a nutshell?
I have been reflecting on my message in last week’s bulletin, in which I postulated that nothing about what we believe as Christians is self-evidently true: when it comes to understanding our faith, we are all called to be
life-long learners, so that our faith grows and develops as we do.
‘That’s all very well,’ someone may ask, ‘but are there any core Christian beliefs which are non-negotiable, which everyone can take for granted?’ Some would point to The Apostles’ Creed as a basic summary of the Christian faith, which all believers should be able to recite. Yet what if someone has reservations about the virgin birth? If it is mentioned in the creed, does that make it fundamental to our faith? If we think so, then we end up using the line ‘born of the Virgin Mary’ to exclude those who doubt something we regard as essential. That is how creeds work: most of them were designed to set limits on orthodox belief, safeguarding church unity by anathematising dissent.
So for me, signing on the dotted line as a Christian is not about being able to give mental assent to lines in a creed; instead it is all about being ready to make the simple declaration, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ words which probably uttered by the earliest Christians when they were baptised. You can see how much weight the apostle Paul attaches to this affirmation when he claims that only those who have the Holy Spirit can say these words (1 Corinthians 12:3). To say that ‘Jesus’, the prophet from Galilee who was put to death on a cross, is now ‘Lord’ is a radical claim indeed. And it is one which is central to the Christian faith: in his book, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, Jimmy Dunn argued that the unity between the historical Jesus and the exalted Christ is the single theme which binds together the many diverse theologies expressed in the New Testament writings.
What does it mean to say that Jesus is ‘Lord’? It is a claim which makes no sense unless Jesus’ crucifixion was followed by some form of resurrection, or exaltation, or vindication by God. And since ‘Lord’ is a title used to designate God himself, to say ‘Jesus is Lord’ suggests also that ‘Jesus is God’, a claim which opens the door to Trinitarianism with all its attendant complications. And many early Christians knew that if they said, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ they could not also say ‘Caesar is Lord,’ and they were prepared to pay a heavy price for refusing to compromise on their sole allegiance to Christ. This is only a declaration you make if you are deadly serious about where your loyalties lie.
To declare that Jesus is Lord is to submit to his authority, so saying these words will change how I live now and in the future. But I am not alone: in the church I find others who make the same confession, and we are committed to supporting each other as we live this out in a host of practical ways. And the scope of Jesus’ lordship is universal, with far-reaching implications for mission and prayer: as Adam Kuyper said, ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!’
WARNING: Saying ‘Jesus is Lord’ can have a serious effect on your life. But it is a declaration which is foundational to the Christian faith. Can you say it? Do you mean it? What difference is saying these words going to make to the rest of your life, starting today?