The Lord Jesus Christ
In Acts 2: 36 Peter concludes his address with the words “that God has made him, this Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”. There is surely profit to be gained from spending a little time looking at these names or titles “Jesus”, “Lord” and “Christ”.
The name Jesus is particularly associated with the Gospels where it occurs over 570 times. Elsewhere in the NT it is found on its own only about 80 times, and of these over 40 are in the transitional book of Acts. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Joshua and means Jah the Saviour. Hence we have the word of the angel of the Lord to Joseph: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1: 21). It is the name associated with His life here on earth, and speaks of Him as the sufferer, the sinbearer and the man of sorrows. It was the name of His humiliation and shame. “This is Jesus” (Matt. 27: 37) was the inscription on the cross––it was the name under which He was crucified.
It is important to notice that though it occurs alone over 650 times in the Scriptures, it never occurs with an adjective. People speak of “dear Jesus”, “blessed Jesus” and “sweet Jesus”, but the Holy Spirit of God never once uses such terms in the Word. Why? It is because nothing can add to the perfection of His Person, His work and His ways. He needs no adjective to set Him forth. In the Scriptures, His people never addressed Him as Jesus. They always used terms like Master or Lord––and so should His people today. Again, to speak of ourselves as “in Jesus” is not Scriptural. People sometimes sign their letters “Yours in Jesus” but this is to ignore the teaching of God’s Word. As we shall see, Scripture views us as “in Christ”. Let us ensure that we are in accord with the inspired Word.
Jesus was His earthly name (a name not unusual in itself), and suffering, sorrow and death were His earthly portion. Yet “This Jesus has God raised up” (Acts 2: 32), and has made “both Lord and Christ” (v 36). Furthermore, it is at that name, (the name of Jesus, not Lord or Christ), that “every knee should bow, of heavenly and earthly and infernal [beings], and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord to God [the] Father’s glory” (Phil. 2: 10, 11). Such universal obeisance will be a suitable answer to His humiliation.
Next we have the title Christ which speaks of Him as the anointed one. As such He is Israel’s long–awaited Messiah (John 1: 41), the One who would receive from God “the throne of David his father” (Luke 1: 32), and be “a light for revelation of [the] Gentiles and [the] glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2: 32). Christ is found over 300 times in the NT, but only just under 50 times in the Gospels, and when it does occur in the latter it is generally with the article, that is the Christ. This emphasises His official position as the Messiah of Israel: “And he asked them, But ye, who do ye say that I am? And Peter answering says to him, Thou art the Christ” (Mark 8: 29). Sadly Israel would not have her Christ: “Pilate says to them, Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar” (John 19: 15). But now “Christ is raised from among [the] dead” (1 Cor. 15: 20). The Jews thought that they had only crucified a man named Jesus, but God would have them know that He has made that Jesus “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2: 36). They said, when He was here on earth, that He was not the Christ; by raising Him from among the dead, God has forcefully reiterated that Jesus is the Christ. Christ is now “sitting at [the] right hand of God” (Col. 3: 1), the Anointed Man in heavenly glory. As Christians we are connected with Him there (Eph. 5: 23), and consequently all our blessings are “in Christ” (Eph. 1: 3). Our position of favour is to be “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5: 17)––associated with Him in the place where He is (Eph. 2: 6).
Of course Christ and Jesus often occur together, and then the order of the terms must be observed. When we read of Jesus Christ, then the emphasis is on the first word. It is the suffering one who has been exalted, the Jesus whom God has made both Lord and Christ. Our thoughts travel from what He was on earth, to what He is now. Thus those convicted by the preaching of Peter on the Day of Pentecost, having heard of the exaltation of the One they had crucified, were baptised “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2: 38). By contrast, when we get the combination Christ Jesus our thoughts travel in the opposite direction, namely the humbling of the One who came from glory. Thus we have Phil. 2: 5, 6: “For let this mind be in you which [was] also in Christ Jesus; who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be one an equality with God; but emptied himself, taking a bondman’s form …”. Christ Jesus then is the One who came down, while Jesus Christ is the One who went up. In connection with this, it is interesting to note that while the Twelve speak of Jesus Christ, the term Christ Jesus is used only by the Apostle Paul. The Twelve knew a man named Jesus who was later revealed to them to be the Christ––hence the order Jesus Christ. Paul being “educated according to [the] exactness of the law of [our] fathers” (Acts 22: 3) knew much about the expected Christ. On the Damascus road he learnt that the Christ he expected was the Jesus he so despised––hence only he uses the term Christ Jesus. (There is good manuscript authority for “Christ” in 1 Pet. 5: 10 rather than “Christ Jesus”.)
We have position and standing “in Christ”, but our responsibility is connected with Him as Lord. The term conveys the idea of ownership, and hence power and authority. He is my Lord, and thus I am responsible to obey Him. That is why the Christian should say “If the Lord will”––his actions and movements are to be subject to what the Lord wants. The man of the world may speak of Jesus or Christ but almost never about the Lord (and then only under the delusion of false profession––see Matt. 7: 21). He does not know that One as his Master, nor does he want to know. A truly subject heart is only brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul: “no one can say, Lord Jesus, unless in [the power of the] Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12: 3).
It is the “Lord’s supper” and hence there is a responsibility connected with it (see 1 Cor. 11: 27). Wives are to be subject to their husbands “as fitting in [the] Lord” (Col. 3: 18), and children are to obey their parents “in [the] Lord” (Eph. 6: 1)––I do not do these things merely because my husband or parents expect me to, but because it is also the Lord’s will for me to do them. Again, marriage is to be “in [the] Lord” (1 Cor. 7: 39). To marry a Christian is not good enough––I am to be subject to the Lord’s authority as to which particular Christian I am to marry.
We have looked then at just a few of the precious things that can be gleaned from the names and titles of our Lord Jesus Christ. May it encourage the reader to dig a little deeper into these things, and to reap the spiritual blessing that will surely come.