The name Jesus means "Savior." It is the same name as Joshua in the Old Testament. And it is given to our Lord because "He saves His people from their sins," (Matthew 1:21).
Jesus is a very encouraging name to weighted-down sinners. He, who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, might lawfully have taken some more high-sounding title. But He does not do so. The rulers of this world have often called themselves great, conquerors, bold, magnificent, and the like. The Son of God is content to call Himself Savior.
Where the Name Jesus Came From: Hebrew and Greek Origins
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which was originally Hoshea (Numbers 13:8, Numbers 13:16). Moses changed this version into Jehoshua (Numbers 13:16, 1 Chronicles 7:27 ), or Joshua. Then, after Israel’s exile to Babylon, it assumed the form Jeshua, from which we get the Greek form Jesus. It was given to our Lord to denote the object of his mission, to save (Matthew 1:21).
The Importance of Jesus’ Title as Christ
Many people have been named Jesus before and since the biblical Jesus. But only this Jesus is referred to as Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. The word Christ further signifies his unique identity and mission.
Christ means anointed, according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary. Anointed is the Greek word for the Hebrew "Messiah," which is Jesus’ official title. In the New Testament, this title is linked with Jesus 514 times. Here are a few examples: Acts 17:3, Acts 18:5, Matthew 16:15-16.
This Christ/Anointed/Messiah part of Jesus’ name is significant because of the Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah.
The Meaning of Jesus’ Name as Savior
As stated above, Jesus means savior. This is His special role. He saves his people from the guilt of sin, by cleansing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with Him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day.
Those seeking salvation may draw near to the Father with boldness and have access with confidence through Christ. It is His role and His delight to show mercy. "For God didn't send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him," (John 3:17).
Jesus is a name, which is especially sweet and precious to believers. It has often done them good. It has given them what money cannot buy – that is, inward peace. It has eased their wearied consciences and given rest to their heavy hearts. The Song of Solomon describes the experience of many, when it says, "Your name is oil poured forth" (Song of Solomon 1:3). Happy is the person who trusts not merely in vague notions of God's mercy and goodness, but in "Jesus."
Why Do Christians Pray “In Jesus’ Name”?
Watch Don Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality at Southern Seminary, talk about why Christians often end prayers “in Jesus’ name” in this video.
“To pray a prayer in Jesus name is to recognize that we’re coming in the righteousness of Christ, not our own. We don’t deserve to be heard by God, but Jesus does, and we come in his name.
“It also means that we are coming and asking what we believe Jesus would ask if he were in or situation. So that’s a lesser truth to the greater truth that we come in the righteousness of Christ. God hears us because of Jesus.”
What Does it Mean to Take the Name of Jesus in Vain?
Commandment number three of the 10 Commandments says not to take God's name in vain (Exodus 20:7). The words “in vain” mean "empty, idle, insincere, or frivolous." So to take God's name in vain means to say it in a way that is empty, idle, insincere, or frivolous. And one of the most obvious ways this is done is through the use of profanity. We all have heard people use the name of Jesus to punctuate a point. Because Christians believe in the divine nature of Jesus, taking his name in vain is taking God’s name in vain.
Philippians 2:9-11 reminds us, "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
The name of Jesus has power. God wants His people – His followers to never take His name in vain, but to honor it instead.
This content was adapted from “The Name with Power?” by Greg Laurie.
Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Jesus in the Old Testament, Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
Adapted from The Gospel of Matthew by J.C. Ryle (Chapter 1).
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