How many times have we heard the phrase, “in the name of Jesus” in church or among Christians? I can’t count the number of prayers I’ve heard end in some variation thereof. I’ve done it myself from force of habit, as if He needed to be reminded. As my wife likes to ask, what are we doing and why are we doing it? I don’t think most of us know. It’s a bit of traditional Christianese we’ve picked up through exposure. Depending on the tradition we prefer, we may have been taught to invoke it as one would a Magical incantation, guaranteed to put God’s seal of approval on whatever we want.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t use it. In fact we should proclaim His name often and everywhere. Look at the book of Acts. See how it was used there. It is by His authority and for His glory that we use His name. It is good to remind ourselves and others whose we are and by what right we may approach God for any reason. He did give us His name. I would that we understand what that means, and treat it with the respect it is due. To that end, let’s look at what Jesus said about his name.
The history of names and naming has great significance in the Biblical narrative. If I hope to get this posted in a reasonable amount of time, I won’t be able to treat the subject with anything approaching thoroughness, so I will limit myself to a brief explanation of Jesus’ name, because it weaves a strong thread into the subject of the name as it relates to authority. The name, Jesus, is a Greek rendition of the Hebrew Yeshua, meaning Yahweh saves. The vary name illustrates the means by which we ware it. It is given to us through the death and resurrection of its owner. We have been bought at the ultimate price (1 Co 6:19-20.) By our acceptance of that name and all that it carries with it we become partakers in it (John 1:12-13.)
If I do a search for name in the New Testament, there is still much more than I can cover in an afternoon’s writing, so I’ll try to hit the highlights. The first thing I learn from Jesus’ words about His name is that it cannot be appropriated by those to whom it has not been given.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” (Matt 7:21-23 NASU)
This passage raises many questions that I will not attempt to answer here. If the demons were cast out, prophecies fulfilled, and the miracles performed without Jesus having approved the use of His name by these individuals for so doing, by whose power were these things done? It is true that we do not know that there were any results. Jesus only tells us what they claimed. The point I want to bring out is that even if the thing we wish may be considered good, we may not use His name without His authority. See also Acts 19:12-16.
The next thing I find is that we will not necessarily desire all that comes with His name. When we seek to represent Him in the world, we may find ourselves persecuted. So far in this country the occurrences of persecution have not generally risen to the levels suffered by the first Christians, but our generation may see it happen. It is happening around the world today. You can read about it at Compass Direct and the Voice of the Martyrs Persecution Blog. This should come as no surprise to us. Look at what Jesus told his disciples (emphasis added.) See also Matt 24:9.
16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 ” But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22
You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matt 10:16-22 NASU)
We are privileged beyond measure to bear His name, but with it comes the responsibility to represent that name as He would. Even in places hostile toward Christianity, one may often take the label, as long as he does not engage in any of the activity that is core to its meaning. It is when we begin to act like Jesus that we see both the blessings and the persecutions that He promised would come.
This is a bit less organized than I would like, but It has already taken the better part of a day and I am nowhere near saying what I had hoped to say. The scripture is so rich in truth, and when I begin to dig through it I find it difficult not to unearth every gem it contains. I desire to tell the whole truth as far as I can understand it, and there is so much on this subject.
So, I am going to change direction somewhat to get back to what I had hoped to share. I’ll use an illustration. . I started to use power of attorney as an example. Maybe in our degraded society it makes a better analogy, but I like that of a traditional marriage arrangement better. After all, we are called the bride of Christ. When Linda married me, she took my name. She remains an individual, but she is also now part of me. Everything that she does now carries my name. Whether or not she is conscious of it, her actions reflect on me. So do mine on her, and unlike God I am not perfect, so I hope I don’t embarrass her too much. Linda can and does on occasion at my request conduct business on my behalf. She has that power based on my consent and on the strength of our marriage. If I for some reason become unable to conduct my affairs, she has the right to do so in my place because she has my name. I know that she never would, but if she began to use that authority in ways that were harmful to me or in direct opposition to my wishes, it would create a division between us that could only be healed with time and determination. The more so because I lack the vast reserves of mercy and grace that are in the nature of our Heavenly lover.
This is how it is with us who belong to Jesus. We have been given His authority on the earth. He told us what it was to be used for and what the result would be. He told us to go and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20.) He told us signs would follow (Mark 16:15-18.) He told us it wouldn’t always be easy. Read the book of Acts to see how everything He said was illustrated in the account of the church’s beginning.
We’ve already seen that His name is not endued with power just because it proceeds from our mouths. Were otherwise the most profane among us would wield unimaginable destructive power. His name is given power when it is used by one who has authority to use it and furthermore is using it according to His will. We’ve been taught that if we have enough faith all we have to do is ask and we will receive. Jesus certainly did say that the smallest faith can move mountains, but He did not say that faith would work out of its proper context. Faith in a lie is faith without power. If God wants that mountain to stay right where it is, you can shout yourself hoarse but you’re still going to have to go around or over it. In that passage Jesus is illustrating the power of faith in God. In another place He makes plain the context of that faith.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7 NASU)
“Ask whatever you wish” is in the confines of abiding in Him and His words in us. In this condition, we can ask with full expectation of receiving, because we know what He wants and we want what he wants. It is neither a license to have whatever pleases our flesh, nor even to have what seems good to us for the benefit of someone else. The latter desire is commendable, but still may be outside the will of an omniscient creator who knows what the future holds for all of us. It can only be by the leading of the Holy Spirit that we have such certainty for a specific situation. If we do not know Him well, we can only guess at what He wants. We would all do well to spend much time in prayer before presuming to use His name, for in so doing we presume to be acting on His behalf. We don’t need to look far to find the damage done by people who claim His authority while having no right to it. Even a Christian, though rightfully reborn into His name, cannot expect His blessing unless acting and praying according to His will.
Yahweh Saves. There is no better name with which to communicate the love, forgiveness, and redemption that is at the center of our relationship to God. We preach the good news every time we speak the name of Jesus, but that good news is often overshadowed or even concealed completely behind our own selfishness, pretence, and misrepresentation. I pray that we would remember the preciousness of that which we have been given, and not be found taking His name in vain.