The Child With Four Names
By John Stallings
There are lots of people with three names.
Among them are, Sandra Day-O’Conner, US Supreme Court Judge, Jaquelyn Kennedy Onasis, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tommy Lee Jones, Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Ray Cyrus, James Earl Jones, and Sara Jessica Parker.
Of course we can’t forget those with one name like Madonna, or Cher or Elvis.
One of the many important decisions confronting new parents is, “What shall we call our baby?” Most new parents spend hours debating this question. We all realize that names matter. Shall the new baby be named after his father, his uncle, a favorite friend? Should he be given a name that happens to be popular at the moment? Or one that simply sounds good?
Charles Phillip Arthur George
Names are important because once you pick out a name the child will be stuck with it for a long, long time! Babies have no voice in the selection of their names. They have to live with them — to live them down or live them up.
Every so often you’ll run across a person with multiple names, such as Charles Phillip Arthur George Windsor. That’s sounds odd until you discover it’s Prince Charles. If you say that’s a heavy load to lay on a baby, remember He’s royalty and He needs a long name.
So it is with Jesus.
Even before His birth, He was a child with many names. The prophet Isaiah, writing 700 years before He was born, prophesied that Messiah would have four names:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
We know that there are many other names for Jesus; however this verse reveals four of those names. Each one features an aspect of His character. They teach who He is and how He can help us. One of our beloved carols is cast in a plaintive question: “What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?”
Listen to Isaiah’s divinely-inspired answer. These four names speak to us about wisdom, power, security, and assurance. The first name is:
1. WONDERFUL COUNSELOR
Literally this title means “a wonder of a counselor.” It speaks of the wisdom of his plan. The word “wonderful” means “astonishing” or “extraordinary.” The writers of the Old Testament used it for acts of God which man cannot understand. The word “counselor” means “advisor” or “ideal ruler.”
There are several professions that make their living giving advice to others but they can’t claim perfection. Psychiatrists routinely make $150 (and sometimes $350) an hour for their counsel. Much of it is good, some not so good. But the Lord goes to no one for advice. And when anyone comes to him, He gives them the counsel they need.
He is therefore the perfect teacher and the ultimate counselor. This gives us insight into his working. His plans are not our plans, His ways not our ways. He will accomplish things beyond human comprehension and He will do it in ways we cannot fathom. He will do the greatest work ever accomplished and He will do it seamlessly. A violent death would not be man’s way to victory but it was God’s plan and our Lord carried it out perfectly.
As the Wonderful Counselor, He gives great direction to His people. Those who follow him will not walk in darkness but in the blazing light of day. In this tiny baby we see all the wisdom of God wrapped in swaddling clothes.What Child is This? He is the Wonderful Counselor. Then He’s the…
2. MIGHTY GOD
This speaks of the “Power of Accomplishment.” It is first of all a statement of deity. The baby born in the manger is not just the Son of God; He is also God the Son. All the fullness of God dwells in the Lord Jesus Christ. As the ancient creeds declare, He is “very God of very God.”
That can never be said of any mere human baby. Something else is important in this title. The word translated “mighty” is the word gibo, which means “strong one” or “the powerful, valiant warrior.” Thus the term “mighty God is actually a military title. He is the God who fights for his people! At the Incarnation, God took the form of human flesh. That’s why one of his names is Immanuel–God with us.
Now take the first two titles together and what do you have?
As the Wonderful Counselor — He makes the Plans.
As the Mighty God —He makes the plans Work.
All of his wonderful plans will be carried out with all of God’s infinite might. There is in this little baby’s arms flailing around in His crude bassinet all the strength of Deity. The power of God is in those tiny fists. He has strength which is divine. The omnipotence of God is at His command. Whatever He desires, He is able to achieve.
Carl Sagan Meets Jesus
When we meet Jesus, we meet God. If He is not the “mighty God,” then we are deceived and it is blasphemy to worship him. There is no middle ground here.
If He is not God, we are fools to worship Him. If He is God, we are fools not to.
Some time back renowned astronomer Carl Sagan died. He is best remembered for his famous PBS series called “Cosmos” in which he evangelized for his evolutionary views, especially the notion that the universe is billions and billions of years old. He repeatedly said that he didn’t believe in the afterlife. However, he also said he wasn’t an atheist because he didn’t know enough to rule out the possibility of God. I would argue that God never gave a human being the power to be a real atheist, but that’s another article.
Carl Sagan is an evolutionist no longer. And at this moment he is neither an atheist nor an agnostic, for he has met the Mighty God whom he refused to worship in this life. Despite his great learning and his notable achievements, Carl Sagan died a fool’s death because he would not bow before the Babe of Bethlehem.
The Real Reason Many People Resent Manger Scenes in the Public Square
Banning manger scenes or other Christmas scenes from public places has nothing whatsoever to do with being “politically correct” or offending people of other religions. Let’s do a post-mortem on the real reason some people fight so hard to call Christmas trees “Holiday trees” and say “Season’s greetings,” or “Happy holidays” taking all mention of Christ out of Christmas.
Christmas is the great dividing line of the human race. No wonder some people want all mention of Christmas expunged from our public schools and from our public life, indeed from human consciousness. They understand that Christians believe Christmas is based on the belief that at Bethlehem, God Incarnate slipped out of timelessness into time, to land in the arms of a virgin girl. Now, if this is true, then unbelievers have problems.
When a person says there is no God, rejecting Christianities tenants, they are telling themselves they can live like the devil then die like a dog. How “very nice” for them. They want to believe that at death, that’s it, it’s over. They’ll never be faced with standing before a Holy God being judged based on what they did with their life, and especially what they did with Jesus.
These “atheists” may never darken a church door. They can live their lives and never open a Bible. They never have to even hear the name of God or Jesus Christ except in cursing. But once a year, here comes Jesus again. And that’s every year, for about a month. More toasters will be sold in Jesus’ name than any name in history. More turkey and Ham will be sold in His name and more money will be spent in His name than any other name. The only way these folk could escape it would be to leave the planet.
Now, if they’re not careful they’ll hear Christ’s name coming out of their own mouth, and we couldn’t have that. A manger scene isn’t only about a cute little baby. Who could be offended by that? The entire world loves a baby. But baby Jesus is different. If you accept that manger scene then you’ve got to accept that God exists, the miracle of the virgin birth, and the rest that goes along with it. This is too painful for them because when you extrapolate it out, you’re faced with things like- one day giving account for yourself to God and then issues like what your eternal address will be, – heaven or hell.
If we take out manger scenes and the name of Christ, we’ve erased some of the best gospel preaching imaginable, and to these people that’s a good thing.
In this tiny baby we see the power of God sleeping on Mary’s lap. What Child is this? He is the Mighty God. He is also…
3. THE EVERLASTING FATHER
In the Hebrew the phrase is literally “The Father of Eternity.” This speaks of the purpose of his coming.
He is before, above, and beyond time. He is the possessor of eternity. He is eternally like a father to his people. This is not a statement about the Trinity, but about the character of our Lord. All that a good father is, Jesus is to his people.
Because He’s like a father—caring for his people. Because He owns eternity, He can give us eternal life. That’s so important for those of us who live on this sin-cursed planet. No one lives forever. Sooner or later we will also find our own place in the graveyard. We’re not immortal, but transitory. We’re here today, gone tomorrow. A dead Christ will do us no good. Dying men need an undying Christ.
Here’s a key phrase: He is a Father forever! That’s important to me because I had a father, but not a father forever. I had a father, but he is gone now. He was a very good man, but he was not a father forever. I am father to daughters but not a father forever. I will someday pass away. All human fathers must go. But Jesus is a Father forever! He’ll outlast the stars in the heavens.
When our children need anything, we run to help them. If they cry, we go. If they want us, we will come to them. We would never kick them out. They belong to us. They are ours, in a manner of speaking. What we are in a poor way to them, Jesus is in a perfect way to all who believe in Him.
In this tiny baby we see the love of God sleeping in a stable. What Child is this? He is the everlasting Father and he’s also…
4. PRINCE OF PEACE
The phrase literally means “the prince whose coming brings peace” This speaks of the effect of his coming. This final title is the climax of all that has gone before. The word “prince” means something like “General of the Army.” It speaks of his high position. The word “peace” speaks of his basic nature.
Recently I read that there are more wars raging right now than at any time this century. All over globe there are ethnic conflicts and tribal wars. Closer to home not a day goes by without word that someone else has been murdered in America. We see so much killing that it no longer surprises us—or even bothers us.
In Florida, where I live, just this week a man, embittered because his wife had lost her teaching job went to a school-board meeting intent on killing several school board officials. The video has been played over and over with the warning about its violence. He was a very angry man but thankfully a bad shot, and was gunned down by officials. This video will probably go viral on YouTube.
We’re practically immune to violence because we live in a violent world.
Isaiah 9:6 tells us that God’s plan for world peace is focused on a one person—a baby asleep in a manger in Bethlehem. He is the ultimate Man of Peace.
- In the past, His coming made peace with God.
- In the present, those who come to Him find peace in their heart when Christ comes in.
- In the future, His second coming will usher in a kingdom of peace. There is no peace today. So much strife and bloodshed. He is not a failure. We are.
Christ is no warrior, no greedy conqueror, and no empire-builder. He came to bring peace. He did. He does. He will.
In this tiny baby we see the peace of God welcomed by angels and shepherds. What Child is this? He is the Prince of Peace.
In this one verse you have the four names of Jesus. This is what they mean to us today:
If you are confused — He is the Wonderful Counselor.
If you are weak — He is the Mighty God.
If you are scared — He is the Everlasting Father.
If you are disturbed — He is the Prince of Peace.
You never know what may happen in the world because a Baby was born. No doubt the innkeeper didn’t know who he was turning away. Even Mary couldn’t fully imagine what it all meant that night. But that Baby born in Bethlehem has become the centerpiece of human history. We even divide time itself by his coming—B.C. and A.D.
What Child is this? He is … the Wonderful Counselor … the Mighty God … the Everlasting Father … the Prince of Peace.
“For Unto Us…”
The most important part of our verse is the first three words… “For unto us….” The gift of Christ is a personal gift from God to us. A gift requires a response. If I put a gift under your tree, you may acknowledge it, may admire it, may even thank me for it, but it isn’t yours until you open it and take it for your own.
Why Would God Visit Us?
Mankind has made a total mess of things. We blew our one shot at immortality—and now the graveyards are filling up. But God is not finished with us yet. Go to Psalm 8 and find these words;
“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”
David seems to say; why bother with people like us? We ruined Eden, you gave us another chance, and we fouled up so badly that you sent a flood to wipe out the human race except for one family. Why not just hit the delete button on the human race? Why not just admit that this was an experiment that didn’t work out? No one could blame God if He decided to get rid of us all and start over again.
David’s question comes to the very heart of Christmas: What is man that God should pay attention to us? What is man that God should care about us after we’ve failed so miserably? Why should God care about us at all?
The New King James Version renders verse 4 this way: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” Why would God care enough to visit people like us? It is right at this point that we see the glory and wonder and mystery of the gospel.
Jesus visited us to become like us in his nature, bodily or physically. That’s the Incarnation (becoming flesh). That’s Bethlehem. That’s Christmas. He came into this world as a tiny Baby, born in a stable, in an obscure village, born in poverty, unwanted by the world. He was just another face in the crowd. Few knew that He was coming. No one cared that He had arrived. Jesus “had” to do this. In order to truly “visit” us, He had to become like us.
Jesus tasted death because that is our common destiny. Jesus could not have truly “visited” us if He had held himself back from “the last enemy” that confronts us—death. In order to be fully human, He had to taste death. Jesus suffered and died because that was the only way He could save us. Only by dying could He give us life.
Jesus came to restore all that we had lost in Eden. The Bible calls Jesus “the Last Adam.” One of the verses of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” calls him the “Second Adam from above.” He came to reverse the curse that we brought upon ourselves. Now, in Heaven, He is crowned with glory and honor. One day all those who believe in Jesus will share that glory with Him.
God said, “I will not leave you alone. I will not let you destroy yourself, each other, and the world I have made. I love you too much to let you alone.” So He sent prophets. We killed them. He wrote letters. We ignored them. He told us how to live, and we said, “Who are you to tell us what to do?” We mocked the God who made us, we broke His laws, we said we didn’t need Him, and we made up our own gods that we liked much better because they looked so much like us.
Oh, we made a mess of things. God had every reason to kill us all. But He didn’t. He said, “I love you too much to let you go.” And after we had trashed everything, God said, “I’m coming down there so you’ll know once and for all how much I love you.” We didn’t pay any attention; it didn’t even make sense to us. How could God visit us? But He did, and He came to the world in a very strange way. He entered a virgin’s womb, and came out as a Baby, born in Bethlehem, a Baby named Jesus, born to save us from our sins.
So He came as a Baby, and when He grew up, we butchered Him, slaughtered Him, and murdered Him on a cross. That’s the thanks we gave to God for visiting us. But we were wrong about everything! After we killed Him, He came back from the dead—proving that He was right all along, and we were really wrong—dead wrong about everything—and still God loved us and came from Heaven to Earth on the greatest rescue mission in history.
He came because we blew it so badly! He came, and we killed him. He died, and became our Savior.
WHAT A STORY! WHAT A CHRIST!
That’s the Good News of Christmas: God has done it all! The only thing left to you and me is to believe! God wrapped up His Son in swaddling clothes, and said to the whole world, “This is my Christmas Gift to you.”
Someone rightly called Christmas “the happiest holiday.” But it will only be truly happy for those who truly believe in Jesus. I cannot prove to you that what I have said is true. You will have to decide that for yourself. But I can say without any reservation that I have staked my life on the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the incomparable Son of God.
Christmas matters because truth matters. And the heart of the truth is that God did not leave us alone, but in our misery He came to visit us one dark night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
Christmas is all about who we are, and who God is, and how far God will go to reach us.
John Stallings is an award-winning Southern Gospel songwriter, who wrote numerous classics such as: Learning To Lean, Love Grew Where The Blood Fell, Touching Jesus, One Day I Will, You’re All Invited To My Mansion, Blessing After Blessing, Light The Light, Angels Camping All Around Me, God’s Gonna Do It, and many more. His songs have been recorded by many well-known Gospel artists, including, The Blackwood Brothers, The Speers, The Stamps Quartet, J.D. Sumner, Wanda Jackson, Del Reeves, Wendy Bagwell, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans, among many others. His singing career was launched at the young age of six in a citywide revival at famed Soldier Field in Chicago. At the age of sixteen he began preaching. John was Nashville’s prestigious Dove Award recipient in 1977, as well as many other awards over the years. He’s also a veteran pastor, evangelist, church-planter, and travels internationally with his wife, Juda, as singing evangelists. They reside in Altamonte Springs, Florida. John’s twin-daughters, Mary Alessi and Martha Munizzi, are both award-winning Gospel recording artists and songwriters in their own right, who with their husbands co-pastor churches. John’s blog, Wisdom and Wit of John Stallings, is a featured column here on Spirit Life Magazine (see left sidebar).
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