Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

How Can Jesus Be Made Lord and Christ if he is God?

Sam Shamoun

As I said in my previous post I anticipate that Williams will focus on Acts 2:36 in order to object to my exegesis of Acts 2:22, whereby I demonstrated from the immediate context that Peter identified Jesus as Yahweh Incarnate: 

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

The objection that is often raised is, How could God have made Jesus both Lord and Christ only after his heavenly ascension if he himself is God? And since Peter clearly says that Jesus was made or appointed Lord and Christ doesn’t this prove that the Apostle did not think for a moment that Jesus is Yahweh in the flesh? 

To start off with, one must be careful in not misinterpreting Peter by erroneously assuming that his words imply that Jesus became or changed into something that he wasn’t previously. According to Luke-Acts, Jesus had already been both Lord and Christ long before his resurrection and ascension into heaven, just as the following verses confirm:

“And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:43

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

“And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Luke 2:26

“And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.” Luke 4:41

“And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Luke 5:7-8

“And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Luke 6:5

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Luke 6:46

“Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:” Luke 7:6

“He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.” Luke 9:20

“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.” Luke 9:59-61

“And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20

“But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.” Luke 10:40

“And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

“and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?  And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” Luke 12:36-47

“Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, “ Luke 13:23

“And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” Luke 17:37

“saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.” Luke 18:41

“And Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” Luke 19:8

“And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? And they said, The Lord hath need of him.” Luke 19:31-34

“And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.” Luke 22:33

“And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.” Luke 22:38

“When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” Luke 22:49

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Luke 23:42

“saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.” Luke 24:34

“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:” Luke 24:44-46

“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6 

These passages establish that Jesus was identified as Lord and Christ from the moment of his human conception to his blessed mother. In fact, even the prophecy of David in Psalm 110:1, which both the Lord Jesus and Peter in Acts 2:34-35 quoted, affirms that Jesus was already Lord before his ascension: 

“And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David's son? And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?” Luke 20:41-44

Here David calls the Messiah his Lord even before his heavenly enthronement at God’s right hand.

Thus, whatever Peter’s words in Acts 2:36 mean they clearly do not mean that Jesus only became Lord or Christ at his ascension to the right hand of God.  

So what did the Apostle mean? 

The key to properly understanding this is found in the following words: 

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, WHOM YE HAVE CRUCIFIED, both Lord and Christ.” 

While Jesus was on earth he had assumed the status and role of a servant in order to die on the cross to accomplish God’s will: 

“For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.” Luke 22:27 – cf. Matthew 12:15-21; Mark 10:45; John 13:3-17; Romans 15:8; Philippians 2:5-8  

As such, Jesus wasn’t exercising the functions and roles which go with being Lord and Christ, titles which refer to his ownership of and sovereignty over creation, just as the following texts illustrate:

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of HIS KINGDOM there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:26-35

“Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table IN MY KINGDOM, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Luke 22:28-30

“And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it… And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, and saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Luke 23:2-3, 36-38

“But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cæsar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.” Acts 17:5-7 – cf. Luke 19:11-27; Matthew 13:41; 16:27-28; 19:28; 25:31-46

It wasn’t until his ascension that Christ began actively ruling creation as its sovereign Lord.

Noted Evangelical Murray J. Harris does an excellent job of explaining this in his exegesis of John 20:28 where Thomas worships the risen Christ as his Lord and his God:

“From this viewpoint, John 20:28 represents an advance on John 1:1. Jesus not only already was theos at the beginning of creation (John 1:1). At the time when Thomas spoke and John wrote, it could be said (by implication),98 ‘Jesus is Lord and God.’’ According to John, the essential deity of Christ was a present fact as well as a past reality.99 On the other hand, theos en ho logos in John 1:1 shows that whereas one may rightly affirm that Jesus became kyrios (Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:9-11),100 the same cannot be said concerning Jesus as theos. That is, before his resurrection Jesus was kyrios de iure but theos de facto; after his resurrection he was both theos and kyrios de facto.” (Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI 1992], p. 126; bold emphasis ours)

100. The name kyrios that Jesus received from the Father at his resurrection-exaltation was not only an appellation but also signified an office or rank (onoma = shem) which had not been his previously, except de iure, viz., the exercise of the function of kyriotes (lordship) in the spiritual sphere, cosmic dominion over sentient beings. See further, Martin 249-83. (Ibid.; bold emphasis ours)

de iure = “concerning law,” i.e. in law.

de facto = “concerning fact,” i.e. in practice.

Thus, Jesus was already the Lord and Christ long before his resurrection and ascension into heaven from a legal standing, e.g. divine sovereignty and rulership were already his, already belonged to him, by divine right. Yet Jesus did not begin functioning in these roles until his heavenly enthronement since, as we noted earlier, he had set these functions aside in order to assume the role and status of a servant.

Lord Jesus willing, now that I have gotten this potential objection out of the way I will next tackle Williams’ butchering of Jesus’ gradual healing of the blind mind as reported in Mark 8:22-25.

All scriptural quotations taken from the Authorized King James Version (AV) of the Holy Bible.

Further Reading

What does it mean that Jesus was made Lord?
How can Jesus be God if he is given the name Lord only at his exaltation?