When I think of the second person of the Trinity, I’ve always had a tendency to think of Jesus as his human name and Christ as his divine name: two names for his two natures. In theology school, I encountered the terms “the historical Jesus” and “the Christ of faith”, which seemed more or less the same thing, although with a different nuance. Even though I knew that Christ was Greek for Anointed (although I never saw the etymological relationship to chrism till just now, look at that), so that one might also reasonably say Jesus the Christ, I still had this human/divine thing going on with the two names.
Last time my class met, we discussed the pneumatology of Clark Pinnock, which really crystallized something that’s been slowly dawning on me all semester. Jesus as the Anointed One has to have been anointed with something — and that something was the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the Anointing of Jesus.
Pinnock points to the baptism of the Lord as the point at which he became the Christ: but he very clearly emphasizes that he is not talking about the hypostatic union here. He is not an adoptionist, believing that Jesus of Nazareth was no more than human until he was baptized and the Spirit of the LORD came upon him and rested on him; he holds to the orthodox faith articulated in the Nicene Creed that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God from the moment of his birth/conception.
No, what Pinnock is pointing at here is that the work of salvation was accomplished by means of a partnership between the Son and the Spirit. This makes sense to me, and I think it not only respects, but highlights, the distinctive roles that the Son and the Spirit play in the economy (that is, ad extra, God’s interactions with creation). The Spirit is “the Lord, the giver of life, who has spoken through the prophets”: the economical work of the Spirit is to bring the divine into the life of creatures. The Son became human in the incarnation, and thus assumed our human nature: the economical work of the Son is to bring the finite, creaturely, and human into the life of the divine. But the specific work of salvation, of atonement (whatever your theory of atonement), required the explicit collaboration of Son and Spirit, and was carried out by neither alone.
Of course, I’m being sloppy with language here: traditional teaching has it that the nature of our Triune God is such that none of the Persons ever does anything “alone”, and all three Persons are subjects who undertake each action of the Godhead. But at the same time it is common and reasonable to speak of certain roles or actions as distinctive to one Person or another, while remembering the perichoresis that is always going on in the background.
Perhaps a better way to make the point I’m trying to make is to say that the work of atonement (construed broadly, including justification, sanctification, deification/theosis) was/is wrought through an explicit coming-together of the distinctive works of the Son and of the Spirit.
So the name Jesus Christ really isn’t first human name, last divine name. The name reflects this explicit coming-together of the distinctive works of the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity by which our salvation is/was accomplished.
Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Anointed One, (Jesus, the God-Human) Anointed with (the Spirit, the Life-Giver) is Risen Today — Alleluia!
Updated to add: Raymund Schwager, in Must There Be Scapegoats?, makes a statement that is consistent with the “collaboration” point that I was trying to make, although he comes at it from a different angle:
Both [the Son and the Spirit] are sent by the Father and condition each other in their workings on earth.
(221, emphasis mine).