The fourth of seven doctrinal truths in Ephesians 4:4-6 that form the very essence of Christianity and therefore unite all true believers is one Lord.
First, there is the meaning of one Lord. Without question, this is the most pointed and the most important of all seven of these spiritual realities and demands careful study. It appears in the middle of Paul’s list and does seem to be the very heart of our unity. There truly is only one Lord—the Lord Jesus Christ Who is Savior, Master, and God incarnate.
How vividly this is demonstrated in Mark 12:28-34. A certain scribe came to Jesus and asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered: “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe responded with his own profound statement: “Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Seeing the scribe’s understanding, our Lord then said, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” While the man was not yet in the kingdom, he was close. Notice specifically that he repeated everything Christ said except one Lord. He understood the importance of loving God; all that was left was to recognize Jesus Himself as Lord and believe and obey Him. As we’ll see in our application later, it’s amazing that the principle of Lordship in salvation is a big issue. Here is a vivid example of its importance.
The key to understanding this doctrinal reality is, of course, the term one lord. This is the pivotal term. The Greek behind lord is kurios. In early Classical Greek, while the word was applied to the gods, there was no general belief of a creator God. The word, therefore, was used in a broad way of someone who had power or authority. It was different in Eastern thought, however. To the Oriental mind, the gods were “the lords of reality.” By Jesus’ day, Eastern kings, such as Herod the Great (c. 73-74 B.C.), Agrippa I (10 BC.- AD 44), and Agrippa II (AD 27 - c. 100) came to be called lord. Most Roman emperors resisted such temptation, but others, such as Caligula (37-41 A.D.) and Nero (54-48) found it appealing. It was this very attitude of implied divinity that caused both Jews and Christians to refuse to use the term lord of the emperor.
Turning to the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), kurios appears over 9,000 times, some 6,156 of which translate the Hebrew YHWH (Yahweh, Jehovah), thus reemphasizing the meaning of divinity.
In the New Testament, then, kurios appears 717 times, the majority of which occur in Luke’s Gospel and Acts (210) and Paul’s Epistles (275). The reason for this, of course, was that they both wrote for readers who were dominated by Greek culture and language and who, therefore, understood the deep significance of this word in implying deity.
Finally, while lord is sometimes used as simply a title of honor, such as Rabbi, Teacher, Master (Matt. 10:24; cf. Lk. 16:3), or even a husband (I Peter 3:6), when used of Jesus in a confessional way, it without question refers to His divinity. The confession Kurios Iēsous (Lord Jesus) is rooted in the pre-Pauline Greek Christian community and is probably the oldest of all Christian creeds.
Early Christians unarguable recognized Jesus as God, as Paul wrote to the Philippians: “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:11, emphasis added). Even more significance, when Thomas saw the risen Jesus, he called Him, “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28, emphasis added). As we’ll see in our next installment, even salvation is based on a confession of Jesus as Lord, as Divine (Rom. 10:9-10).