Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
For those of us who already profess Jesus is Lord, we see that day as a day of celebration. Finally, everyone everywhere will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.
Jesus Christ is Lord.
Glory be to God! Jesus Christ is Lord!
But what about those who will be acknowledging this for the first time?
Sadly, most people that I talk to think that this will be a day of pain. Many think that God will exact forced confessions. He will by brute force force people to their knees. The power and pain combined will cause the people to say “Uncle.”
This raw power will cause people to say, “Jesus is Lord.”
It is time to ruffle some theological feathers.
Every knee will bow and every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord. What constitutes a confession?
The Greek words for confess Homologeo [HAW MAW LAW GEH OH] and profess [EX OM OL OG EH’ O] give us comparable English words:
Say the same as another
Not to refuse
Not to deny
These hardly sound like words used to describe something that was forced out of a person. Even in our legal system, a forced confession is not considered a valid confession.
Even in an open and closed case with an accused suspect that that has confessed to committing the crime with which he is charged, judges conduct an allocution.
That is the judge conducts his own inquiry so he is satisfied that the accused did what he has confessed.
There is a word that we might attach to these many definitions of confess and profess: genuine.
The words must be genuine.
The Christian world is very much acquainted with forced professions of faith and of sin.
Consider the Crusades and the Inquisition.
Profess your faith or I will cut your head off. Surely that profession of faith is from the heart.
Confess you sin or your crime or we will continue the torture. Confess and we will kill you quickly but let your family live.
Yes, the Christian faith has had some rather repulsive episodes in its history. We look back and say, “Really, what were they thinking?”
And then we go and say, “One day all of you that have not professed Jesus as Lord will be brought to your knees by power and pain.”
Yeah! God’s gonna get ‘em!
The very things that we find disgusting in the Crusades and the Inquisition will be righteous in the hands of God?
Does that dog hunt?
That is the God that so many present to the world.
The God of all creation who saw fit to endow humankind with free will, will extract that freedom to choose God over self to obtain the words, Jesus is Lord?
The God who is not slow in coming but waits with patience so that all may come to salvation will suddenly set aside his everlasting love for a quick fix to hear that his Son is Lord? That might make for a great Shakespearean play, but hardly seems consistent with the God that has been revealed to us.
God will not be mocked.
How then would he arrange for forced confessions?
Why would he desire false gratitude?
Why would he manipulate our lips to say what he longs to hear from our hearts?
Let’s examine the author of these provocative statements about Jesus is Lord and bended knees. That author is, of course, Paul.
We begin with some words of salvation found in Romans 10:9-10.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Then we come to those familiar and poetic words in the second chapter of Philippians.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
And then we read from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth as he begins a discussion of Spiritual Gifts.
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:1-3
Now we know that you can hand a person who is just learning English a piece of paper that reads, JESUS IS LORD, and he or she can read it or say it and it have no real meaning. But a person may only confess that Jesus is Lord by God’s own Spirit. Our professions of faith came from God’s Holy Spirit.
Logic, analysis, deduction, reasoning, argument, and other cognitive processes may confirm what we confess, but it takes the work of the Holy Spirit for us to profess that Jesus is Lord.
Logic, analysis, deduction, reasoning, argument, and other cognitive processes are used by the world to dispute the word of God. So I ask that we consider one more passage from Paul’s letters. This one comes from his second letter to the church in Corinth.
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:4
We all know people like this. They just can’t see. They just won’t accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. They are blind.
We know the truth. That truth is that Jesus is Lord. The Truth is Jesus, yet so many remain blinded to the truth. They cannot confess, profess, declare, proclaim, or celebrate that Jesus is Lord. They are blind.
But one day that blindness will be gone.
One day everyone everywhere will see the Truth. They will see the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
One day the god of this age will blind no one anymore.
And when all have been given their sight they will have no choice but to acknowledge the love of God that we know in Christ.
Their eyes will see that God is love.
Their voices will declare from their hearts that JESUS IS LORD!
Their blindness will be gone and the strongest force in the universe will bring them to their knees. And there will be pain. There will be incredible pain.
For the strongest force in the universe is love and once every heart sees how much and how long God has loved them even in their sin and apostasy and rebellion, hearts will break and knees will buckle.
The only words that anyone will be able to say on that day are Jesus is Lord!
And unlike the forced confession, the true profession of the heart will bring glory to God.
Consider the 10th and 11th verses from this 2nd chapter of Philippians in the Good News translation.
And so, in honor of the name of Jesus
all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
will fall on their knees,
and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
To the glory of God the Father—
--Not to an acknowledgement of brute strength.
--Not in submission to a vengeful God.
--But to the glory of God the Father.
Perhaps that stirs the theological pot a little. Perhaps it provokes some further discussion, but what is the point if every knee will bow and every tongue confess anyway?
What is the point for us?
What difference does it make to us right now?
We need to understand that we take the good news to a world that is blind. There are churches and priests and pastors and evangelists all over the globe but the world is blind to the truth.
The world does not know our God.
The world sees a God of vengeance.
The world sees a God of “Thou shalt nots.”
The world sees a God of condemnation.
But we know a God of love.
We know a God who loves us with an everlasting love.
We know a God who is love.
We know the strongest force in the universe is love.
The reason that the world cannot see is that they are blind. They don’t know the truth. And when all they know of Christ’s church is condemnation of other people and groups, they will not see the truth. We help reinforce their blindness.
People blinded to the truth come to us for answers and we give them sunglasses. We preach 248 do's and 365 don'ts with special emphasis on the don'ts. We even add our own taxonomy of sin to the mix.
We must give them love instead of condemnation.
We must help them see the truth.
Our prayers are not so much that we can scare the hell out of someone, or scare someone out of hell: “Believe in Jesus or burn in hell!”
Our prayers must be that people be given eyes to see and ears to hear.
Our prayers must be that our hearts not be judgmental but that we desire the desire of God’s heart—that none shall perish.
Our prayers must be fully that God’s own Spirit live within us and that the words, Jesus is Lord, come genuinely to our lips every day. That we celebrate these words: Jesus is Lord.
Our prayers are that every tongue that confesses, Jesus is Lord, brings glory to God.
So we are emissaries of good news, living passionately as Christ’s ambassadors, as living letters from Jesus himself, and vessels privileged to speak the truth.
The truth is that Jesus is Lord!
We gladly kneel to his authority. We profess his Lordship. We have eyes to see. We are no longer blind. We have ears to hear and know how sweet the words, Jesus is Lord, truly are.
Our commission is to bring the truth a blind world.
Let our hearts long for the day that every tongue confesses Jesus is Lord to the glory of God.
Don't read this as a soteriological message. Read it from the perspective of examining our own hearts. Do we seek the condemnation of those who did not profess faith in Jesus when we did or has God shaped us in the image of Jesus? Do we too long that none shall perish? Do we long to bring glory to God in the genuine professions of everyone above, below, and here on earth?
Do we long to hear, JESUS CHRIST IS LORD to the glory of God?