The Back Page – lord Lord LORD


The Back Page

lord Lord LORD

In Bible times people sometimes used “lord” (’ādôn in Hebrew, kyrios in Greek) simply as a polite
form of address, similar to our “Mr./sir” or “Mrs./ma’am” in English. We find it used thus in Gen 23:6,
where the sons of Heth say to Abraham, “Hear us, my lord, you are a mighty prince among us….” Some
translations replace “my lord” with “sir” in this verse. “Sir” is the normal way kyrios (“lord”) is translated
in John 4:11, when the woman at the well initially met Jesus but did not yet have any idea who he was.
She was merely being respectful.
Beyond that, the term “lord” sometimes describes one who is in charge, either because (s)he is the
owner (e.g., Matt 21:40, where “the lord of the vineyard” = “the owner of the vineyard”), or in a position
of authority (e.g., Sarah’s calling Abraham “lord” in Gen 18:12; 1 Pet 3:6). Often the Old Testament uses
“the Lord” (with a capital “L”) for God, as the one in charge par excellence.
LORD or the LORD or GOD (all caps) is how most translations render the Hebrew YHWH,
probably pronounced Yahweh, but more often mispronounced Jehovah. Yahweh is the name of the God
of Israel (e.g., Ex 6:3), just as Molech was the god of the Ammonites, and Chemosh the god of Moab (1
Ki 11:5–7). “The LORD” sounds more like a title than a name, but that is how most translations choose to
render it anyway.
When the New Testament says, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” which of these three is the intended nuance?
Certainly not “sir” or “Mr.,” for that would be trite. So it means either “the Master, the One in Control,”
or “Yahweh, the God of Israel.” Which one?
In Acts 2:36 Peter says that God has made Jesus to be both Lord and Christ. You cannot make
someone to be Yahweh. Either a person is God already or he is not, but you can’t take one who is not God
and somehow turn him into God.
We can argue for the deity of Christ on other grounds, but the use of “Lord” for Jesus, then, seems
rather to refer to the fact that God has made him to be Master, the Ultimate Authority, the Boss. Jesus
asks, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things I say? (Luke 6:46).” The issue here is
his authority, and our obedience to it.
Do you and I allow Jesus the control that is rightfully his?

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