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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
and given by Jack Ngann, Pastor
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, December 19, 2021

“They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23; p. 994 Scofield).

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream he said that Mary’s child would have two names. The first name would be “JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). That is what the name “Jesus” means – Jehovah saves. I will speak on that name tonight. But then the angel of the Lord said that Jesus would have another name. The angel quoted Isaiah 7:14,

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

Some modern liberal Bible critics say that the Hebrew word “almah” simply means a young, unmarried woman, not a virgin. But Dr. Henry M. Morris pointed out that,

This is nothing but a device to avoid the miracle of Christ’s virgin birth. The word [almah] is used six more times in the Old Testament and in all instances the context favors…its rendering as “virgin.” Conception by a “young, unmarried woman” would hardly be a sign of anything except sin, for such events occur frequently. A virgin conception would require a mighty act of creation by God Himself. The quotation of this verse in the New Testament [Matthew 1:23] should remove any lingering doubt, for the Greek word parthenos used there can only mean “virgin” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishing Company, 1995, p. 725; note on Isaiah 7:14).

Thus, the angel told Joseph that his virgin spouse would bear a son,

“And they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Let us take time to look at this verse carefully, as I ask three questions and answer them from the text.

I. First, what does Emmanuel mean?

The text itself makes that quite clear. The Hebrew word Emmanuel means “God with us.” Dr. Criswell said,

The designation “God with us” asserts the full deity of Jesus Christ (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., The Criswell Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979, p. 788; note on Isaiah 7:14).

In his comment on Isaiah 7:14, Dr. Criswell also said,

The virgin birth [of Jesus] is essential to faith because only through this miracle can Christ (1) be fully God and fully man simultaneously, (2) be the “[last] Adam,” (3) be sinless and perfectly obedient to the Law of God on behalf of sinners, and (4) be the payment for sins as one who is both God and man (Criswell, ibid.).

Emmanuel – God with us, is in perfect agreement with the Gospel of John, which says,

“the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”
     (John 1:14).

Charles Wesley (1707-1788) said it well.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;
     Hail the Incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
     Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
     “Glory to the new-born King.”
(“Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

II. Second, why must Emmanuel be “interpreted”?

“They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Spurgeon said,

Why should the word “Emmanuel” in the Hebrew, be interpreted at all? Was it not to show that it has reference to us Gentiles, and therefore it must needs be interpreted into one of the chief languages of the then existing Gentile world, namely, the Greek. This “being interpreted” at Christ’s birth [shows] that he is not the Saviour of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles (C. H. Spurgeon, “God With Us,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1971, volume XXI, p. 709).

These words, “being interpreted,” show that we who are Gentiles, far off from God, may freely come to Jesus and be united with Jewish believers – and their “Emmanuel” shall also be our “God with us”! Jesus plainly said that it would be so,

“And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29).

By including people from the four corners of the earth, Jesus made it clear that Gentiles, as well as Jews, were invited to come to Him. The Apostle Paul said the same thing:

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11-13).

“They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Those words, “being interpreted,” show that we as Gentiles, “without God in the world…are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12, 13). As Charles Wesley put it,

Joyful, all ye nations rise,
     Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim,
     “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
     “Glory to the new-born King.”

III. Third, who are “they” that will call Jesus “Emmanuel”?

They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

In Isaiah 7:14 the word “they” is not there. This signifies, in Isaiah 7:14, that the Virgin will call Him Emmanuel. But, by progressive revelation, we learn in Matthew 1:23 that others will call Him “God with us.” “They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Who are “they”? “They” are certainly not the Muslims, for they deny that Jesus is God incarnate. “They” are certainly not the Jehovah’s Witnesses for, like the Muslims, they deny that Jesus is “God with us.” Neither can “they” be those who believe that Christ is a spirit, for the baby Jesus was no spirit! He was a flesh and bone baby, that the Virgin gave birth to that first Christmas! The Apostle John made that very clear when he wrote,

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (I John 4:1-3).

They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Therefore, we conclude that “they” refers to those who come to, and believe in, the real Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, who died on the Cross, was buried, rose physically from the dead on the third day, ascended back to Heaven, and is seated on the right hand of God the Father Almighty. “They” are those who come to Jesus, and are washed clean from their sins, who can say with the Apostle John,

“The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”
     (I John 1:7).

They shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Are you part of the “they” spoken of in our text? If you are not, we pray that you will come to Jesus and experience the new birth. Again, Charles Wesley said it well in his Christmas hymn,

Mild He lays His glory by,
     Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
     Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
     “Glory to the new-born King.”