Jesus is the most strikingly unique man in human history. The New Testament Gospel accounts record that he spoke like no other man (John 7:46), he did works like no other man (John 15:24), his origins were like no other man’s (Luke 1:35), he was without sin like no other man (Heb 4:15), his brutal death was based upon false charges (Matt 27:24); yet unlike other men he did not revile but entrusted himself to God (1 Pet 2:21-23) and his resurrection from the dead marks him out as triumphant over death (Rom 6:9-10). The Apostles repeatedly identify him as the first man to rise from the dead (Col 1:18, Rev 1:5, Acts 26:23, 1 Cor 15:20) and the only person who has been invited to sit on the right hand of God (Heb 1:13). All of these characteristics and more mark out the Lord Jesus Christ as the most unique man in history.

The Jewish leaders in the first century did not have the same understanding of the Bible that Jesus had. They were often in conflict with him. Their traditional understanding had coloured their think­ing so that when Jesus taught, they often argued with him and were offended by his words (Matt 15:12). Towards the end of his ministry, the leaders of the Jews sought to trap him with difficult ques­tions that would put him in conflict with both the Romans and with the Law of Moses. After he answered them in the most wonderful fashion, he then turned the questioning back upon them. This brings us to Matthew 22:41-45.

“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, ‘What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?’ They say unto him, ‘The Son of David’. He saith unto them,’ How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?” If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?’”

Jesus’ questions were these: How can the Christ be both David’s son and David’s Lord? Whose son is he? If he is David’s son why does David call him Lord? The questions baffled them, and we, like­wise, must think carefully about this matter as it is based upon some very important and fundamental concepts.

The question Jesus asks is primarily based upon what David wrote in Psalm 110:1, which is one of the most often quoted Old Testament references found in the New Testament (see the following ta­ble). We will now review some of the main concepts that are woven into Jesus’ question, for his words are based upon a basic model which underpins all that the Apostles later taught concerning him. If we wish to know Jesus, then we need to understand this basic model and how it is to be understood.

Jesus as Lord

The word ‘Lord’ is a title of honour, indicating that the holder of the title is worthy of respect and reverence. Both the Greek and the Hebrew words refer to a master of servants, or a leader of men. The context in which it is used in Psalm 110:1, and its many NT references, expresses the idea of rulership and authority. The precise word translated as “my Lord” in this Psalm is the Hebrew word Adoni, and not Adonay as many wrongly suggest. Adoni is derived from Adon (Lord), with the ‘i’ sound at the end indicating ‘my’, as in “my Lord”. Adon is a title that is commonly used of men in authority, whereas Adonay is mostly used of God or His direct ambassadors, the angels (eg Exod 23:20-21; Gen 18:31 etc).

This Hebrew Adon is used in Psalm 105:21, which speaks of Joseph being made Lord (Adon) over Egypt. Another example is found in 1 Kings 1:17,24,31,37, where King David is called “my Lord Adoni the king”. This is the exact same Hebrew word that we find in Psalm 110:1. Some Trinitarian ex­positors have suggested that this title ‘Lord’ is actu­ally a title of God. This is a simple, but common mistake that comes from confusing the Hebrew word Adonay with Adon.

Direct ReferencesLess Direct References
Matt 22:44Matt 26:64
Mark 12:36Mark 16:19
Luke 20:42-43Acts 7:55-56
Acts 2:34-35Rom 8:34
Acts 5:311 Cor 15:25
Heb 1:13Eph 1:20-22
Col 3:1
Heb 1:3
Heb 8:1
Heb 10:12-13
Heb 12:2
1 Pet 3:22

Psalm 110 is one of David’s psalms. It is evident that in Psalm 110:1 David is calling this future descendant of his “my Lord”, thus recognising him as superior to himself. Jesus directly referred to this point in Matthew 22:41-45, which means that it must be important. It is often suggested that the Pharisees thought that the promised Christ would be a lesser man than David, as their traditions held that a son would always be inferior to a father. But is this really what Jesus is referring to or is there more?

The title ‘Lord’ carries a much older and more extensive meaning than the title ‘Christ’. This is the point that Jesus is making. Importantly, we know that David himself was called God’s anointed (ie Christ – 1 Sam 16:1,12-13) and yet even he called this future King his Lord. The title Christ primarily refers to God’s anointed King of Israel, and accord­ing to the promise, a descendant of King David. As we will see, the title, ‘Lord,’ has a much larger and more ancient meaning.

The book of Acts introduces us to the full title of Jesus. Early on, Peter declares on the Day of Pentecost, that at his resurrection God made Jesus “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Importantly, we do not find this title ‘Lord’ broadly used in the Gospel accounts in the sense intended in Psalm 110. In the four Gospel accounts we find that the big question among the Jews was whether Jesus was the Christ of God and, as such, the future King of Israel and heir to David’s throne. This emphasis continues into the book of Acts, right up to chapter nine. We therefore find that the Apostles initially went about preaching almost exclusively to the Jews, proving that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 3:6; 4:10; 5:42; 9:22).

This situation changed in the watershed of events that are recorded in Acts 10. Here, the Gospel is preached to the Gentiles and for the first time they were accepted by God outside of the customs of the Law. Prior to this, nearly all believers were of Jewish, Samaritan or Proselyte origin. As a consequence, up until the conversion of Cornelius, all the early Christians kept the customs of the Law of Moses and probably worshipped in the Temple. This appears to have continued, in general terms, among Jewish believers up until the destruction of the Temple, in 70 AD (Acts 15:5; 21:20).

This was also the cause of much of the ongo­ing disunity among early believers, where zealous Jewish Christians attempted to impose some of the practices of Law upon the Gentiles (Acts 15:1). This caused much confusion and explains why Paul laboured upon the concepts of faith and justifica­tion, outside the Law, in most of his writing (eg Rom 14:4-6; Gal 3:1-5; Col 2:16-17). We can see a clear indication of this divided state of affairs in the events recorded in Acts 21:18-25.

This overt Law-centred bias towards worship changed when Cornelius the Gentile, and those with him, were baptised into the Christian faith outside the requirements of the Law. The events surrounding this record are of great significance in the development of early Christianity. Importantly, it is a peculiar and related fact that the NT is very clearly divided into two equal parts, with the half­way mark found in the vicinity of Acts chapters nine and ten, where Paul is converted and the Gentiles called. The first half of the NT clearly records the ministry that was primarily directed to the Jews, whereas the second half focuses primarily upon the Gentiles, who also had been called by God into the Gospel of Christ.

When Peter first entered into the house of Cornelius the Gentile, he began to preach using words which recalled Jesus’ ministry to the Jews. He firstly said that God sent His word to Israel, “preaching peace by Jesus Christ”. He then adds the highly significant comment that “he is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). If the title ‘Christ’ means King of the Jews, we might ask, of what relevance is this to non-Jews? Yet the appellation “Lord of all” leaves us in no doubt of Jesus’ relationship to all of God’s creation.

What is significant here is that we find that the formal title of ‘Jesus Christ’ is now changed to ‘The Lord Jesus Christ’. We must not miss the significance of this point – this fuller title of Jesus is first used in Acts 11:17, which recalls the events surrounding the conversion of Cornelius. It appears that even Peter’s understanding was broadened by this experience, as his visions upon the housetop and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles, prior to baptism, clearly show.

We find this full title of ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ used again later at the Jerusalem Conference, which was convened to discuss the basis upon which the Gentiles were accepted into Christ outside the Law (Acts 15:11,26). Thereafter, it became the com­monly used title of Jesus in Paul’s public preaching and in his letters. Paul, of course, is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13). The correla­tion between Paul’s conversion in Acts 9, Cornelius’ conversion in Acts 10 and this being the vicinity of the physical centre of the NT should not be overlooked. (Depending on which version one uses, in English the middle word in the NT is located close to Acts 9:1-2).

Jesus as Lord of all Creation

We will now show that the concept of a ‘Lord’ has its origins back in Genesis and it was here that David’s mind was focused when he wrote Psalm 110. This Psalm is based upon the original purpose of God, which was declared in Genesis 1:26-28: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over (all things) … And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and re­plenish the earth, and subdue it: and have domin­ion over (all things)”.

Dominion = (Hebrew Radah), which means “to rule, have dominion, dominate, tread down.” It is the same word used in Psalm 110:2: “rule thou in the midst of thine enemies”.

Subdue = (Hebrew kabash), which means “to subject, subdue, force, keep under, bring into bondage”.

From this, we can see that the first pair (called man) were given DOMINION over all God’s crea­tion – which is de­fined as all that lived in the sea, air and land – the three great domains that God created.

When we come to Psalm 8, which like Psalm 110 is also a Psalm of David, we can now see how importantly David treated this Genesis reference: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet” (Psa 8:3-6).

Notice how David interprets the concepts of Genesis 1 and turns them into a prophecy about a future “Son of Man”. His use of the term “the Son of Man” in Psalm 8:4 CANNOT apply to Adam, as he was never born as a son of man (the Hebrew word Adam). Being the first man he had no human parents and Adam could hardly be termed the son of Adam. Importantly, the long genealogy in Luke 3:23-38 describes all the sons of Adam but Adam himself is particularly described as “the son of God.” Importantly, David himself interprets the dominion given to man as having “all things under his feet”. This is very important as it provides the key to Psalm 110:1, which is another Psalm of David.

We can confirm that this is the way that the NT disciples understood this reference, when we carefully review the words found in Hebrews 2:5-11: “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak”. Here, the context is focusing upon the Gospel message of hope in the kingdom age to come. The world to come is contrasted with the present world, which is in subjection to the angels. The short story is that the first pair were originally given the dominion over all God’s works, yet as a consequence of their disobedience they came under the do­minion of sin which ruled over them and all their descendants. For this reason Sin is portrayed in the Scriptures as a king. Sin pays the wages of death and its evil rule is evident everywhere (Rom 5-8; John 8:34­ 44). As a result of Sin’s influence, the dominion over this world was taken from the first pair and temporarily given to the angels (Dan 2:21; 4:17,32).

From here, Hebrews then quotes directly from Psalm 8. This is a very important reference and one that holds the key to the basis of Jesus’ Lord-ship: “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb 2:8-9).

In this reference, the writer to the Hebrews interprets both Psalm 8 and Genesis 1, and shows us that Jesus is the one spoken of in the beginning. Originally, Adam was to exercise dominion over all things, all was to be under his feet. Adam, because of sin, lost this dominion. God raised up a “last Adam”, also called “the second man” (1 Cor 15:45-47), who is to inherit all that was originally purposed and promised. These concepts are related to birth-right and not only birth-order. For this reason, Adam was called “the figure of him that was to come” (Rom 5:14). The NT regularly uses the Adam-Jesus model that both compares and contrasts the two. We know that this model underpins much of the NT theology and that the first union also clearly typifies the relationship of believers to Christ. Paul teaches that, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the ecclesia” (Eph 5:32).

Furthermore, we know from Genesis 1:26-28 and 5:1-2 that God’s purpose was to make man in God’s image and likeness. In like manner we find that the NT regularly speaks of Jesus as the one “who is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15; 2 Cor 4:4; Heb 1:3). It is for this reason that, “Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me” (John 12:44-45). Again, in John 14:9: “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” In these references Jesus is not proclaiming his divinity or his Godhead but rather the realisation of God’s originally declared purpose. He was a man in the image and likeness of God.

In like manner, disciples are to be “born again” (John 3:3,5) that they may be now considered “sons of God” (John 1:12; Rom 8:14; Phil 2:15; 1 John 3:1-2). They have put on “the new man” which is “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24). They are being “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col 3:10). In all these references we can clearly hear the echo of the pattern that comes from the original Genesis model.

The writer to the Hebrews continues by describ­ing the identity and humanity of the captain of our salvation. He came in our sinful flesh. We share one Father, even God. He goes on from here to describe Jesus as a man, tempted in all points like us, that he might destroy that which corrupted God’s purpose, even the devil. In this place he uses the graphic and antagonistic figure of the devil to describe the Law of Sin that dwells and has dominion in all of us (Rom 7:17-21; 8:3): “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bring­ing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb 2:10-11).

In this place he uses the graphic and antagonistic figure of the devil to describe the Law of Sin that dwells in all of us

Importantly, we find further explanation of this subject in a later chapter of Hebrews. We find the sacrificial death of Christ linked to the principles of Psalm 110:1. Coupled with Hebrews 2:5-11, this reference beautifully explains to us that all things are not yet under Jesus’ feet. That day is still in the future: “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool” (Heb 10:12-13).

Jesus is called “the heir of all things” (Heb 1:2). The “all things” refers to the creation described in Genesis – that we as “joint-heirs with Christ” will inherit (Rom 8:17). This is again what Paul means when he says that God “hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 6:2: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” In these references he is speaking about ruling and bringing justice to the world, not about bringing the day of judgement (ie condemnation).

(To be continued)