In the Gospels, the Lord is referred to as simply Jesus some 600 times, but His personal name is used in that way in only a handful of instances in the epistles. Jesus was the Lord’s earthly name (see Matt. 1: 21) and in itself was not remarkable, being the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Joshua. By contrast, that the Lord was to be "called Son of God" (Luke 1: 35), was astounding, and was what, ultimately, led to the Jews calling for His death (see John 19: 7). The Gospel writers refer to the Lord narratively as Jesus, but in every instance where the narrative introduces words spoken by the disciples as such, whether addressed to the Lord or to others about Him, a title of reverence is used (compare John 13: 13). Luke 24: 19 might seem an exception to this, but there unbelief had effectively given up the hope that "he was [the one] who is about to redeem Israel" (v21). When we come to the epistles, the name Jesus is almost never written by itself but is titled—Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ and so on. Christianity is not a mere confession of Jesus, but "Jesus as Lord" (Rom. 10: 9, my emphasis; see 1 Cor. 12: 3), and the Christian is one who sanctifies "[the] Lord the Christ" in his heart (1 Pet. 3: 15).
Now spiritual things are communicated by spiritual means and inspiration therefore extends to the very words employed by the writer. The handful of cases in the epistles where Jesus is given by itself are therefore not inconsequential, but deliberately written that way "for our instruction" (Rom. 15: 4). Nine of the references to Jesus are in Hebrews (Heb. 2: 9; 3: 1; 4: 14; 6: 20; 7: 22; 10: 19; 12: 2, 24; 13: 12)—more than any book outside the Gospels. This in itself is
suggestive, as those addressed are Israelites, and may even have been familiar with the Lord in His earthly pathway, where, for the most part, He was referred to merely as Jesus. Heb. 4: 14 can be eliminated from the list, because there the Lord is described as "Jesus the Son of God" (my emphasis) and any Jew would view this as an expression of deity (see John 5: 18). In all the other references, the intention of the writer is clearly to bring home to the reader (in the language of Peter) that "God has made him, this Jesus whom ye (the Jews) have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2: 36, my emphasis). The official Jewish position was that "Is not this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we have known?" (John 6: 42) but the writer of the Hebrew epistle dismisses that view as wholly inadequate. God may have spoken "in many parts and in many ways formerly to the fathers in the prophets", but He has now "spoken to us in [the person of the] Son, whom he has established heir of all things" (Heb. 1: 1, 2). That person was the One they had known as Jesus, and which the writer now calls Lord (see Heb. 2: 3; 13: 20)—a title that the Jews habitually reserved for Jehovah (see Heb. 7: 21; 8: 8 etc.). Accordingly, Jesus is spoken of as the "Apostle and High Priest of our confession" (Heb. 3: 1), and of greater glory than Moses. He is greater than Aaron for he is "a high priest according to the order of Melchisedec" (Heb. 6: 20). He is the "surety of a better covenant" (Heb. 7: 22) than that delivered by Moses, and the One whose blood gives "boldness for entering into the [holy of] holies" (Heb. 10: 19), whereas in the old economy, only the high priest entered, and that just once a year. Furthermore, he is the "leader and completer of faith" (Heb. 12: 2), the "mediator of a new covenant" (Heb. 12: 24), and the One who has sanctified "the people by his own blood" (Heb. 13: 12). Faith sees beyond manhood’s form, and the humiliation of crucifixion and death, for "we see Jesus … crowned with glory and honour" and know that a day is coming when all things will be "subjected to him" (Heb. 2: 8, 9).
The name Jesus also occurs in John’s writings. These are set against the background of a rising tide of false profession and error as to the Lord’s person. Thus "who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?" and "Every one that believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God" (1 John 2: 22; 5: 1). Again, "Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God" and "Who is he that gets the victory over the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 4: 15; 5: 5). The name Jesus is used, but only to bring out the truth that the man who bears that name is more than simply a man, for He is "Jesus Christ coming in flesh" (2 John 1: 7).
2 Corinthians is the only other epistle where the name Jesus by itself occurs with any frequency. There are six references, all in chapter 4. In verse 5, Paul says "we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus Lord, and ourselves your bondmen for Jesus’ sake". Jesus was not preached, as such, but Christ Jesus, referring to his unique and exalted position. As for the preachers, they are the exact opposite: bondmen for the sake of that One who was the exemplar of lowliness: Jesus. A little later on we have "the dying of Jesus" and the "life … of Jesus" (vs. 10, 11). The teaching is that when a man suffers as a Christian ("delivered unto death"), it is then that the moral features displayed in the Man that so delighted God are seen in him. Stephen is the exemplification of this. Nor does the identification end there, for the God who has raised up the "Lord Jesus shall raise us also with Jesus" (v14, my emphasis). Our resurrection and His are viewed as one: to be raised with Christ would bring out how His glory is reflected on us, but to be raised with Jesus is moral identity.
Three Scriptures remain to be looked at. "If we believe that Jesus has died and has risen again" (1 Thess. 4: 14) is simply a statement of orthodox Christian belief, but the apostle builds on this in a most touching and practical way: "so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus" (my emphasis). The employment of the personal name of the Lord brings to mind immediately the man of the Gospels and His perfect way with the desolate and broken–hearted. It is that Jesus who is here said to have put to sleep those who had died (for that is the force of the expression).
In Ephesians 4, in referring to the immoralities of the pagan world, Paul tells his readers that "ye have not thus learnt the Christ" (v20). The Christ is God’s anointed and chosen man. But where does Paul direct the Ephesians for instruction? "According as [the] truth is in Jesus" (v21, my emphasis). The learning in view is to be found in the example of the Lord’s life on earth, for what Paul had in mind was practical and moral. If the apostle had said ‘according as the truth is in Christ’ then we could hardly limit it to that. The latter statement would encompass all that has been revealed in Christianity.
The same aspect of the Lord is in view in Phil. 2: 9, 10: "wherefore also God highly exalted him, and granted him a name, that which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow". Thus God will see to it that the despised Man of Galilee and Golgotha will secure the worship of all created beings. It is not that He is given the name of Jesus afresh, for the word name also carries with it the sense of renown (see Gen. 11: 4). The sense is that God has so exalted Him, that the lustre of the glory He has been given will now attach itself to the name that was previously so despised and ridiculed.