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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
Title:Jesus: the Name above every name
Text:LD 11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 30
Hymn 1A
Psalm 85
Hymn 19
Hymn 65

Readings: Joshua 1, Isaiah 12, Philippians 2:1-11
Text: Lord's Day 11
* 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 Christ,


We’re spending some time going through the articles of the Apostles’ Creed.  It’s important to remember that these articles summarize “all that is promised us in the gospel.”  The Apostles’ Creed from front to back is all about the good news of what God has done for us.  The articles about Jesus Christ are naturally at the heart of that.  Without the Lord Jesus, there would be no good news to summarize.  This afternoon we begin the section on God the Son and our redemption.  Lord’s Days 11-13 deal with his person and Lord’s Days 14-19 focus on his works. 


This afternoon, we’re focussing on the personal name of the Son of God, “Jesus.”  He has titles, the most well-known of which are “Christ” and “Lord,” but he also has a personal name, just like you and I do.  That name is “Jesus.”  It’s a special name, because it didn’t come from below, but from above.  The name Jesus was given to the Son of God by God himself.  Before Mary gave birth to him, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him that his name had to be Jesus.  The angel was a messenger of God, delivering God’s intent about this personal name. 


From Philippians 2, we learn that this name “Jesus” is an exalted name.  It is the name before which every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.  The name “Jesus” points to a person who deserves our worship, adoration and love now and forevermore.  So, this afternoon I proclaim to you what is promised us in the gospel with regards to the name that is above every name, Jesus. 

We’ll see that:


1.      He is the Saviour

2.      He is the only Saviour

3.      He must be our Saviour


There are no direct indicators in the Old Testament that the Messiah would take the name “Jesus.”  There are no prophecies which directly state, “His name shall be Jesus.”  We don’t have anything explicit or direct.  But we do have hints.  We can look back at the Old Testament and we can see that God was preparing the way for a man whose name would be “God saves.”


The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua or Yeshua.  Of course, Joshua is a well-known figure from the Old Testament.  However, the Old Testament Joshua wasn’t born with that name.  He had a name change as an adult.  His parents had called him Hoshea, which simply means salvation.  However, in Numbers 13:16, we find that Moses renamed Hoshea the son of Nun, and gave him the name “Joshua” – which means, “Yahweh is salvation.” 


After the death of Moses, Joshua becomes the new leader of the Israelites.  It’s under Joshua’s leadership that the people of Israel finally receive the promised land.  This was the main redemptive event of the Old Testament and it points ahead to the redemption that Jesus would bring in the New Testament. 


Jesus is called the Saviour because he came into this world to save us, not from the Egyptians, but from our sins.  That’s exactly what the angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “ are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  It’s true: we are saved from our sins by the Saviour.


But we should think further on that:  what is it about our sins that makes it necessary for us to be saved from them?  It’s true that sin ruins our lives.  It vandalizes the good creation of God in so many ways.  The Lord Jesus saves us from the effects of sin in this world and the way that it victimizes us.  However, it would be short-sighted and superficial to leave it at that.  Because we’re not only victims of sin, we’re also perpetrators.


Loved ones, when we consider why we need to be saved from our sins, we need to look not only on the horizontal level, but also at the vertical.  We need to consider our own sin.  We need to consider what sin does to our relationship with God.  Think about it:  every human being on this earth has a relationship with God.  However, there are good relationships and bad relationships.  Sin makes us have a bad relationship with God, one in which God is our enemy.  Sin arouses God’s anger and wrath against human beings.  We need to be saved from that.  We need to be saved from sin and the effects and consequences of sin, the most serious of which is the wrath of God.


Paul says this in Romans 5:9, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”  We need to be saved from God’s wrath.  That’s what the Lord Jesus does. 


There is a beautiful biblical word for this.  It is a word that was dropped out of our translation and this is really unfortunate.  It’s a word that captures a key aspect of the gospel.  It’s a word that we need to re-learn and recover.  The word is “propitiation.”  Propitiation means that Jesus turns away the wrath of God with his sacrifice on the cross, so that his favour would fall upon us.  Propitiation means that Jesus took the wrath of God on himself, so as to turn the wrath of God away from us, the wrath which we deserve.  The word is used in Romans 3:25.  Our translation says, “God presented him [Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”  There’s a note at the bottom of the page, “Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath taking away sin.”  In older Bible translations, we found the word “propitiation” there.  Some newer translations like the ESV have it too.  Propitiation might be a difficult and uncommon word.  It’s a theological term.  But people need to be taught it, we need to be taught it, because what it says is at the heart of the gospel.  Propitiation – Jesus turns away the wrath of God that we deserved, so that God looks upon us with favour.  In case you’re interested, the word propitiation is also used in Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, and 1 John 4:10.  We need that beautiful word back.


Jesus saves us from all our sins and turns away the wrath of God from us.  But now someone might come along and say, “Well, that’s true but is Jesus Christ the only one who can do that?”  That question was already anticipated 2000 years ago.  It was anticipated by our Saviour himself when he said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  The Apostle Peter learned it well, because he said the same thing to the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  The Apostle Paul got it too, because he wrote to Timothy, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  Only one!  That’s in 1 Timothy 2:5.


Not only our salvation, but also our well-being here and now is to be found only in Jesus Christ.  This is alluded to in John 1:16, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” All treasures, all gifts, all fullness is in Jesus Christ and in him alone.  Through him, and through him alone we are recipients of God’s love and mercy, not only for the hereafter but also for the here and now. 


It is profoundly sad that there have been those and still are those who deny this.  When the Catechism was written, the Roman Catholic Church taught that people should first of all look to Mary and the other saints.  Jesus was too highly exalted – he is God after all.  But Mary is human and she is a kind, loving mother who will always listen in a gentle way.  Little children always go to their mother.  You go to Mother Mary, pray to her, and she will go to Jesus for you and bring your requests to him and he will never deny his mother.  The Roman Catholic Church taught people to pray to Mary and the other saints too. 


The Roman Catholic Church still teaches the same today.  Just like we have the Heidelberg Catechism, the Roman Catholic Church has the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Church developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God...”  One of the prayers on the rosary asks Mary to “Pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments on this, “By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the ‘Mother of Mercy,’ the All-Holy-One.  We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives.  And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender ‘the hour of our death’ wholly to her care.”  It should be clear that the Roman Catholic Church continues to teach people to seek their well-being with Mary, in addition to Jesus. 


But why am I telling you this?  Loved ones, I want you to realize that we live on a mission field.  In the days of the Reformation, John Calvin, Guido de Bres, and other Reformers saw a continent that was in darkness.  The Roman Catholic Church didn’t preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, did not teach people to look to him and to him alone.  They Reformers explicitly said that Europe under the influence of Rome was heathen.  They saw the world around them as a mission field and themselves as missionaries.  Nearly ten years ago, I was ordained as a missionary.  I was sent to a community that wasn’t much different religiously than the Netherlands in the early sixteenth century.  The Roman Catholic Church was there, but the gospel wasn’t.  There was spiritual darkness. 


Now look around us.  Are things any different here?  The Roman Catholic Church is big in this city/town/country, but the gospel isn’t.  There may be people in the Roman Catholic Church who trust only in Jesus for their salvation.  But that’s only because they don’t listen to the priests, they don’t listen to the Catholic Catechism, they don’t listen to Rome.  If someone is a faithful, consistent Roman Catholic, they are lost.  They are still in darkness.  They do not have salvation.  If your Roman Catholic friends claim to believe in Jesus but yet pray the rosary (which is prayer to Mary), they are denying the only Saviour Jesus.  Loved ones, we live on a mission field and the people around us are lost and confused and in darkness.  What are we going to do about it? 


Brothers and sisters, how we need to have a burden for the lost!  This church was placed here for a reason, you were placed here for a reason, and part of that reason surely is to bring the gospel to the world around us.  I urge you to have compassion, to have a missionary’s heart for this community in which you live and for the people around you.  Let your heart break when you see your neighbour going to mass, worshipping idols instead of the living God.  Pray for opportunities to speak with that neighbour and witness to the hope of the gospel.  Look for those opportunities and move forward in faith and with love for the lost.  Jesus is the only Saviour and apart from trusting in him alone your neighbours are still under the wrath of God.


Of course, the same is true for us.  We can easily point our fingers at the Roman Catholic Church, but you know the saying about pointing fingers.  Whenever you point your finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing right back at you.  We need to be sure that we ourselves are trusting and resting in Jesus as the only Saviour, the complete Saviour, the one in whom we find all our salvation and well-being.   


There are a number of common challenges that we need to confront and come to terms with.  One of these is our tendency to regard Jesus as a concept, rather than as a person.  He becomes a concept to understand or toss around in our minds and discussions, rather than a person with whom we have a relationship.  He becomes an idea, rather than a person who has a history and a person who still lives and breathes today and who will some day return in the same way he left. 


The problem is that for whatever reason, we’re comfortable with the idea of Jesus as a concept.  When we have him as a concept, it’s safe and we’re in our comfort zone.  We’ve all known people who can talk and discuss religious concepts and ideas endlessly, but when it comes to a relationship and speaking personally about faith in Christ, they really struggle or maybe won’t speak at all.  How do we deal with that?  We need to begin with ourselves.    


Loved ones, it begins with our recognizing that Jesus is not a concept.  There is biblical teaching about him that has a conceptual form, but he himself is not a concept, not an intellectual construct, not an idea.  He is a person.  As a person, you can and you must relate to him.  As person, you can speak with him.  Though it might not be our regular practice, you have the freedom to pray to the Lord Jesus, just like the apostles did.  The Lord Jesus encouraged us to speak with him in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  As a person, you need to trust our Saviour and find in him all that is necessary for your salvation and well-being.


His name is Jesus, it’s a personal name.  He is a person.  That personal aspect is also found in what we read from Isaiah 12.  What an incredible passage of Scripture!  There Isaiah speaks in personal terms too about God.  For him, God was not a concept, but a person.  He says that God is his salvation.  God is his strength and his song.  As Saviour, God is a person in whom you find joy.  As Saviour, God is a person to whom you give thanks.  As Saviour, God is person to whom you sing.  As Saviour, God is person to make much of.  All of that points ahead to God coming in the person of Jesus, showing in crystal clear fashion that God saves.  Notice the way that these truths grip not only the mind and the understanding, but also the heart.  Isaiah sees God’s people who are engaged not only with their minds, but also with their hearts and their emotions.  They’re filled with praise, they trust and are not afraid, they have joy and exultation.  That’s what happens when you look to Jesus as a person through whom you find salvation and your well-being for the present and the future.


There is another challenge we need to face.  Flannery O’Connor exposed it in her novel, Wise Blood.  She has a character in that novel named Hazel Motes.  She wrote that “he knew that the best way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.”  Hazel thought that he didn’t need Jesus because he was keeping clear of sin.  Tim Keller commented on this and his words are worth quoting.  He says, “If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless and save you, then ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model, and helper but you are avoiding him as Savior.  You are trusting in your own goodness rather than in Jesus for your standing with God.  You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus.  That, ironically, is a rejection of the gospel of Jesus....It is possible to avoid Jesus as Savior as much by keeping all the biblical rules as by breaking them.”  Keller is right.  The gospel is not “What Would Jesus Do?” and then trying to go out and do it.  The gospel is “What did Jesus do?” and then believing in him, resting and trusting only in the person and work of the Saviour.     


There are those who believe that we get in by grace, but we stay in by works. The Saviour gets us in the door, but then it’s up to us to perform and do God’s law and measure up so that we can stay in the house.  That sort of belief is a denial of the only Saviour Jesus.  It will also leave you burned out and tired of trying, maybe even depressed.  Brothers and sisters, we need to look to him alone for “all that is necessary” for our salvation and rest in what he has done.  Resting means that you stop trying and you start trusting.  You can’t begin with grace, and then try to add works later.  Our salvation is entirely of grace and it is entirely through our Saviour Jesus.  Through him alone we have a place in God’s family, a place that is secure forever.  Through Christ alone we are guaranteed to always have our Father’s love and a place in his house.    


John Calvin once said that we are all idol factories.  It’s true.  We so easily fabricate things to take the place of God and to take the place of our Saviour as he really is.  Just taking those last two things we looked at, holding to Jesus as a concept means holding to an idol.  Substituting your good works for Christ is equally idolatrous – your good works have become an idol.  We need to look to Christ alone, to Jesus the person revealed in the Word of God.  As a fruit of our union with Christ, we need to seek out the idols in our lives and kill them, every last one.  Our goal has to be to increasingly see the idol factory become idle.  Look to Christ, call to him for mercy and ask for the help of his Spirit in doing violence to these idols in your life, to kill them more and more.        


Loved ones, the name of Jesus is the name above every name.  The name belongs to a person who lived and died for you, to save you from the wrath to come.  The hymn “O, For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” has a beautiful verse that gives us a fitting conclusion, “The Name of Jesus calms our fears and bids our sorrows cease; ‘tis music to the sinner’s ears, ‘tis life and health and peace.”  AMEN.




Our Saviour, Jesus Christ,


We thank you for saving us from all our sins.  We confess that salvation is only found in you.  You are a complete Saviour, and we’re filled with love and adoration for you.  You are our strength and song, you have become our salvation.  With joy we draw water from the wells of salvation! 


O Lord our God, we thank you again for the riches of the gospel, for its joyful sound, for its encouragement, hope and strength.  We pray for your help in bringing that joyful sound to our community.  We pray Father for the Roman Catholics in our community who don’t know you in a saving way.  We pray Father that they would read your Word and be convicted, and look to Christ alone for salvation.  We pray that you would use as instruments and as your voice to bring the glad tidings to those around us who are lost and confused.  We pray that you would break our hearts more and more for those who are still in darkness. 


Help us too, Father, so that we put all our idols to death and trust in our only Saviour Jesus.  Father, we confess how prone we are to wander and leave the God we love.  We feel it and see it all the time.  Have mercy upon us, and give us more grace so that we rely only on Christ in life and in death, for our welfare for eternity and for life here on this earth.                                        

* 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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