Friday, August 5, 2011

The Lordship of Jesus in Acts

The Apostle Peter speaking: “You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.” ~Acts 10:36 (NRSV).

There is a heresy that has enjoyed a certain undercurrent-of-hearing throughout the ages, ever since Jesus’ earthly life.

It is known most famously in Ebionism and Arianism. These are similar theologies espousing that—against clear Scriptural witness—Jesus is not, or has not been made, God. Arianism—a more sophisticated and well-thought-out version of the heresy—is known in movements like Jehovah’s Witnesses. These heretics reject the full deity of Christ.

Of course, like huge portions of the New Testament, the book of Acts disagrees.

In Jewish tradition, the term “Lord” (Greek: kurios)—as used extensively in Acts, as well as most other books in the Bible—is used (in Acts) interchangeably to describe both the Father and the Son, Jesus.

It is clear that at times the term the “Lord” is used to describe the Father, whereas other times it’s used to describe Jesus—numerous times it describes God: the Father or Jesus or Father/Son/Holy Spirit; for these purposes, one and essentially the same.

Interestingly enough, compared with other books in the New Testament, Acts is quietly inconspicuous on the subject of Jesus’ deity—his oneness with the Father (and the Holy Spirit) in the Godhead—apart from the interchanging of the term “Lord.” But it is clear that the earliest Jewish tradition in the use of the word kurios—referring specifically to be Septuagint (LXX) which is the Greek version of the Old Testament—dates well before Jesus, referring to “Jehovah” and “Adonai” as “Lord.”

Besides this, like other New Testament books, Acts links Jesus to Old Testament references for “Lord” directly. The verdict, biblically at least, is beyond question.

An Urgent Warning

As Christians we need to be awake to the heresies of millennia previous; these seem to be alive and ‘well’ even today.

As evangelical Christians we believe in the inerrancy of the Bible—that “the Bible is fully truthful in all of its teachings.” This, of course, is something we believe by faith because we take God at his Word, because that is what the Bible requires. Certainly not less, we’ve experienced salvation—a salvation making the Bible true in our experience.

If we are Bible-believing Christians, we will read with clarity; it is clear in Acts that both Apostles, Paul and Peter, preached Jesus as Lord, and therefore God.

We can all too easily begin to hear out those aggressive voices speaking charismatic and perhaps alluring theologies. We, however, are always best advised to plunge urgently back into our Bibles. There we will find the truth.

Let us not elevate those committed to false teaching; those who might dissuade us from hearing aright—the message of salvation for all. Only in Jesus can we be saved.

Let us “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology: Second Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker books, 2004), pp. 707-08, 711-12. Erickson, here, cites Acts 1:24; 2:47; 8:39; 9:31; 11:21; 13:10-12; 16:14; 20:19; 21:14.

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