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The Power of the "Lord": How the Entire Christian Faith is Based on the Ambiguity of a Word

Jesus Christ is the Lord
Atlas Porter via The God of Abraham

Would it surprise you to know that only one of the four gospels refers to Jesus as “the Son of God?” The other three refer to Jesus as “the Son of Man.” The latter is a title that comes from the prophet Daniel, and is used in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke as a way to assert that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. John’s Gospel, on the other hand, is the only one that refers to Jesus as “the Son of God.” The implication of this seems to be that John has set out to imply that Jesus is more than just the Messiah — he is God himself. The conflct that arises from the Gospels’ different labeling of Jesus, forces us to ask the question: is Jesus the Son of Man (i.e. the Messiah) or is Jesus the Son of God (i.e. God)?

This question has me thinking alot about the usage of the word Lord in the Bible. What does it mean exactly? To whom is it referring? Is Lord referring to God? Or is it referring to a King? Sometimes it’s capitalized, sometimes it’s not. What I have come to realize is that the ambiguity built into the dual meaning of the word Lord is a support pillar upon which Christianity is built. Without it, the trinity — more precisely, the co-equality of the father and son — could not and would not exist. Or to put it another way, without Lord’s dual meaning Jesus Christ could not and would not be viewed as God.

Before we go any further, we need to discuss the word Christ. Far too many Christians, do not know what this word truly means — this, despite the fact that the entirety of their faith is built upon understanding it. No, Christ is not Jesus’ last name, and no, it is not a word that means God.

[Or does it mean God? (Keep this question in mind as we continue, because it’s very important).]

What Christ means is Messiah. And no, Messiah does not mean God either.

[Or does it? (Again, keep this point in mind.)]

The Messiah is, by definition, the long-awaited king of the Jewish people. The one who has been prophesied in the Jewish scriptures. The prophets of the Old Testament have left numerous signs for us to look for that the Messiah has come. For instance, the Messiah is said to be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), be from the line of King David (2 Samuel 7), etc. and so forth. Because Jesus embodied so many of these messianic prophecies he was deemed by many to be the Messiah. In short, Jesus was the Christ — he was the long-awaited king of the Jewish people.

So now we can see why Jesus is called the Christ. He was the Messiah, the king. But is this also why he is called Lord, because like Christ, Lord also means king? Not necessarily, because remember, Lord also means God, So it is possible that they are calling the Messiah Lord, because like Lord, Messiah does not just mean king, but God as well?

To answer our questions, let us turn to scripture. In the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we read:

For the Lord is our judge

The Lord is our lawgiver

the Lord is our king

It is he who will save us.

(Isaiah 33:22).

In this passage it becomes clear that Lord is intended to mean both God and king, and as a result, God the father and Jesus the king, merge together and become of one substance (like the Nicene Creed suggests). It is not difficult to see in the above passage, how the first two lines represent God the father — the “judge” and “lawgiver” of the Old Testament — and how the third and fourth lines represent Jesus Christ — the “king” and savior. All of this is made possible simply because the word Lord has two distinct meanings.

This merging of God the father and Jesus the son via the word Lord is found many times in scripture. Another good example from the Book of Isaiah:

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days (Isaiah 53:10)

The dual meaning of Lord here conflates God with Jesus once again. One could read this passage as if the first use of Lord refers to God the father, the one with the power to cause suffering, and the second use of Lord as the Son of God, the one who “makes his life an offering for sin.” In such a way, the conflation of meaning present in the word Lord affords Jesus the Messiah and God the father the opportunity to become one and the same entity — linguistically.

At the beginning of this, I noted the conflict between the Gospels — how John’s Gospel refers to Jesus as the “Son of God” whereas the other three refer to him as the “Son of Man.” So which is it? Is Jesus the Son of God, which means he is actually God, or is he the “Son of Man” which is just a title for the Messiah? The difference between these two titles may not matter as much one might first suspect. Let us look to the writing of the Prophet Daniel, and read what his description of the “Son of Man” actually is:

In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominon that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Reading this description of “the Son of Man” it is clear that this prophesied Messiah is much more than just some earthly king. He is of the same power and nature as God himself. As Daniel puts it, he came “with the clouds of heaven.” And “He approached the Ancient of Days,” which is to say he approached God, and he “was led into his presence.” And God gave him such divine authority that “all nations…”worshiped him” and his kingdom will “not pass away.” Or to put it more simply, the Son of Man is from heaven, he is worshipped, and he is eternal. If that doesn’t sound like the Son of God then I don’t know what does. The point is: it does not matter if we are reading John’s Gospel where Jesus is “the Son of God” or if we are reading the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and Jesus is “the Son of Man” because whether or not they are speaking about Jesus as God or the long-awaited Messiah, they are for all intents and purposes referring to the same thing. That is to say, the Son of Man and the Son of God are tantamount, because the Messiah — the Lord — is also God — the Lord.

Christ does not mean “God” in the strict definitional sense; Christ means Messiah, which means king. Nevertheless, one can see how through the power of the Lord, so to speak, which is to say, by means of the dual meaning of the word Lord as either king or God — Jesus the Christ and God the father can indeed be seen as one and the same. They are both “the Lord God Almighty.”

Let us end this like the Bible does, with a passage from the Book of Revelation, to show you exactly what I mean:

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign” (Rev. 11:17).

This passage says it all: it highlights the conflation of the word king with God (which is to say Christ with God) via the word Lord like no other passage in scripture. The “Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was” seems to refer more ostensibly to God the father, while the one who has just “begun to reign” seems to refer to Jesus the king, who has just started his Messianic kingdom on earth, about fifty to seventy years prior to the writing of this passage of scripture. It is the moniker the Lord that weaves the trinity (and Jesus’ ever present nature as God’s Word) throughout scripture from the very beginning.

To both summarize and simplify my point: if Jesus is the Lord, and God is the Lord, then by the transitive property of the Lord, which is to say by the “power of the Lord,” Jesus is God.

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