by Lois Tverberg
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
The word adon (ah-DOAN) means “Lord,” as a term for royalty or authority, and of course, often in reference to God himself. With a possessive suffix, the word adonai means “my Lord,” and is used when displaying an attitude of obedient submission to a greater power. When we refer to God as Adonai, we are saying that he is sovereign and in authority over us personally.
We can learn interesting things about Jesus by how he is addressed using the term, “Lord.” Throughout the gospels Jesus is addressed with respect by strangers as “rabbi” or “teacher.” Rarely is he addressed using his common name, Jesus, and only by demons (Mark 1:24) and a few who didn’t know him. But Jesus’ disciples and others who believed in him referred to him as “Lord,”1 suggesting that they were giving him great honor, with the understanding that he is the Messianic King.
To call Jesus, “Lord” is using a term for addressing royalty, like saying “Your Majesty” or “Your Highness.” It is also a common term for addressing God himself, and has a hint of worshipping Jesus as God. It is interesting that even though the demons know that he is the Son of God, they refuse to use the word Lord to address him (Luke 4:34, 40)!
To call him Lord is to say that he is the King that God has sent who has a right to reign over us. Jesus even seems to expect that those who call him Lord obey him — he said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). According to Paul, those who are saved have two things: both a belief in the atoning work of Jesus, and a commitment to honor him as their own Lord and King. As Paul says,
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
See Listening to the Language of the Bible, by Lois Tverberg and Bruce Okkema, En-Gedi Resource Center, 2004. This is a collection of devotional essays that mediate on the meaning of biblical words and phrases in their original setting.
For a friendly, bite-sized Bible study of five flavorful Hebrew words, see 5 Hebrew Words that Every Christian Should Know, by Lois Tverberg, OurRabbiJesus.com, 2014 (ebook).