Table of contents
The Doctrine of Jesus Christ
by Fr. Thomas Hopko
"…and In One Lord Jesus Christ…"
The fundamental confession of Christians about their Master is this: Jesus Christ is Lord. It begins in the gospel when Jesus himself asks his disciples who they think that He is:
"But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt 16:16).
Jesus is the Christ. This is the first act of faith which men must make about Him. At His birth, the child of Mary is given the name Jesus, which means literally Saviour (in Hebrew Joshua, the name also of Moses’ successor who crossed the Jordan River and led the chosen people into the promised land). “You will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:31). It is this Jesus who is the Christ, which means the Anointed, the Messiah of Israel. Jesus is the Messiah, the one promised to the world through Abraham and his children.
But who is the Messiah? This is the second question, one also asked by Christ in the gospels-this time not to his disciples, but to those who were taunting him and trying to catch him in his words. “Who is the Messiah?” he asked them, not because they could answer or really wished to know, but in order to silence them and to begin the inauguration of “the hour” for which he had come: the hour of the world’s salvation.
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question saying, “What do you think of the Christ (i.e., the Messiah)?
Whose Son is he? They said to him, “The Son of David.”
He said to them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand till I put thy enemies under thy feet” (Ps 110). If David thus calls him Lord, how is he his son?”And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions (Matt 22:41-46).
After Jesus’ resurrection, inspired by the same Holy Spirit who inspired David, the apostles and all members of the Church understood the meaning of his words. Jesus is the Christ. And the Christ is the Lord. This is the mystery of Jesus Christ the Messiah, namely that He is the One and Only Lord, identified with the God Yahweh of the Old Testament.
We saw already how Yahweh was always called Adonai, the Lord, by the people of Israel. In the Greek Bible the very word Yahweh was not even written. Instead, where the word Yahweh was written in Hebrew, and where the Jews said Adonai, the Lord, the Greek Bible simply wrote Kyrios—the Lord. Thus, the Son of David, which was another way of saying the Messiah, is called Kyrios, the Lord.
For the Jews, and indeed for the first Christians, the term Lord was proper to God alone: “God is the Lord and has revealed Himself unto us” (Ps 11:8). This Lord and God is Yahweh; and it is Jesus the Messiah as well. For although Jesus claims that “the Father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28), he claims as well: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30).
Believing in “One Lord Jesus Christ” is the prime confession of faith for which the first Christians were willing to die. For it is the confession which claims the identity of Jesus with the Most High God.