The apostle Paul breaks it down to a manageable “snippet” when he says:
…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
But what does that mean? In particular, what does it mean when the NT says that Jesus is “Lord.”
Paul is trying to emphasize here that you must acknowledge the fact that Jesus is Lord, but this acknowledgement can’t just be intellectual ascent, it has to lead to a change in your life (i.e. “believe”). But what is “Lord” in the NT?
More to the point, can someone say that “Jesus is Lord” but not acknowledge that He is God? I don’t believe so.
Sticking with the statement in Rom 10, one must confess that Jesus is Lord, this isn’t a statement about making Jesus your lord. Do you see the difference?
Many people have authority over me, many people get to dictate the things that I do or say. I have made many people “lord” over me, but that is “lord” not “Lord.” Paul calls the individual to confess that Jesus is THE Lord. As in above every rule, every authority, every power. Jesus is the name that is above all names not only on Earth (in this age) but in heaven (in the one to come) cf. Eph 1:18ff.
The name that is above every name is YHWH, the Hebrew name of God. That’s not just me making that up, Jesus said it when He made statements like “Before Abraham was ‘I AM'” (John 8), and when the Gospels record that He was worshiped as both Lord and God without Jesus correcting them (cf. John 20).
The Gospel of John is particularly strong at showing Jesus is in fact God.
The Word already was at the beginning of all things, the word was with God, and the Word was divine… and the Word became flesh and erected his tent in the midst of us.
God does not “share” His divinity. Only God is divine… Jesus is God. Not only is Jesus God, He is THE God, the God of both the OT and NT, God’s proper name is YHWH.
Now, this obviously gets into the issue of what has been historically summarized by the theological term “Trinity.” God’s divinity is unique, but He is three persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
So with regard to Jesus, it is not enough to simply call him “lord” but you must acknowledge that He is YHWH (i.e. Lord). The same Greek word is used in the OT and NT for YHWH and Jesus as “Lord” (κύριος).
The NT makes it clear that it is not enough to simply acknowledge that Jesus is (a) lord (cf. Matt 7, Luke 6). One must acknowledge that Jesus is YHWH God to the extent that it leads them to live differently as a result.
Can a person be saved and not believe that Jesus is God? Based on the NT, I don’t believe so. It is essential in the confession of the believer that Jesus is by nature Divine. If you don’t have that, you’ve missed it.
Or I’ll put it another way. For someone who says to me that they believe in Jesus, they just don’t believe He’s God, we are of a different faith. That belief is as different to the Christian Faith as Islam.
Jesus says “I am THE way, THE truth, THE life.” Jesus is not simply lord (my master) but he is Lord (YHWH). Believe in Him and you too can be saved!