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The Names of Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 15, 2023 12:01 am

The Names of Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 15, 2023 12:01 am

The Bible often attaches great significance to names and titles. Today, R.C. Sproul takes us through several of the most common names that Scripture gives to Jesus, explaining what these names reveal about Him.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

In the New Testament usage of this title, the Son of Man is a heavenly person who descends from heaven to the earth, and He represents nothing less than the authority of God. One of the beautiful ways that the Bible helps us understand who Jesus is and what He has done is through all of the names and titles that have been given to Him and the significance of their meaning. Hi, I'm Nathan W Bingham, and thank you for joining us for this Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. As R.C. Sproul continues painting this portrait of the biblical Christ, having already surveyed the Bible, considered the church's creeds and confessions, today he hones in on the names and titles given to Jesus and what they tell us about who He is.

Here's Dr. Sproul. One of the fascinating elements with the Bible is the significance that is often attached to the use of names and of titles. Of course, the names and titles for God the Father are many, and they're revealing about something of His character.

And the same is true for Jesus. I think it's safe to say that Jesus is the most titled person in all of recorded history. I remember an occasion where at a theological seminary where I once worked, they would hold an annual convocation where a leading scholar would come and give an academic address for the occasion.

And on this particular day, the scholar who was invited was well known, and everybody expected a very technical academic discourse during his 45-minute address. And he surprised everybody by simply coming to the podium, and he opened up a piece of paper that had a long list on it, and as a litany he began to recite the names for Jesus that are found in Scripture. He just began to read from this list saying things like, Lord, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David, Emmanuel, the Word, our Champion, the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valley. And he went on and on and on for 45 minutes before he exhausted the number of names that are given to Jesus in the New Testament. And each one of these names or each one of these titles reveals something to us about the character of Christ or about the work in which He was engaged.

And that's an interesting study that you may do on your own as you're going through the Scripture. Notice every time the Scripture assigns a title to Jesus. Now in the brief time that we have in this session, we're going to look at some of the more prominent names or titles that are given to Jesus in the New Testament. We know that we're familiar with the name Jesus Christ, but to call this His name is itself a misnomer because it's not really His name. His name is Jesus or Jesus bar Joseph or Jesus of Nazareth. Christ is a title.

It's like we would say of the President of the United States, President of William Jefferson Clinton, or whoever is the president at the time, President is the title, William is His name. And so in this case, the title that is used is Christ. And this is the title for Jesus that is used more frequently than any other title in the entire Scripture. And it's because of its numerical frequency, it's because it's used so often in connection with Jesus that we've come to think of it as Jesus' last name, Jesus Christ.

But you notice how sometimes the Bible reverses the order and we speak of Christ Jesus. Now the word Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament word for Messiah, and it means the one who is anointed. And we remember Jesus when He gave His first recorded sermon in the synagogue where that day the reading for the congregation came from Isaiah 61, which says, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me and He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor and so on. And Jesus, after the reading of that text, simply said to the congregation, this day, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your midst, in which He was identifying Himself with the content that Isaiah was explaining with respect to the idea of Messiah. Now the concept of Messiah is extremely complex. It is not a simple idea, but there are several strands that are interwoven in the biblical progressive revelation of the function and the character and the nature of this Messiah who would come and deliver His people, Israel. In a sense, for Christ to be the Messiah, He has to be the Shepherd, He has to be the King, He has to be the Lamb, He has to be the suffering servant of God that is predicted in the book of Isaiah, for example.

There are many, many different strands that come together in a marvelous way. In fact, I think one of the extraordinary evidences for the divine inspiration of the Bible is to see how all these different strands of messianic expectancy set forth in the Old Testament all converge and are fulfilled in one person in a dramatic way. I mentioned the other day the text in the Apocalypse where John had his vision, and he was expecting a lion, and instead of a lion, he sees the Lamb. Well, Jesus fulfills both, doesn't He?

He is the Lion of Judah, the new King of Israel, and He is also the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. Now, the second most frequently used title for Jesus in the New Testament, which is a title of great importance, is the title, Lord. In fact, this title is so important that it is said that the earliest creed of the Christian community, the first century church, the earliest confession of faith was a very simple one. It was the confession, Jesus ho curios, Jesus is Lord. That was the simple confession of faith. And one of the historical reasons for that was that it was at the point in which the Christian community embraced Jesus as Lord that got them into difficulty with the Roman authorities because of the emperor cult in Rome, where for loyalty to the Roman Empire, it was required of the citizens to recite publicly the words, Kaiser curios, Caesar is Lord. Now, the early Christians were deeply committed to the mandate that they had received from Christ and from the apostles to be obedient to the civil magistrates, to pray for the king, to honor the king, and all of those things.

And so they did bend over backwards to pay their taxes and obey the laws of the state and so on. But the one thing they couldn't do would be to ascribe to Caesar the honor and the majesty that went with this term. Now, this term Lord isn't always used in such a majestic way in the New Testament. In fact, it's a little bit confusing for us because there are three distinct ways in which this word Lord, which translates the Greek curios, is used. The first place, the word Lord can be and did function as the simple, polite form of address that you would give to any man. It's just like saying, sir, to a man.

And so when we have people who don't know Jesus and they meet him for the first time in the New Testament and they address him as Lord, we don't want to jump to the conclusion that they all of a sudden have this deep understanding of the full measure of the majesty of Christ. They may have simply been addressing him in a polite way saying, sir, you know, here's my problem, what can you do about it, and so on. But that word sir, even in the English language, can have a more exalted meaning, can't it? And when someone is knighted in England, for example, and are elevated to peerage, when they are given that knighthood, they are now addressed by the name sir.

Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Lawrence Olivier is a title originally given to knights, Sir Galahad, and so on. Well, the second way in which this term is used in the New Testament is with specific reference to a slave owner who would be a wealthy person, who had enough money to purchase servants who worked for him. And the slave was called a doulos in the New Testament, and you couldn't be a doulos unless you belonged to a curios, to a Lord. So here the term Lord was used to refer to one who owned slaves. Now that's one of the usages of the title Lord that the Apostle Paul was fond of, wasn't it?

How often does he describe himself, Paul, a doulos of Jesus Christ, Paul, a slave of the Lord Jesus. And he will say about all of us, you are not your own, for you have been bought with a price. So that when we confess that Jesus is Lord, we understand in that that Christ owns us. He has purchased us in the atonement, and so we are His possession when we call Him Lord. But the highest use of the term in the New Testament is what's called the imperial use of the title Lord.

And of course that was the usage that Caesar had sought to arrogate to himself. And that of course was the one that caused the Christians all the grief. And in this sense, the New Testament gives a somewhat cryptic statement, which says no one can call Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit. It almost seems to contradict what Jesus Himself said in the end of the Sermon on the Mount, when He said, many will come on the last day, saying what?

Lord, Lord. Didn't we do this in your name, and didn't we do that in your name? And He said, I will look at them and say, depart from Me, you workers of iniquity.

I never knew you. And again Jesus said, this people honors Me with their lips, while their hearts are far from Me. And Jesus obviously understood that a person could open their mouths and use the phraseology and call Him by the title Lord, even in the imperial exalted sense, and still not be redeemed. So then why does the Scripture say no man can call Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit?

Well, there's two ways we can interpret that. One is that the statement is elliptical, and what is omitted and must be inserted is that no one can sincerely call Jesus Lord unless he has been given that through the Holy Ghost, that only the regenerate people have a genuine confession of faith by which they call Jesus Lord. Or it may have reference to the time of persecution where the one thing people who were not true believers didn't want to do publicly was to open their mouths and say Jesus is Lord because if they were caught saying it, they could become a human torch in the Garden of Nero or a featured attraction in the Circus Maximus. But in any case, the real significance of this title is found in what it translates from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, just as Christ has many titles in the New Testament, so God has many titles in the Old Testament. His name in the Old Testament is Yahweh. But you will read texts in the Bible where it says, O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all of the earth.

Or the Lord said to my Lord, sit thou at my right hand. And when you read those texts, sometimes you will see the strange markings in the English printing of the Bible where one time they will have the name Lord in all capital letters. And then in the next line, you'll see the word Lord with lowercase letters. It's the same English word, but it's printed differently.

Why? Because when it's capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D, the editor is letting you in on the secret that the word that is being translated by this term Lord is the name of God Yahweh, the sacred name, the ineffable name. And whenever you see L, little o, little r, little d, that indicates that a different Hebrew word is used, usually Adon or Adonai, some form of that name, which was the highest title used by the Hebrew people for God in the Old Testament. It was a title that God was given uniquely. It indicated that God, who is Adonai, Lord, O Lord, O Yahweh, our Adonai, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, the term Adonai refers to God's absolute sovereignty over all of His creation. We come to the New Testament. We read the amazing hymn that Paul uses in the second chapter of his epistle to the Philippians, sometimes called the Canodic hymn, Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, took his equality with God, not as a thing to be grasped or jealously guarded or tenaciously held on to, but he emptied himself and took upon himself the form of a man and became obedient as a servant, even unto death, and so on.

And then what's the climax of that expression that Paul says? Wherefore God hath highly exalted him and given to him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Now, there's a little awkwardness in the construction of that text, and so that many people read that text, and if we would say to them, well, what is the name that is above every name?

And they'll immediately reply what? The name Jesus, because of the way it says, and he gives him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow. No, it is to Jesus that God gives the name that is above every name, so that when you hear the name of Jesus, you bow and confess that name that is given to him that is above every name, and it is the name Lord. So that the name of Jesus every knee would bow and every tongue confess what?

That he is Lord, that he is curious, that he is Adonai to the glory of God the Father. Now, we have a special series that we've done at Ligonier that goes into this in much greater detail, and we can't do it in the quick overview of this series, but it's one I do commend for people who want to go deeper, and it's called The Majesty of Christ, and many folks have told us that that's helped open up the New Testament view of Jesus for them, and I just commend that to you in passing. But in any case, these are the first two titles used for Jesus in terms of their numerical frequency. When we get to the third title in terms of numbers of use, really the title Messiah is used hundreds of times, and also into the hundreds is the title Lord, and then when we get to the third in the frequency list, we drop down dramatically to the low 80s, and that is the title Son of Man.

Son of Man. Now, what's unusual and fascinating about this title for Jesus is that though it ranks third in the frequency of usage of titles for Jesus in the New Testament overall, it is far and away the number one title that Jesus used for Himself. Now, that's significant because one of the things that we all tend to deal with in our daily lives is, you know, people mispronouncing our names. Even Mrs. Smith gets her name mispronounced every time now, and sure, they call you Smyth from time to time. But, you know, people call me Sproul, and I say when you call me Sproul, I growl because I want to have my name pronounced properly.

It's Sproul. It rhymes with soul and so on. But that can be a matter of vanity and pride, too, and all of that sort of thing. But it is a matter of courtesy to call people what they want to be called, and it's significant to me that Jesus obviously had a preference because there are 82 or 83, I forget the exact number, of references to this title in the New Testament, and all but three of them are used by Jesus Himself, which also has some further significance. When you have the higher critics coming to the text and trying to tear it apart with their negative attack on the Bible, they'll say that so much of the picture and portrait of Jesus that we have in the New Testament was manufactured by the zealous companions of Christ in the early church. And I say, that's strange, isn't it, that when they reproduce the portrait of Jesus and give us the story of His life, that if they were really doing that, you would expect them to put in Jesus' mouths their favorite designations for Him rather than His own. And yet of the 80-some times that this title occurs in the Bible and in the New Testament, all but three of them are attributed to Jesus Himself. And that's significant because Jesus is saying, here is how I identify myself. Now, what's the significance of the Son of Man?

Some people see in it an expression of Jesus' humility. He's being humble. I'm just a poor country preacher. I'm just a common, ordinary human being.

No, no, no, no, no. If we go back to the Old Testament, particularly to the book of Daniel, and we see the vision that Daniel has into the inner chambers of heaven, we have a scene there in which God appears in the throne of judgment as the Ancient of Days. And He welcomes into His presence the One who comes to Him on clouds of glory, who is called the Son of Man. And it is the Son of Man who is given the authority to judge the world. And so in the New Testament usage of this title, the Son of Man is a heavenly person who descends from heaven to the earth, and He represents nothing less than the authority of God. And He comes to bring crisis or judgment to the world, because He is the judge who is embodying the divine visitation to this world, the day of the Lord on the day of God's visitation. And so this is a quite exalted title that is given uniquely to Jesus in the New Testament. And I would ask you to be careful as you read through the Scriptures to every single time you come upon this title, Son of Man, stop and look at its context, and you will begin to see how majestic and exalted it is as a representation for Jesus. Every name that is given to Jesus in the New Testament has significance. Every name has meaning. Every name reveals something to us about who He is and what He has done.

That's R.C. Sproul talking about the Savior that we love, that we serve and worship on this Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and I'm glad you're with us. This message is part of Dr. Sproul's overview of theology. The entire series is actually 60 messages long and covers many, many topics and answers questions like, What is sin? Why did Jesus have to die? Do miracles happen today?

And what will Heaven be like? We'll send you this entire series for your donation of any amount. You can give your gift today at We'll send you the DVD set. It's on eight DVDs, as well as giving you access to the digital messages and study guide. So make your donation today at When we consider the life of Jesus, we see moments of great humility as He's born there in Bethlehem in a manger, but also moments of great exultation. And that's what Dr. Sproul will walk us through next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind. Copyright © 2020, New Thinking Allowed Foundation
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-15 04:18:23 / 2023-04-15 04:26:49 / 8

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