Jesus Christ

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord.” [1]

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Names often tell a story. The name, Jesus Christ, is no exception.

When we use the name, Jesus, in English, we are transliterating the Greek of the New Testament. Jesus’ given name was actually Joshua which means “he saves” in Hebrew. However, because Greek does not have an “SH” sound, Joshua could not be accurately transliterated in New Testament Greek. Consequently, we borrowed Jesus from the Greek.

Joshua’s role in the Old Testament is instructive. Moses commissioned Joshua to lead the nation of Israel with these words:

And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.” (Deut 31:23) [2]

Jesus’ given name, Joshua, summarizes his commission. However, Jesus’ salvation arises as he brings us, not into the Promised Land, but into Heaven (Heb 4:1–11). This salvation, furthermore, arises not from law, but from grace (Phil 3:2–11).

When we use the name, Jesus Christ, Christ is not Jesus’ last name. Christ translates the Hebrew word, Messiah, into Greek and it means anointed one because during the commissioning process oil was poured on your head. Priests, prophets, and kings were anointed. The New Testament pictures Jesus fulfilling the roles of each of these three types of messiahs.

Jesus’ messianic role is highlighted in the Book of Hebrews where we read:

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 5:5–6)

Melchizedek was the king of Salem (later called Jerusalem) and he was also a priest (Gen 14:18) [3]. Saying that Jesus is a priest of the order of Melchizedek expresses the idea that he is also a king. In Matthew 24:1–2 Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which occurred later in AD 70, confirming his prophetic role.

When we confess that Jesus is the only son of God [4], we acknowledge Jesus’ divinity and exclusively as savior (John 3:16–17). God’s infinite nature poses a problem for us because we are finite. Only someone divine can cross the divide between the infinite and the finite. In Jesus Christ, God crosses the divide to initiate the conversation and mediate for us—an act of grace—as high priest (Heb 5:1) [5].

Footnotes

[1] The references in this chapter to the Apostle’s Creed are all taken from FACR (2013, Q/A 23). Another translation is found in (PCUSA 1999, 2.1—2.3).

[2] Because of Moses’ sin at Meribah, God forbad Moses from bringing the people of Israel into the Promised Land himself (Num 20:8–12).

[3] In Hebrew Melchizedek means righteous king and some believe it to have been a title given to Shem, the righteous son of Noah (Gen 9:28). Ps 110, which is quoted in Heb 5:6, also associated King David with Melchizedek.

[4] Son of God is also, of course, a kingly title closely related to the title that Jesus preferred to call himself—son of man—which immediately brings to mind the prophesy of Dan 7.

[5] The parable of the tenants highlights the exclusively of Jesus’ role as mediator (Matt 21:33–40). The parable of the wedding feast addresses the problem created when we reject Jesus as mediator (Matt 22:2–14). When we confess Jesus as God’s one and only son, we acknowledge God’s sovereignty in determining the means of our salvation.

References

Faith Alive Christian Resources (FACR). 2013. The Heidelberg Catechism. Cited: 30 August, 2013. Online: https://www.rca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=372.

Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PC USA). 1999. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—Part I: Book of Confession. Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly.

Jesus Christ

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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2 Comments

  1. I feel like I have been exposed a lot lately to the sad fact that we limit the scope of our relationship with a “higher power” by basing it on man (and/or woman). I heard a sermon not too long ago about the story of the golden calf. For those who haven’t heard of it, it can be found in Exodus 32. As a synopsis, the story tells of Moses ascending a mountain to receive the infamous Ten Commandments from God and in the meantime, the Israelites lost hope and therefore forced the next in command to construct an idol or another god for them to worship. The lesson taught in the sermon was about how we set ourselves up for failure because we base our faith on another man and when that man leaves, fails, or otherwise disappoints us, our hope and faith follows suit.

    1. Thank you for you insight.

      So many times the disappointments in life are related to particular people and events in our lives. Then, we find ourselves alone with no one to turn to other than God. Piety those that are left with a hole and emptiness instead of God!

      Stephen

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