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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
Title:We confess the significance of the Name Jesus
Text:LD 11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 135:1-3
Hymn 1A
Psalm 107:1-4
Hymn 19:1-6
Hymn 18:1-2

Readings: Matthew 1:18-24, Acts 4:1-12
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

When we give out names, they’re not usually filled with significance. Think about it: when you’re about to have a baby, the name is usually picked without worrying about the meaning. How it sounds is typically more important to us. Maybe later we’ll go and look it up and see what it means. And even if we pick a name with some special meaning, it can happen that the child ends up being out of character. You pick a name with the meaning of “active one” and you have a child who seems to be comatose.

Well, the same thing also happened in the Scriptures. Think of David’s son Absalom. Absalom means “Father of peace,” – but Absalom was anything but. Or think of Rehoboam. His name means “May the nation expand.” And under Rehoboam, Israel split into two kingdoms. But when we come to the name of Jesus, we find a name with significance. When we come to the name of Jesus, we find a name that concretely reflects the reason for his coming. When we come to the name of Jesus, we find a name that concretely impacts our lives. So, I preach to you God’s Word, summarized in the Catechism, with this theme:

We confess the significance of the Name “Jesus”

We will see the Name’s significance in that it was:

  1. Given by the Father.
  2. Borne by the Son.
  3. Revealed by the Holy Spirit.

1. The Name “Jesus” was given by the Father

Imagine for a moment that you had not read the New Testament. Imagine that you didn’t know that God’s Son, come in the flesh, had the name “Jesus.” If you’d only had your Old Testament, you could understand that God had promised to send a Messiah. But you would not have known his Name. Sure, you could have guessed and if a hundred people had done that, probably somebody would have guessed the name Joshua, the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek name Jesus.

But God the Father chose to give the name “Jesus” when his Son was made incarnate of the virgin Mary. When the angel came to Joseph in Matthew 1, he came with divine orders: “Name the baby Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” We could ask the question: why? After all, other names could have expressed God’s salvation too. So, why “Jesus”?

For the answer, we have to look in the Old Testament. For the people of God in the first century, the name Joshua would likely have evoked certain images. Their thoughts would go back to the first Joshua in Scripture. In their mind’s eye, they would have seen Joshua the son of Nun leading the people of Israel into the promised land. You may remember that Joshua’s name originally was Hoshea. Moses changed his name to Joshua – which means “Yahweh saves.” When the people of Israel came into the promised land, they knew that the name change was providential. Remember that the Exodus and the entrance into the promised land was the most important redemptive event of the Old Testament. So, Joshua’s name spoke of God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises. God had promised to give his people rest in the land and he followed through by giving them a leader in this Joshua.

So, Jewish people in the first century would probably remember Joshua the son of Nun when they heard the name Jesus applied to the Messiah. They would be reminded that God is trustworthy. They might also think of another Joshua in the Old Testament. During the time after the exile, there was a high priest named Joshua. He would be remembered because he figures prominently in one of the night visions of the prophet Zechariah. In Zechariah 3, Joshua the High Priest appears before the angel of the LORD. Satan is opposing Joshua. The LORD rebukes Satan and Joshua’s filthy garments are replaced with clean ones. In this way, God makes Joshua fit for atoning for the sins of the people. The name of Joshua the High Priest spoke of God’s willingness to make a way for atonement and salvation. The name of Joshua the High Priest spoke of God’s love for his people.

When God’s people in the first century heard that God had given the name Jesus to the Messiah, they would be encouraged to look back and see what God had done in the past. Their mental DVD players would skip back to the events of salvation in the Old Testament. Looking back and thinking on these things, they would eagerly anticipate what God was going to do in the present and the future. There was a good reason for the song of Simeon in Luke 2. This child of God knew why God the Father had given this name “Jesus.” Simeon knew that the name “Jesus” meant covenant faithfulness and salvation for God’s people in the past. Simeon knew that Jesus meant covenant faithfulness and salvation for God’s people in the present and the future.

We can also reflect on what the Father’s giving of this name means for our past, present and future. As we look back in our lives, hasn’t the name Jesus meant salvation for us? Hasn’t it meant that God has been faithful towards us? As we look at the present time in our lives: doesn’t the name Jesus mean salvation for us right now? Isn’t God continuing to be faithful and loving towards us? You may have struggles in your life. Things are hard. But in giving the Name Jesus to his Son, God reveals the gracious fulfillment of his promise: the head of the serpent will be crushed. Satan will be put under your feet, bruised and bleeding. When you believe in this Name, sin and the consequences of sin will be dealt with. We look to the future and we see that God the Father gives the name Jesus so that we can have hope for the battle against sin in our lives. Holding on to this name is like wearing a survival suit in a cold ocean of sin and knowing that rescue is at hand. Our Father will not let us drown or die of exposure! He gives the Name Jesus as a guarantee! This is good news for us. That good news gets better when we look at our second point:

2. The name “Jesus” was borne by the Son.

For some reason, some people don’t make their real names public. All of us can probably think of somebody who doesn’t go by the name that’s on their birth certificate. Maybe it’s too Dutch, maybe it just sounds funny. But with our Saviour it was entirely different. As he lived on this earth, he gladly and willingly bore the name “Jesus.” Further, his life did not hide the fact that his name was significantly attached to what he came to do. Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Lord bore his name publicly, both in his life and in his death. In John 19:19, we read that the placard on the cross proclaimed his name for everyone to see: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” In God’s providence, it was to be clear to everyone that this was the one who saves from sin.

After our Saviour had ascended into heaven, his apostles continued to make his name known publicly. In Acts 4, we see the apostles preaching and healing in the name of Jesus. In this connection, Peter publicly proclaims the exclusive claims of the gospel: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Lord’s Day 11 echoes these words in QA 29: “because salvation is not to be sought or found in anyone else.”

Peter’s public proclamation of the Name of Jesus takes on a deeper meaning when we consider that these Acts of the Apostles are really the Acts of Jesus Christ through the apostles. In Acts 1:1, Luke tells us that in his former book he told Theophilus about what the Lord Jesus had begun to do and teach. It’s implied that the book of Acts is about what the Lord Jesus continued to do and teach. The Saviour continued to work through his servants, the apostles. In this way, he continued to bear his Name publicly. He continued to bear his Name before both Jews and Gentiles, announcing that he is the one who saves from every kind of sin.

Today, the Saviour continues to bear his name in public. He does it through his church – through us. At least that’s the way it should be. Sometimes, especially when we’re young (but it can happen when we’re older too), unbelievers can think they know us quite well and they don’t even know we’re Christians, let alone know our testimony about the name of Jesus. Often we too easily give in to a way of thinking that says our lifestyle is enough – people will see our lifestyle and know we are Christians. But will they know the significance of the name of Jesus? Will they know, like the Catechism says, “that those who by true faith accept this Saviour must find in him all that is necessary for their salvation”? How will they know that only Jesus saves us from all our sins, unless we tell them? How will they know the difference between you and the good Roman Catholic who zealously prays the rosary every day? The Lord Jesus wants his name and its significance to be public knowledge. When you pray for and receive the God-given opportunities, the Lord wants us to speak about the name that is above every name!

That name “Jesus” is not only a matter of public significance. There’s also the fact that the Saviour will continue to bear this name unto eternity. Hebrews 7:24-25, “…because Jesus (note the name) lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Our Saviour saves us from our sins not just at one particular moment, but for eternity. He will never stop being our Saviour!

This is a help for believers who are plagued by doubts. When doubts and questions come, we have to hold on to the undeniable fact that the Son of God bears the Name Jesus forever. And that’s not just some kind of abstract truth that’s disconnected from your life. Jesus has this name because he saves you completely! This Jesus always lives to intercede for you! He carries that name Jesus because he is for you. And he will be for you eternally. He will never stop being your complete Saviour. This relates to the teaching of Scripture about the perseverance of the saints that we confess in the Canons of Dort. In Chapter 5, Article 8, we confess that it is the grace of the Triune God that preserves us. About the work of God the Son, we confess that “the merit, intercession and preservation of Christ cannot be nullified.” Why not? One reason is because Scripture teaches that the Son of God is faithful to the meaning of his Name and is faithful eternally. That’s God’s promise to you. Holding on to the Lord Jesus means you will never be lost!

In all of this, the Holy Spirit also has his place. We’ll see that in our last point:

3. The name “Jesus” is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

It is so easy to forget about the work of the third person of the Trinity. Being listed as the third person often means that people think he is third-rate. But the fact is that we could not know the name “Jesus” apart from the Holy Spirit showing it to us. The Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures where we learn the personal name of God the Son. 2 Peter 1:21, “…for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit also preserved these same Scriptures for us. Because of this work of the Spirit in inspiring and preserving the Bible, we can be sure that God has given us the real deal. There’s no need for doubt. Because of the work of the Spirit in the Word, we can reliably know the name “Jesus” and the person behind that name.

Through the work of the Spirit in us, we can also confess this name. There can sometimes be a difference between knowing and confessing. The kind of knowing we’re talking about here is simply a head knowing. It’s like knowing that Pi is 3.14159 etc. I read a book a while back about a mathematician who could get quite emotional about Pi and not much else. But for most of us, knowing the value of Pi is not likely to bring a smile to our faces or tears to our eyes. That’s the kind of cold knowing we’re talking about. Warmly confessing with the heart is different than that knowing. Confessing the name “Jesus,” means laying claim to it in faith. Confessing the name “Jesus,” means publicly acknowledging our relationship with the one who bears this name.

The Scriptures are clear that confession of this sort can only be made by the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12:3, we read, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” “Jesus is Lord” is a kind of confession. And God tells us that you can’t make that confession without the Holy Spirit leading and guiding you. It’s in this way that the Holy Spirit reveals to us the deeper significance of the name Jesus. You could go to a secular university and take a religious studies class. You could study the New Testament and learn that the name Jesus means “God saves.” But most of the people in that class would not be believers. They would not confess the Name. They would not have made the step between a bare cold knowledge of a fact and a relationship with the one who bears the name. Only the Holy Spirit can take us there. Only the Holy Spirit can lead us to publicly acknowledge our relationship with the one who saves us from all our sins.

It’s also the Holy Spirit who reveals the name “Jesus” in such a way that we are led to rest in him alone. Here again, think of what the Catechism says in QA 30. There are people who claim to believe in the Saviour. But yet at the same time they seek their salvation and well-being from saints, or themselves or elsewhere. Many times we’re inclined to do the same, especially when it comes to our well-being in this life. Perhaps we seek our well-being and personal satisfaction in food and drink, including alcoholic drinks. Perhaps we seek our well-being and personal happiness in sexual addictions, including those involving the Internet. Maybe our stumbling block is the bottom line with our mutual funds or chequing account. In all these ways (and more), we seek our well-being elsewhere than Jesus. Our problem is that the Saviour we believe in, the one we see in our lives, is too small. The Saviour of the Bible has a big name and that shows he’s a big Saviour, brothers and sisters. He’s a Saviour who is complete, a Saviour who can give us everything we need for our salvation and well-being. Do we believe that?

Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead us in such a way that we not only believe it, but also more and more live it. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us so that we learn to repent of our waywardness. We need the Holy Spirit to dwell in us so that we really learn in our hearts what it means to rest in Jesus. We need the Spirit to convict us that it’s true, it’s really true: we can find in the Lord Jesus everything that we need for our salvation and well-being. Unless the Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts to that truth, we will always be wavering back and forth like the aspens in a spring breeze. In that case, the reality will be that we are denying the only Saviour Jesus. Oh, pray for the Spirit!

The Name “Jesus” is a little word, six letters in Greek, five in English. But the number of letters in the name is not reflective of its importance in our lives. It is the most important name for us, because the meaning of the name is tied to the person who bears it and all that he has done for us, will do, and will continue doing. A complete Saviour with the Name above every name. He is the Saviour who gave himself completely – for you, for me, for us. AMEN.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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