This post was first published December 14, 2015. -ed.
For such an aggressively godless culture, we still tend to hear the name Jesus Christ with surprising frequency. It’s tragic that the world has turned the Lord’s name into a blasphemous exclamation, but it should not surprise us. Satan can’t erase the truth about Christ, but he will happily settle for turning the Savior’s life into a myth and His name into an expletive.
Even among professing believers, the Lord’s name is used with the kind of casual familiarity that overlooks its significance. When was the last time you considered what it meant for God to name His Son Jesus Christ?
With the celebration of the Savior’s birth just around the corner, let’s consider the meaning of the name His Father gave Him.
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” - Matthew 1:21
God chose the name Jesus for His Son because its basic meaning defined the fundamental, overarching purpose for the Son’s coming to earth. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, Jeshua, or Jehoshua, each of which means “Jehovah (Yahweh) will save.” The baby Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and gave birth to in the plan of God would grow up to testify to the Father’s plan of salvation—and would Himself be that salvation. By His own sacrificial death on the cross and triumphant resurrection from the grave, He would save all those who are drawn from sin to repentance and who receive faith to embrace His atoning work.
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” - Matthew 1:23
The name Immanuel is the heart of the Christmas story. It is a Hebrew name that means, literally, “God with us.” It is a promise of incarnate deity, a promise that God Himself would appear as a human infant, Immanuel, “God with us.” This baby who was to be born would be God Himself in human form.
If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: “God with us.” We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ, but the greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!
Immanuel, infinitely rich, became poor. He assumed our nature, entered our sin-polluted world, took our guilt on Himself although He was sinless, bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). All of that is wrapped up in “God with us.”
The apostle Paul penned one of the gladdest truths in all of Scripture: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9) That’s the immeasurable gift of Christmas. Christ, God’s own Son, gave up His wealth and privilege to live as God with us, that He might save His people from their sins, and that through His poverty they might become rich.
“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” - Luke 2:11
Christ is an exalted title for a baby born in a humble stable. Jesus wore no crown and had no halo over His head to identify Him as someone special. There were no outward marks of His deity, sovereignty, or Messiahship. But when the angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, he identified the One born that night by His twofold heavenly title, “Christ the Lord.”
In both the Greek translation of the Old Testament and in the Greek New Testament, the title Christos (“Christ”) means “the anointed one.” That usage in reference to the future Savior occurs as early as Daniel 9:25-26 (where Christos is simply the equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah). Whenever the term was used in biblical times, it signified that an ultimate authority was anointing someone and placing him in a very high office. In Jesus’ case, the ultimate authority who anointed Him was His Father. God declared that Jesus is the King. He is the eternal King of kings who will sit on David’s throne and reign over His kingdom forever. Jesus, at the very end of His earthly ministry, confirmed the truth of His kingship in this exchange with Pontius Pilate:
Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king, then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37 NKJV)
When the angel called Jesus “Christ the Lord,” he was not using a mere human designation of lord. Instead, he used a divine designation and claimed that the Child in Bethlehem is God. To say that Jesus is Lord is to say that He is first and foremost God. This is the most fundamental and essential confession of the Christian faith. It is unequivocal that if any person desires to be saved, he must make the heartfelt and vocal confession that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9).
In addition, the expression “Jesus is Lord” implies all the sovereignty and authority associated with One who is God. For “Lord” in Luke 2:11, the angel used the Greek word kurios, which expresses an authority that is valid and lawful. The ultimate lawful authority in the universe is God, and the angel announced Jesus’ lawful authority as the Son of God. The Greek translators of the Old Testament and the writers of the New Testament used kurios so often to refer to God that the word became synonymous for the name of God. When the angel declared Jesus to be Lord, he declared Him to be the true God, the One who possesses all authority and sovereignty.
You affirm those same rich truths when you address the Son of God by name or call Him “Lord.” Let’s discipline ourselves to remember what it means to use those terms, and help unsaved friends and family understand what we’re communicating through them.
(Adapted from God’s Gift of Christmas.)