Recently, I’ve heard multiple people talk about receiving Jesus as “leader” of their life. It is imperative that we use Biblical language, especially when we talk about Jesus. And the Bible clearly calls Jesus, Lord.
You may think I’m splitting hairs, but Paul saw this word, Lord, as a central part of salvation in Romans 10:9: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And Philippians 2:11 says: “and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The word lord means:
The word leader, on the other hand, suggests someone with influence, whom people may or may not decide to follow.
If we tell people to receive Jesus as their leader, aren’t we in essence telling them that it’s optional to follow Him?
Nowhere in the NT can I find the apostles referring to Jesus as a mere leader. In fact, if you look up lord and leader in a concordance, you’ll find lord hundreds of times, whereas leader only appears once in the NT in plural form, where Jesus uses it to refer to the Pharisees.
Interestingly, Judas never called Jesus Lord. He referred to him as rabbi. Yet, Peter clearly calls Jesus Lord in multiple places, such as in the story of Jesus calling Peter out of the boat and onto the water in Matthew 14:30, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Thus, the use of the word Lord differentiated Jesus’ true disciples from the false one, Judas. That is how important this is.
The greek word used most of the time in the NT is kyrios (or kurios) and means supreme in authority, controller, or master. Roman Christians had to decide whether they would worship Caesar or Christ. Faithful Christians would say, Christos Kyrios.
Calling Jesus Lord is central to salvation as well as understanding His claim on our lives. To call Him a mere leader is to dilute the Word of God and will likely give people the wrong idea about whom He is.