Foundation for Reformed Theology


We know well the early Christian confession of faith, "Jesus is Lord." But what does that mean? What does it require of us? And are there not other claimants to lordship?

Join me in exploring what Karl Barth says about that in his early lectures on the Apostles' Creed, published as Credo, chapter six.

"Our Lord"

What is the meaning of "Lord"? There are many lords in the world. If Jesus is one of the many lords in the world, if fundamentally He is lord only in the same way as other lords can be, then it is not possible to see by what decisive necessity just He and He alone should be "our Lord". . . .

To the glory of God the Father, so we read in Philippians 2:10f., every knee should bow, in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue confess just this: that Jesus Christ is Lord. . . . Lordship of Christ means Godhead of Christ.

But the reverse also may and indeed must interest us: Godhead of Christ means Lordship of Christ. . . . "Jesus is our Lord" was perhaps the original form of the whole Creed. . . . "Lord" has here the full weight of the word "God". . . . With these words ["our Lord"] the credo ["I believe"] is filled out as acknowledgment of a divine decision upon human existence, but it itself-being the actual acknowledgment of this decision-is also formed as a religious, as an ethical, yes, as a political decision of the man who says seriously, credo.

That Jesus Christ is our Lord means first of all that He has the authority and power over us that a Lord has over his servants. . . . All human lordship has a human beginning; it is a lordship that is derivative, that came into being at a point of time, and to that extent has no inevitable hold upon our existence. The Lordship of Christ, however, is the Lordship of the Creator of our life, and, something far beyond that, of the Creator, yes the owner, or our new life as the life of those who in Him have been saved from sin and death. . . .

The Lordship of Christ insists on being really and properly His Lordship--and up to this point there is no rest--in our free and most secret thoughts, His Lordship not only over our words and deeds, but over our hearts and consciences. . . .

From these remarks we see that over against this Lordship that we acknowledge with the word credo there remains for us no hiding-place, be it ever so worthy, ever so beautiful, yes, ever so pious. . . .

Further, we cannot expect to satisfy the Lordship with some extraordinary enthusiasm, be it ever so deep, sincere and vital. It demands obedience. . . .

We cannot, for example, confine ourselves to merely accepting consolation from Christ from His promise that in Him our sins are forgiven and therefore eternal life is assured. . . . We are in fact set free, which, however, means . . . that we are justified in Christ in order as such to have ourselves sanctified, i.e. awakened, claimed, bound and led. We shall not be able to deny that with the Gospel we have also heard the Law. . . .

The great comprehensive temptation, danger and distress with which faith is assailed in relation to the Lordship of Christ consists finally in this--that, while we have perhaps very rightly understood it in its totality claim, we so easily confound and interchange it with our own lordship.

Karl Barth, Credo, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936), pp. 51, 52-53, 54-55, 56, 57, 58.

Dr. James C. Goodloe IVThank you!

Grace and Peace,

Dr. James C. Goodloe IV, Executive

Foundation for Reformed Theology

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Richmond, Virginia 23230


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