Especially during the Christmas season, many Christians refer to Jesus as Immanuel, meaning “God with us,” making reference mainly to Isaiah 7:14 which says, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel.”
While this is a fairly common name for Christ during Christmastime, I wonder if, when we speak it, we truly take time to meditate on all that it means. “God with us” does not merely refer to the way He was literally with humanity in the flesh 2,000 years ago. While it does mean that, it also means that He is present with us today in grace and in power.
Read below and dwell on those glorious truths.
WITH US IN GRACE
I think that when people consider the concept of God being with us, this is the dimension they focus on – that He is with us in grace. When we sin, we have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1b) for peace has been made by the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:19-20). Wretched sinners like you and me who were once enemies of God are now counted amongst His children because of our union with Christ. Surely, He is God with us.
He is our ransom and our hope…our redemption and our salvation. He is those things personally and powerfully because He is Immanuel…God with us.
WITH US IN POWER
He is not only with us in grace, but also in power, and I think that this is the dimension that people often overlook when referring to Jesus as our Immanuel. Not only does He graciously grant us forgiveness for our sins, but He also empowers us to fight sin and pursue holiness. He does this by giving us His very self…by being with us as our Immanuel.
In his book on God-honoring sexuality (which I cannot recommend highly enough), Paul David Tripp discusses this very idea. He asks the question, “What does God give us to face our inevitable struggles and sufferings?” and answers it like this:
“God’s best and most precious gift to us between the already and the not yet is the gift of Himself. He doesn’t promise a life free from struggle. He doesn’t promise us that we will not suffer…No, He promises that in all these situations, He will be with us, in us, and for us. God is the grace He offers us…Not only does He forgive us, but He comes and lives inside us and, in so doing, begins to transform us at the causal core of our personhood, our hearts.”
For all who believe, the concept of Immanuel is nothing short of marvelous. It is delivering, freeing, and life-giving. It is propitiation for the past, strength for the present, and hope for the future. There is no struggle of mine that He cannot touch because, in grace and power, He is God with me.
Consider the Apostle Paul for a moment. In 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10, he describes a “thorn in the flesh” that he struggled with, calling it “a messenger of Satan” given to torment him. We don’t know exactly what Paul was referring to when he penned that passage. Some Bible scholars think he was referring to a physical impediment, others suspect Paul’s thorn was a psychological hindrance such as anxiety, and still others think it to have been more along the lines of a sexual desire he couldn’t satiate. We don’t know what Paul’s thorn was and I think that’s the point. The lack of specificity in these verses proves a fundamental truth – that no matter what thorns in the flesh we deal with, Christ’s grace is sufficient for us just as it was for Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9a).
How so? Because He is Immanuel…God with us…giving grace for our failings and strength for the fight against sin. Truly He is sufficient because He has come to earth and remains in our hearts as a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
Sinner-made-saint by the blood of the Lamb, He will never leave you nor forsake you. Fix your eyes on Immanuel this Christmas season and always, knowing that in Him is everything you’ll ever need.
RICH OR POOR?
In that same book, Paul David Tripp also discusses the problems with living as though we are spiritually poor. Someone who believes that they are spiritually poor will gaze on their weakness, feel perpetually defeated by sin, and consider sanctification a hopeless endeavor. This is not how Christians are called to live, but I think that when we fail to grasp the full meaning of the name Immanuel, it is easy for us to slip into this pattern of thinking.
In Christ, however, we are not poor. All the riches of heaven belong to Him, and because we are united to Him, they are ours as well. In Christ, we enjoy the promise of eternity in heaven and hope for the here and now. In the words of Paul David Tripp, Immanuel is “the guarantee of [sin’s] future defeat and also a guarantee of all the grace we need along the way.”
Rejoice in that truth, dear friend. Glory in the riches that Christ, our Immanuel, has won.