Thinking Cap #4 - The Question: "Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus"?

In our services two weeks ago, our pastor took us to Ro. 5:1 and later to Ro. 8:1 to demonstrate some of the points of his message. Reading those two verses caused me to ponder the ordering of words in the Bible. Notice in Ro.5:1 it talks about "Jesus Christ." However, in Ro. 8:1 it talks about "Christ Jesus." If, Prov. 30:5 is true and every word of God is pure, then there must be a purposeful meaning behind the ordering of those two words. Just what do you think that might be? Deadline for responses is Friday, January 27 at midnight.

Received responses from Martin Olson (well researched and accurate), George Levesque (pretty decent with help from his future wife and just under the wire - like most of his high school papers), and Ron Tottingham. New readers on this issue are Pat Winters (grad student in Orlando), Bruce Crumpler (member of our church), Jake Johnson (college student in Minneapolis), Ed Komoszewski (seminary student in St. Paul)

Here, for what it is worth is how I would approach the topic.

  • The word for Jesus is *Iesous* meaning Jesus (or Jehoshua), the name of our Lord. It is a transliteration of the Hebrew Joshua, meaning Jehovah is salvation. It was given to the Son of God in Incarnation as His personal name. It is the earthly name given to the Son of God.
  • For Christ the Greek is *Christos* meaning anointed, i.e. the Messiah. Christ is the heavenly title given to the Son of God.
  • The order in the Gospels and the Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude, men who had accompanied the Lord in the days of His flesh, is "Jesus Christ." It is the order of the Name and Title, as this was the order of their experience. As "Jesus" they knew Him first, and that He was the "Messiah" they learned finally in His resurrection. But Paul came to know Him first in the glory of Heaven (Acts 9:1-6), and his experience being the reverse of theirs, the reverse order (Christ Jesus) is frequently used.
  • In the letters of Paul, the order is always in harmony with the context. Thus "Christ Jesus" describes the Exalted One who emptied Himself (Phil. 2:5) and testifies to His pre-existence. "Jesus Christ" describes the despised and rejected One Who was afterwards glorified (Phi. 2:11) and testifies to His resurrection. "Christ Jesus" suggests His grace, "Jesus Christ" suggests His glory. When His name appears as "Christ Jesus", it describes His operation and function as the risen Saviour seated at the right hand of God (Christ) performing His priestly office, interceding for the saints before the throne of God, then bringing that function to earth (Jesus) to manifest it in the lives of saved people. Whenever His name appears as "Jesus Christ", it describes His operation and function as the earthly man (Jesus) who bled and died for your sins, and then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven (Christ). There is a difference in those two functions. Once you understand it, then as you see the order in the Bible, you can immediately understand the role being played by the second person of the Trinity and thus quickly grasp what the Scripture is teaching in that passage.
  • As an example, consider the two verses referenced in the original question. Romans 5:1 teaches that we are "justified by faith" through our Lord *Jesus Christ*. Our salvation is a result of his earthly role. However, in Romans 8:1 we learn that there is "now no condemnation to them that are in *Christ Jesus*". Here, we have the Son of God interceding on our behalf at the right hand of the Father in His heavenly role.
  • Consider another example. Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-2. Here we are "sanctified in *Christ Jesus*". That sanctification (setting apart) from the world takes place in Christ, as we allow the Lord Jesus Christ to live His life through us in the power of the Holy Spirit through the resurrection. In verse 2, Paul addresses all saved people as those who "call upon the name of *Jesus Christ* our Lord." In order to be saved, you come by the cross, through the work of the human man Jesus. The next time you read the epistles of Paul, pay attention to this difference. Each time you see the name of Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus, pause and read the verse again to see what truth you can glean from understanding this difference. It will bring new life and understanding to your Bible reading.
  • Pleasant Reading and Thinking,
    Kent Haralson


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