The Names of Our Mediator
What's in a name? For most of us our name, though very precious, is little more than a tag we wear to distinguish us from someone else. Once, names meant something. Today their significance is lost. For instance, Bakers or Bakkers do not always have bakeries. They have book stores, furniture companies and they are physicians. Vander Ploegs have bakeries, preach and edit magazines but don't always have to do with plows, as their name suggests. Kuipers often do not make barrels or wooden tubs. They are engaged in other tasks. When we look up the meaning of our given names in the little guides published for that purpose we are sometimes disappointed or even embarrassed. They hardly say the truth about us. Names no longer are descriptive of a person, except incidentally. Unless, of course, they are the nicknames we pick up from friends or enemies.
In Bible times names meant something. They were ways of explaining what something really was. Adam knew this and as he looked at each of the animals in the Garden of Eden he named them, thus expressing in a word what each animal really was. Each name told the true nature of the being.
Even the name of Adam is significant. It is the Hebrew word for "man" and may mean — if many etymologists are correct — "from the red ground". The other names in Scripture are significant, too. They say something definite about the person. Abraham means "father of a multitude". Isaac means "laughter". Isaiah means "salvations of Jehovah". These names were meaningful. They spoke loudly in one way or another of the ones who bore them.
Our Mediator is called by many names on the pages of Scripture. In fact, there are more than we can consider in the space of this article. Each name discloses the essence of the Mediator. No doubt His many names speak of His fullness and also of our inability to understand His greatness.
The Old Testament announces the Mediator by a number of names. Already in Genesis 3:15, He is the "Seed of the woman". Our Lord would call Himself the "Son of Man" in keeping with this first title given in Scripture. Isaiah spoke of Him as "Immanuel" (7:14) and the
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Genesis 9:6
Zechariah spoke of "the Branch" (6:12), and in Malachi 3:1, He is the "Messenger of the Covenant". Each of these names, along with the other prophetic designations of the Mediator in the Old Testament, is a rich study in itself.
There are several names which we commonly use to speak of the Mediator: Jesus, Christ and Lord. Properly speaking, only the first is a name. The other two are titles. But since all three disclose the essence of the Mediator we consider them as THE NAMES OF THE MEDIATOR.
The given name — and it should be added, the God-given name of our Mediator is Jesus. In response to God's command to both Joseph and Mary (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:31) the child born to Mary in Bethlehem was called Jesus (Luke 2:21). Though it was a common name, only He could really bear it. Literally, the names mean "Jehovah salvation"; and this is what God communicated to Joseph through the angel:
Thou shalt call his name JESUS; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.Matthew 1:21
Already in the Old Testament there were men who bore this name in anticipation of His coming. Jesus is merely the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua.
Moses' place was taken by Joshua. It was his task to bring Israel into the promised land. Canaan was an emblem of that eternal rest promised by God. Joshua was an emblem, or a type, of the Mediator of the Covenant, Jesus (Hebrews 4:8, 9).
Later in the history of the Old Testament we meet another Joshua. He was the High Priest at the time of the rebuilding of the Temple (Haggai 1:1, 2:4; Zechariah 3, 6:11). The outstanding point about this Joshua was that in Zechariah's night vision (ch. 3) he, as a representative of Israel, visibly portrayed the truth of justification — a Biblical truth at the heart of salvation. His filthy garments were replaced by clean, white garments.
The name Jesus is profoundly rich for the believer. It reminds us that salvation is of the Lord. He is the revelation of the God of our salvation. Through Him we know deliverance from sin because He paid our debt before God. Through Him we are called to life from death — a life which the believer knows now and will know fully in all eternity.
That name Jesus, given by God, was to express His purpose for coming. Is it any wonder that hymn-writers and poets have written so meaningfully about it? John Newton wrote:
How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.
Charles Wesley wrote:
Jesus! the Name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
'Tis music in the sinner's ears,
'Tis life and health and peace.
The second designation given to the Mediator is Christ. This is an official name. It speaks of His task so that He would fulfill the purpose of His coming. "Christ" is the Greek form of the Hebrew title "Messiah" (John 1:41). Both "Christ" and "Messiah" refer to anointing.
Therefore, we understand Him as "the Anointed One". This anointing refers to the Old Testament procedure of anointing with oil those set aside for a special task. Anointing was, in effect, ordination. Through it men were appointed to office (their God-given assignment), as were David and Elisha. By that anointing they were set apart in a special relationship. Further, that oil of anointing represented the Holy Spirit who was given in a special way in ordination (1 Samuel 16:13).
As Christ, the Mediator was anointed from eternity as God's gracious Provision to effect the salvation of His eternal good pleasure. In history this anointing was seen to be a reality in His conception by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) and in His reception of the Holy Spirit at the time of baptism (Matthew 3:16). By the Holy Spirit Christ was, qualified or made competent for the task given Him to do.
We also call the Mediator "Lord". This, too, was, and still is a common title. It can be used in a variety of ways: i.e., such as a polite address to one who is a superior or the expression of utter subjection. However, when the title "Lord" is used in relation to our Mediator, it always carries with it an emphasis on Christ's power and authority. For instance, much more than polite address is implied in Matthew 8:2 or 20:33. Whether Jesus is called Lord as teacher, as the One at God's right hand or as the One who lacks nothing of the Divine glory, it always means that His is sovereign authority.
This title understood in this way, when it is applied to our Mediator, is the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9-11). For that reason the angels at Bethlehem said,
There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.Luke 2:11
The Heidelberg Catechism reminds Christians that the Mediator is our Lord and sovereign owner (q. 34) for,
...He has redeemed us, body and soul, from all our sins, not with gold or silver, but with His precious blood, and has delivered us from all the power of th devil, and has made us His own possession.