Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
In discussing the doctrine of Christ, the Mediator and Head of the covenant, we are called to consider the names by which the Savior is revealed to us.
We do well to consider these things. Not simply abstractly. The purpose of going to the Word of God concerning these things is that we are able to confess from the heart, and with the knowledge and confidence of faith, “I believe what God has revealed in His Word concerning my Savior!”
I believe in Jesus.
What a glorious confession that is! In that brief confession of faith is found our only comfort in life and death. For in Jesus and in Him alone God reveals Himself as the God of our salvation.
God is revealed in all His works. He reveals Himself every day and everywhere in His creation and in the works of His hands.
But it is only in the name “Jesus” that He is revealed as the God of our salvation. For as Peter preached it (Acts 4:12), “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
A Glorious Name
The name Jesus is a glorious name. It is a name with divine origin.
The name Jesus was given Christ after His birth. But it was a name appointed for Him from eternity.
The personal name of the Savior might not be left to the choice of Joseph and the virgin Mary. For His name must in itself serve to reveal God, and reveal Him as God from a significant and wonderful viewpoint, that He might be glorified forevermore.
And so, immediately after Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, and while he was contemplating putting her away privately, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20b, 21).
Therefore Joseph did as the angel had said, and took Mary as his wife. “And he knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS” (Matt. 1:25).
Also Luke points to the significance of this name, when he records in Luke 1:30-33 the revelation of the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary. “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
So we read in Luke 2:21, that “when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”
That name Jesus is of divine origin, and is the revelation of the eternal purpose of God Himself.
God names His Son Jesus.
That is precisely why we are sure to find all our salvation in Him. Because God names Him Jesus, we find in His name our only comfort in life and death.
But what exactly is the significance of that name Jesus?
The name Jesus signifies that this man-child is the revelation of the God of our salvation. He is Jehovah-Salvation!
The significance of that name was revealed already in the shadows of the Old Testament. Moses, the representative of the law, was not able to give rest to the children of God. He had to give way to Joshua. Joshua would lead the weary children of Israel into the rest of their inheritance. As the type of Christ, leading His church across the Jordan of sin and death into the heavenly Canaan, Joshua led Israel into the promised land. He did so as a picture of Jesus. In the shadows of the Old Testament, the Savior was revealed in the significance of His name.
The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, Jehovah-salvation or Jehovah-saves.
Jesus is the One who crushes the head of the enemy and brings His elect into the spiritual and eternal rest. In Jesus we behold Jehovah, the eternal, unchangeable God, whose love for His people is unbreakable. In Jesus we see Jehovah as our Savior, who came down to us in our sin and misery and death, to save us from the bondage of our guilt and to realize His eternal covenant of friendship with us.
Jesus is Jehovah-salvation.
That means, of course, that Jesus is Jehovah. He is God.
He is the Word become flesh, the same eternal Word (according to Colossians 1) by whom and for whom all things were made. He is the same Word (according to John 1) who was with God and was God. He it is who gives power to become the sons of God.
Salvation is of God and of God alone. Either Jesus is God, or He is no Savior. And precisely because He is God, He is the Savior.
A Complete Savior
When we understand that virtually all the work of God is concentrated in and around the name Jesus, then we will also begin to understand the true spiritual significance of that name.
That means that in Jesus Christ we have all that is implied in our justification before God. He accomplished salvation for us.
In Jesus we see Jehovah God come to us.
In Bethlehem we see the birth of Him whose name is also Immanuel, God with us. Jesus is Jehovah beneath our sin and guilt. The perfect, spotless Lamb of God took our guilt and sin upon Himself.
The only possibility for our salvation is that this Jesus stood before God in our place, took our guilt upon His shoulders, and carried it into the very depths of hell for us, so removing it from us forever. That is what Jesus did by going to the cross and shedding His blood for us. The precious blood of Jesus was the price of redemption for you and for me. He was buried in our grave. He fully satisfied the justice of God. And the proof is in the resurrection. He arose in victory!
It is because of that work of Jesus for us, that John can write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But that work of Jesus, being complete, is also a work that He performs in us.
Don’t change that name of Jesus. The angel said to Joseph, “Thou shalt call his name JESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins.”
Don’t change that to this: “Thou shalt call his name JESUS, because he is willing to save all.” That is what will happen, if you stop with a Jesus who is only a Jesus for us.
There are many who will grant you that Jesus saves by His justifying work. But according to them, that justifying work was performed for all! They say that Jesus died for all men and wants to save all men and offers salvation as a free gift to all men with the desire that they accept Him. By His work He merited the right to salvation. And now He wraps it up in a package and brings it to your door, and says, “Please accept this now.”
But that is not the Jesus of the Bible!
A Jesus who died for all, but who saves only those who let him save them, is not God, but a powerless jesus with a small j. That is a jesus who must depend on the will of man for the effectiveness of his work.
Don’t you see? That cuts the very heart out of the gospel, and denies the power of our Almighty Savior, the complete Savior.
Our Jesus, who saves us, not only accomplished salvation for us, but He also works that salvation in us. Not only must we be freed from the guilt of our sins, but we must be delivered from the bondage of corruption, from the power and dominion of sin and death. And again, our Savior is Jesus. Because He merited the right to bestow salvation upon His people, God filled Him with all that is necessary to carry out that bestowal and actually to give us the benefits of that salvation. Jesus does not merely offer you salvation; but He powerfully, effectively, irresistibly works it in you.
Being a complete Savior, He so works within us by His Holy Spirit that in Him we have the experience and the consciousness of the forgiveness of sins that is ours, of righteousness and life everlasting. He applies to us all the blessings of salvation. He doesn’t ask to enter our hearts; He enters them. He makes room! He changes our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, dethrones sin and enthrones Himself, regenerates us, calls us out of death into life, sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts, creates is us the knowledge of sin, and awakens within us a longing for God and His fellowship. He causes us to turn from sin unto the living God. That work of Jesus in us is a powerful work. He performs that work without any help from us. He comes into our hearts when we do not even know it. He gives us the power of a new life.
Oh, yes, it is true that He uses means to work His power in us. He is pleased to work that salvation in us by His means of grace and through His Spirit. Scripture teaches that it is especially by the Word preached that Jesus is pleased to work His salvation in us. He says through that preaching, “Seek, and you shall find.” And when He speaks that to your regenerated heart, you seek. Not otherwise. “Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” And when He says that through the preaching of His powerful and efficacious Word, you knock. And it is opened unto you.
That is the gospel.
It is not a fifty-fifty proposition. It is not a matter of the free will of man. Far more wonderful is our salvation!
His name is Jesus. Salvation is all of Him, the revelation of the God of our salvation.
He is the only and complete Savior.
But then we have not yet said all concerning the name Jesus. There is more yet to be said.