God Has Made Jesus Lord - Acts 2:36

By J. Dan Gill

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He took the captains of hundreds, the nobles, the governors, and all of the people of the land and brought the king from the house of the LORD. The procession came to the king’s house through the upper gate, and they seated the king on the royal throne. — 2 Chronicles 23:20

Excitement! Pomp and ceremony! Such is the bringing of Solomon into his palace. He is the king of Israel. Because of YHWH’s love for his people, he has given them rulers. He has given them lords.[1]  They are to establish his love, faithfulness, righteousness, mercy and truth.

Serve YHWH (the LORD) and Serve His Rulers

I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King (Isa. 43:15).

The LORD God is their King. Yet he gives to his people men who rule on his behalf. The queen of Sheba tells Solomon:

Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the LORD your God. Because your God loved Israel, to establish them forever, he has made you king so you may rule with justice and righteousness (2 Chron. 9:8).

The throne belongs to the LORD. It is God himself who has placed Solomon on the throne. God’s leaders owe their station to him. They are to follow him and govern on his behalf. As the prophet Samuel explains to the people:

If both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God — then it will be well (1 Sam. 12:14).

Moses tells the people, “You shall fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name” (Deut. 6:13). Ultimately, they are to serve only the LORD. Yet to serve him truly, they must also serve those he appoints. To serve them does not divide allegiance. The people do not serve God’s leaders as being God or persons who are thought to share his Deity. That would be a grave error. Rather, they honor them because it is his will that they do so. Honoring them ultimately brings glory to him who appoints them.

Those whom God makes to be rulers for the people are called “lords.” They are not the LORD God; rather they are made lords by God. Notice a conversation between David and Saul while Saul is king in Israel. In it, David twice addresses Saul as his “lord.” He also refers to himself as Saul’s “servant.”

Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is this your voice, David my son?” And David replied, “Yes, it is, my lord the king.” And David added, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done? What am I guilty of?” (1 Sam. 26:17, 18).

David’s words to Saul recognize him as his superior. The word above for “my lord” in Hebrew is adoni. That word is estimated to occur some 195 times in the Hebrew Bible. As above, it most often indicates a king or other human superior. Adoni is never used for God.[2]

To refer to God’s king as “lord” was day to day language in Israel. To do so was not in opposition to God. These are not competitors to the true God. They are his special agents, his servants for the sake of the people. David calls Saul adoni — “my lord” — because God made him David’s superior.

They Are God’s Anointed Ones

Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, and said, “The LORD has anointed you to be leader over his inheritance” (1 Sam. 10:1).

Saul is the first man to be king of Israel. It is at the direction of God that he and many others after him assume their role as kings. In dedication, oil is poured upon the heads of these men in an inspiring indication of God’s blessings on them. By this anointing, they are consecrated to their office. Such a one may then be referred to as “the LORD’s anointed.” David says regarding Saul:

The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to lift my hand against him; for he is the LORD’s anointed (1 Sam. 24:6).

God anoints those whom he will. People glorify YHWH when they esteem those he has chosen. It is his will that people serve them.

To refer to God’s king as “lord” was day to day language in Israel.

People Greatly Honor Them

Celebration! Singing and dancing! Women of the land come out from their towns with tambourines and songs of joy to welcome Saul and David! They sing a song of exaltation to them because of their exploits (1 Sam. 18:6, 7).

God does not give his glory to any other (Isa. 42:8). Why then do Saul and David receive such adulation and praise? God is “the King of all the earth!” (Ps. 47:7). Why then does Solomon sit on a throne with such splendor and majesty? (2 Chron. 23:20).

The glory of these kings is actually given to them according to the will of God. Notice how God had glorified David as king:

O LORD, the king rejoices in your strength. His joy is great because you give him victory. For you meet him with rich blessings. You set a crown of pure gold on his head. His glory is great through your salvation. You bestow splendor and majesty upon him (Ps. 21:1, 3, 5).

It is God who has bestowed “splendor and majesty” on David; God who has “set a crown of pure gold on his head.” YHWH does not share his place as God with anyone. He does not give the glory of being the sovereign of the universe to any other. But there is a great glory that he gives to those he anoints: those he makes lords.

People Bow to Them

Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our maker (Ps. 95:6).

Bowing or kneeling before another is an extraordinary demonstration of honor or subjection. Doing obeisance can mean literally placing one’s body on the ground before another. By doing these things people humble themselves before God. Yet they also bow before the LORD’s anointed ones. Note another example from David and Saul:

Afterwards, David rose up and went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked back, David bowed with his face to the ground and did obeisance (1 Sam. 24:8).

To bow before an idol — a false god — would be a grievous wrong. It would imply that those bowing were subject to that god.[3]  However, to bow down to one whom God has made lord is pleasing to YHWH.

Bowing before the Lord or before his anointed kings is not the only occasion for demonstrating such honor. An extraordinary example of bowing before a human superior is found in dreams that God gave Joseph when he was a young man. In the dreams, Joseph’s brothers are seen as bowing before him (Gen. 37:5–11). Years later, those dreams are fulfilled in Egypt when his brothers bow before Joseph who has become a great ruler there. Speaking for his brothers, Judah calls Joseph adoni, “my lord” (Gen. 44:18–22). Joseph instructs them to tell their father that “God has made me lord of all Egypt” (Gen. 45:9).

The Scriptures are replete with instances in which the people of the Bible bow before others who are of high rank.[4]  King Solomon shows such honor toward his mother:

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon. … And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed down to her and sat down on  his throne again. Then he had a throne set for his mother, and she sat at his right hand (1 Kings 2:19).

Solomon demonstrates great love and respect for his mother. He bows to her and shows her favor by sitting her at his own right hand. To sit at the right hand of a majesty is an extraordinary honor. It is not a place of equality with a sovereign. However, it indicates that exceptional glory has been bestowed upon a person.[5]

Worship the LORD and Worship His Kings

To worship means to give honor, reverence, or homage.[6]  The people honor YHWH alone as sovereign of the universe. But as we have seen, they also honor the leaders he appoints. It is not “idol worship” to so honor them. It would only be wrong if they honored these leaders as being Deity. God’s people should never honor anyone as being Deity except YHWH – the Father himself.

The Hebrew word shachah is found often in the Old Testament and is frequently translated as “to bow,” “make obeisance” or “to worship.”[7] The word is used with regard to worshipping God:

  • Worship [shachah] the LORD in holy splendor (1 Chron. 16:29).
  • All the earth will worship [shachah] you (Ps. 66:4).
  • All families of the nations will worship [shachah] before him (Ps. 22:27).

This same word, however, is often used regarding the honor given to God’s kings. Notice these examples of people coming before David:

  • Ornan bowed down [shachah] before David (1 Chron. 21:21).
  • Abigail got off her donkey, and bowed down [shachah] before David (1 Sam. 25:23).

Translators have tended to selectively render shachah as “worship” when referring to God, and to find other terms (bow down, etc.) when it refers to his kings. However, that gives a false sense of distinction in the word. It is in fact the same Hebrew word in both circumstances.

Notice then this example of both God and the king being honored by the people:

And all of the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed their heads, and worshipped [shachah] the LORD and the king (1 Chron. 29:20).

Shachah here is translated “worship” the LORD and the king by the American Standard Version, Authorized Version (KJV), the Douay Version and a number of others.[8]

It would be a grave error to give such honor to the LORD’s anointed ones if people were bowing to them as though they were Deity. These lords receive worship as the anointed ones of God — never as being God.[9] For one to be God’s anointed means by definition that one is not God.

It is God himself who has decided that his kings shall receive such worship. The glory that he gives them exists in his plans for them before they take their place as monarchs. When people honor them, they are fulfilling God’s plan: his will. When they worship those he anoints, it indirectly glorifies God himself.

Lord of Lords / King of Kings

You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you the kingdom, power, strength and glory (Dan. 2:37).

It is an exceptional ruler indeed who may be referred to as “lord of lords” or “king of kings.” Yet in the verse above, the prophet Daniel announces to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon that he is the “king of kings.” Nebuchadnezzar has triumphed over other monarchs of his day. They have become subservient to him. Daniel by the spirit of God reveals that it is God himself who has given Nebuchadnezzar this place and rule. The LORD later gives Cyrus of Persia rulership over great kingdoms. The Bible even refers to Cyrus as “the LORD’s anointed” (Isa. 45:1). Cyrus rightly declares, “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth” (Ezra 1:2).

Such kings were crowned with many crowns. Not only did they wear the crowns of their native lands, but also the crowns of other lands which were now subject to them. Nevertheless, kings like Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus did not accomplish God’s purposes in crucial ways. They did not establish his righteousness upon the earth!

Jesus – God’s Ultimate Anointed King

God’s greatest anointed one is the Messiah. In fact, the word “messiah” is from the Hebrew mashiach which literally means “anointed one.” In both the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament mashiach is translated as christos which has come down to us in the words christ or Christ.[10]

Messiah is born centuries after kings like David, Solomon, Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus. If God’s people worshipped such kings (1Chron. 29:20, etc.), it would be incomprehensible that they would not worship God’s greatest king — his Messiah. In fact, when he is born, his followers greatly honor him. They obey his words and prostrate themselves at his feet (Matt. 28:9). In time, all of the kings of the earth will bow to him. Those who honor the Messiah by extension give honor to the God who anoints him and makes him Lord and king (Acts 2:36; Luke 1:32, 33; Phil. 2:9–11).

He is the center of God’s plans for humanity. God’s ultimate plan for us and our planet is for righteousness to fill the entire earth. It is his greatest anointed one, the Messiah, through whom this will finally be achieved.

The LORD’s Messiah is the adoni of all of God’s people. For all time, the words to him from the lips of servants and kings alike will be: “my Lord.”[11] Let the entire earth honor YHWH’s anointed — his Messiah — his Christ.[12]

From the beginning, God has in store for him a glory that is greater than he bestows on any other ruler. And, by the determination of God, Messiah will rule forever. He will be Lord of lords and king of kings for all eternity.

Gill, J. Dan (2016). Lords He Has Given – God’s He Has Made. In, The One: In Defense of God (pp. 173-181). Nashville, TN: 21st Century Reformation Publishing.

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[1] The word most often translated “lord” from the Hebrew is adon in its various forms. The essential meaning is “lord, master, owner.” In the LXX, it is typically translated kurios which is also the word commonly found in the Greek New Testament. For more on adon, see Brown-Driver-Briggs (or other) Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000), 10.

[2] A Hebrew word reserved for referring to the LORD God is adonai (ah-doh-nigh) whereas adoni (ah-doh-nee) is used for non-Deity lords or superiors. In the Hebrew Bible, adoni refers to human superiors with exceptions being certain cases in which angels are being addressed (e.g. Josh. 5:14; Judges 6:13; Dan. 10:16). It is important to note that in Psalm 110:1, the phrase is “YHWH said to adoni” which means that the Messiah is identified as being a non-Deity “lord.” By one count, adonai occurs 449 times in the Hebrew Bible and regularly refers to YHWH, while adoni occurs some 195 times (including Ps. 110:1) and never refers to the LORD God. For a fuller consideration regarding the Messiah as being adoni and not adonai, see Anthony Buzzard, Jesus was not a Trinitarian (Morrow, GA: Restoration Fellowship, 2007), 85ff.

[3] This is of course what is at stake in the famous story of the three Hebrew children who refuse, even upon pain of death, to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image (Dan. 3:28).

[4] Abraham gives honor to the people of the land in which he sojourns by bowing before them. When his wife Sarah dies, he entreats them for a place to bury her. It is a beautiful story in which Abraham twice bows to the ground before the people (Gen. 23:1–12). Such honor is given at a time when Jacob and his brother Esau have been estranged and Jacob determines to make reconciliation. As Jacob approaches his brother, he bows himself to the ground before Esau seven times. In turn, Jacob’s wives and children also honor his brother by bowing before him (Gen. 33:1–8).

[5] David foresaw the day in which God would seat the Messiah at his right hand (Ps. 110:1). While this is an incredible honor, it is important to recognize that the Messiah’s glory, together with his accompanying authority, are given to him by God (Matt. 28:18). For Messiah to be seated at God’s right hand means that he himself is not God. He will in fact be subject to God forever (1 Cor. 15:27, 28).

[6] While use of the word “worship” is now often limited to describing honor given to God, that is not the case in the Bible. The ISBE indicates that worship is: “Honor, reverence, homage, in thought, feeling, or act, paid to men, angels, or other ‘spiritual’ beings … but specifically and supremely to Deity.” “Worship,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 5:3110.

[7] It is the word shachah that is found in the foregoing examples of people bowing before God as well as persons of honor.

[8] A survey of translations of 1 Chronicles 29:20 finds a number of them rightly reflecting that the “worship” there is to both God and the king. The NASB deals variously with the word shachah, tending to translate it as “worship” when it refers to the true God or (negatively) to the gods of the nations. It then tends to avoid the word “worship” when shachah is used with reference to human beings. The failing of that approach is particularly evident in 1 Chronicles 29:20 where the NASB translators recognize that shachah refers to both God and the king. However, in translation they then retreat to the use of “did homage,” avoiding the word “worship” in that case.

[9] There are examples in the Scriptures where both people of honor and angels accept obeisance and other forms of worship from human beings. The kings of Israel including the Messiah accept such worship. There are also examples in the Scriptures in which people as well as angels refuse such worship. They do not refuse it because it is reserved only for Deity, but rather because of their own lack of authority and position.

[10] Note the transliteration messias in the Greek New Testament in John 1:41; 4:25.

[11] Additional notes on the words LORD and lord: As discussed in chapter 3 of this book, in the Old Testament, the word LORD (all capitals) is used as a stand-in for the name YHWH in most English translations. In this book, the author uses LORD synonymously with YHWH and reserves it for referencing God himself.

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In both the Old and New Testaments, there is also the “normal” use of the word “lord” which refers generally to masters, owners, kings, rulers, etc. The word in that sense applies to human superiors including the Messiah and at times also refers to God himself (he too is “lord” in that regard, e.g. Lam. 3:58).

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In the New Testament, the term “lord” (Greek kurios) is used to refer to various ones from a person thought to be a gardener ( John 20:15), to a civil authority (Matt. 27:63), the Messiah (Acts 2:36) and occasionally to God Almighty (Acts 17:24, 27–31, etc.).

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Capitalization of words used for Jesus: Translations customarily capitalize “Lord,” “King,” “Christ,” “Messiah” and some other words when they refer to Jesus. When translators intend those capitalizations to indicate that he is deity, it reflects a religious bias and is inappropriate. Capitalizations of such words by the author in this book may be taken as indicating special honor to our savior, but should not be seen as indicating that Jesus is God. (As regarding the text of Scripture itself, the Bible reader should always remember that there were no upper/lower case distinctions in the biblical Hebrew or Greek of Bible times.)

[12] The Messiah is appointed by God to be our ultimate Lord for all eternity. He is “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). Nevertheless when it is said he is Lord of all, it is understood that there is one exception — the God who makes him Lord is not under him (1 Cor. 15:27).

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About the Author:

J. Dan Gill
J. Dan Gill is Editor in Chief and a contributor to 21st Century Reformation Online. He is a frequent speaker, has written many theological articles and presented a variety of papers on Christian issues and biblical subjects. J. Dan Gill is the author of “The One – In Defense of God” a book which makes the case for non-trinitarian “absolute monotheism” as being the theology not only of Jews but of Jesus and original Christians. He argues that the one God of the Bible is the Father alone and that Jesus is the Christ – God’s Messiah. Dan Gill is the producer and co-host with Sir Anthony Buzzard of 21st Century Reformation’s popular video commentary series on the New Testament writings of the Apostle Paul and the Book of Hebrews. J. Dan Gill is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and his academic studies have focused particularly on the history of Christian doctrine, early church history, the Reformation and restoration movements.