Matthew 1:23 Immanuel God with Us

By Wayne Partain

While Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found with child. Joseph considered putting her away privately, but an angel of the Lord told him that “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name JESUS; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.” Then Matthew explains that “all this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us.”

Much has been written to show that the virgin of Isaiah 7:14 was not necessarily a virgin, much less the virgin Mary, but Matthew brushes away all these theories. The Holy Spirit, through Isaiah said “the virgin shall conceive,” and the Holy Spirit, through Matthew, said that this prophecy was fulfilled when the virgin Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit.

When David wanted to build a house for the Lord, God told the prophet Nathan to tell him, “When thy days are fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with they fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, that shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever” (2 Sam. 7:12, 13). But while king Ahaz was king of Judah, Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, king of Israel, threatened the house of David with extinction, planning to set up over Judah a king of their own choice (“son of Tabeel,” Isa. 7:6). However, God’s promises are sure. The Lord spoke to Ahaz but addressed his remarks to the house of David: “Hear ye now, 0 house of David . . . the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:13, 14). In doing this he confirmed the promise to David which did not deal with an earthly kingdom but rather with the universal kingdom of the Son of David and, consequently, with our salvation through him.

This prophecy does not stand alone. The land of Judah that was threatened by Assyria was “thy land, 0 Immanuel” (Isa. 8:8, 10), for out of it (from Bethlehem Ephrathah) “shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:6). “In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time hath he made it glorious” (Isa. 9:1, 2; Matt. 4:15, 16). Isaiah refers to this marvelous child again in 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The next verse identifies him with “the throne of David.” Again he refers to him in 11:1-5 (the whole chapter describes his rule), and so throughout the book (see especially chapters 35, 53, 61). Some try to apply Isaiah 7:15 to Immanuel: “Butter and honey shall he eat, when he knoweth to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” This is quoted in order to prove that as a child Christ only had human knowledge and, that therefore he was not omniscient, but if he was not omniscient, then he was not God. We have to decide whether or not we believe that Christ on earth was God. If we do believe that he was God, this means that we believe that he was omniscient.

There are questions about the application of Isaiah 7:14-16 to the time of Ahaz that are not answered to everyone’s satisfaction, but those who apply verses 15 and 16 to Christ run into serious problems: (1) Matthew does quote verse 14 and applies it to Christ, but he does not quote these verses at all; (2) Where does the New Testament say that Jesus ate “butter and honey”? What could this have had to do with Jesus? (3) If verses 15 and 16 prove that Jesus was not omniscient, they contradict verse 14 that affirms that he is God; (4) Verse 16 says that before the child shall “know how to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings thou abhorrest shall be forsaken.” This concluding statement very obviously refers not to the time of Jesus, but to the removal of Israel and Syria from their land by Assyria in the time of Ahaz. Therefore, those who are compelled to use these verses to deny the omniscience of Christ are as hard up for proof as the Watchtower is for calling him “a god” (John 1:1).

God and Man

The expression “God with us” indicates that Jesus Christ was God and man, that the invisible God was made visible in Christ (John 1:18). “If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19); “he that beholds me beholds him that sent me” (John 12:45); “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). When the Samaritan woman saw Jesus, she saw a Jew (“thou … a Jew,” John 4:9), but that Jew was Immanuel, God with us. The Jews saw a carpenter (“Is not this the carpenter?” Mark 6:3), but that particular carpenter was Immanuel, God with us. Being God, Christ repeatedly demonstrated the attributes of Deity  omnipotence, omniscience, perfect holiness, righteousness, love, and mercy. It was necessary that he do so, because otherwise it would have been impossible to reveal the Father. There is, therefore, no excuse for anyone not to understand that God has revealed himself to man in Jesus Christ.

Being God he was omnipotent. Therefore, he could not receive more power or authority. All is all. Nothing can be added to all. To interpret Acts 10:38 (“God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power”) or any other Scripture to mean that while on earth Christ did not inherently have all power and authority makes these texts deny the Deity of Christ, because Deity without omnipotence is a figment of the imagination of man. The question ever was and is: Was Christ God or not? If he was God, he was omnipotent. There are “gods many” that are not omnipotent, but Christ was not one of them. If it’s affirmed that Christ was not omnipotent because he was sent by the Father, then the Holy Spirit was not omnipotent because he was sent by Christ (John 16:7). Being sent, receiving power, etc. are statements to emphasize the oneness of the Godhead, and especially to identify the Galilean carpenter as God.

One Person, God and Man

Every day, wherever he was, whatever he was doing, Christ was one Person, both God and man. When he ate and drank, slept, and rested he was both God and man; God does not eat, drink, etc., but Jesus was not just God. When he forgave sins and was worshipped he was both God and man; man cannot forgive sins, but Jesus was not just a man. He was not mostly human and sort of God at the first and more God and less man later on. He was not God one day and man the next, or God one hour and man the next. He was not God in this place and man in that. He didn’t speak as God one day and as man the next. He was not two people, nor was he half God and half man. He was Immanuel: God with us, one person, God and man, every day, everywhere. He repeatedly demonstrated human characteristics and he repeatedly demonstrated divine attributes. He was tempted in all points as men are tempted (Heb. 4:15), but he was not tempted as a mere man, for he was never a mere man, much less a sinful man (not even in thought). He could never be in any experience of life other than who he was: Immanuel, both God and man. Jesus Christ was never just a man.

God with us means God in the flesh. When Christ came into the world, a body was prepared for him: “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body didst thou prepare for me” (Heb. 10:5). “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). “It behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren” (Heb. 2:17). Describing this great event Paul said Christ “emptied himself,” and in the same sentence explained how he did it: “taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The word flesh in this text means humanity, as in Matthew 24:22 (“should no flesh be saved”) and Romans 3:20 (“shall no flesh be justified”). Christ was God and flesh (man).

Immanuel was he, not they. The pronoun for Christ is never they, but he, because he was not two persons but one. The Scriptures are clear on this: he was one unique personality. While the incarnation was miraculous and far beyond our comprehension, some relevant facts are revealed.

Christ, who is Spirit, became man, who is not only a body but also a spirit, a spirit created by Christ:”And God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27); God is “the Father of our spirits” (Heb. 12:9); “we are also his off-spring” (Acts 17:28); and “the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). There is identity and a strong affinity between man’s spirit and Christ the Creator (John 1:3). The terms image and likeness are not to be minimized. For obvious reasons God has placed limitations on man  he is not omnipotent nor omniscient, not to be worshipped, can-not forgive sins, etc., but at the same time God has clearly indicated man’s potential power and greatness, enabling him to perform miracles (works of God), even raising the dead. Then Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “the spirits of just men made perfect”; just try to imagine what they are like! And Jesus says (Luke 20:35, 36) that “they that are accounted worthy to attain to that world, and the resurrection from the dead … are equal unto the angels,” who are very powerful beings. The point is that even though we cannot comprehend how God could become man, in view of all the Bible says about man’s spirit, we should not exaggerate the distance between Christ and man.

Christ received a human body and became in every sense a man, but to do so he did not need to become two people. He, being Spirit, did not need another spirit. Why should he, since man was made in the image of God, is his off-spring and is, therefore, basically an undying spirit that returns to God who gave it? Man has a body, but only for a very short time, so we should not think of man as a body with a spirit, but rather as a spirit that for a short time has a body. So what was there about being a man that Christ, the creator of man (body and spirit), could not readily be-come and fully identify with or what role of man  of body, soul or spirit  could he not easily perform? What-ever man is Christ himself became, without becoming two persons (undeniably two spirits would be two persons). However a human being functions Christ functioned. Nothing is difficult for God, and it certainly wasn’t difficult for Christ to become a man and carry out the role of man. Humbling, yes, but difficult, no. Would it have been difficult for Christ to become  and carry out the role of  an angel? He made them also. Can the greater carry out the role of the lesser? Man cannot become God, but God could certainly become man.

Immanuel was worshipped. The wise men “came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him” (Matt. 2:11). As a baby Jesus Christ was God. Define God, and you will have defined the Godhood of Christ when he was only a baby. He wasn’t potential God; he didn’t have to grow into Godhood. To deny his omnipotence, omniscience, etc. when he was a baby is to deny his Godhood (Deity). God is God! To say that the baby Jesus was called Immanuel, God with us, and then say that as a baby he was something less than God is to redefine God and make the wise men idolaters. As Immanuel was worshipped by the wise men, he was worshipped many times during his ministry (8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25, etc.), and he himself said, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10).

Immanuel at Twelve

“They found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers (doctors), both hearing them, and asking them questions; and all that heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:46, 47). From parents, synagogue, and personal study a twelve year old boy could learn a great deal about the Scriptures, but by no stretch of the imagination could he discuss Scripture with men like Gamaliel and leave them amazed (driven out of their senses  Vincent) at his understanding and answers. He didn’t just ask, he answered! This is recorded, not to impress us with how bright Jesus was, but to demonstrate his omniscience and that, therefore, this boy was Immanuel, God with us (Luke 2:52). “Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” sums up the experience of Jesus’ life prior to age thirty. His advancing in wisdom during those years does not deny his omniscience, but refers to the manifestation of his wisdom as exemplified in the previous verses. There was an orderly development of the divine plan: Jesus did not give mind-boggling answers to the doctors at the age of twelve months.

Immanuel forgave sins. Jesus said “unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins are forgiven.” The Jews rightly reasoned, “Why doth this man thus speak? he blasphemeth: who can forgive sins but one, even God?” (Mark 2:5-7). They were exactly right. If Christ were other than God, his words would have been blasphemy. No man in his right mind  certainly not a true prophet or apostle  ever did or ever would have dreamed of uttering these words. To quote John 20:22, 23 to prove that the apostles forgave sins just as Christ did either exalts men to the level of God or debases God to the level of men  and either one is blasphemy.

In every possible way, then, Jesus Christ demonstrated that he was truly Immanuel, both God and man.

Guardian of Truth XL: 3 p. 2
February1, 1996