A Study Of Matthew 1:21
“And thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.”
We have an account just before the text of the circumstances in which Joseph found Mary his espoused wife. Not willing to make an example of her, he would have put her away privily. He was a just man, considering the poor woman would have trouble enough; and while he thought on these things, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son. And then comes in the text: “And thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.”
In the first place I will, as the Lord shall help me, notice the reference to the name of Jesus.
Who is this Jesus?
What he shall do for them.
I. In reference to the name of Jesus. There is no name to be found like it in any other book on earth, no names in any that are brought forth in comparison with it, but all must tremble before it.
In the greatness of his exaltation, the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is pre-eminent. We cannot illustrate it more strikingly and more beautifully than the apostle has done in Philippians 2. The exaltation of a precious Christ must shine more splendidly in contrast with his humiliation. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Time would not allow us to dwell on the humiliation scene, that which our blessed Jesus had to pass through. Then said the apostle, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, 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, to the glory of God the Father.”
Observe here, my friends, Jesus has a name above every name, of things in heaven. There the innumerable company of angels, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and confessors have left a great name on earth; but the name of Jesus, as Creator of the world and a Saviour, stands far above all. There the church triumphant, aided by angels, bows before his solemn, divine Majesty, ascribing all might, majesty, power and dominion to Jesus. He who stood condemned at Pilate’s bar, crowned with thorns, and crucified, died for his people and was raised again for their justification, entered heaven, and is at the right hand of God to plead, intercede and manage the affairs of his church. He is the Head over all things to his body the church. Whatever they want will be supplied out of the fullness of this precious Jesus.
The apostle, in Ephesians 1, has this gracious declaration respecting the Lord Jesus: “According to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be Head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.
Mark again, my friends, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, not only of things in heaven, but of things that are on earth. This shall be solemnly fulfilled at the last day, when everyone shall be constrained to acknowledge him. Now, beloved, there is this discriminating difference. Every elect vessel of mercy, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, called by efficacious grace, convinced of his sin and his need of Jesus, is constrained from the indwelling and working of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God in his soul to bow the knee to Jesus here, and confess his sins and his need of him as his Saviour; and this absolutely and certainly flows from the working of his Spirit. He bows the knee, has godly sorrow for sin, calls upon his name for mercy, peace and pardon with shame and confusion of face; so that every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess, either here or at the great day, that he is the Lord God Omnipotent, Zion’s God.
He triumphs and reigns over all kings. He is King of kings and Lord of lords; for all things in heaven and in earth are in his hand. He is the confidence of the soul of every dear child of God, when led by the blessed Spirit to see the pre-eminence Christ has over every other name, every other power. Both men and devils are under his control. He says, “Hitherto shalt thou go, and no farther, and here shall they proud waves be stayed.” (Job 38:11)
The devils confessed and bowed to his power. We read of the seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, who commanded the evil spirit to come out. The evil spirit said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” (Acts 19:14,15) And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped upon them and overcame them, and prevailed against them; so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
The name, the authority and power of the Lord Jesus is the same to this day. He is pre-eminent above all in heaven, and has the pre-eminence in his church upon earth. Say to Zion, “Thy God, thy Jesus, thy Saviour, thy Redeemer reigneth.” In the song it is, “Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth and triumphs over all.” His name is above all names and most precious. The reason why it is so precious is because he shall save his people from their sins. There is not another name given under heaven or among men whereby poor sinners can be saved. How feelingly, powerfully and graciously Peter spoke in reference to this name, when before the Sanhedrim! Neither the Jewish council nor the Sanhedrim could interdict the power by which the lame man that sat at the Beautiful gate had been healed. Bold was Peter in his answer. He felt the name of Jesus precious. It warmed his heart. He said, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole; neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10,12) Precious name of Jesus! He is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by him. (Heb. 7:25) It is in his heart to save; for the prophet Zephaniah says, “He will save.” (Zeph. 3:17) The sweetness and preciousness of the name of Jesus is because it is the only name whereby poor guilty sinners can be saved. “A just God and a Saviour.” The prophet says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isa. 45:21,22) No Saviour, poor sinner, but Jesus. “Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.”
God’s chosen and redeemed people, those taught by his blessed Spirit, are brought into that state of soul-feeling before the Lord that all the men on earth or angels in heaven cannot save them. As it respects saving themselves, they have tried that old covenant ground, and have felt completely sick at heart at this work. Having been brought in guilty, lost and ruined, weak and helpless, to the footstool of Jesus, pleading for mercy, they have feelingly said, “O Lord, my help must come from thee. Help is laid upon thee; and as there is no other name given under heaven whereby one so vile can be saved, O Lord, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Thus the heart of the dear child of God is set upon Christ. His hope centers in him, hanging and cleaving to him with full purpose of heart. The Lord, by his blessed Spirit, brings his own family to feel the necessity of mercy.
Jesus is the Saviour of his people in that he saves them with an everlasting salvation. They are brought to give all into his hands, to lie at his blessed feet, saying, “If I must perish, I will perish at the feet of Jesus, clinging, cleaving to Jesus.” Bless his name, he never gives a poor sinner to feel his need of him and puts a cry in his heart, and then disappoints the expectation of that precious soul. No, no! “He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him; he will hear their cry, and will save them.” (Ps. 145:19)
Another reference to the name of Jesus is: there is confidence wrought in the soul of the believer by the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus, above every other name. It is in this way, beloved, the Holy Spirit, whose prerogative it is to take of the things of Christ and show them to the poor sinner, showing him the power, the ability, and all-sufficiency and the willingness of Jesus to save poor, lost, guilty sinners. The blessed Spirit works such confidence in the soul of the dear child of God in the very name, the power and the suitability of Jesus to save, that he does, under the holy anointing of the Spirit, name the name of Jesus.
Here let me observe that no man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 12:3) A man may by his mouth do so; but that is not the point. No man will worship Jesus with divine authority and experimentally as Jesus, that he has confidence in, only as wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit. Hence the desire of his soul is to the remembrance of his name. Blessed Jesus, that I may be found in thee, the desire of my soul is to thy name, above every other name in heaven and earth.
Brethren and sisters in the Lord, how do matters stand? If your desires are to any other name, you are looking to a broken cistern, you are relying upon a false foundation.
It is also said in reference to the name of Jesus, as the ground and confidence of the soul’s support, “They that know thy name,” which is Jesus, that feel the preciousness and power of that name, “will put their trust in thee.” (Ps. 9:10) Such is really the case; for wherever there is a revelation of that name, of the ability and the all-sufficiency of Christ to save, that soul will place all his confidence and dependence in the name, Person, blood, righteousness and power of Jesus. And no living soul, previous to this state, can be under any real gospel rest. No; until brought in this way to know the name of Jesus, to commit the care of our precious souls into his hand, as in the language of the apostle upon a vital point of experimental religion. There is no doubt of the genuine nature and reality of what is here expressed in the following portion of the Word of God. It bears the stamp of divine inspiration: “I know whom I have believed.” I have believed in Jesus to the saving of my soul. “He that believes in him and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” “I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded of his power, ability, sufficiency and willingness to save my soul. I am confident that he will keep that which I have committed into his hands against that day. I have committed my soul’s salvation into his keeping, committed all into his hand–into the hand of the Lord Jesus the Saviour–with such sweet, solemn, blessed confidence and safety that I can sing with the prophet, ‘Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song. He also is become my salvation.'” (Isa. 12:2)
One of the songs that we sing in reference to this important subject among the friends, when we assemble for proposing or receiving members–and I believe that it is often the experimental feeling of their souls–is:
“Jesus, my God, I know his name;
His name is all my trust.”
Not a part; but all my trust:
“Nor will he put my soul to shame,
Nor let my hope be lost.”
And so on.
We find confidence in the name of Jesus because there is no name given on earth that is so sweet, so precious, so soul-animating to the Christian, taught by the Spirit of God, as that name. The name of the Lord Jesus is a good name, which is as ointment poured forth. Yes, my friends, a divine savor and odor is connected with the sweet and precious name of Jesus. When that name is revealed that Jesus known by the blessed Spirit in the soul of a poor sinner, that confidence wrought in the soul in the name of him of whom we have been speaking, the heart of the sinner is warmed within. His confidence in Jesus is strengthened. He feels such love to him, that he is so precious, so sweet, that his name is such a savor to him, that neither men nor devils can stop him from expressing his feelings in scriptural language: “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Precious Jesus! Thou art to my soul the Chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely!
This name of Jesus has the pre-eminence in the souls of his dear children upon earth; so that, under the ministry of the Word, when the minister has been exalting the Lamb of God, under the blessed teaching of the Spirit, they have been laid low at his feet, and emptied of self. Their language and felt experience has been: “Let me be emptied, abased and laid low at his feet, in the dust of self-abasement.” The language of our hearts is: “Let the Lamb of God, the sin-atoning Lamb, be exalted. Let me speak well of his name. Let me triumph in Christ and in the power of his resurrection.” There is here complete salvation. When you have heard him set forth, in his death, resurrection, ascension and entrance into heaven, while the preacher has been exalting a precious Christ, the Lamb of God, the sin-atoning Lamb, there has been a secret something dwelling in the heart which has warmed and animated your spirit, filling your soul with gratitude, and setting you rejoicing inwardly; and you have placed the crown upon the head of a precious Christ, and said, “Crown him, Lord of all.” The name of Jesus, therefore, has the pre-eminence.
To close this branch of the subject, I will just mention this anecdote. More than forty years ago I was speaking of the preciousness of Christ at Halifax. The Lord blessed me with enlargement of heart in speaking of the name, Person and work of a precious Christ. When I descended from the pulpit, an old man was sitting at the foot of the stairs. He put his walking-stick under his arm, got fast hold of my hand in his, and looked me full in the face for a moment. I was at a loss to know whether he was going to condemn or express his approbation, when he burst forth with,
“Join all the glorious names
Of wisdom, love and power,
That ever mortals knew,
Or angels ever bore;
All are too mean to speak his worth,
Too mean to set my Saviour forth,”
at the same time giving my hand a hearty shake. You cannot tell what a response there was in my soul to what he said. It suited my spirit. The pre-eminence, the majesty, glory, strength, consolation and truth in the name of a precious Jesus is to be found in no other.
II. Speak of this Person who is to do this great work–“save his people.” Who is he? There is a general sense in which it may be said scripturally that he is the Lord; and in his complex character of God and man he is the Lord, the adorable and ever-blessed God-Man. “There are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One.” (1 John 5:7) The immortal Word is our Jesus. By him all things were created that are named. He became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory as the only-begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) Here we have the mystery of godliness set forth in our text. It is the incarnation of the immortal Word–“made of a woman, made under the law,” to redeem his people from the curse of the law; (Gal. 4:4,5; Gal. 3:10) our Immanuel, God with us.
Speaking of Jesus, he really is God over all, blessed for evermore. He is the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth. All things are his. He is the great Creator and Benefactor. His mercy and compassion are over all his works as the God of nature, causing the rain to descend and the sun to rise and shine on the evil and on the good, upon the just and unjust. But this is not the sense in which the angel is to be understood in addressing Joseph: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.”
III. Who are his people? Why, my friends, without any controversy, his people are they who were loved in him by a covenant God and Father with an everlasting love, chosen in him unto salvation from the beginning; not because of their being any better than others, or of any worth or worthiness in them more than others. O no, no! But it is all according to the good will of that God who anciently dwelt in the bush. We are, my friends, quite aware those old-fashioned doctrines of salvation and predestination are not popular in the age in which it has pleased God that we should live. Many persons who profess to believe them keep them in the background. And this brings a circumstance to my mind. Some time ago, one afternoon, going to visit a sick friend, on my way I passed the house of a very influential man, whom I had known from a youth [the famous Victorian statesman, John Bright]. I was familiar with his father. I saw him. He said, “Friend Kershaw, I was at your chapel yesterday afternoon.” I replied, “I thought you Friends” (called Quakers) “kept to your own meetings.” He said, “Generally so; but the fact is I went to see a person, and he was gone to chapel, so I concluded to go and wait for him. I perceived the man who was preaching held the doctrines the same as thee; but he did not bring them out; he kept them in the background. Now, how was that?” How was that? He dared not come out with it, for fear of giving offence. “He that hath my Word let him speak my Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? said the Lord.”
One objection brought against the doctrine is that, knowing we are chosen and certain of salvation, it is apt to make us lifted up, to boast, be proud, despise others, and be high-minded. Now let me tell these objectors they know nothing about it. They are out of the secret. If ever God by his Spirit shows a man what a sinner he is, what he has merited at his hands, and that the great and gracious God should in his covenant love have mercy and compassion upon him, the effect will be to humble him in the dust of self-abasement, and to admire that love that first fixed upon one so unworthy. Instead of despising others, his song will be of God’s free mercy and sovereign grace. How abundantly his mercy is set forth in his own words in John 17: “Thine they were and thou gavest them me. All mine are thine and thine are mine.” No man shall pluck them out of his hand. “My Father that gave them me put them into my hands, secured them in me. My Father is greater than all, and no man shall ever be able to pluck them out my Father’s hands.”
These people are his inheritance, his portion. “The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, in a waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.” (Deut. 32:9,10)
“Good doctrines can do me no good,
While floating in the brain;
Unless they yield my heart some food
They bring no real gain.”
It is only as they are made manifest in my heart and soul by the power of the Holy Ghost. There it is, and it does my soul good. Chosen by him, given into the hands of Jesus as the covenant Head and Representative of his people, their Saviour and Redeemer. Then the question arises, “Are you among that happy number? Am I one of those whom the Father hath chosen, and given my cause into the hand of Christ my covenant Head? Have I placed all my confidence and dependence in him?” That is a sweet portion of our Lord’s on this point, that sweet declaration: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” (John 6:37) Not have offers and proffers merely; he tells them they shall come. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” (Ps. 110:3)
Now, the question is, “Has the Lord laid hold of us?” For myself, I can say, when the Lord first began with me, when the arrow of conviction first laid hold of my conscience, when the hidden sorrow for sin caused me to separate from my worldly companions by the power of divine grace, I was brought out of this world and brought to the feet of Christ.
“All that the Father giveth me shall come”–the lost to be saved, the guilty to be pardoned, the naked to be clothed, the filthy to be washed in atoning blood, the weak to be strengthened, the ignorant to be instructed. All Christ’s people were given to him by his Father. Being brought into that state that they know they cannot do without him, they are therefore compelled to come to him.
A word here to the dear child of God. When the Lord Jesus put that question to his disciples, when many of them went back and walked no more with him, “Will ye also go away?” Peter did not say, “We will not;” but puts another question: “To whom shall we go but unto thee? For thou hast the words of eternal life. None can save us but thou, none can help us but thou. There is no joy or consolation only in thee.” The dear children given by the Father into the hand of Christ, they are brought to him.
IV. What Christ shall do for his people. He shall save them from their sins. “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.”
Now all the Lord’s people are by God the Father kept and preserved in the Lord Jesus, the great Head of the church, sanctified and set apart, preserved in Christ Jesus, and called; and they shall be presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.
One experimental mark of the people given by the Father into the hand of the Lord Jesus is they are all taught by the blessed Spirit of God to commit the keeping of the salvation of their precious and never-dying souls into the hands of Jesus. If you and I, through grace, are enabled to believe in Jesus, make a humble, solemn surrender of ourselves to Jesus, begging that we may be his, and his only, that he would make it manifest we are his jewels, bound up in the bundle of life with him, a seed to serve him, a generation to call him blessed, vessels of honour, vessels of mercy afore prepared for the Master’s use for immortal glory; if this feeling, these desires, are wrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost, this will make our souls joyful in God.
God Almighty command his blessing on these truths.
Preached at the opening of Rehoboth Chapel, Lower Ford Street, Coventry, on December 25th, 1857 – By John Kershaw