The Apostle Paul makes the lordship of Jesus Christ a central theme in his letter to the Romans. Forty three times Paul uses the word “Lord” in that letter, often with the pronoun, “our,” to indicate our fellowship with Him — Christ is not just any Lord, but He is the Lord who belongs to us, He is our Lord (e.g., 1:4; 4:24; 5:1; 6:23; 7:25; 8:39; 15:6, 30; 16:20). His point is that we belong to the Lord (14:8). Christ is deity and Master and we owe allegiance to Him, alone.
The lordship of Christ means that Christ is Lord and Master to the exclusion of all others. Since Christ is Lord, then no other can be lord. If Christ will be followed, then no other can be followed. If Christ will be worshipped, then no other can be worshipped. If Christ is Master, then there can be no other master.
The implications of the exclusiveness of Christ are too often missed or misunderstood by contemporary believers. One who did not misunderstand those implications was Polycarp, a leader in the second century church. His story is recounted in the passage below, from The Martyrdom of Polycarp, in which he is exhorted to give allegiance to Caesar to spare him from martyrdom. The appeal was made to him that because of his old age (86), he should exalt Caesar and finish out his long life well. His refusal, in which he doggedly affirmed Christ’s singular supremacy sealed his fate.
Christ was Polycarp’s Lord. Because Christ was his Lord, no other could be his lord. We do well to heed his reasoning and counsel:
But without being disturbed, and as if suffering nothing, he went eagerly forward with all haste, and was conducted to the stadium, where the tumult was so great, that there was no possibility of being heard. Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, “Be strong, and show yourself a man, O Polycarp!” No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, “Have respect to your old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.” But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, ‘Away with the Atheists.” Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ”; Polycarp declared, “Eighty and years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”
And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar,” he answered, “Since you are vainly urgent that, as you say, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, and pretend not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and you shall hear them.” The proconsul replied, “Persuade the people.” But Polycarp said, “To you I have thought it right to offer an account [of my faith]; for we are taught to give all due honour (which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me.”
The proconsul then said to him, “I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast you, unless you repent.” But he answered, “Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil; and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous.” But again the proconsul said to him, “I will cause you to be consumed by fire, seeing you despise the wild beasts, if you will not repent.” But Polycarp said, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why do you tarry? Bring forth what you will.”…
This, then, was carried into effect with greater speed than it was spoken.… [The Martyrdom of Polycarp; quoted in Ferguson, In the Year of Our Lord, 21-22.]