The precious names given to the Lord Jesus in God’s word express His person, purposes, power and pre-eminence. Names are little more than a means of identification in contemporary usage. Not so concerning Him whose name manifests His character. We can say of Him, ‘as his name is, so is he’, cf. 1 Sam. 25. 25. It is my object to draw out the hearts of the Lord’s people to Christ by attempting to unfold some titles and names of our blessed Lord and to show their spiritual significance.
It is my heart’s desire and sincere hope that they may be of service by way of incentive to the readers to search the Scriptures for themselves, that they may see divine beauty, accuracy and precision in the wondrous way in which God has been pleased to unveil to us the Person of His beloved Son. He is the One whom God delights to honour. To the natural mind there may seem no difference between phrases as ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘Christ Jesus’. A little patient study of the passages where they occur, and of the writer who used them, will suffice to show that the Spirit intends us to believe and understand a different revelation of His Son in the use of each.
There are no redundancies in the Scriptures of truth. When God gives a name or title to His Son it is that we may know Him in the special character in which the title is used to reveal Him. It is, by those who regard the jot and tittle of God’s word, that the Bible is seen in its minutest details to be inspired by God.
Of all the glorious names given to God’s only Son, the best loved by believers of every race and age is the human name of the Saviour – Jesus. This is the translation of the Hebrew word Jahoshua meaning ‘the salvation of Jah.’ Mary had no choice in that name, it was given by the angel Gabriel, as he had received it in the presence of God and announced to Mary herself, before His birth, Luke 1. 31. Gabriel also made known to Joseph that the child to be born of Mary was the Son of God, Emmanuel, Matt. 1. 23, and that he should call His name Jesus, for He would save His people from their sins, Matt. 1. 21. The verb ‘to save’ used here is related to the name Joshua. The first occurrence of this in Exodus 14. 30, embraces all that the word was later to mean in the Scriptures. ‘Thus the Lord saved Israel that day’. Dr. W. Smith has observed, ‘this testifies to that great truth, that the first occurrence of any major word in the Scripture is the acorn out of which all that pertains to it was ultimately to grow’.
Tracing the origin of the name Jesus is interesting. In His day it was common among Jews. It is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Joshua. The Son of Nun was first named Hoshea, or Oshea, meaning ‘salvation,’ but Moses renamed him Jahoshua, Num. 13. 16, meaning ‘Jah is salvation’. Moses ascribed any salvation gained by Joshua to Jehovah. No doubt the deep significance of this name was fulfilled in Jesus, the Saviour from sins.
Jesus is the name of His humiliation. When it stands alone it brings Him before our hearts, who, though He was God, stooped to become man to carry out the will of God in the stupendous work of redemption. He who is the Son of God became man (yet never ceased to be what He eternally was), that He might become the Saviour of men. Jesus is the One who, though rich, became poor, who humbled Himself, appearing among men as man; who trod this earth in complete subjection to the will of His Father as a man. The record of His pathway from Bethlehem to Golgotha is the blessed subject of the gospels. So, in their record the name Jesus appears more than five hundred times. The examples of this use of His human name are linked with His birth, baptism, temptation, teachings, miracles, betrayal, shame, death and burial. The association of the name Jesus marks the place He took as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, in total submission to God. Jesus is the usual name given to Him in the gospels, whereas in the Acts and the epistles it occurs alone only twenty-nine times. In these writings special testimony is ascribed to Him as the rejected and crucified One, whom God has raised from the dead and has highly exalted. Thus we read, ‘this Jesus hath God raised up’; ‘God hath made that same Jesus, both Lord and Christ’; ‘We see Jesus … crowned with glory and honour’. Much has been written to extol that name. The message of the grace and glory of His name has been declared throughout the world. In life and death that precious name is the object of trust and hope to every humble believer.
Jesus! It speaks a life of love
And sorrows meekly borne.
It tells of sympathy above
Whatever griefs we mourn.
The mention of Thy name shall bow
Our hearts to worship Thee;
The chiefest of ten thousand Thou
The chief of sinners we.
As ‘Jesus’ is the personal name of the Lord, so ‘Christ’ is His official title. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Messiah’ or ‘anointed’. ‘Christ’ therefore expresses the source of His relationship to man as by God’s appointment. He was anointed by God.
In the second Psalm we read, ‘the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord (Jehovah), and against his anointed’.
The prayer of the infant church shows how they understood the Psalm. ‘For of a truth, in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together’, Acts 4. 27, RV. As the name of Jesus declares to us the Lord as the man of sorrows the humbled One, so the title Christ tells of His acceptance by God. When it occurs in the gospels with the article (’the Christ’) it is as the official designation of the One offered to Israel.
The Lord was anointed by God to be Christ, but only anointed eyes could recognize Him. When He asked the disciples, ‘whom do men say that the son of Man is?’ they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets’. Yet when He asked, ‘but whom say ye that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’, Matt. 16. 13-16, R.V. Peter’s eyes were anointed, Rev. 3.18, and he recognized in the Son of Man none other than the Christ, the Son of the living God. To the world He was ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ but to the few to whom the Father had revealed Him He was ‘the Christ’, the anointed of Jehovah. ‘Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was the Christ’, Matt. 16. 20.
a. Christ the Prophet, Deut. 18. 15
According to the words of the Lord to Moses, the Lord would raise up a prophet to Israel from among the brethren, like unto Moses. The answer of John to the question, ‘Art thou that prophet?’ was a negative reply, John 1. 21. Later, we read of the confession of the great multitude of men who had witnessed the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. ‘This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world’, John 6. 14. A further indication of Christ as the prophet was given by Peter at the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful, Acts 3. 22-26. The only instance of a prophet being anointed, that I am aware of, occurs in 1 Kings 19. 16, ‘Elisha the son of Shaphat, of Abel-Meholah shalt thou anoint to be a prophet in thy room’.
b. Christ the Priest, Heb. 9. 11-16
Israel’s High Priest was anointed with oil by order of God, ‘and Moses poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head’, Lev. 8. 12. He could only enter the holiest of all once a year, and not without blood, Lev. 16. 1-6. ‘But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come … by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption’, Heb. 9. 11-12.
As the High Priest appeared in the presence chamber of Jehovah, the Holy of Holies, so we have such an High Priest, the Great One, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens, Heb. 8. 1. And as the High Priest bore the names of the tribes of Israel on his breast, so Christ our High Priest now bears us nearer than Aaron could, in the very presence of God, Heb. 7. 25. The saints, therefore, are spoken of as being blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, Eph. 1. 3, raised up with Him and made to sit with Him in the heavenlies, Eph. 2. 4-6.
c. Christ the King, Ps. 2. 1-6; Acts 4. 24-27
As King, Christ is the Lord’s anointed. And so, while kings of the earth and rulers take counsel against the anointed, God says ‘Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion’.
Christ was offered to Israel as their King. As Son of Abraham, He was heir to the land, Gal. 3. 6; Gen. 12. 7, and as Son of David, heir to the throne, 2 Sam. 7. 12-17; Matt. 1. 1.
When Pilate presented Christ, he said, ‘Behold your King!’ But the answer was, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar’, John 19. 12-15. The rightful King was rejected, but we see Him within the holiest of all, the anointed of God.
Therefore we should carefully consider that, while as Jesus He is Saviour, and thus near to man, as Christ He is the anointed of God, and thus specially near to Him. He was God’s prophet on earth, God’s priest in heaven and will be God’s King at His return. What grace that we, being in Christ, are accepted in all the dignity and excellency of His blessed person, and His glorious eternally abiding work, according to the estimate of Jehovah Himself. ‘For God hath made that same Jesus both Lord and Christ’, Acts 2. 36.
It is always a joy to speak of the blessed Lord. He is fairer than the children of men; His glories are more than the colours on the coat of Joseph. The many precious names given to the Lord Jesus in the word of God express the incomparable beauties, moral perfections and eternal dignity ever resident in His glorious Person. Already I have attempted to present His name of humiliation ‘Jesus,’ and His title ‘Christ’ which tells of His anointing by, and acceptance with, God. We should now consider Him further as Christ Jesus and Jesus Christ.
To many there may seem no difference in the titles ‘Christ Jesus’ and ‘Jesus Christ.’ A little searching of the passages where they occur, and of the writer who used them by the divine Spirit, will suffice to show that the intention of the Holy Spirit was to testify of Him and to present a different revelation of God’s beloved Son. The ultimate purpose is that our hearts may be drawn to the altogether lovely One, whose name is Wonderful. As the jot and tittle of the language of the word is considered, one discovers that every whit of it utters His glory and in its minutest detail is inspired by God.
In the joining of His names in Christ Jesus, the emphasis is on Christ. It speaks to every exercised heart of the Anointed One who humbled Himself. It tells of the Anointed of God coming to this world to be the Saviour. Therefore, when we read of His advent, it is not ‘Jesus Christ came’, but ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’, 1 Tim. 1. 15. It was on account of sinners that He became Jesus the Saviour, but He was always Christ, the Anointed One of God. Consequently, we observe the distinction that ‘Christ’ stands nearest to God, while ‘Jesus’ is nearest to man.
Christ Jesus contains the idea of ‘from God to man,’ while Jesus Christ suggests man being brought to God by Him. So we read the grand truth, ‘there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus,’ 1 Tim. 2. 5 R.V. Christ Jesus tells of the wondrous path from heaven to earth, while Jesus Christ reaches all the way upward from earth to heaven, 1 Pet. 3. 21-22. We commend to all who are interested in this meditation upon Him to compare the Scriptures where ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘Christ Jesus’ occur and mark the instructive things that differ.
It is a joy to the heart to consider the name of Jesus. That precious name bespeaks His true and sinless humanity. The Messiah title Christ declares His absolute deity. He is the Son of God Most High, His only begotten, and the Son of His Love. It has been said that the name Christ is associated with the entire content of His claims. It is the divine counterpart of ‘Jesus.’ His human name assures us that God is our Saviour, so His divine name declares our Saviour as God.
As we meditate upon Jesus Christ, sweetness should fill our redeemed spirits and praise our lips. The emphasis here is on Jesus as the One who stooped in grace and was obedient even to the death of the cross, but is now made higher than the heavens in glory at God’s right hand. One would also appreciate the chief thought that He is the One who brings us nigh to God, ‘who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ’, 2 Cor. 5. 18. We also have an Advocate with the Father who is Jesus Christ the Righteous, 1 John 2. 2. In resurrection Jesus Christ has gone into heaven, 1 Pet. 3. 21, 22. Christ Jesus came from and for God to men: Jesus Christ has gone from and for men to God.
Jesus Christ, Thou King of Glory
Born a Saviour Prince to be
While the angel hosts adore Thee
We joy in Thee,
Singing of Thy grace the story
Praise, Praise to Thee.
H. K. Burlingham