For years now, I’ve been aware of, and experienced personally, the power of the name of Jesus. This serves as a good example of how we can benefit from something we don’t fully understand. There are lots of these. We can drive a car without having the knowledge a mechanic does. We can use electricity while remaining largely ignorant of the laws which govern it. Similarly, we can enjoy the salvation and other spiritual blessings that come with faith in the name of Jesus without having a theologian’s grasp of it.
I can imagine that some might be scared off by the idea of looking at the name of Jesus through a technical theological lens. Don’t worry. I’m not a theologian so I wouldn’t be of much help to you doing that. However, I do believe that having a more precise understanding of anything can deepen our appreciation for it. This is especially true when it comes to a concept as profound as the name of Jesus.
As I began looking up references to verses which contain allusions to the name of Jesus, I was a little surprised at the number of them — something in the neighbourhood of a hundred. For our purposes, we don’t have time to look at them all in depth. Indeed there is no need to because often several passages refer to the same truth. For example: 7 verses mention that the name of Jesus brings salvation to all the peoples of the earth. 6 refer to the power of Jesus’ name in dealing with demons. 12 reinforce the exaltation of the name of Jesus. And so on.
My purpose is two-fold — to both broaden and deepen your appreciation for the name of Jesus and, of course, the One who bears that name. To get started, we’ll go to the beginning of the two gospels which give the origin of the name as pertains to the most famous “Jesus” of them all, the Son of God. It’s worth pointing out that Jesus, as a name, is not unique. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew name Yeshua was its equivalent in terms of its meaning. Both the Old Testament name, Yeshua (or Joshua), and the New Testament name, Jesus, mean “Jehovah is salvation” or “Jehovah saves.”
In some languages today, the name Jesus is common. I lived in Latin America for 10 years and met many men named “Jesús.” This struck me as odd, at first, because the idea of naming little boy babies “Jesus” never caught on in English culture. Many sources suggest that “Jesus” was a common name in 1st Century Judea where parents kept the hope of salvation from the Romans alive by giving their boys this name which reminded everyone that salvation would come from Jehovah.
The announcing angel told both Joseph (in Matthew 1:21) and Mary (in Luke 1:41) that the miraculously conceived child was to be called “Jesus.” The reason for the name, the angel told Joseph was that He would “save His people from their sins.” Later, in Luke 2:21 we read: “when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” It was God, Himself, who chose this name for His Son — for that reason alone, it has surpassing significance.
With this background in mind, let’s move forward and consider some of the teachings we find in the Bible about the name of Jesus. I confess I’ve not attempted to put these in any particular order. After all, how could I say one teaching about the name of Jesus was more important than another. I thought the most logical place to begin would be at the place where anyone who knows Jesus meets Him — in salvation.
This is also one of the most controversial teachings, so we might as well deal with it right away. The verses we’ll look at in the next few minutes make it clear that the name of Jesus is the only one by which we can be saved. Please note: this is not some exclusivistic teaching of my own. The Bible repeatedly makes claims, in different wording, that Jesus’ death on the cross is the only provision God made for people who want to approach Him. They can’t come any other way, not by their own effort, not by some means or person. As Jesus, Himself, said “No one comes to the Father except by me.” (John 14:6)
Before we look at the verses, I’d like to point out that this exclusivity which is often seen as a flaw of Christianity, is generally common among all religions. Each one has its own way of salvation through good works, keeping laws, following a prophet’s teachings, or some such thing. For the most part it is people who don’t have any specific belief who claim that all ways lead to God. Hindus don’t say that. Muslims don’t say that. Buddhists don’t say that. Jews don’t say that Christians don’t say that.
Since we’re interested in the name of Jesus and its significance in these studies, we’ll keep our attention on Christianity. Here are some verses which underscore that salvation is through the name of Jesus:
John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
John 20:30-31 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Ac 2:21 “And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.”
Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 10:43 “To Him [that is Jesus] all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
Acts 22:16 “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
Romans 10:13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
1Corinthians 6:11 “And such [gross sinners] were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
1John 2:12 “I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.”
1John 3:23 “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”
1John 5:13 “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
As we consider these verses together, it is impossible to conclude that the name of Jesus is just one means of many, through which men and women can approach God. All of them specify that salvation, eternal life, forgiveness, sanctification, and justification come through the name of Jesus — that is, belief in the man whose name means “Jehovah saves.” The only thing that one could argue is added is baptism, mentioned in Acts 22:16. That, however, is only an appearance. Many other passages explain that baptism is a public expression of faith, an identification with Jesus in a demonstrable way. No one is ever saved by baptism. We are saved, and enjoy all of the other spiritual blessings I just mentioned through faith in the name of Jesus.
Nothing is added to this — at least the Bible adds nothing. Factions of Christians have added other things, like baptism, good works, law keeping, avoidance of particular substances or behaviours, special rites of the church, and so on. But these verses make clear the fact that the spiritual blessings that we seek come directly through our personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ — not Jesus plus sacraments, Jesus plus our effort, Jesus plus anything you can think of. It is in the name of Jesus alone that anyone gets any spiritual benefit.
Now, if you were listening very carefully, you might have noticed that until the last thirty seconds or so, I emphasized these verses which claim that forgiveness, salvation, eternal life and the rest are available only to those who believe in the name of Jesus. Then, a moment ago, I apparently slipped and said that our personal faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ. That was only an apparent slip. We must always remember that the name of Jesus is not some magic formula. It is what it is. It is a name. What matters is not the name, which of course varies from language to language. What matters is the One who bears that name — and that is only One person.
In fact, there are verses which make it clear that Jesus, the man, and Jesus, the name, are synonymous. We can’t separate them. Listen carefully to these verses from Acts 8. They are about the end of the encounter between Philip and a man he met on the road, a eunuch from Ethiopia. Notice that the word “name” never appears, but it is clear that the man had saving faith in Jesus.
Acts 8:36-38 “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”
Notice that the man’s faith was in the person named Jesus. That is what matters. While the name of Jesus is precious and powerful, it is so only because of the man who has that name. That’s why we so often add titles like “Christ” and “Lord” to the name, to distinguish who we’re talking about. You’ll notice this in the next verses we’ll look at.
Romans 10:8-10 “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Did you notice that once again, we have an explanation of how to be saved, but the word “name” is absent. However, to keep things very clear, Paul adds the title “Lord” when he mentions Jesus, so that everyone would know exactly about whom he was speaking. Let me bring forward one more witness, from the book of Galatians.
Galatians 3:22 “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
Once again, we observe Paul confirmed that the spiritual promise that comes by faith in Jesus is given to those who believe. And once again, he makes clear which Jesus he’s talking about, just in case there could be any confusion, by adding the title “Christ.
So what have we observed today about the name of Jesus? The crucial point is that Jesus the man and Jesus the name are synonymous. We can’t separate them. We are saved by believing in His name, because believing in the name, Jesus, is another way of saying we believe in the One whose name means “Jehovah saves.” In the weeks to come, we’ll see that some people who did not believe in Jesus the man, tried to use His name with disastrous results. Let me emphasize that while the name of Jesus is of the utmost significance, bringing power to bear in all kinds of situations, it is not just a magical word one could use to cast a spell, or make a charm, or otherwise manipulate reality.
As we close, let me remind you that the verses we looked at earlier teach that believing in the name of Jesus is the way to deliverance from condemnation, obtaining eternal life, salvation, remission or forgiveness of sin, cleansing from sin, sanctification, justification, and more. God chose the name “Jesus” for His Son because of its meaning — Jehovah saves — and gave it spiritual power so that all those who call upon that name might be delivered from sin and its consequences and brought into the place of intimacy with Him.
This is all very personal. It is not merely an academic exercise. It changes our lives profoundly. Appealing to the name of Jesus sets us free from the sin that troubles us, yet at the same time, binds us to Him forever. Believe in the name of Jesus today and begin the spiritual journey which will take you places you can’t even imagine.