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The Mandate

What does the name of Jesus really mean?

By Editorial Staff
Published April 21, 2008

By John Timmerman


Have you noticed that names in the U.S. are given a different importance than names in our Chinese culture? In the U.S. there are many family names, but only a few given names. In China, of course, the reverse is true. Parents and grandparents spend a great deal of time selecting an appropriate given name for a new baby, a name that will express what they hope will be his character and role in life.

The God of the Bible is much like a Chinese parent in that He, too, took great care in selecting a name for His only Son. During December, Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of that child, whom His Father named Jesus. In this excerpt from a book by Dr. John Timmerman, we can learn much about Jesus by studying His name.

- Wang Jiapu


What’s in a name?

A name does more than simply identify one among many. Often a name evokes the image of a person, as well as event, hopes, and joys tied to that person. When we call to mind, for example, the name of a childhood friend, suddenly a whole time filled with meaning is called forth in our memory.

What’s in a name? At the name of Jesus, our faith, hope, salvation, and expectation of eternal life are called forth in our thoughts.

Jesus, however, was not such an unusual name in scriptural times. In the Old Testament, Hebrew names such as Joshua, Jehoshua, and Jeshua are simply linguistic variations of Jesus…

While the name itself is fairly common, meaning “God’s salvation” or “God is my help,” the person of Jesus the Messiah is unique, for here in fact is God’s salvation. The name at once emphasizes Jesus’ commonness – He is born the Son of Man, a man among men – and Jesus’ uniqueness. This man Jesus is born to redeem man to eternal life.

The name Jesus was appointed by God for His Son and was so announced by angelic messengers before His birth: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21 RSV).

This Jesus is the One who has been looked for, the One who finally comes to fulfill prophecy and expectation, the One whose birth is announced with joy and the acclamation of angels. This Jesus comes as the fulfillment of certain names known to expectant people for centuries: the Rock, the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd. And He comes as the bearer of certain titles – equally familiar – draped about His human shoulders with royal, divine significance: the Messiah, the High Priest, the King, the Son of Man, and Son of God.

William Barclay, the great theologian who has studied the life and work of Jesus in keen detail, says in Jesus As They Saw Him (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdman, 1978):

“It is no accident that our Lord was called by the name Jesus. That name sums up the things which He came into the world to do and which only He can do. He came to be the divine Rescuer who alone can deliver men from the consequences and from the grip of sin; He came to be the divine Physician who alone can bring healing to the bodies and souls of men.”

The Holy Scripture is a resonant proclamation of that great name, Jesus, and the promises it carries for His people.

In His name is power. “If you ask anything in My name,” Jesus says to His disciples and to us, “I will do it” (John 14:14 RSV).

In His name is healing. Demons are cast out in Jesus’ name. The lame run with joy, the blind see. And, in the greatest healing, the dead in Christ are raised to eternal life (John 10:28 RSV).

In His name is joy. “These things I have spoken to you,” says Jesus, “that My joy may be in you” (John 15:11 RSV). Jesus can banish all sorrow, all darkness, if only we ask.

In His name is remission of sins. “Repentance and forgiveness of sins,” says Jesus, “should be preached in [Christ’s] name to all nations” (Luke 24:47 RSV).

In His name there is new life. “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31 RSV).

In His name is praise. Jesus has come “in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy” (Romans 15:9 RSV). Surely there is promise in the name of Jesus – the very promise of God Himself.

From A Layman Looks at the Names of Jesus, by John Timmerman, © 1985, Tyndale House Publishers. Used with permission.

John Timmerman, Ph.D., is a professor of English at Calvin College. He is the former editor of Christianity and Literature, and the author of several books and articles.


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Your comments are welcome!

How can I become part of your Ministry as I am here in Swaziland.

Posted by Joseph Vusie Gule on 10/14/2008 08:15 AM #

This article was very helpful for me, as I was developing a message from the title “His Name Shall Be Called Jesus,” thank you for blessing me with your writing.

Posted by Derrick Ford on 12/20/2008 11:26 PM #

In reading your views on the name “Jesus” the Son of God, I’ll ask these questions.
1. Is there a difference between Jesus the person and Jesus the Name?
2. How do we identify or declare him as a person? By calling ones name aren’t we calling the person’s attention to act upon our desires?

Posted by Sunbeam D. on 11/23/2010 04:47 PM #

I was preparing the messgage and I found a great thoughts. Thank you

Posted by Rev. Daniel Kamaraj on 08/10/2011 03:50 AM #

Textile Help

The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death (DVD)

Download the free Study Guide!

Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?

This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.

Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?

As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).

Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.

Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!

Running Time: 195 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!

Running Time: 130 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.

The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Welcome to the Second American Revolution!

This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

$14.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


Dr. Francis Schaeffer - A Christian Manifesto (DVD)

That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!

Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.

Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information


God's Law and SocietyGod's Law and Society (DVD)

Download the Free Study Guide!

God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.

Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!

Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:

1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?

Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.

Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!

Running Time: 240 minutes

Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information

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The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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