Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Savior’s Name

When he used the phrase “in my name”, did the Son of God have a specific name in mind? Was it one of those names mentioned in Isaiah 9:6: “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”? Was it the one the angel charged Mary to give her firstborn, or perhaps a title given to him elsewhere in the New Testament?

Each name and title suggests an aspect of his person or activity. This post explores a few of the ways we may use his name.

Salvation Through His Name

Calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way of beginning a meaningful relationship with God. Jesus made that clear by saying “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Whether we are witnessing to adults or children, it is vital for them to know where this “me” was before he came to Bethlehem, and where he went when he ascended into the cloud from the mount called Olivet. In other words it is not enough to tell anyone to “Just believe in Jesus” unless they know he is the Son of God.

We will use two incidents to illustrate the universal application of Romans 10:13: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

In John 6:28 Jewish leaders put this question to Jesus, “What shall we do to work the works of God?” or “What is our religious duty?” His answer? “This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent” (i.e. the long-promised Christ or Messiah). A Gentile asked the Apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” was the reply. We should note that the answer in both cases called upon the enquirers to do more than recognize the name given to the Savior at birth (Jesus), but as the one sent by the Father on the one hand (Christ), and the Lord Jesus, as demonstrated in his resurrection and ascension on the other, for God has declared him worthy of both titles, Lord and Christ. This point is also made in Romans 10:9: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead you will be saved”.

This does not mean we subscribe to so-called Lordship Salvation; that we have to totally surrender every part of our lives to him before we can be sure he will receive us. Salvation is by grace, undeserved favor. By adding a title like Lord or Christ to the name Jesus, we verbally acknowledge the majesty, supremacy and glory that belongs to him, even though we may sometimes hesitate, balk, or otherwise fail to carry out his will.

Praying in His Name

In view of his coming departure Jesus gave the apostles the authority to use his name when making requests to his Father. He did not specify what name or titles they were to use, nor did he forbid the use of any. Some may think that when he said “in my name” he must have meant the name “Jesus”. That may be so, but we will not find the apostles using that name alone in their prayers as recorded in the epistles. Nor is there any evidence that they addressed him by his given name; it was always “Rabbi” or “Lord”. Of course they did not at first understand the full significance of the latter title, but his resurrection and ascension firmly established it in their minds.

On the other hand, Philippians 2:10 does say, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”, but the subject there is not prayer but God’s exaltation of his self-humbled Son and the universal honor yet to be accorded him by those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.

Whatever fitting name or title we employ, we will probably want to avoid using it in a merely sentimental way. (I knew a lady who had the habit of referring to the Savior as “Ggggeeezus”, accompanying the word with some audible exhaling of breath.) Others repeat his given name in prayer, but it is neither a mantra to awaken an ear in heaven at the commencement of our prayer, nor should we regard “in the name of [whatever fitting title is preferred]” as a kind of formula that must be presented at a prayer’s conclusion. That is a liturgical custom to which we surely cannot object, except that it may, in some cases, serve as a blanket that covers a lack of care as to the subject matter of our prayer and our motive in asking.

James warns us of the folly of praying in order to gratify our own desires and John reminds us of the importance of praying according to God’s will if we want to be sure we are heard. Did not the Lord himself tell us that true prayer is in order to see God’s will done on earth? Of course, in pursuing that priority we and others will have personal needs, daily bread, freedom from temptation, strength for the day, etc. It is not wrong to ask for such things and we will gain confidence to do so if the carrying out of God’s will is our main objective.

Is it not more likely that “in my name” means “on my behalf, in my place, and “with a view to forwarding my purposes in the world”? If this is true, the spirit and content of prayer is more significant than the words with which it is brought to a close.

All in His Name

And with this meaning of “in his name” in mind it is easier to understand Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Someone has suggested that ideal would be easy to reach if we imagined a sign reading “Divine service will be conducted here daily” over our kitchen sink, office desk or wherever we spend much of our time. A word of caution may be called for though; it may have the effect of sanctifying what we are accustomed to viewing as mundane, but such lifestyle living “in his name” should never be regarded as a substitute for setting aside time each day for calling on the name of the Lord without workplace distractions.

— Colin Anderson, “In My Name”, September 2014

No comments :

Post a Comment