The basic commitment of every single person who is, by any stretch of the imagination, entitled to the Christian name is this: Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, as this is defined in the New Testament itself. Robinson and Winward, in their helpful little booklet entitled, “The Way,” define a Christian as one who has received Jesus Christ as Savior and is following Him as Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit, and it is a helpful definition, surely.
In the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of the Episcopal Church, the candidate for church membership is asked the question, “Will you follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” And in the Book of Worship of the former Reformed Church in the United States, now part of the United Church of Christ, the question is phrased like this: “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” Our own Liturgy does not seem to employ the phrase as such: yet in the Intermediate Catechism of our church, approved for use by the General Synod of 1915, the church on earth is defined as “the whole body of those who confess Christ as Lord and Savior, together with their children.”
To be sure, particular denominations or even individual churches often add something to this basic commitment, and I suppose that they have a right to do so! Some groups demand a certain form of baptism. I even received a pamphlet recently from a certain congregation in Florida which declared quite boldly that 95% of all Christians have been wrongly baptized, and the writer invited everyone to come to his church for the “real thing!” Other groups require separation from particular associations or practices. Others demand commitment to certain practices and teachings of their own yet it must be clear to all, it seems to me, that such requirements are secondary: and, frankly, I wonder whether they should ever really be made! God justifies “him which believes in Jesus,” according to Paul in Romans 3:26; and church elders have an obligation to receive those whom God has received, as far as human judgment reaches: and there we must put our stress. Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the bond that unites us to God and to each other!
The trouble with this simple formula is, of course, that many try to put their own interpretation on it, and in that way to lower the requirements for membership in the church so as to include more and more people who, though they may have a certain interest or concern, have never truly committed themselves to Christ! Inclusive of this sort is one of the basic problems of the Christian Church today, one of the reasons why the rather large number of church members seems to be doing so little, after all, for Christ. What we need to remember is this, of course, that faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not for us to define: but it has been defined for us already in the Scriptures, and we must understand this phrase in the New Testament sense if we are to use it in the right way.
I would like to spend some time with you today in trying to do just this – and to speak to you this morning about Jesus Christ as our Lord, earnestly desiring that believers may be made stronger in their faith and the hesitant encouraged to believe, all, of course, with the help of the Holy Spirit, our ever-faithful Guide! My text this morning, then, in speaking of Christ as Our Lord, is taken from Luke’s Gospel, chapter nine, verse thirty-five – taken from the account of the Transfiguration “And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.”
I. The Voice out of the cloud of which the text speaks is, needless to say, the Voice of God, but it puts us in mind, first of all, of the many other voices, human voices, which were being heard in those days, all giving their opinions of the great Teacher who had appeared among them, Jesus of Nazareth.
In the preceding chapters, Luke has told us about some of these “voices.” He has even told us of demonic voices which, in hatred and unbelief, still uttered truth: “Holy One of God,” and “Christ the Son of God’ those demons called Him! Mostly, however, he has told us of human voices – some opposed, like those of the Nazarenes who asked, “Is not this Joseph’s Son?’ Or the scribes and Pharisees who said, “Who is this that speaketh blasphemies?” and “Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath days?”‘ and “This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”
Some voices were raised in honest doubt – even that of John the Baptist, whose question you must surely remember: “Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?” And some, of course, were believing: that wonderful centurion of whom we spoke last time, who acknowledged his own unworthiness, and bade Jesus but to say in a word, and his servant would be healed! And, of course, there were the disciples themselves, who step by step were coming to the moment when – in faith they would confess their Master for all that He really was, “The Christ of God!”
Of course, they had been strongly attracted to Jesus from the first. Why else would they, on such short acquaintance, forsake all and follow Him? They had seen the wonderful works that He did, how He had healed the sick, cured the blind and deaf and dumb, restored the lame, cast out the demons, cleansed the lepers – yes, and they had even
seen Him raise the dead! They had heard the wonderful words of life that He spoke the Sermon on the Mount and many, many other things of like significance and power. More and more their doubts and fears were laid aside, but most of all, I believe, when they themselves, at the word of the Lord, went forth preaching the gospel themselves and healing, as Jesus Himself had healed how could they doubt any more? They were ready for the day that dawned – very probably in the northern part of Galilee, in the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, the other evangelists tell us, when Jesus asked them, seriously and urgently, who they believed Him to be, and Peter, speaking for them all, answering said, “The Christ of God!’
And this word concerning Jesus Christ has echoed down the corridors of time – while all the other voices that were raised in those days about Him, voices of denial and doubt, for the most part, have fallen strangely still! “The Christ of God,” a phrase very much akin to that one of which we are speaking today, “Lord and Savior,” a true and faithful confession in every respect, and still one that requires some further elucidation. Others, with less background experience and understanding than the disciples, might have been prepared to say the same thing. Some of them were entirely wrong in their expectations – believing, for example, that the Christ of God would be a great political and military leader who would re-establish the Hebrew kingdom of David and Solomon, or something of that sort.
So Jesus was concerned – with justification – that they should know what they were saying when they confessed Him. Accordingly, He spoke to them of His death and resurrection, verse 22. “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised on the third day. “He spoke to them of the price of discipleship, verse 23, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” He spoke to them of the judgment to come, verse 26, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. “And He took three of them aside, Peter and James and John, and led them up into a mountain, Mount Tabor perhaps, the traditional site, or Mount Hermon, still further north, a site accepted and favored by many Bible scholars: and there they would hear another voice not a human voice with still another human opinion, good or bad, but the voice of God.
II. The Voice of God spoke the truth about Jesus Christ our Lord, over against all others, and we read it in our text: “And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son!” This divine testimony is but the climax of three distinct signs that were given to the three men on the mountain, all uniting to say that Jesus Christ is Lord! The first sign is given in verse 29, “And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistening. What did happen here was simple – and not at all miraculous to those who know the blessed truth about Christ’s person, the miracle was His humanity, His likeness to us, His humiliation, as we are wont to call it. In His transfiguration, His disciples were permitted to see the truth of what they had concluded about Him, namely, that deity lay beneath that human exterior that they had come to know and love. God and Light are always closely associated in the Scriptures, so much so that St. John can say: “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” That uncreated Light, that incandescent Deity for a brief time shone through on the mount of transfiguration, and His disciples beheld His glory, and we through their eyes and their report, behold it, too, He is the Lord!
A second sign of Christ’s high and holy identity is recorded in verses 30 and 31. “And, behold, there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spoke of His decease which He should accomplish in Jerusalem.” Notice that they were men still, not angels: that they were individuals still, as they had been in time past on earth, and recognizable. I believe that these facts speak volumes of blessed truth about the state of the dead who die in the Lord, but this is neither the time nor the place to go into that, for it is not the point here. In this place, Moses and Elijah (for so we usually write his name) represent the mainstream of pre-Christian revelation, the Law and the Prophets, which have always borne witness to the Christ, His Person and His Work. And now they do the same for they spoke of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. The Word that Luke uses here and which is translated “decease” is really “exodus” in the Greek, and may very well refer to more than His death alone. It may very well refer to His death as the accomplishment of the purpose for which He was sent, even the salvation of His people!
What a comfort it must have been for our Redeemer now to share with these men with whom He had had such close fellowship in time past, when as the Word of the Lord He had come to them in blessing, the whole matter that was now uppermost in His mind – His Cross and His Triumph which were to take place at Jerusalem.
Then, as the third and climactic sign, comes the Voice verse 35 “This is my Beloved Son, hear Him!” Can there be any doubt now as to which of the many voices that had been heard on the subject of Jesus Christ is right? Can there be any doubt that He is the Christ of God?
And what is more can there be any error as to the nature of His Mission? His Lordship is not akin to that of any earthly monarch – it is akin only to that of God, for He is God! His kingdom has no boundaries. His subjects are not just those of any one nation or race. He is not Lord in one area of life only. As God is the God of all – whether or not all acknowledge Him as such: so Jesus Christ is the Lord of all whether or not all obey Him as such. As those who obey Him will rejoice in His Lordship: so those who hold out against Him will feel the power of His Lordship nevertheless. The day is coming when, willy nilly, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” All this is taught us in the Voice of God, the Voice out of the cloud that said, “This is My Beloved Son.”
III. What is lacking still, my friends, is your voice and mine! We have heard the many voices of other men – and there was much confusion save with His disciples who knew Him best. We have heard the great voice, the Voice of God – and there was truth, simple and straight forward – “This is My…Son!” But a direction is given – and because it is given by God – it is of universal force to all men of all time, yes, and to us, too – Hear Him! Peter would have looked and looked in wonder, love and praise. He would have stayed and stayed, in blessed fellowship.
“Master”, he said, “It is good for us to be here. Let us make three tabernacles: one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias,”‘ to which Luke appends “not knowing what he said.” This is coming someday the uninterrupted enjoyment of heavenly and eternal things! In the Father’s House, there are many mansions – and there is a place for you and me there, if we belong to Jesus Christ now. But this is not the time for that! This is the time to hear – and the implication is clearly, also, to do what our Lord commands. Do you agree with that? Does your voice say, as an expression of your heart, Yes, LORD, I hear. I hear the voice of my Lord and I must hasten to do His will in my life. I must deny myself, as He has commanded, take up my cross and follow Him!” Jesus Christ Is Lord!
It is indeed a faithful saying, a true confession, a basic commitment required of every Christian on the face of the earth – but it is not just a human opinion, you see, but a divine precept requiring loyalty and obedience. Don’t be afraid to make that commitment! Must I do so? you may ask – and I will answer, Yes, for God demands it. Can I do so? another may wonder and again I answer, Yes, for what God demands, He also makes possible. But if you have already made your commitment to Jesus Christ the Lord – then I beg you today: don’t forget what it entails! Christ has taken command of your life.
By His Word without and by His Spirit within, He has a life for you to live. Are you living it? You are to abide in the fellowship of His Church and make diligent use of the means of grace which Christ has ordained. You are to continue instant in prayer. You are to keep the commandments in your personal life, in your family, in your business, trade, or profession: in your citizenship duties, in fact, in every known relationship. You are to speak openly of your Master and King, without shame. You are to endure hardship, if necessary, as a good soldier in His army. You are to continue faithful unto death – and He will give you the crown of glory that fadeth not away. It is no mere form of words, this confession of Christ’s lordship. It is the highest and best end to which you can give yourself in this world: and the only commitment that you can make that brings with it an eternal reward. Do you believe – really – in Jesus Christ as your Lord? Amen.
Sermon written by: Rev. Charles W. Krahe, Seventh Reformed Church