Part 4 of a series on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth.
In Part 4 of this series on Jesus the God-Man, we will take a look at the many names and titles used of God in the Old Testament that are picked up by the New Testament writers and applied to Jesus.
First, let’s consider the name LORD (יהוה or Yahweh in Hebrew). This is the proper name of the God of Israel — and it was regarded by Israel as so holy that even today, Jews will not utter this name.
Jesus is called Lord many times in the New Testament. But there is a problem: the Greek word used (κύριος or kyrios) also means master or ‘lord’ in the informal sense. In order to make sure we’ve properly understood the intention of the New Testament writers, therefore, we will only look at those instances where they call Jesus ‘Lord’ while quoting Old Testament passages that used the name YHWH. By narrowing our focus like this, we can be certain that the New Testament writers wanted us to identify Jesus with YHWH.
John the Baptist’s role was to announce the arrival of Jesus as the long-expected Messiah. In describing this scene, the gospels tell us that John is “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” (Matthew 3:3) This is a quote from Isaiah 40:3, where God’s name יהוה is used. To summarise: John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus — who is the LORD.
In Romans, Paul exhorts his readers to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus” — promising that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13) Paul quotes that last phrase directly from Joel 2:32, where God’s name (יהוה) is used. He wants us to understand that Jesus is the LORD spoken of by the prophets.
This is not the only place Paul makes such a connection. He tells the Philippians that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11). This is a paraphrase of Isaiah 45:23-24, where the LORD (יהוה) is the recipient of this lavish worship.
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul asks, “who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16). This is a reference to Isaiah 40:13 which again, uses God’s sacred name (יהוה). Here, Paul is declaring that to have the mind of Christ is to have the mind of the LORD.
As we saw in Part 1, the Old Testament calls God Saviour (Isaiah 45:21), even declaring that besides God there is no saviour (Isaiah 43:11, Hosea 13:4). And yet in the New Testament, the title Saviour (σωτήρ or soter in the Greek) is used of Jesus many times — in Luke 2:11, John 4:42, Acts 5:31, Acts 13:23, Philippians 3:20, 2 Timothy 1:10, Titus 1:4, Titus 2:13, Titus 3:6, 2 Peter 1:1, 2 Peter 1:11, 2 Peter 2:20, 2 Peter 3:2, 2 Peter 3:18 and 1 John 4:14.
In Part 2, we considered Jesus’ use of God’s name I AM (έγώ είμι) from Exodus 13:13-14 to refer to himself. Some of the most significant times Jesus identified with this name include in Matthew 14:27, Mark 14:62, John 13:13, John 18:5 — and of course the seven ‘I AM’ statements in the gospel of John (John 6:35, John 8:12, John 10:9, John 10:11, John 11:25, John 14:6, John 15:1).
Likewise in Part 3, we saw many occasions when Jesus’ apostles referred to him as God (θεός or theos in the Greek). There is no need to examine each of these instances again, but the reader can follow them up in Luke 7:16, John 1:1, John 20:28, Acts 7:59, Acts 20:28, Romans 9:5, 1 Timothy 3:16, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1 and 1 John 5:20.
There are many other, more subtle names used of God in the Old Testament that are applied to Jesus by the writers of the New Testament. One of these is King of Israel. Isaiah declares that the LORD is the King of Israel (Isaiah 44:6) — then John tells us that on Palm Sunday, as Jesus enters Jerusalem, the people cry out, “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)
In the Psalms especially, God is described as a shepherd (Psalm 23:1) — even the Shepherd of Israel (Psalm 80:1). This is a title that Jesus then ascribes to himself when he says, “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11)
The prophet Isaiah presents God as a bridegroom, saying, “as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” (Isaiah 62:5). In his teachings, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom (Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:19-20, Luke 5:34-35), most clearly perhaps in his parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). Paul does the same by likening the church to the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:21-33, 2 Corinthians 11:2), as does John (Revelation 19:7).
It is also Isaiah who declares that “the LORD shall be thine everlasting light” (Isaiah 60:20). Jesus of course calls himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12) — leading the apostles to apply this imagery to Jesus in a myriad of ways.
In Jeremiah, we read, “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10). In Revelation, speaking to the church in Thyatira, Jesus quotes this same verse to describe himself: “I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” (Revelation 2:23).
Indeed in Revelation, Jesus is truly revealed. The title the first and the last is used by God to describe himself several times in the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 41:4, Isaiah 44:6, Isaiah 48:12). In Revelation, variations of this title — including the Alpha and the Omega, and the beginning and the end — are also used to describe God the Father (Revelation 1:8, Revelation 21:6, Revelation 22:13). But it is also used by Jesus himself: “I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” (Revelation 1:17-18)
And we must not neglect the title of Creator. God is consistently depicted as the Creator throughout the Old Testament (e.g. Genesis 1:1, Isaiah 42:5, Isaiah 45:18). And yet in the New Testament, so is Jesus!
John tells us that “all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Paul says the same to the Ephesians — that God “created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9). Paul repeats this refrain in Colossians: “By him [the Son] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” (Colossians 1:16). The author of Hebrews affirms that “God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, by whom he made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:2)
God’s Word is clear: Jesus is the LORD, the Saviour, the I AM. He is God; He is the King of Israel; He is the shepherd and the bridegroom and the light. Jesus is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. He is the searcher of hearts, the first and the last, and the Creator of the world. And He deserves all of our worship!