IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

‘In the name of Jesus Christ’, or ‘Through Jesus Christ, our Lord’ are words very often used by Christians, when ending a prayer.
 
Have we ever considered what invoking the name of Christ, in this way, actually means, and involves?  To do so, we need to look at aspects of the developing use of ‘name’: as found in the Bible.
 
The Old Testament Jews believed that the name of a person was closely linked with their qualities, attributes and attainments: and that to know someone’s name, created a connection with them, at the least; and, through invoking that name, a certain amount of power, and hold over them.
 
The human idea that knowledge of ‘name’ had that sort of power and influence: seems to have prompted God’s reply, to a question put by Moses.  At the time of the giving of the commandments; Moses asked: ‘When I go back down the mountain; the people will want to know who sent me to them. What is your name?’ (Exodus 3: 13)
 
God's reply, at Exodus 3:14, was straight to the point:  ‘I AM WHO I AM. That's all that they, or you, need to know about me’. One verse later, God appears to have relented a little, in the matter: knowing that the people wanted to have some form of address.
 
He said to Moses: ‘Tell the people to think of me, and to address me, as: 'THE LORD'. That is how I am to be remembered, from generation to generation’. Later, he said to Moses: ‘I appeared to Abraham and Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name, I did not make myself known to them’ (Ex.6: 2+3). That text makes it clear that God had a name, but that he refused to reveal it.
 
Why such reticence? Probably because, as said: people believed that, to know a man's name, could even lead to having some sort of hold over him: and that to invoke a man's name, was almost to oblige him to live up to his name.  By withholding his name: God gave no opportunity for his people to even begin to think that they could have a hold over him: or that they could invoke his qualities, attributes and power, and oblige him to act.
 
By refusing to divulge his name: God created a parting-of-the-ways, in the philosophical understanding of ‘name’ equated with power. Other nations might continue to go their own way: but the Hebrews had to learn a new way, that would, eventually, lead to a spiritual understanding of ‘name’.
 
Because he wanted to have personal relationship with his people, and desired that they should actively seek such relationship with him: God had to find a way to help them to reform their thinking.
 
At Isaiah 42:8, and at Jeremiah 16:21, we find him saying: ‘I am the Lord; that is my name’ … ‘The People will see my power, and my might, and they shall know that my name is The Lord’
 
By taking hold of a title, ‘Lord’, and commanding that it should be used as a form of address, with all the convenience of a name, but without any bad connotations attached to it; he helped promote the desired relationship.
In those days, the top man in civil government was the Lord!  No man could possibly be higher, than the one who bore such a title: and no one could possibly have any 'hold' or 'power’ over such a man.
 
From that parting-of-the-ways, and onwards: the Hebrews had to learn that God’s lordship was like that, only more so. In all things, he must be recognized as ‘The Lord’: and approaches to him, must be based on a humble asking, in the hope of a gracious response.
 
Something of a balance in the matter was achieved.  On the one hand: by commanding that a title be used: with the same degree of closeness, that belonged to the use of a ‘name’, but without any misunderstandings attached to it; God kept the way open for people to enter into relationship with him.
 
On the other hand: ‘Lord’ was a very powerful title. By insisting upon its use: and the need of humility in an approach to him; God prevented casualness creeping into any relationship with him.
 
Through the prophet, Isaiah, God began to speak of the Israelites as ‘The people who are called by my name’. Once; during Israel's exile in Babylon; the prophet Jeremiah said: ‘Lord, we bear your name. Do not forsake us’.
 
Having long refused to allow anyone to know his name: the Lord declared that the Hebrew nation was called by his name. However, as said, it was simply a matter of a title being given all the usefulness of a name: as a form of address, without any concept of ‘power’ or ‘hold’ being attached to it.
 
For this biblical matter of 'name', to have real, and personal meaning; in relation to us, today; we need to take brief looks at a few, short texts that touch on God's ‘Name’ (as 'Lord') and his relationship with mankind.
 
In the famous 23rd. Psalm, we read that God will do various things for his people for his name's sake; that is, for his personal honour and standing.
 
At Malachi 2:5, God says: ‘My covenant was with Levi; and it was a covenant of life and peace, that he might fear me, and stand in awe of my Name’.
 
We believe that what God had in mind, was that 'holy fear’, where people stand in proper, respectful relation to their Lord: without any slip-shod, or even 'matey', attitude towards him.
 
A concept of God’s general presence in the world: is, often, not enough to meet particular needs. The Lord did something, to meet such needs: and, in Christ, he speaks to us more directly, closely and personally.
 
As far back as Deuteronomy, God had said: ‘Never will I leave you: never will I forsake you’; and Jesus says: ‘Behold, I am with you, always; even to the very end of the age (Matthew 28: 20b). Jesus also said: ‘Where two or three are gathered together, in my name: there shall I be, in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18: 20). His presence would go far beyond merely being 'with them': because, in the power of his Spirit, he would do particular and needful things for them, in them, and through them.
 
Not only that: Jesus taught his followers that there are many things that they can be getting on with, as his proxies, in the power of his name.  Where only Christ can act, then, obviously, only he will act: but where we can undertake particular work and actions; enabling power will be given.
Here is a quote from the story of the man being healed at 'The Gate Called Beautiful' (Acts 3: 16)
Peter, in explaining the miracle to the crowd, said: ‘By faith in the name of Jesus, this man, whom you see, and know, was made strong. It is Jesus’ name, and the faith that comes through him, that has given this complete healing: as you can all see.
 
In relation to today's Church: ‘In the name of Jesus’, has two, distinct meanings. The first, which has always formed part of our belief and practice, lies in claiming the historical mercy, love and grace of God, and the promises kept, and blessings that are given, through our faith in Christ.
 
The second meaning: often remains mere head knowledge; and, therefore, does not become part of our ongoing faith, practice and experience …
 
… because Church-attending Christians seldom fully claim, and receive, the Lord's actual, enabling power; in those situations where Christ has already commissioned them to act, in his name.
 
Where only Christ can do something: he will do it. Where we can be enabled to do things; we are given the power to act, in his name. Do we believe this?
 
Looking back, at the crippled man who had been healed at 'The Gate Called Beautiful': he walked; leaped, and praised God, in a way that could not be missed; and the whole crowd was amazed.
 
It is obvious that the High Priest, and other leaders, also saw, and fully believed, that a miracle had just been performed. (Acts 4: 7). They asked: ‘By what power, or by what name did you do this?’  They were told: ‘By the name of Jesus Christ, this man stands before you, healed’.
 
Unintentionally: the High Priest, and other leaders, gave a strong witness to the crowd, through equating ‘name’ with actual power. Peter and John gave even greater witness: by pointing to Christ as the source of that power.
 
As said earlier: the ancient, human and philosophical concept of ‘name’ being equated with ‘power’ and a possible ‘hold’ over someone: was abandoned. When Christ was given to the world, to become our God, Saviour and Lord’: something not obvious, at first, but rather wonderful, was also given.
 
At that time: nothing at all to do with human understanding: but everything to do with divine love and grace; ‘name’ was made to equate with ‘spiritual power’, that could be called upon.
 
‘Christ’ is a title: based on the Greek word ‘Christos’, which, itself, is a translation of the Hebrew word for ‘Messiah’, which means: ‘God’s Anointed One. Anointing, in that sense, related to prophets, priests and kings: and Christ was, supremely, all three, in one Person
 
However: ‘Jesus’ is a name: which, translated from the Hebrew language; means ‘God saves’.  Put together: ‘God saves, through his ‘Anointed One’.
 
Today, as in New Testament times: those who seek to actively follow the discipline (the disciple-ine) of the Christian faith; must be willing to be open channels, through which Christ may reach out, in power, whenever he may choose to do so. Only then, will they be true disciples.
 
Who, these days, ‘walks and leaps and praises God’, because of the powerful witness and ministries that we undertake, in the name of Christ?
 
Who, these days, are so amazed by what is to be seen in the life of our churches: that they ask; in a true desire to know: By what power, or by what name do you do these things?’ 
 
Christ instituted and commissioned his Church to stand as physical proxy for him, in his needy world: so that, through us, he may exercise particular, spiritual ministries. 
 
Are we fulfilling our commission and calling?     Amen.