Examining Pauls use of Lord in reference to Christ
Readers of the NT are quite familiar with how often Paul calls Jesus Lord or Kyrios in his epistles to various Churches and individuals. What many do not know is how this indicates that Paul believed that Jesus is Yahweh God of the OT (but not the Father or the Holy Spirit).
In this article we will be quoting primarily from Pauls letters to the Corinthians in order to demonstrate that the inspired and blessed Apostle believed that Jesus is Lord in the sense of being Yahweh (yet not the Father or the Holy Spirit).
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one." Deuteronomy 6:4
The prophetic Scriptures further testify that Yahweh alone created the universe and that he is the One who is personally sustaining it:
"Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you." Nehemiah 9:5-6
"Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself," Isaiah 44:24
Yet for the beloved Apostle the one Lord God of all is both the Father and the Son together!
"So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." 1 Corinthians 8:4-6
What Paul has done here is to take the creed of Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Shema, and "Christianize" it so as to include Jesus within the identity of the one Lord God of Israel. This proves that for Paul, the one true God is not uni-Personal but is at least two Persons, namely the Father and Jesus Christ his Son.
As if this werent amazing enough, the Apostle further ascribes of the work of creation to both the Father and the Son, i.e. all things come from God and are kept through Christ, even though the OT testifies that Yahweh alone made and sustains all creation!
For more on the meaning and implication of 1 Corinthians 8:6 please consult the following articles (1, 2, 3).
The OT Scriptures exhort believers to call upon the name of Yahweh:
"And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls." Joel 2:32
The Hebrew Bible also mentions some of the prophets who called on Yahwehs name:
"Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God." Genesis 21:33 cf. 12:8
"Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the LORD and he answered them." Psalm 99:6
Calling on the name of Yahweh was done either in the context of worship or for the purpose of invoking the Deity for help.
In his inspired epistle Paul mentions Christians that called on the name of the Lord Jesus:
"To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ their Lord and ours:" 1 Corinthians 1:2
This shows that the early believers were worshiping and supplicating Jesus much like the OT saints worshiped and invoked Yahweh.
The prophets warned Gods people of the coming Day of Yahweh, a Day in which God would righteously judge the world:
"Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?" Amos 5:18-20
"Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited. On the day of the LORD's sacrifice I will punish the princes and the king's sons and all those clad in foreign clothes. On that day I will punish all who avoid stepping on the threshold, who fill the temple of their gods with violence and deceit The great day of the LORD is near near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth." Zephaniah 1:7-9, 14-17
In Pauls writings, the Day of Yahweh becomes the Day of the Lord Jesus. The Apostle believed that Jesus would return to judge the world in righteousness:
"Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 1:7-8
"hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." 1 Corinthians 5:5
"If anyone does not love the Lorda curse be on him. Come, O Lord! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you." 1 Corinthians 16:22-23
Paul further taught that everyone will stand before Christs judgment seat where the risen Lord will repay everyone for what they have done:
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." 2 Corinthians 5:10
The Hebrew prophets also stated that Yahweh is the only One who knows the hearts of all men and can therefore judge peoples intentions and motives:
"then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men)," 1 Kings 8:39
"And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever." 1 Chronicles 28:9
Yet according to Paul, Christ will come to expose and reveal the motives of peoples hearts:
"My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." 1 Corinthians 4:4-5
The OT often speaks of the assembly of Yahweh, or the congregation of people who gather in the name of Yahweh in order to worship and glorify him:
"No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD. No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation." Deuteronomy 23:1-3
"The whole assembly of the LORD says: How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the LORD and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now?" Joshua 22:16
"So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the LORD, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever." 1 Chronicles 28:8
The Apostle Paul himself calls this congregation the Church of God:
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia:" 2 Corinthians 1:1
Amazingly, the blessed Apostle identifies this very assembly as the Church of Jesus Christ:
"Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings." Romans 16:16
This explains why Paul invoked the authority of Christ when commanding Christians to obey his instructions:
"I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." 1 Corinthians 1:10
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan " 1 Corinthians 5:1-5a
It is evident that Paul and the believers knew that they were assembled for the glory of Jesus. They must have believed that the Church was the congregation of believers who were gathered under the headship of Christ in order to obey, honor and worship the exalted and risen Lord.
Yahweh repeatedly told his people that he sanctifies them, or makes them holy, and also justifies them, or declares and makes them righteous. Yahweh further says that every knee shall bow to him in acknowledgment of this fact:
"But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you." Exodus 31:13
"Declare what is to be, present it let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, In the LORD ALONE are righteousness and strength. All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the LORD all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult." Isaiah 45:21-25
Paul himself quoted Isaiah 45:23 in reference to God judging people:
"You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God." Romans 14:10-11
And yet, at the same time, Paul taught that Christ is he who both justifies and sanctifies all true believers:
"To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30
"And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:11
In another letter the inspired Apostle even applied the very language of Isaiah 45:23 to the Lord Jesus:
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11
The OT exhorts the faithful not to boast in their wealth or strength but to boast that they know Yahweh personally and intimately:
"This is what the LORD says: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the LORD." Jeremiah 9:23-24
Paul quotes this passage in reference to knowing Jesus Christ and his crucifixion:
"Therefore, as it is written: Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." 1 Corinthians 1:31, 2:1-5
Thus, to know Jesus is to know Yahweh since Jesus is Yahweh!
Yahweh is called the King of Glory, which is simply another way of saying that he is the Lord of glory:
"The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty he is the King of glory. Selah" Psalm 24:1-2, 7-10
By King of Glory the Psalmist meant that Yahweh is the exalted and majestic King who has complete control and authority over his entire creation.
Astonishingly, this Lord of glory was crucified according to Paul!
"None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." 1 Corinthians 2:8
This is further proof that Paul believed that Jesus is Yahweh God who became flesh.
Moses wrote that Yahweh is Israels Rock, or their sure foundation that delivered his people out of Egypt and preserved them in the desert:
"He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the LORD had given them up? For their rock is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede." Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30-31
Paul, once again, astonishes the minds when he writes that Jesus was actually the Rock who provided for Israel in the wilderness!
"For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
After carefully examining some of Pauls statements, specifically verses from his letters to the Corinthians, it is obvious that the blessed Apostle and the early Church all believed that Jesus is Yahweh. When Paul calls Jesus Lord he meant it in the sense that Christ is Yahweh God since the Apostle ascribes to Christ certain functions and attributes which the OT Scriptures say belong to Yahweh God alone.
This demonstrates that Paul didnt believe that Jesus was merely a creature whom God exalted by making him Lord over creation. Rather, the inspired Apostle was convinced that Jesus is Yahweh God who had humbled himself by setting aside his heavenly glory for a season in order to take on the nature of man. As a result of this act of humbleness Christ was exalted higher than the heavens themselves in order to once again rule over creation as the Lord of glory.
Those who deny the absolute Deity of Christ will find absolutely no solace, no support, from Paul, the blessed servant of the risen Lord and exalted King of creation.
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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