To me, it’s a musical-sounding word that evokes many memories around Christmas time each year. Emmanuel is a word used often during the Christmas season—in sermons and in music. It’s a popular name for churches, too; my wife and I attended Emmanuel Church for a few years. In some areas of the world, parents name their newborn male baby “Manuel,” a derivative of Emmanuel. Perhaps the parents use the name hoping that God will be with their son in a special way all his life. The word Emmanuel comes from the Bible, and its simplest definition in both the Hebrew and Greek languages means “God with us.” But the word actually means much more than that—as we shall learn in this teaching.
As mentioned above, Emmanuel (sometimes spelled Immanuel) comes from the Bible, and is found in only three places in the Bible: Isaiah 7: 14 and 8: 8; and Matthew 1: 23. In all three instances, it is referring to Jesus; it is one of his titles. Isaiah 7:14 is a familiar prophecy from the Bible written 600 years before the birth of Jesus: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and call his name Immanuel.” Matthew 1: 23 is simply quoting the reference in Isaiah 7: 14, and is clearly about the birth of Jesus.
A writer in the early church—Chrysostom, who lived from approximately 347 to 407 A.D.—wrote this comment about Isaiah 7: 14: “Were she not to be a virgin, the birth would not have been a sign. A sign is something different from the normal way things happen, that is, outside the natural manner. A sign is so unusual and unexpected that someone who sees it or hears of it sees that it is out of the ordinary. It is called a “sign” because it is significant. Were the birth to be like normal births, it would not have been significant. If the prophecy is about a woman giving birth in the normal manner, like what happens every day, then why call it a sign?” (underlining mine)
As mentioned earlier, the word Emmanuel carries great depths of meaning—much more than simply “God with us.” We explore those depths of meaning in this teaching. First, let’s examine what with in the phrase “God with us” means in a deeper sense. It means “God is alongside, near, in the company of, among us, or accompanies us.” In many cases, “with” also means “to be inside of something.” In the specific case of Jesus, “with” also means that “He became one of us” while remaining God; Jesus was, is, and always will be fully human and fully God. Theologically, that is called “the hypostatic union” of God and man.
Thus, in the specific case of Jesus—Emmanuel—He is always with us…with YOU, with me, and He is always in us, too. He is always among us. He is always one of us—fully human, yet fully God. Do I understand how that can be? No! But because I believe the Bible is the written revelation of God to humankind, because I have a personal relationship with Jesus, and because I see Him exhibited and displayed in the lives of other people, I believe He is Emmanuel. I believe God is with and in me; I believe God is with and in YOU!
Having said that about Jesus, the God-Man, the One called Emmanuel, Who is He? Who lives inside me and YOU? First, the Bible teaches Jesus abides permanently within us. He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13: 5) because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13: 8). Because He is God, He cannot not be everywhere at all times, and He cannot not be anywhere at any time.
Jesus can never be absent from being with and in both YOU and me—simply because Jesus is the ever-present God. YOU are never apart from God; God is never apart from YOU—even if it might seem that way at times. It is impossible for Emmanuel not to be with YOU and in YOU. If for whatever reason you ever feel Emmanuel has deserted YOU, it is a delusion. If you ever feel you are not “close” to Emmanuel, that is a delusion, too.
A. W. Tozer once wrote: “An infinite God always gives all of Himself to each of his children. He does not ‘distribute’ Himself so that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.” No, God never deserts you. He is never absent from you. Someone once asked this probing question: “If God seems far away, who moved?”
Again, who is this God-Man, this one named Emmanuel, who is ever-present with YOU and me—not just once a year during the Christmas season? I’m going to simply list some of what the Bible claims about Emmanuel—God with us, and make a few comments along with that listing.
Emmanuel is the One True and Living God, the Creator of All, Who is always with and in YOU and me—in whom He breathes the Breath of LIFE. He not only created “in the beginning,” (Genesis 1: 1) but is constantly re-creating, renewing, reconciling, redeeming, and restoring all creation to Himself—including being in, and with YOU and, me—re-creating us more and more clearly into his image as best seen in Jesus. The image of God means we are visible representations of the invisible God. Emmanuel is the Self-Existent Lord God (Genesis 2: 4), yet existing in and through all creation in a special way—including existing within YOU and me.
Jesus—Emmanuel—is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-power-full, “outside of, larger, and beyond” all, yet “within” all, including YOU and me. Jesus existed before time began and is ever outside of time, yet began to exist as a human in a moment of time, living now inside time, inside YOU and me. Emmanuel is immortal, yet He chose to become fully a mortal human able to die as a human: dead, yet God raised Him from death so He can now live in and with YOU and me and among all humanity. He now lives and reigns for all the ages of time and in Eternity, Self-reduced to share his very own Self-existent LIFE with YOU and me in his “unbodied form” of Holy Spirit.
Emmanuel is within all things, but not confined within them, outside all things yet wholly within all things. He is above all things, sustaining them by his almighty power, yet wholly “beneath,” the firm Foundation of All. Wholly outside, yet fully within—filling all things, including YOU and me, and among us all—in a unique and special way within his Church, his Body, everywhere and everywhen. In and through Emmanuel, we—YOU and I—are “bi-locational”: we are here on planet earth in time and space, yet simultaneously seated with Jesus on his throne beside our Father’s throne in Heavenly Realms.
Our Emmanuel is the One who is All at the precise center of all dimensions of time, space, and Eternal Realms, but there is no circumference—all is unbounded, limitless, measureless. Within all multi-dimensions, Emmanuel is completely and simultaneously present in all things—in YOU, in me. He is allwhere and allwhen—past, present, and future. The cross upon which Emmanuel died and the ever-empty tomb from which He triumphantly arose from death stand solidly anchored in Eternal Realms, infinitely towering over and penetrating all dimensions of time, space, and Eternity. He is our Risen, never-dying Savior.
Jesus Who is Emmanuel is the One who binds all creation together with his unseen energy; in and through Him all things adhere, cohere, and consist—his explosive energy flows through all Creation from the largest part of creation down to the smallest component of matter, but especially through his Church which ever proclaims the Good News of the Gospel that is the power-full energy of God to save, deliver, liberate, and transform all humanity, including YOU and me. (based on various biblical references)
Love and grace like mighty rivers forever flow incessant from the heart of our Emmanuel to YOUR heart…to my heart…to the hearts of all!
Emmanuel is pure, unadulterated love for YOU, for me. He unveils within us the unlimited riches of his glory and favor until supernatural strength floods our innermost beings with his divine might and explosive power. We experience Emmanuel with us and in us: the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Jesus in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How endearing and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into YOU and me until we are filled to overflowing with the fullness of us Emmanuel. (Adapted from Ephesians 4 in The Passion Translation)
Through the matchless and amazing grace of Emmanuel with us, YOU and I are saved from the clutches of sin and death, never to perish. It is the spiritual energy and power of Emmanuel’s grace which builds us up and transforms our lives. We find ourselves standing out in the wide open spaces of Jesus’ grace, standing tall and shouting praises to God. All humanity died through Adam’s falling away from God, but God’s grace is poured out upon us and in us through the God-Man, Jesus, and abounds and overflows, fully restoring YOU and me…and All Creation to God. (Adapted from various New Testament references about grace)
Our Emmanuel is the One who knows all there is to know about his beloved Church, his Bride—and yet loves his Church beyond measure—even with all its faults and shortcomings; He is preparing her to be a Church clothed in bridal white raiment of righteousness—without spot or wrinkle. He is the One who eternally stands and knocks at the door of his Church. Jesus gives grace, truth, peace, and eternal rest to his servants in his Church, his Living Body on earth and in Heaven. YOU and I are living “building stones” in Emmanuel’s Church that He has promised never to forsake.
Jesus is the Bridegroom. He is the Host at the Marriage Feast of Him and his lovely Bride, the perfected, united Church of all the ages—everywhere and everywhen. Jesus is the Lord of his Church; He alone has all authority over and within his Church. Emmanuel is Lord of YOU and of me; He is building his Church as a living organism–not an organization–in every generation of humankind, culminating in his beautiful Bride filling Eternal Realms.
He—Emmanuel—is the One in Whom all Truth resides—truth in all fields of knowledge: political, spiritual, physical, educational, scientific, philosophical; all such Truth resides in Jesus Who is THE Truth. He is all truth embodied and personified. And in Him we live, and move, and have our being as He leads us—YOU and me—into all Truth without borders by his Spirit of Truth Whom Emmanuel has graciously poured out upon and in all humanity.
Emmanuel is the One Who always exercises and metes out righteous and true judgment and justice—always making all wrong things right in both time and Eternal Realms. Emmanuel living in YOU and me continually teaches us to live and judge rightly and to practice justice, forgiving all, just as we have been forgiven all. God’s justice and judgments always lead to victory for righteousness and right living.
Jesus, our Emmanuel, is the One who is always behind the scenes of our lives—YOU and me—turning all that is seemingly “bad” into all that is good. (Genesis 50: 20 and Romans 8: 28) Emmanuel is altogether good and absolutely everything He does is ultimately good in YOU and in me. (Psalms 119: 68)
Emmanuel, our Good Shepherd, walks with and in us in all the wildernesses and desert places of our lives—guiding, directing, protecting, providing us—YOU, me—with Manna and “our daily bread” to meet all our needs (Philippians 4: 13). He leads us out of the wildernesses and deserts of our lives by his Strong Right Hand and by us leaning on our Beloved. (Song of Songs 8: 5) We are never deserted in our deserts and wildernesses, because Emmanuel is always leading us to green pastures and beside still waters to rest and refresh us—always preparing feasts for us in the presence of our enemies. Even in valleys of deepest darkness, Emmanuel is with YOU and me. His goodness and love pursue us all the days of our lives…and beyond. (Psalm 23)
Jesus—God with us, in us, and among us—is the One born among us and as us–the Son freely given to us, the One upon whose all-strong Shoulders rests all governments, authorities, principalities, and powers. He is Wonder-full, filling us—YOU and me—with unbounded and unrestricted wonder and awe. He is our Counselor and true Comforter sent to abide within us for all the ages of time and—later—in Eternal Realms. He is the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Power-full Prince Who will eventually bring peace to all humanity. (Isaiah 9: 6 & 7, John 14)
Emmanuel is seated on the Throne of the Universe—and upon the inner throne of each of our lives: YOUR life, my life. From that throne within us, He reigns in regal, awesome majesty: the One before whom we “bow our knees” and humbly confess Him as Lord and Master to the glory of God the Father in the power of God the Spirit. (Philippians 2: 9 – 11)
The One—Emmanuel—Who is ever with us, and in us, and among us—YOU, and me—is King of kings, Lord of Lords, the Mighty God, Master of all, Messiah, Savior of all, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the Light of the World, the Living Word of Life, God our Righteousness, the God of Glory, the Faithful God, God our Refuge, God our Rock, the Lord our Defender, God our Strong Fortress, God our Healer—Emmanuel!
Our Emmanuel is the One who was dead, but who is now alive. He is the One who constantly loves us and washes us from our sins in his own spilled blood. It is Jesus alone who brings us God’s great salvation. Jesus has freed all humankind from their sins. He is the One who will finally eradicate sin from all creation—from YOU, from me: sin never again to besiege and infect all humanity.
Jesus has made YOU and me kings and priests to reign with Him in his glory and dominion. He reigns as both Eternal Son of God and Eternal Son of Man. He is the One coming with clouds—his voice as a loud trumpet, as the sound of many rushing waters. Every eye shall see Him, even those who pierced Him. Jesus is the One who has the power to command uncounted angels, cherubim, seraphim, and other heavenly beings to carry out his commands on the land, sea, and air and throughout the entire creation. Around the Lamb seated on his throne are hundreds of millions of angels, living beings, and elders. Around his throne is a rainbow, a sea of glass, and numberless multitudes of living beings. (Gleaned from the Book of Revelation)
Let us not relegate Emmanuel to just a Christmas sermon or song or someone whom we remember, think about, and talk about only during a special season of the year. He is always and ever the One Who is with us—YOU, me—and in us, and among us! It is Jesus who forever tabernacles within and among all humanity. (Revelation 21: 3) Jesus always makes all things new; always freshly redeeming, reconciling, and restoring all things, all creation, including all humanity: YOU! Me! All!
As the venerated Christmas hymn proclaims: “O come, O come, Emmanuel… Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee…”
Revised and Updated February 2023