2021-5-30 “And in Jesus Christ…Our Lord”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                                          Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                                      May 30, 2021

“And in Jesus Christ…Our Lord”
Philippians 3:7-11

I hope the affirmations contained in the Apostles’ Creed become richer to you now—as we examine them each in turn during this sermon series on the Apostles’ Creed.  Today, in particular, I hope you gain further richness and joy in Jesus as we examine His Lordship—as we confess, about Him, “…our Lord.”  We examine the Lordship of Christ today from Paul’s Spirit-led letter to the Philippian Christian households.  Let us hear, once again, God’s Word read and proclaimed in this place.

            (HERE READ THE TEXT)

Our text occurs within the larger context of Philippians 3:2-11.  Paul, in that larger passage, first warns against confidence in the flesh (3:2-4a).  He does this contra his brethren after the flesh, the Jews.  Paul asserts, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, in the face of his former brethren, that we are the circumcision, the covenant people of God, who worship by the Spirit of God, glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh—though Paul once did.  Paul then turns to list his commendable reasons for former confidence in the flesh (3:4-6a), and we note them in turn.

He certainly had the right pedigree for a first-century, Jerusalem-based Jew.  Let’s hear the pedigree in Paul’s own words, “If anyone thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee” (3:4b-5).  These are impressive credentials enough, but note also what Paul says about his zeal.  He was, in his zeal, a persecutor of the Church.  He was among those giving consent to the death of Stephen—the first martyr after Christ’s earthly ministry  (Acts 8:1).  He was the man entering house after house, dragging off men and women of Christ and committing them to prison (cf. Acts 8:3).  He was the man, breathing threats and murder against the disciples of Jesus, who asked for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, in order to ferret out Christians there and to bring them bound to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2).  Paul, of impeccable credentials, verified this by his venom toward Jesus’ followers.  These, combined with his external legalistic perfection, made him the model for the way of his fathers against the nascent Christian movement.  If anyone indeed has reason for confidence in the flesh, Paul has it.

Yet the risen Lord Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus—and, now, some twenty-five years after the fact, Paul reflects upon it to the Philippians.  He compares his former life with his new life in Christ (3:7-11), and he declares that there is no comparison between the two.  He esteems all things lost for the excellence of knowing Christ Jesus, the Lord—not only his former position and attainments within Judaism, but everything else as well.  Moreover, he counts these things as rubbish (Greek skubala [skubala], plural of skubalon [skubalon]) and, therefore, gladly jettisoned.  Paul, in place of these things now destined for the trash heap, wants to know Christ above all else and instead of all else.  He wants—yea, he has, by virtue of his union with Christ—righteousness by faith in Christ, not the so-called righteousness sought by observance of the Law.  He also wants, and has, the power of Christ’s resurrection—which lives out the life of Christ, risen from the grave and therefore indestructible, in our mortal flesh.  Above all of this, Paul desires the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings.  He wants to be identified with Jesus to the death, in order to have—by His miracle power—the resurrection from the dead.

Paul rightly considered all other things lost and rubbish for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ, our Lord (Greek kurios [kurioV]).  Let’s unpack now what it means to call Jesus Lord.[1]  First, it means that He is the One ruling and exerting authority.  He does over all things generally.  Even a cursory reading of the Gospels reveals that Jesus exerts decisively His authority over disease (Mark 1:29-31 [healing Peter’s mother-in-law] and 2:1-12 [healing of the paralytic], et al.), over evil spirits (Mark 1:21-28 [exorcism of demon at Capernaum] and 5:1-20 [exorcism of legion of demons from man of the tombs at Gadara], et al.), over natural phenomena (e. g., Mark 4:35-41 [Jesus calms the sea] and Matthew 14:22-33 [Jesus walks on the sea]), and over physical death (Mark 5:21-24, 36-43 [Jesus resurrects Jairus’ daughter], Luke 7:11-17 [Jesus resurrects the only son of the widow of Nain], and John 11:1-44 [Jesus resurrects Lazarus]).  Jesus also exerts authority over us.  If Jesus controls all these other spheres, can He not—yea, ought He not—also exert His authority over us as well?  Fear not, if you find yourself anti-authoritarian—at least when it concerns yourself.  Jesus exerts this authority with infinite benevolence in behalf of us.  Consider Paul’s words to the Romans, penned a half-decade earlier than today’s text: “And we know that, for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose…What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:28, 31-32).  Jesus, as Lord, exerts His infinite authority with infinite wisdom and goodness—especially toward His redeemed covenant family.

To be Lord, in the New Testament sense, also is to own.  Hence, Jesus, as Lord, owns.  He owns all things, as the Psalmist declares: “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine” (Psalm 50:10-11).  Moreover, Jesus owns us as well.  Paul twice, in his first letter to the church at Corinth, tells us that we are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23)—the price being the lifeblood of Jesus Himself.  Jesus, Who owns all, also owns us—but, again, this is a very good thing for those of us in saving relationship with Him.

To be Lord is also to be one worthy of respect.  The New Testament word translated Lord may also be translated Sir, or Master, or something similar as an appellation of respect from the speaker.  Hence, to call Jesus Lord (and this is always right) is to accord maximal human respect unto Him.  Finally, the term Lord, as applied to Jesus Christ, denotes that He is God—and not a whit less.  He has infinite, supernatural Being, and He also has power and authority both infinite and supernatural.

We confess all of this, and more, when we confess—as we did earlier today—that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Jesus Christ is Lord positionally, as Peter declares in the final sentence of his Pentecost sermon, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus Whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).  Jesus Christ is also Lord practically, both in creation (cf. John i.3, Colossians i.16, Hebrews i.2) and in providence, as noted earlier.  Because Jesus Christ is Lord, all things are under His firm, sovereign control, both for His glory (together with the Father and the Holy Spirit) and for our good—and these both in time and in eternity.  Let us yield ourselves, either initially or afresh, to His saving Lordship, and let us rejoice forevermore in being His.

AMEN.

[1]     For the ensuing material I am indebted to Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).