A little while back a friend asked me to explain my belief that God made Jesus Lord at his resurrection until Jesus turns over the lordship to God in the end. Here is what I wrote in response:
I wanted to quickly answer your question about what I said regarding Jesus as Lord, etc. Basically the lines you pulled out are simply restatements of the teaching of Jesus and his apostles (Paul, Peter, et. al.) as we find it in the Gospels, Acts, and the letters of Paul. The teaching is that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah or Christ of Israel. This just means he is the promised (by God to Israel) king, or what’s the same thing, the lord. (Messiah is Hebrew for “anointed one” and Christ is Greek for the same thing; applied to Jesus they both mean the anointed king). Furthermore, the claim is that it was at his resurrection in particular that God installed or appointed Jesus as lord over all things. In other words, the claim is that at his resurrection, God made the human being Jesus king or lord over the entire universe.
God is by nature, of course, the ultimate lord over all other things, being the creator and sustainer of all things. However, it is the claim of Jesus and his followers (i.e. the Apostles) that God (being so generous with power!) was pleased to make Jesus his “viceregent,” so to speak. God was pleased to share his lordship, or sovereignty, over all things with Jesus. Why? Because of the incredible obedience of Jesus to the mission God gave him. As Paul explains it (perhaps citing a very early Christian hymn that would have been sung in the very early Christian churches):
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who (hymn begins). . . humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow . . . and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Letter to the Philippians, chap. 2)
And here is what Peter said in the first recorded Christian sermon (delivered to a Jewish crowd in Palestine days after the resurrection of Jesus according to the Acts of the Apostles, the sequel to the Gospel of Luke):
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this man . . .you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put him to death. But God raised him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for him to be held in its power. . . . This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God . . . Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts of the Apostles, chap. 2)
And according to the Gospels, the Apostles were simply echoing the teaching of Jesus:
“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . .” (Gospel of Matthew, chap. 28; spoken by the resurrected Jesus to his disciples about the authority God had given him at his resurrection.)
Now the other bit about Jesus turning over the lordship back to God in the end comes from Paul in one of his extant letters to Christians in ancient Corinth. He wrote,
“. . . then comes the end, when he [Jesus] hands over the kingdom to God, the Father, when he has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until He has put all his enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For he has put all things in subjection under his feet. But when he says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that he is excepted who put all things in subjection to him. When all things are subjected to him, then the son himself also will be subjected to the one who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.” (First Letter to the Corinthians, chap. 15)
What all this amounts to is simply the claim that God has made the man Jesus his viceregent, which simply means that God wants people to follow Jesus as master and teacher. Our ultimate allegiance is to remain with God of course, which is why I take it Paul is careful to explain (in the last cited passage) that Jesus’ lordship is not an ultimate, everlasting thing; but still the claim is that God has been pleased to raise Jesus from the dead and give him the highest authority God can possibly give to a person. Now where exactly Jesus is now, I do not know. Descriptors like “at the right hand of God” and “in heaven” are clearly metaphorical for “second in command” and “in the presence of God,” respectively. What the earliest Christians were saying is simply that Jesus is with God, ruling as God’s “right-hand man,” that is, ruling as the man whom God has appointed as his viceregent lord.
In one sentence, then, this was the original, early Christian “creed” if you will (this comes from Paul, again in one of his letters to Christians in ancient Corinth):
“For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through him.” (First Letter to the Corinthians)
This is my confession as well. I am a Christian (God has made Jesus of Nazareth Lord) Unitarian (God is One, the Father). This is in contradistinction to mainstream, trinitarian Christianity, on the one hand, which holds Jesus is God, along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (Jesus is God the Son on this belief), and simple Unitarianism on the other hand, which holds God is strictly one but does not hold Jesus has been raised from the dead and made God’s viceregent Lord and so does not follow Jesus as master in this way (Judaism, for example).