Saviour and Lord
We hear much about receiving Jesus Christ as Saviour; not so much about receiving Him as Lord. Is this something worth examining? Most certainly it is. It profoundly affects our view of salvation and of the Christian life. In fact, as we shall see, it affects our view of Christ Himself. What has become known as ‘The Lordship Controversy’ has arisen out of a difference of opinion as to whether or not it is necessary to receive Christ as Lord when we receive Him as Saviour. However, the aim of this article is not to expound the Lordship Controversy. It is to deal with a simple question: Is it possible to receive Jesus Christ as Saviour without, at the same time, receiving Him as Lord?
We will go straight to the centre of this matter by focussing on that tantalisingly mysterious, yet winsome, person that appears on the pages of Scripture, Melchisedec (so spelt in the New Testament, but ‘Melchizedek’ in the Old Testament). We usually look on him as a type of Christ, and this fits well with what we read of him in Genesis, Psalms and Hebrews. His name means, ‘King of righteousness’. However I want to concentrate on one aspect of his person particularly. He was unique among human beings in holding the two offices of priest and king together. In Genesis 14 we read that he met Abraham when the latter was returning victorious from the ‘Battle of the kings’. In verse 18 we read, ‘Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God’. Here the one person is described as ‘priest’ and ‘king’; this is most unusual, but of great importance. Why so? Because God the Son was encouraged in eternity by God the Father, in the task appointed to Him by God the Father, with the words, ‘The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’ (Ps. 110:4). Again, we have in the New Testament in Hebrews 5:6 the words of Psalm 110:4 quoted, ‘Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec’, in reference to God the Son, who was to take flesh that He might save His people from their sins (Mt. 1:21). Indeed there are seven references in the book of Hebrews to the phrase, ‘after the order of Melchisedec’, in relation to the priesthood of Christ. There is surely only one possible conclusion: the Lord Jesus Christ must have these two offices combined, that were held by Melchisedec, in His one person. (Of course Christ is also Prophet, but that is not so important for the present study.)
Priest and King
Now, what does this have to say regarding the terms ‘Saviour’ and ‘Lord’? Simply this: that Christ was ‘Priest’ and ‘King’, that is, ‘Saviour’ and ‘Lord’ in His one person. Christ, in His office as Priest, offered Himself without spot to God (Heb. 9:14) as a final sacrifice and atonement for the sins of His people. His priestly work was that by which He saved us. So what happens when we receive Christ? Surely we receive His person: ‘But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God’ (Jn. 1:12); and that, surely, not in part, but in whole. And if we receive Him in whole, then surely as the one who is a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec, that is as King as well as Priest: as Lord as well as Saviour. If we say, ‘I will receive Him as Saviour, but not as Lord, at least not straight away’, are we not saying, ‘I will have Him as Saviour, but I will not have Him to rule over me? I will take the benefit, but not the yoke. I will live my own life as I please for the moment. When I am ready, I will surrender to His rule over me’. Is this a serious matter? Yes, most certainly it is, because it is dividing Christ. It is dividing what Scripture has joined together in the repeated phrase, ‘after the order of Melchisedec’.
It is more than interesting that in the Book of Acts, our manual for evangelism, the word ‘Saviour’ only occurs twice, but ‘Lord’ occurs 92 times. Further, the phrase, ‘Lord Jesus Christ’ occurs 6 times and the phrase ‘Lord Jesus’ occurs 13 times. The emphasis is heavily on, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved’. Furthermore, who is going to guide and keep me during that period when He is my Saviour, and not my Lord? Can I say, ‘I am my Beloved’s and He is mine’, when I will not have Him to rule over me? If so, I cannot see it. Is it not indeed more serious than all these things? Is it not an insult to God the Father, if we divide ‘His unspeakable gift’ (2 Cor. 9:15) into two parts? Imagine the hurt even on a human level, if we gave a gift, and the receiver divided it in two and sent one half back! ‘The Father loveth the Son’ (Jn. 5:20). This love is fundamental to the gospel and to the Melchisedec passages. Does not that love burn with jealousy when His beloved Son is received with reservations?
Does this have any practical relevance to the state of the church today? I believe it does. Why is it that we see people professing to be converted, but with little or no change in their lives? Is it not because they have supposedly received Christ as Saviour, but not as Lord? They still live as they please; they are still their own, rather than those bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). Further they do not have the joy of Zion’s children who are joyful in their King (Ps. 149:2). There can be no ‘shout of a King’ (Numbers 23:21) among them, because they have no King. They have not surrendered the rule of every area and corner of their lives to Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Christian happiness and contentment lie in being wholly Christ’s, not in holding back. We must not be afraid to surrender all to Him, for, He says, ‘My yoke is easy, and my burden is light’. Let us make sure we have surrendered all to Him who is ‘a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec’, and let us who have known His saving grace, rejoice, exult and glory in our glorious King.