In the ninth chapter of Thirty True Things . . . (TTT), I emphasize that Christians must be careful when they call Jesus “Lord,” but the following chapter accentuates what seems to be just the opposite: Christians must be careful to call Jesus “Lord” and to mean it. In other words, for Christian believers, Jesus must be Lord and not just Savior.
Confessing Jesus as Savior
For historic Christianity, nothing in all the world—or in the world beyond—is more important than being “saved” by Jesus. Although there are differences in interpretation and implementation, confessing Jesus as Savior has been the fundamental basis for Christianity through the centuries.
Beginning in New Testament times and continuing to the present, salvation in Christianity has regularly been interpreted as the redemption of human beings from the punishment of sin (eternal death, Hell) and the gift/promise of everlasting life (in Heaven).
While the Catholic Church has interpreted salvation as the result of receiving, willingly or otherwise, the sacrament of baptism, the Protestant tradition has emphasized personal confession of faith in Jesus as the means of salvation.
In both cases, though, the result of salvation was essentially the same: escape from eternal torment which awaited all the “unsaved” at the time of death.
Objecting to Jesus as Savior Only
Especially in much traditional evangelical Christianity, salvation was (is?) largely presented as a type of “fire insurance.” It was/is a very good policy to have so one will not “fry when they die.”
When I was a boy attending a conservative Baptist church, many of the revival preachers I heard were related, religiously, to the legendary “fire and brimstone” evangelists who did so much to expand the membership of evangelical churches in England and especially in the United States from the 1730s through the 20th century.
They were quite successful in expanding the number of Christians—but they were also responsible for fostering a limited view of what salvation really means.
The revivalists, as well as many (most?) local evangelical pastors, preached effectively about the certainty of escaping Hell and going to Heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. Their main message was almost exclusively individualistic and otherworldly; that is, it was about the salvation of individuals from damnation upon death.
The emphasis was mostly on Jesus as Savior. Little, if anything, was said about the importance of Jesus being Lord now. Similarly, there was hardly any emphasis on the Kingdom of God. Its presence in the present world and the necessity of Christians being a conscious part of that Kingdom was seldom mentioned.
Confessing Jesus as Lord
It was the more liberal churches, and church organizations, that began emphasizing the Kingdom of God and the Lordship of Christ in ways that were largely absent in the conservative, evangelical Churches. That contrasting emphasis led to the formation of competing world organizations of churches.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) was established in 1948, and the World Evangelical Fellowship was established in 1951 and its name changed to World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) in 2001.
Through the years, the WCC put more and more stress on social justice issues, but the WEA continued to emphasize that the central mission of the church should be for the primary purpose of evangelism in the traditional sense, that is, saving people for eternal life in Heaven.
As I point out in a later chapter in TTT, the best choice, in this case as in most others, is both/and rather than either/or. That is why I like the following diagram—and why I think emphasizing Jesus as Lord is important for moving traditional evangelical Christians toward the middle.
[Please click here to read the tenth chapter of Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now (TTT) upon which this article is based.]