Earlier this week, I was on a walk in my neighborhood with my three children when I happened across our Roman Catholic friends. After briefly bantering about politics and the chaos of the election, I made a comment to this effect: “Whatever the outcome is, at least Jesus is still Lord.” The wife responded, “You know, I’ve been seeing my friends post that more on social media lately.”
I was grateful to be reminded that this seed of gospel truth is indeed spreading right now, even amid cultural upheaval in the US. Yet I couldn’t help but immediately think: Surely that statement must sound trite to an unbeliever or a casual, nominal Christian. To many of our neighbors, after all, doesn’t “Jesus is Lord” sound as clichéd as “God loves you” or “everything happens for a reason”—vestiges of a forgotten Christian vernacular?
It’s true that Christians often throw around such catchphrases in a hackneyed manner revealing our pie-in-the-sky pietism. Sometimes, tossing out a pithy, spiritual-sounding aphorism is a way for a professing Christian to justify disengagement. “Well, God is in control,” we might blithely sigh while neglecting our duty. The statement is true, but the person saying it is false.
Yet “Jesus is still Lord” is anything but trite. And we ought not to be afraid of repeating it for fear of appearing passé. There are three reasons why.
1. “Jesus is Lord” means that the Lord Jesus Christ governs the affairs of men in history.
If for us “Jesus is Lord” has become a stale mantra, perhaps it is because we take it to mean, that Jesus is Lord out there somewhere—in heaven, in the spiritual dimension of life, in the church, or in my heart. And Jesus certainly is master over all these places. But his dominion spans vastly beyond the realm of one’s interior religious life.
Jesus Christ is a real man, God in human flesh, who lived perfectly, died sacrificially for sinners, and rose physically from the dead. Upon completion of this redemptive work, Jesus physically ascended into heaven, where he sat down in a place of authority over the entire created cosmos. Because he is the eternal Son of God, Jesus always had divine authority, even before his incarnation. Yet a unique, kingly authority was also conferred upon him by God the Father in light of his work on earth in his death and resurrection.
This is why before Jesus ascended, he announced, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). And as the biblical story progresses, we see that this authority is not merely ethereal or religious. A few years later, when King Herod receives worship from his subjects and refuses to acknowledge God, the Lord Jesus Christ strikes him dead (Acts 12:20-23).
King Jesus directs the flow of history. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). He has fixed the borders of nations and charted their rise and fall (Acts 17:26). The appellation “ruler of kings on earth” is applied to Jesus now (Revelation 1:5). Jesus’ authority is not exclusively future, hypothetical, or bound up within the walls of the church. It touches down into our daily reality and extends to every world event.
2. “Jesus is Lord” means that the Lord Jesus Christ is the judge of all nations and men.
We despair when injustice prevails in a society. Evil is called good and good is called evil (Isaiah 5:20). From the chaos of the streets to corruption in the upper echelons of a nation’s leadership, we long for true, final justice. Yet any human efforts to conjure up this sort of ultimate, cosmic accountability fall woefully short and inevitably spur further injustice.
To confess “Jesus is Lord” is to recognize that every nation, governing body, ruler, citizen, and subject will personally face the Judge of the universe, and only justice will be done. “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
The Apostle Paul proclaimed to the Greek pagans of his day that God “commands” all the non-Christian peoples of the world to repent “because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). Every being in heaven, on earth, and in hell will recognize Jesus’ authority (Philippians 2:10-11). Every sin and misdeed will be judged justly—whether in the flame of eternal torment, or retroactively in the cross of Crist. No wrong will not be righted.
This should cause the unrepentant unbeliever great fear. Knowing what a fearsome thing it is to face the risen Lord Christ and to receive perfect justice, we must throw ourselves at his feet for mercy. Even kings must bend the knee to be saved (Psalm 2:10-12). Yet for those who know Christ and cling to his atoning death, we have peace with God. We are commanded to spread the good news of forgiveness with others (Luke 24:47). And yet, when the evil prevail, we may take comfort that they will stand before the bar of the Son of God as he holds his heavenly court.
3. “Jesus is Lord” means that the Lord Jesus Christ is subduing this fallen world and spreading a better kingdom.
Too often Christians have neglected their inheritance. Like Esau who forfeited his birthright, we relinquish the crown rights of Christ and long for heavenly escape, wrongly thinking Christ will cede this present world in its entirety to the powers of darkness replace it with an entirely new world after the church’s inevitable defeat. But this is not a biblical picture of history.
Although biblically-informed believers often disagree with regard to the precise nature and timing of Christ’s reign and return, the univocal teaching of Scripture is that Jesus wins. Christ will put all his enemies under his feet (Psalm 110:1; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:25). One day, the whole world—this world—will be saturated with the glory of God (Habakkuk 2:14). All the nations will be saved (Isaiah 2:2-4; cf. Revelation 5:9, 7:9). Whatever these optimistic prophecies mean, they at least mean the completion of the Great Commission. The gospel will continue to spread, save, and Christ will build his church (Matthew 16:18). The gospel will bear fruit in the world all the way leading up to the final resurrection and the consummation of the new creation described in the New Testament, in which we hope. This truth is to be heralded regardless of the precise eschatological scheme to which one subscribes.
What’s more, the final victory of Christ has implications for the present. All things are already ours in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:21)—including our very nation. We will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3); surely we can also engage boldly, winsomely, and sometimes offensively in politics. There is indeed a future, “not yet” element of Jesus’ kingdom. But there is also a present, “already” element. Believers may suffer and even die, but the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. The cross precedes the crown. Death precedes resurrection.
This blessed hope allows the Christian to live in spiritual warfare while enjoying unshakable peace. It is only in view of this inevitable victory of the kingdom of God that we can “live quietly… mind your own affairs, and… work with your hands… so that you may walk properly before outsiders, being dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Christians are called to engage culture and resist the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11), yet because of the better kingdom to which we belong, we are still permitted to savor God’s blessings amid the temporal judgments befalling us—to feast even while fighting. We may plant, marry, eat, and seek our neighbors’ welfare even while in exile (Jeremiah 29:4-14). Belonging to Christ, we may fight spiritual chaos and still live a normal life free from condemnation (Romans 8:1). Rejoice!
Regardless of the final legal decisions in the US presidential race, Jesus is ruling our nation—whether in mercy or in judgment. Let us pray that it be the former. And if it be the latter, we must pray that the Lord’s chastisement of the US would result in widespread repentance. No amount of media interference, litigation, or recounting can disturb the reign of Christ.
So, the next time you find yourself in one of those conversations about the crazed state of our world, don’t be afraid to remind your neighbor that Jesus is Lord. No one can declare that Jesus is Lord apart from the Holy Spirit, after all (1 Corinthians 12:3). There is no King but Christ. Surely this confession is no cliché.
One thought on “Why ‘No Matter Who Wins, Jesus is Lord’ Isn’t Just a Cliché”
I like how you laid out the implications. The phrase seems more meaningful that way.