If ever a name was packed with significance, it is the name Jesus. Scripture says Jesus has been given “the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:9–10, CSB). Why is our Lord’s name so powerful? What does the name Jesus mean?
The name Jesus, announced to Joseph and Mary through the angels (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31), means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” Transliterated from Hebrew and Aramaic, the name is Yeshua. This word is a combination of Ya, an abbreviation for Yahweh, the name of Israel’s God (Exodus 3:14); and the verb yasha, meaning “rescue,” “deliver,” or “save.”
The English spelling of the Hebrew Yeshua is Joshua. But when translated from Hebrew into Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the name Yeshua becomes Iēsous. In English, Iēsous becomes Jesus. Thus, Yeshua and, correspondingly, Joshua and Jesus mean “Yahweh saves” or “the Lord is salvation.”
The name Jesus was quite popular in first-century Judea. For this reason, our Lord was often called “Jesus of Nazareth,” distinguishing Him by His childhood home, the town of Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew 21:11; Mark 1:24; Luke 18:37; John 1:45; John 19:19; Acts 2:22). Despite its commonness, the name Jesus is remarkably significant. Jesus was sent by God for a particular purpose, and His personal name bears witness to that mission. Just as the Yeshua/Joshua in the Old Testament led his people to victory over the Canaanites, the Yeshua/Jesus in the New Testament led His people to victory over sin and their spiritual enemies.
Galatians 4:4–5 says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” God sent Jesus to save us (John 3:17). The meaning of Jesus’ name—“Yahweh saves”—reveals His mission (to save and deliver) and His identity as Savior of the world. At the same time, the commonness of Jesus’ name underscores His humanity and humility. The Son of God emptied Himself of His glory to become a humble man (Philippians 2:6–8). The Lexham Survey of Theology eloquently captures this dual significance in the name Jesus: “He was, from one angle, ‘just another Joshua,’ and yet, in another sense, he was the true Joshua—the one who would live up to the meaning of this name in ways that no others could.”
The name of Jesus is important because of its meaning and because of whom it represents. There is power and authority in the person of Christ Jesus, and, of course, the person is designated by the name. More so than with other names, we associate the name of Jesus with His distinctive character, quality, and work, as seen in the following biblical truths:
Salvation is in the name of Jesus alone: “Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11–12; see also John 14:6; 20:31; Acts 2:21; Joel 2:32; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 John 2:12).
Forgiveness of sins is received through the name of Jesus: “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43; see also 22:16).
Believers are baptized in the name of Jesus: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38; see also Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:12,15–16; 10:48; 19:5).
Healing and miracles were performed in the name of Jesus: “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see” (Acts 3:16; see also verses 6–8 and 4:30).
Jesus teaches believers to pray in His name; that is, to pray, in His authority, the type of prayer that He would pray: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13–14; see also 15:16; 16:23–24).
In every way, Jesus lives up to His name. The name Jesus reminds us of the power, presence, and purpose of the risen Christ. It assures us that God’s gracious intention is to save us. Our Lord Jesus brought God to humanity and now brings humans to God through the salvation He purchased. In the Bible, when people spoke or acted in the name of Jesus, they did so as the Lord’s representatives with His authority. The very life of the believer is to be lived in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17) and by doing so bring glory to God: “We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:12).