The phrase Jesus is Lord (or Jesus is the Lord) only appears once (or twice, depending on the translation) in the English New Testament, although the equivalent phrase Lord Jesus appears more than 100 times.
To the Romans, Paul writes:
…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (Jesus as Lord or the Lord Jesus) and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
To the Corinthians, Paul writes:
…I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” … 1Corinthians 12:3
Paul is presenting a litmus test to the Corinthians, one they can also use to identify those who have the Spirit of God and those who do not. The apostle teaches that the Spirit of God within you will never cause you to declare, “Jesus is accursed” or, “Jesus be damned.”
Paul continues to say that no man but by that same Spirit of God within you can declare Jesus to be the Lord:
…and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” (or “Jesus is the Lord” or “Lord Jesus” ) except in the Holy Spirit. 1Corinthians 12:3
And yet, men say those English words all the time, be they born again or not. If it truly is a litmus test, one of two things must be true:
- All men, including authors, actors and mockers, have the Spirit of God and can thus utter the words Jesus and Lord together in some combination
- There is something wrong with the English translation of the phrase Jesus is Lord
Item one, above, is simply not the case. It would invalidate the test, so we are left with discovering what might be wrong with the translation:
Most English New Testaments have been translated from Greek, a language that unlike Hebrew or Aramaic contains no name for God, let alone a title reserved for Him, alone. In the imaginations of the Greeks there were many gods, none of whom were elevated to a position requiring the prefacing of their name with a reserved title.
Throughout the Greek New Testament we find the phrase
κυριου ιησου χριστου (kuriou iesou christou)
which translates/transliterates into English as Lord Jesus Christ.
Kuriou/kurios/kurion is very general title in Greek and is used in place of the English titles sir, Mr., master, his Lordship, landlord, etc. It appears in approximately 700 verses of the Greek New Testament.
Most would agree that saying, “Mr. Jesus” is respectful, but does not convey any reverential significance. It certainly does not declare Who He is. And that is precisely what the Greek language translates kuriou to mean: respect, not reverence for the Living God.
English-speaking Christians of yesteryear had to wrestle with the ubiquitous usage of the word lord to identify the aristocracy – the non-peasant class. Today’s English-speaking Christians rarely encounter the word lord outside of religious circles, unless they are renters.
My point is, sadly: the English word lord (along with the Greek word kuriou) is relatively meaningless as it pertains to addressing the Living God. Prefacing the name of Jesus with the word Lord does not add weight to Who He is.
Jesus asked His disciples to tell Him who, exactly, men thought He was:
Here is Matthew’s account:
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? Matthew 16:13
And this is Mark’s account:
And Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, “Who do people say that I am?” Mark 8:27
He followed that up by asking them who they thought He was:
Again, from Matthew:
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15
And, from Mark:
And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Mark 8:29
And then He told them not to tell anyone what they knew:
Then he enjoined on his disciples, that they should tell no man that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:20
And Mark writes:
And He warned them to tell no one about Him. Mark 8:30
Perhaps you have wondered about this event: wouldn’t the disciples’ objective have been to tell everyone Who Jesus was? Not according to Jesus.
In addition to the Name of Jesus (Yeshu/Yeshua), there are several words/phrases used to refer to God in Aramaic:
- אלהא Alaha/Aloha – typically translated as God)
- רוחא דאלהא (Ruukah D’Alaha – Spirit of God)
- רוחא דקודשא (Ruukah D’Quudsha – Spirit of Holiness/Holy Spirit)
- מרן (Maran – typically translated as Lord, depending on who is doing the translating)
- מריא (MarYah – typically translated as LORD, the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew YHWH)
- אנא־אנא (ENah A Nah, translated as I AM, the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew Ahiah Ashra Hiah found in Exodus, I AM What I AM)
Throughout the Syriac Peshitta, the word MarYah is used exclusively to reference God. MarYah is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew YHWH (which is typically translated into English as LORD, or LORD Jehovah). In The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon (dukhrana.com) we read: “…in Syriac that (spelling of MarYah) is used only for the Lord God (ie. the Tetragrammaton)…”
For example, in reference to the parents of John the Baptist, Zacharias and Elisabeth, we read:
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. Luke 1:6
The Lord? MarYah (YHWH/Jehovah)
Upon hearing from the angel Gabriel that she, a virgin, would give birth to the Son of God, said:
Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. Luke 1:38
The Lord? MarYah (YHWH/Jehovah)
But look at this:
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36
Lord? MarYah (YHWH/Jehovah)
Do you hear it? Peter (Shimeon Kaypha) said that Alaha (God) has made this Yeshu (Jesus) both MarYah (YHWH/Jehovah) and Meshika (Messiah/Christ)!
Peter did not declare that God had called Mary’s son, “Mr. Anointed.” Being called mister, sir, master, lord, etc. does not get you accused of blasphemy, let alone is anyone ever crucified for it!
Now let’s look at Paul’s litmus test again,
…I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 1Corinthians 12:3
Lord? MarYah (YHWH/Jehovah)
Anyone can utter the words “Jesus is lord.” But, just as the Spirit of Holiness will never prompt a man to say, “Jesus be damned,” so no man will claim that Jesus is Jehovah, Yeshua is YHWH, Yeshu is MarYah – except by that same Spirit!
The distinction between the innocuous title of “lord” and the Name of the Most High, MarYah/YHWH, is impressively obvious.
κυριον ιησουν (kurion iesoun)
דמריא ישוע (MarYah Yeshu)
…and every tongue shall confess that Maryah (YHWH/Jehovah) is Yeshua the Messiah… Philippians 2:11
Jesus had asked his disciples,
“But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29
Remember the test.
So who do you SAY (confess) that He is?