How was Jesus called by the name Immanuel if that wasn't His name?
Isaiah 7:14 predicted, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." In the New Testament, Matthew 1:22-23 confirms that the birth of Jesus fulfilled this important prophecy, stating, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)." Some have wondered why Jesus was not named Immanuel instead. Why wouldn't He have been called by the name Immanuel?
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The first reason is found in the name Immanuel. It means "God with us." The prediction by Isaiah was in reference to who the Messiah would be, not necessarily what He would be physically named. Jesus came to live as God in human form.
Second, Immanuel was only one of many names used in reference to Jesus. In fact, Isaiah 9:6 also taught, "his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Each of these names reveals important information regarding the nature and work of the Messiah. However, Jesus was not called these names during His early life. He was simply known as Jesus.
Third, the angel who appeared to Mary commanded her to name Him Jesus, not Immanuel: "you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus" (Luke 1:31). An angel also appeared to Joseph, saying, "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). This dream was noted as a fulfillment of the name Immanuel as predicted by Isaiah (Matthew 1:22-24).
The title and prediction of Immanuel served as an important part of Jesus' coming. John 1:14 teaches, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Jesus (the Word, who is God; see John 1:1) took on human form and lived among people, just as the meaning of the title Immanuel indicates.
The apostle Paul used this profound characteristic of Jesus to teach early believers as well. In Philippians 2:5-8 we read, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
Immanuel was not the name Jesus was known by on earth, but instead served as a title and description of Jesus' role as the Messiah as God with us. This important biblical concept has profound implications for all who follow Jesus today.
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