“You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am” (John 13:13).
But is He? That is the vital question.
Christianity knows Him as Saviour, as Provider, as Protector; but how many Christians know Him as Teacher and Lord. To know Him as Teacher is to be taught by Him, through the Holy Spirit, of Whom Jesus said;
“He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13).
Today, the Christian world abounds in “teachers”; we are told that teachers will face a harsher judgement (James 3:1), but this does not seem to deter those who, having acquired a little knowledge through Bible colleges and similar institutions, rush out seeking to find an appointment as a pastor and teacher and thus, set themselves up as rulers over God’s people.
This is a great folly, for they are what Jesus described as Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6), whom he hates. The term Nicolaitans is made up of nikao, meaning “to conquer”, or “overcome”, and laos, meaning “people”, especially “people assembled”. What the term implies is that the Nicolaitans are those who overpower God’s people so that they become rulers, especially rulers of His people in assembly. This term cannot be applied to Paul, who was ordained by God, not men, as a teacher of the gentiles (2 Timothy 1:11).
However, it is the responsibility of each believer to see that no man exercises rulership, for Jesus also told us to “hold fast to what you have, that no man take your crown” (Revelation 3:11); what we have is the Holy Spirit, whose divine responsibility is to teach us and guide us into all truth, and the Word of God, the logos that is also the source of the rhema.
In the New Covenant, made with Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 31:31), into which have been grafted the gentile believers called and chosen by Christ, God makes this declaration;
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel After those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and on their heart also will I write them: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his fellow-citizen, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’: For all shall know me, From the least to the greatest of them” (Hebrews 8:10-11).
There is no need, in the New Covenant, for anyone to teach his brother, for all will know the Lord; if we know the Lord, therefore, we must seek the teaching of the Holy Spirit of God, not of men. In the Old Covenant, it was the doctrines of men, as Jesus called them (Matthew 15:9), that led Israel astray; the scribes and Pharisees, He said, took away from the people the “key of knowledge” (Luke 11:52). The same has happened in the New Covenant, in which practices it has replicated Israel, to the extent that it might truthfully be called Old Covenant Christianity.
As John the Beloved wrote to the gatherings of God’s people;
“And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2:27).
So much for Jesus as Teacher; what about Lord? He is also called Lord, but Lordship is surely a matter of fact, not formal address. Whether someone is lord of another can be seen in their life; being a “Christian” today is not having Jesus as Lord. In any event, we are not called to be Christians but to be like Christ Jesus; sons of God, doing those things that are pleasing to Him (John 8:29).
Lordship is seen in the obedience of the subject; our Lord never enforces our obedience, for to do that would rob us of our free will, and make us less in His image than He has made us to be. Jesus Christ, in His carnality, fulfilled God’s image of man, as He made man to be; that model is there for us to follow. To Levi, called Matthew, He said, “Follow Me” and “he forsook all, and rose up and followed Him” (Luke 5:27-28); Jesus said that He knew His sheep (John 10:27); and then He described the qualities of His sheep that enabled Him to know them; they “hear My voice” and they “follow Me”.
So Jesus is our Lord when His voice is heard, when He is followed, when our lives are likened to His, when all the things that we do are pleasing to Him as He was pleasing to the Father. This is eternal life, and we must obtain to it in this life.
“And working together with him we entreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1).
What is it to receive “the grace of God in vain”? It is to receive the Word without power, unlike the Thessalonians, who received the gospel, “not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Receiving the grace of God in vain is to receive the promises of God without embracing the responsibilities and duties. It is to receive Jesus as Saviour, Provider, Healer etc., but to deny Him as Lord and absolute Master of our lives.
The kingdom of God is made up of those who are described as brothers of Christ (Hebrews 2:11). The use of this terminology suggests that there is a kinship of nature and character, as well as spirit, since we are all to have the one Father eternally. That is why, in this life, He is to be Teacher and Lord; who better to teach us how to be sons of the Most High God but the first born, who suffered as we suffer, and who was tempted as we are tempted, but who was perfected in obedience.
Christ Jesus is the only One who can be our Teacher and Lord, if we are to inherit that eternal life which is “reserved in heaven” for us by the mercy of God and the grace of Christ Jesus (1 Peter 1:4).