The Lordship of Christ

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

- Romans 10:9

Understanding the definition of true faith helps us to be sure of the reality of our faith and, therefore, our justification in the sight of God. Faith, we have seen, has a content that is known, affirmed, and trusted. Ultimately, we place our faith in a person — the Lord Jesus Christ. But to put our faith in Christ we must also leave our sins and idols behind. True faith is always a repentant faith.

Believing in Christ, as Dr. R.C. Sproul has often said, is not the same thing as believing Christ. Authentic trust in Jesus believes He will accomplish all His promises — that He will do what He says. Such true belief involves obedience, for we reveal our love for Him and our understanding that He alone knows what is good, right, and true when we are willing to take Him at His word and do what He commands (Gen. 2:16–17; 22:1–14; John 14:15; James 2:14–26).

Authentic, saving trust in Jesus is ultimately a submission to His lordship. Paul makes this point clear in today’s passage. Saving faith confesses Jesus not only as Savior but also as Lord (Rom. 10:9). Yet, there are many professing Christians today who believe a person can have true faith and thus enjoy a righteous status before God even if that person shows no desire at all to obey Jesus. Such people believe it is possible to have Jesus as their Savior without serving Him as their Lord.

This belief is the result of the teaching of some people who think that they are preserving the doctrine of justification by faith alone. These teachers fear that requiring obedience to Christ Jesus makes salvation dependent on our works and not the grace of God alone. A desire to magnify God’s grace is laudable. However, making obedience optional actually perverts the grace of the Lord

This teaching misrepresents the biblical teaching on faith. Indeed, sinners can by no means merit God’s grace, and our good works play no role at all in God declaring His people righteous in justification. Nevertheless, our Lord’s grace does not leave us in sin but trains us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions,” and to live “godly lives” (Titus 2:11–14). Following the law of God does not get us into the kingdom, but it demonstrates we have the faith that justifies. No one has true faith who does not also have a desire to obey Christ (James 2:14–26).

Coram Deo

None of the Apostles ever conceived of separating Jesus’ work as Savior from His lordship over the lives of His people. To believe one can be saved without serving Jesus as Lord is to give both ourselves and others a false assurance of salvation, and God will not treat lightly those who lead people astray in this manner (Luke 17:1–2). We do not serve God to get into the kingdom, but if we do not want to serve Him, we are not in the kingdom.

Passages for Further Study

Judges 2
1 Samuel 15:22–23
Hebrews 5:7–10
Jude 3–4

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.