We conclude our brief look at what most consider to be the earliest creed in Christianity: “Jesus is Lord.” We’ve acknowledged that it contains personal transformation, religious scandal, and cultural subversion.
Today, we add the element of ecclesial creation.
In other words, Jesus is the Head of the Body, the Church (Colossians 1:18). In the same way that we cannot allow ourselves or a government eclipse Christ, neither can we allow institutional religion to surpass him. There is a huge difference between being an ecclesiastical institutionalist and being a faithful disciple.
The distinction gets harder to maintain among those of us who have tried to be both. It is no sin to serve the Church, but it is a sin to put our loyalty to it above loyalty to Jesus.
This is probably why God has had his hardest time with “religious professionals”—false prophets, ungodly priests, blind Sadducees and Pharisees, Christian clergy, and seminary professors—to name a few. Even near the close of the New Testament era, “savage wolves” were wreaking havoc under the guise of being pastors and shepherds (Acts 20:29-30).
We clergy types can do no other than simply stand and “take our medicine” against these valid charges which now extend over more than 2,000 years. But these are not just words for preachers; they are for every believer, because every Christian “ministers” somewhere to someone.
When we say, “Jesus is Lord,” we are preserving Christianity without falling into churchianity. But this does not mean what some today mean when they call for a “churchless Christianity.” The phrase has limited, but not comprehensive value.
When we say, “Jesus is Lord,” we are not separating the Head from the Body. That’s not spirituality; that’s a decapitation.
But we are saying that Jesus is the One who defines in his person what it means to be church in its collectiveness. We are individual members of a larger Body—a Body with a Head—very much a “churched people”—but Christians, not “churchians.”
Amen, Dr. Harper. But the mystery remains for most Christians concerning what the Church that Jesus is building looks like… for he prayed for his Church to be One!