What Is The Meaning of Christ


Dr. John Hoole




In Matthew 16 we find Jesus and his disciples arriving at the northern Roman city of Caesarea Philippi.  In verse 13, Christ asks his disciples, “Who do men say I, the Son of Man, am?”  Two verses later – verse 15, He looks at His disciples and asks: “Who do you say that I am?”


In a world in which information is readily available and opinions abound, this fundamental question stands above all other inquiries and considerations.  This is a question every person must answer.


Ancient Jews usually had only one name. When greater specificity was needed, an appellation was added.  They could add the place they were from, Jesus of Nazareth.


Others identified by their hometown were:


•  Saul of Tarsus

•  Lucius of Cyrene (Acs 13:1)

•  Simon the Cyrene (Matthew 27:32)

•  Judas Iscariot (Many theologians believe Judas was from Kerioth.

Kerioth is a city in Judah, mentioned in Joshua 15:25.)


They also identified people by the father’s name.


•  Levi the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14)

•  James the son of Zebedee (Mark 3:17)

•  Jesus the son of Mary (Mark 6:3)


Still others were distinguished from other people with the same name by the use of nicknames.


•  Simon Peter (John 1:43)

•  Simon the Zealot (Matthew 10:4)

•  John Mark


There are over a hundred different names and titles applied to Jesus in Scripture.  One of the most prevalent is “CHRIST.”


This is a word that occurs 569 times in the New Testament, but rarely used by Jesus when speaking of Himself.


The two words, “JESUS CHRIST,” are used as if they are His first and last name.  Example of that is  Matthew 1:1 NKJV


1   The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:


20 New Testament books includes the words, Jesus Christ, in their very first verse of the book.  Those that do not are Luke, John Acts, Hebrews, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John.


The word, CHRIST, is actually a title, not a name.  In fact, of all the names sometimes ascribed to Jesus, I can only think of one (maybe 3) that is an actual name, not a title or position.


That is the name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23).  The Matthew verse is a quote of the Isaiah one.


Matthew 1:22-23 NKJV


22  So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

23    "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."


There are possibly two other names.


•  I AM:      This is the name God gave Moses in Exodus 3:13-14.  Jesus said, in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM.


    •  How about the name Jehovah? I think you can connect the name Jehovah to Christ.  I will do that in a later lesson.


Now back to the word, “Christ.”  Again, this is a title, not a name.  Here are a couple verses where He is called, “The Christ.,”


In Luke 4:41, even the demons cried out, “Youa re THE Christ, the Son of God.”


In John 1:41, we find Andrew declaring to his brother, Peter, “We have found the Messiah (which is translated, the Christ.)”


The word, Christ, is transliterated from a Greek word Christos, meaning “anointed one.”  Its equivalent in Hebrew is the word MASHIACH, having the same meaning. hen the Bible refers to “Jesus Christ,” it is saying that Jesus is the chosen, anointed,  Messiah.


In Matthew 16, When Jesus asked His disciple who they thought Hi to be, Peter answered, “You are THE CHRIST, the son of the living God.”


If you have an NIV translation, it replaces the word “Christ” with the word “Messiah.”  The English word, Messiah comes from the Greek, MESSIA which occurs in the New Testament only two times (John 1:41 and John 4:25).


One of those we noted a moment ago in Andew’s statement to his brother Peter, where he said, “We have found the Messiah(which is translated, the Christ.”)


The other occurrence, in John 4, is a statement made by the woman of Samaria when talking to Jesus at Jacob’s well. She said she was aware that the Messiah would come, (John 4:25) to which Jesus responded, “I who speak with you am He (verse 26).”


Notice what the Holy Spirit encourages the apostle Paul to say to Jewish people  on his second missionary journey after arriving at Corinth.


Acts 18:4-5 NKJV

4    And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

5   When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.


He is telling the Jews in Corinth that Jesus is their Messiah.


Allow me to examine the Old Testament usage of the Hebrew word, Mashiyach.”  Mashiyach is found in the Old Testament 39 times.


37 times it is translated “anointed.”


   2 times it is translated, “Messiah (both in Daniel 9:25, 26)


In the NIV, it is translated, “The Anointed One” in the Daniel occurrences.


The first time Mashiyach occurs in the Old Testament is in Leviticus 4:3.


Leviticus 4:3 NKJV


3    if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering.


In this verse and the next 3 times “mashiyach” is used in the Bible, it references “priest(s)” as the “anointed one(s)”: Lev. 4:3,5,16;6:22.


Altogether in the OT when “mashiyach” is used, the word references priest 5 times;


•  It is applied to Israeli kings 28 times;


•  the people of Yisrael 3 times (Lam 4:20;Hab 3:13; Psalm 105:15)


•  Cyrus, a Gentile Perian king 1 time (Isaiah 45:1).


In each of these passages whether priest, king or people, it is indeed God doing the anointing or the choosing.  There are no exceptions.


There have been many great leaders throughout history.  Some were prophets, priests, or kings that were anointed with authority from God, but none were ever called “the Messiah.”


Some leaders have considered themselves to be a god (such as the Pharaohs or Caesars).  But only Jesus fulfilled more than 300 centuries-old prophecies about the Christ.


These prophecies were so miraculous (such as a virgin birth), descriptive (such as riding on a colt), or specific (such as being a descendent of King David) that it would have been a statistical impossibility for even a few of them to be true about the same person.  But they were all fulfilled in Jesus.


In fact, He fulfilled ten unique messianic prophecies just in the final 24 hours of his life on earth.


The genealogy of Jesus also points to the fact that he was the prophesied Christ or Messiah.  Many  tend to skip over the lists of names in Mary and Joseph’s family trees at the beginning of the Books of Matthew and Luke.  But, the Jewish culture kept extensive genealogies to establish a person’s heritage, inheritance, legitimacy, and rights.  Jesus’ lineage shows how his life was intertwined with God’s covenant with his chosen people as well as his legal claim to the throne of David.


The stories of the people in those lists reveal that Jesus’ lineage itself was miraculous because of how many different routes the Messianic prophecies had to take because of the sinfulness of mankind.  For example, in Genesis 49, a dying Jacob passed over three of his sons (including his rightful firstborn - Reuben)  to bless Judah and prophecy that it would be only through him that a lion-like leader would come and bring peace, joy, and prosperity (which is where the nickname “Lion of Judah” comes from, as we see in Revelation 5:5).


So, while we may never get too excited about reading the genealogies in our Bible reading plans, it is important to understand their purpose and implication.


Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus


In some passages, a New Testament writer will use the term Jesus Christ, placing the human name first (e.g., Jude 1:1).  On other occasions, a writer will use the term Christ Jesus, putting the title first (e.g., 2 Timothy 1:1).


139 times, it is written as JESUS CHRIST.


88 times, it is written as CHRIST JESUS.


The Phrase, Christ Jesus, is not found in the Gospels or Revelation.  This has led some people to wonder if there is a difference between the two appellations: i.e. what is the significance of saying “Jesus Christ” versus “Christ Jesus”?


It is true that, in many languages, word order can be changed for emphasis.  In English, words placed at the beginning or at the end of a sentence usually receive more attention than the words in between.


For example, consider the sentence “We can only then be sure,” where there is a  slight emphasizes the word, “sure.”  However, saying “Only then can we be sure” places a heavy stress on the condition of the surety: “only then.”


Statements in Greek and Hebrew are also subject to shifts in emphasis based on word order,  but the difference between “Jesus Christ” and “Christ Jesus” is slight.


To use the title Christ on either side of the personal name Jesus is to attribute the same honor to Him.


In Philippians 2, the term Christ Jesus comes first, in verse 5, and Jesus Christ at the end of verse 11.  The switch from Christ Jesus to Jesus Christ in Philippians 2 aligns perfectly with the theme of the entire paragraph  Paul gives.  The paragraph begins with God becoming man—thus, “Christ Jesus” (the heavenly title, then the human name).  The paragraph ends with the Lord ascending to glory—thus, “Jesus Christ” (the human name, then the heavenly title).   The Lord’s designations reflect the direction He is taking.


Among the apostles, Paul uses the term Christ Jesus more frequently than the others, who usually say Jesus ChristIn contrast, John never writes “Christ Jesus,” but always puts the human name first.


Let me ask you a question.


Before the first time the word “Mashiach” is used in Leviticus, was there another term used of the coming  Messiah?  And if so, by what word?


Consider the word, SEED.


In Genesis 3:15 NKJV, we find”

15    And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."


This occurs just after our first parents  sinned, and Adam and Eve and Satan, the serpent, are standing before Almighty God.  The words we just read is part of the judgment meted out against the serpent.  The seed of the woman is the first promise of a coming redeemer, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  I don’t believe there is any doubt about this.


Later in the book of Genesis, the seed is mentioned again in connection with Abraham.


Genesis 12:3 NKJV


3    I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."


Now, I know this verse does not use the word, seed – but it is implied.  How can we be sure?  The apostles recognized it as speaking of Abraham’s seed.


In Act 3, Peter and John were used by God to heal a lame man at the Gate Beautiful.  Then Peter took the opportunity to preach to the Jews present about Jesus, the Messiah.


He says, in Acts 3:25 NKJV


25    You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' 


In both the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 12:3, it is speaking of the promised Messiah.  The SEED is mentioned again during the life of King David.  David is promised by God he will have a descendant to sit on David’s throne forever.


Psalms 132:11 NKJV


11    The Lord has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: "I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.


Jeremiah 23:5-6 NKJV adds:


5    "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.

6    In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.


While these last two references do not use the word, “seed,” it is definitely implied, speaking of David’s offspring.  But, when mentioned in the New Testament, it does use the word, seed.


Romans 1:3 NKJV


3    concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,


Jesus crushed the head of the serpent by dying on the cross and shedding His blood.


Revelation 1:5 speaks of “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first born from the dead and ruler over all the kings of the earth.  To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,…


Because of that, we can live in victory.  He has already fought the fight and won the victory.  Our Lord crushed the head of the serpent, the devil.  Satan thought he had won when he killed Christ on the cross.


When Jesus said “It is Finished,” he was not saying his life was finished.  Jesus had more to say.


Revelation 1:18 NKJV


18 I      am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.


And He also said:


Revelation 22:12 NKJV


12    "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.


With current world conditions, it sure seems He could come at any minute.