Surprisingly, the central theme of the Bible is not that Jesus is the Savior–although He certainly is–but that the Savior is King.
Hidden in plain sight is the incomprehensible fact that we are not saved by a lifeguard sitting on an elevated chair at the beach, but by the Almighty Eternal Creator and King of all that is!
This great King left His throne to jump into the depths of sin’s turbulent ocean of filth and danger to save us by sacrificing Himself.
Yet somehow lost in this great story is that our Savior is the eternal King.
This under-appreciation for the infinite greatness and majesty of Jesus has caused us to succumb to the dangerous idea that He exists primarily to save us in one way or another.
First, the idea is dangerous because it’s false.
Second, it’s dangerous because the default of sinful human nature, coupled with the self-idolatry of American culture, further develops the idea into an expectation that the Savior aspect of Jesus will manifest continually to meet our every need and desire–as we define needs and desires.
In effect, our concept of Jesus as Savior and nothing more causes us to see Him as our servant. He’s here solely to make our self-centered lives better.
Jesus Christ Is King
We hear how Jesus is Savior, but very little of how Jesus is Lord—or King, as I will emphasize in this article. Yet, unless we know Jesus as King, we can’t know Him as Savior.
The Bible is filled with references to Jesus as Christ, King, Lord, or some equivalent term. But the greatest depiction of Jesus as the great King is here.
It’s a picture of the second coming of Jesus Christ to the earth to exercise His kingly authority over the wicked:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.Revelation 19:11-16
The world may refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as King, and the Church may have forgotten that He is King. But He is King nonetheless.
The day is fast approaching when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, or King:
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11
Paul Preached “King Jesus”
The American Church aggressively pushes a Jesus that can be accepted in halves: Savior now and King when you can get around to it–if ever.
This greatly popularizes the message with the unrepentant masses. But it does nothing to increase the kingdom of God.
Ironically, we find that Paul’s presentation of Jesus Christ was nothing like ours. He believed that Jesus is God.
I know this sounds elementary. You may snicker and ask, Doesn’t every Christian believe this?
You would think so.
However, a careful (and honest) study of our lives and church priorities and practices reveal that we know and believe very little about the greatness of Jesus as God and King.
Jesus Christ is God. He is King. He has absolute authority and power. His Word is final. He is the Eternal Creator, and as such He has absolute claim over all that is.
That includes us.
This was the message of Paul: Jesus Christ is God and King and Savior.
Paul Emphasized Jesus Is King
In Thessalonica, Paul’s enemies accused him of turning the world upside down with the message “that there is another king, one Jesus,” (Acts 17:6,7).
They lived in the time of Roman emperors. Emperors exercised absolute authority over vast regions that may have included kings. So it was possible for kings to co-exist with an emperor as long as he was careful to submit to the emperor.
I mention this because it was possible for Paul to present Jesus as king in a less offensive way. He could have followed the seeker-friendly pattern of modern false preachers.
Paul could have strategically used the term “king” in respect to Jesus, and thus protect his conscience. Simultaneously, he could have stripped it of anything practical that resembled the authority of a king, and thus protect his butt.
Thankfully, Paul wasn’t a coward. Nor was he seeking to protect his reputation. Nor was he seeking to keep the money flowing. Nor was he trying to attract false converts.
He was trying to please his King. And when you live as though Jesus is your King, you will make enemies.
First, Paul presented Christ as King.
The sinners of that day knew there was only one king per kingdom. If Christ truly was King, He would have absolute rule over their lives. They would have to submit to His moral law. They’d be required to change their entire lives.
This was too much!
Second, Paul lived his message.
Paul not only presented Christ as King. He lived as though he believed Christ is King.
Unlike American Christianity, which contradicts the message that Christ is King, Paul’s life added an exclamation point to the offensive message that Jesus is King.
Paul was, therefore, doubly repugnant to the Thessalonians.
American Church Denies Jesus As King
This seems an impossible statement. Don’t we have Christian songs that mention Jesus as King? Don’t we every now and then (more then than now) hear a preacher mention that Jesus is King? Then how can I say the American church denies Jesus as King?
The reason I make this claim is that it is now extremely popular for the church to present Jesus to the world as inoffensively as possible. This non-biblical presentation is in fact another Jesus.
A Jesus Who is no King at all.
The American Church Preaches Another Jesus
Jesus warned that in the last days deceivers would offer various versions of Him:
…there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.Matthew 24:24
I used to apply this warning to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, or some movement like the New Age.
In a very limited way that does apply. Yet I have little fear of any of these types of antichrist spirits seducing God’s elect. (My fellow Charismatics and their susceptibility to New Age practices is an exception to my statement.)
Is it possible for Christians to be deceived by obvious false prophets? Yes. Is it probable? No.
The great threat to the Church is not antichrist spirits that openly deny the deity and kingship of Jesus Christ. After all, the elect knows that preachers who openly deny that Jesus is the Eternal King are false prophets.
These saints are they of whom it is written:
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.John 10:5
In contrast, the great threat to the Church are false prophets who verbally agree that Jesus is King, but whose doctrines subtly teach otherwise. This is done by preaching Jesus is God, but watering down His commands so much that the end result is functionally we are God.
If there is one legacy of the American Church, it is that we are extremely proficient at changing the glory of God into the image of man. We offer people the name of Jesus, but not the Person of Jesus.
To put it more plainly, we offer the benefits of the kingdom without the King of the kingdom.
American Church Preaches A Jesus Who Accepts Our Terms Of Service
If a six-year-old child offers her parents their own home, car, food, and other possessions, the parents may find it amusing. But they wouldn’t consider it as anything other than entertainment. This is how we appear to King Jesus when we offer to negotiate with Him about giving Him what is already His.
Of course, in the context of being temporary custodians of His goods, we have the ability to be faithful over His property and gifts. But it’s absolutely laughable that any created being would think he offers God anything that isn’t His already.
Now what is even more ridiculous is for a created being to think he can offer the King only part of what is His. Or to think he can offer the King His own possessions, but with certain self-serving stipulations attached.
“I’ll give to You and serve You, but only under these conditions.”
What king would agree to such a thing? Kings don’t negotiate; they dictate. So where do we get the idea that we can negotiate our level of service and obedience with King Jesus?
You may rightfully challenge the idea that preachers are presenting such a Jesus to sinners. You may also challenge the idea that sinners are receiving such a Jesus.
I agree that most ministers guilty of this sin don’t do it in an obvious way. Instead, they do it in a less obvious, but more lethal way.
And sinners who go through the outward motions of receiving Christ (raising their hand, standing, going to the front of the room, saying a prayer, etc.) don’t normally say, “Okay, God, here are my terms.”
What both groups are guilty of, however, are tacitly doing the above. We’ll now look at one popular way this is done.
American Church Offers Jesus As Savior, But Not As Lord
Romans 10:9 is one of the most popular Scriptures used to lead people to Christ. Yet it is one of the most misrepresented and misunderstood in the Bible.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
I have probably heard this Scripture used a hundred times “to win a soul.” Yet it’s rare that I don’t hear it used in a way that emphasizes Jesus as Savior without de-emphasizing Jesus as King.
But that Scripture states plainly that a sinner must embrace Jesus as King [Lord] to know him as Savior. It doesn’t say the sinner confesses Jesus as Savior. It says he confesses Him as Lord.
That is a huge difference.
And I shouldn’t have to say this, but actually I do. As useful as Romans 10:9 is, it is a mistake to pluck it out of a full conversation in Romans and try to use it in isolation, as though that single verse is all God said on the subject of the conversion process.
Unfortunately, though, this is what happens when church tradition becomes king instead of Jesus.
Surprisingly, in contrast to the modern Church’s use of Romans 10:9 to emphasize Jesus as Savior, the Bible dramatically emphasizes Jesus as Lord, or King.
Bible Emphasizes Jesus As King More Than Savior
There are approximately forty direct biblical references to God as Savior. Yet there are approximately four thousand references of God as King or equivalent! For every one time that God is called Savior, He is called King or Lord one hundred times.1
That’s a 100 to 1 ratio!
Even so, there is no conflict in Jesus being King and also Savior. But what should we emphasize? King Jesus or Savior Jesus? Does it make sense that we de-emphasize about God what He emphatically emphasizes about Himself?
Of course, the question this prompts is what will happen if we raise the Lord’s kingship to the prominence given it in the Bible? Won’t that in turn de-emphasize Jesus as Savior?
What Happens If We Emphasize Jesus As King?
Won’t it scare away sinners if we tell them God is a King who deserves and demands obedience instead of only telling them how much He loves them?
The answer is yes and no.
Some sinners are turned on by the idea of a God of love, but are turned off if you tell them that the God of love demands repentance from sin and obedience to His word to escape His wrath.
These are the fish Jesus said should be taken out of the gospel net and thrown back into the water:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.Matthew 13:47-48
These were gathered by the gospel net, but were proven unacceptable due to their lack of repentance. They want to remain a “bad” fish, but be treated as a “good” fish. It doesn’t work that way.
Other sinners have received such a revelation of their own wickedness and the evil of this world that they are ecstatic to hear the good news of Jesus Christ as King and Savior.
It is liberating to them to learn that the holy King of eternity who hates sin and punishes sinners loved them enough to die for their sins, and that He has provided a way for them to live above the corruption of the world.
The narrow road of salvation and the command of Jesus, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24) doesn’t scare them off.
Instead, it attracts them. For they see Jesus not simply as Savior, but as King.
Most People Aren’t Told About King Jesus
Unfortunately, however, multitudes of people are never given the chance to decide for or against true repentance and devotion to God. Instead they get a version of “God loves you. Just accept Jesus. It’s easy!”
And, of course, although Jesus said following Him is like a daily crucifixion that begins with self-denial (Matthew 16:24) and includes a radical change in thought, speech, and behavior (Matthew 5-7) that will cause tribulation (John 16:33) and cause the world to hate us (John 15:18-20) and may lead to beatings, imprisonment, and death (Matthew 10:16-25), false ministers find a way around this hard path.
Jesus the King is solely presented to sinners as the divine genie in the bottle who is released to serve us once we acknowledge certain historical facts about His death and resurrection.
Thus, Jesus our King is reduced to Jesus our servant simply by mouthing some words.
Jesus The King Refuses To Be Jesus Our Servant
An event happened that perfectly depicts what I am trying to say:
And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.John 6:2
A great multitude followed Jesus from place to place, not because they were captivated by His words of eternal life and liberating morality, but because they saw Him perform miracles.
There are always those who will follow a miracle-worker to the ends of the world, but will not follow Jesus Christ across the street. (Presently, it’s the so-called “prophets” who get this kind of devotion.)
But didn’t they follow Jesus? you ask. Yes, they physically followed Jesus. But they didn’t follow Jesus the Son of God, the Eternal King. They followed Jesus the prophet, the miracle-worker.
The difference is this. We all follow our concept of Christ.
If our concept or understanding of Jesus is correct, we follow the real Christ. However, if our concept of Christ is incorrect, we follow a false Christ.
This is a religious delusion that afflicts millions of people. They follow a Jesus they have created. They use Scriptures taken out of context, and clever, fleshly reasonings to prop up their wobbly Jesus. But when all is said and done, He’s still unsteady, and he’s still only two feet tall.
Their Jesus simply doesn’t measure up to the Bible’s Jesus.
This same group of people in John 6:2 who were so captivated by Jesus’s miracles did not follow Him according to knowledge. They followed Him according to flesh. There was something about their concept of Christ that appealed to their own fleshly desires.
What is the Real Reason We Follow Christ?
Be extremely suspicious of doctrines that appeal to your flesh. Always remember that “the carnal mind is enmity [opposed] against God,” (Romans 8:7), and that “the flesh lusts against the Spirit,” (Galatians 5:17).
Any doctrine that does not war against the flesh is of the flesh.
These who followed Christ simply because He worked miracles followed Him for the wrong reason. They followed Him not for Who He is, but for what He could do for them.
What about you?
It’s very easy to appear committed to Christ, when actually we’re committed to His blessings. And what’s wrong with this?
What’s wrong with it is, it’s hypocrisy. It’s like a woman who marries a man for his money, or a man who marries a woman for her beauty. What happens when the money and beauty are gone? So are those rascals!
This is why there are so many disillusioned and bitter “Christians” in the church. They came to Christ for the blessings, and when they didn’t get what they wanted, they grew disgruntled with the Lord.
And why shouldn’t they be angry? They were offered Santa Claus Jesus, and a year or two or three later they realize there is no Santa Claus Jesus.
They find there is only King Jesus. And He is no one’s waiter or circus animal. Instead, He expects them to wait on Him and to jump through His hoops, so to speak.
Jesus Refuses To Become Puppet King
Here’s a perfect example of people who wanted to make Jesus king, but with ulterior motives:
Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.John 6:14, 15
Was this not a compliment to Jesus? A show of affection, love, and commitment? No, it was an insult! Why? It was because of at least three reasons.
The crowd was motivated by ignorance instead of revelation.
They were driven by sight rather than revelation. Peter declared Jesus the Christ, and heard Jesus say:
Blessed art you, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but my Father which is in heaven.Matthew 16:17
In contrast, the crowd had not heard the Father say anything.
To them Jesus was nothing but a gifted prophet. Someone who could heal and feed them and otherwise meet their needs.
Examine your heart.
Who is Jesus to you? Do you follow Christ because of what He can do for you? Or do you follow Him because He is God and deserves your worship and service?
Or are you one of those who are angry at the King because He hasn’t answered your prayer or done what you want Him to do? If so, you have judged yourself more wise, righteous, and loving than the Almighty. You have declared yourself king!
Now would be a good time to repent (smile).
Second, “Jesus…perceived that they would come and take him by force…” (vs. 15).
What does this mean? It reveals that beneath the religious facade and excitement were stubborn, unrepentant hearts of self-will. Jesus knew that the crowd that was verbally worshipping Him would resist His will once they knew it.
They would follow Him only as long as He did what they desired. They would seek to force their will upon Him. This was and is absolutely unacceptable to King Jesus.
Examine your heart.
Are you seeking to force your will on God?
One way we do this is by compromising our holiness to attain a fleshly goal. Or we can do it by twisting the Word to accommodate our desires. Or maybe we’re trying to use some faith formula to make God do something. Or maybe we’re seeking a word of prophecy to confirm what we want.
We may even try to force our will on God by feeling sorry for ourselves. We think if we only pity ourselves long enough and loud enough, God will do what we want.
Friend, save yourself some time. I’ve tried it a million times. It doesn’t work!
Third, Jesus was insulted by the false worshippers because they wanted to “make him a king,” (vs. 15).
Again, this seems proper. However, it was improper because they wanted to make Him something He was not—at least not in their eyes.
He wasn’t a king, but they’d make Him one. Problem is, anything people give, they can take back. If they hire you as king, they can fire you as king.
Examine your heart.
Are you offering God something while hanging on to the unspoken thought that you can always change your mind later?
When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.Ecclesiastes 5:4-5
Yes, the Lord is merciful. I have no doubt that if we sincerely vow to God and fail to carry out our genuine desire, He will forgive us.
I also have no doubt that if we play dishonest games with the Lord, and offer Him something with ulterior motives, it will be rejected.
It didn’t work for Cain or Israel. It won’t work for you.
Crowd Offered Jesus Limited Rulership
Yet I feel that what really insulted Jesus was the crowd’s offer of limited rulership. How do we know it was an offer of limited rulership? It’s because they received Him only as a prophet, a man.
If they received Him as a man, they would interact with Him as though He were nothing more than a man.
Unfortunately, many prosperity preachers have deceived multitudes of gullible Christians and false converts into dealing with the Eternal King as nothing more than a man. This won’t end well for them!
We also know the crowd offer Jesus limited rulership because they were willing to force their will on Him. The sign of a true child of the King is that he places the King’s will above his own.
False Teachers and Their Self-Willed Followers Will Be Judged
False teachers have filled our churches with these kinds of self-willed parasites who feed on the life of the church as they demand their way.
What a terribly black and dreadful day it will be when self-acclaimed, self-anointed, and self-appointed ministers of manipulation stand with their deceived multitudes before the Great White Throne of God’s eternal judgment and wrath (Matthew 7:21-23).
An endless night of tears and agony it will be for those who never learned that the King doesn’t take orders; He gives them.
The Crowd Didn’t Really Want Jesus As King
But in the final analysis, perhaps the greatest indictment against this carnal crowd of false worshippers is they didn’t actually want King Jesus. They wanted king Santa Claus.
King Jesus would be accepted only if He showed up with a bag of goodies: healings, miracles, food, answered prayer, and most of all, military and political deliverance from the Romans.
This is not unlike many religious, right-wing American nationalists who will anoint any person as “king” if he or she promises to give them what they want.
Jesus could have ridden the crest of Israel’s social wave of unrest to the throne of limited rulership. However, He knew that if He accepted their offer of rulership, it would be under their terms.
This would effectively strip Him of actual rulership. He would be nothing but an extension of their lusts. A tool to be used to fulfill their sinful and shortsighted desires.
Their offer of limited rulership was DOA. Dead. On. Arrival.
Do You Want Eternal Life?
If you desire to be forgiven and to escape God’s wrath for your sins, you must come to God in the way He prescribes.
This means you must not only look to Him as your Savior, but as your King. Your life is not your own. It belongs to Him.
If you are not yet ready for Jesus to be your king, He is not yet ready to be your Savior. I’ll punctuate this thought by restating a previous Scripture:
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.Matthew 16:24
Let no one deceive you. God rejects every offer to make Him Savior without submitting to Him as Lord. Ask Him to forgive you, and submit to Him now.
- Look up “Lord” in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Now look up “savior.” You’ll see that “Lord,” which is the equivalent of king or master or God, depending upon whom it speaks, is used thousands of times of God. Conversely, God is spoken of as Savior relatively few times.
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