In a day when there is loyalty to a host of organizations and names, it is refreshing to review the simplicity of New Testament Christianity.
“A name,” Webster states, “is the title by which any person or thing is known or designated.” Hence, when a name is mentioned one thinks of the person so designated.
To the early believers there was only one name of vital importance, the Name of Jesus. His Name is priceless because of the Unique Person it designates. His Name was given before His birth as setting forth His character and work, “Thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21); consequently, it has precious significance to the believers.
Since there was only the one Name which the believers prized above all others, the Lord Jesus was sometimes even referred to as the “Name” (Acts 5:41). They deeply loved Him and esteemed His Name.
The message of salvation is connected uniquely with the Name of Jesus, “And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein, we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, R.V.).
Christ Himself had said, “I am the Way… no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). Christianity is a message about the Person and His work through only Whom a pardon is offered the sinner.
The herald of the gospel does well to keep the issue before the unsaved as did the early apostles. There was no talk of church membership or anything else which might confuse the matter. The message was all about the Name.
There are a number of prepositions used in connection with the “Name” which are very interesting.
One of these is the preposition eis. It is often translated “into” or “in” when used with “the name” of someone, and carries the thought of ownership. It was a common commercial expression and may be translated “into the possession of.” Deissman in his Bible Studies gives interesting examples of this usage as found in the secular Greek writings of that day.
When one is converted, he believes into His Name (John 1:12); he transfers his soul into the ownership of God, and becomes Christ’s possession. This is a fundamental concept of New Testament Christianity (1 Cor. 6:16-20), but one which is little stressed today.
The Lord also commanded to be baptized “into (eis) the Name” (Matt. 28:19). The act of believing is the actual transfer of ownership, but the act of baptism is the public proclamation of this great transaction. Christ commanded this because a secret hidden Christianity is like savorless salt. One’s change of ownership is to be publicly acknowledged to the glory of God.
The gatherings of believers are to be “into (eis) His Name” (Matt. 18:20). The common translation of “in” is perhaps as good as the English will give.
The thought of ownership is again strong. Here it is not the transfer of ownership as in believing, or the proclamation of ownership as in baptism, but the continual recognition of the ownership of Christ in assembly meetings. May one suggest that this is primarily an attitude of heart, rather than a form of gathering. However, one hastens to add that where there is a deep sense of one’s belonging to Christ, there will be great concern to please Him and obey His Word in every aspect of life.
An early assembly of believers which truly manifested being “gathered into His Name” is seen in Acts 4:23-31. The believers reveal a profound realization of the absolute authority of God. They address Him as “Absolute Master” (Despotes), and describe themselves as “slaves” (douloi). They ask no selfish request, but only seek the glory of God through the bold proclamation of the gospel. Their prayer was answered immediately with a great manifestation of God’s Presence.
There is one other example which is quite interesting. In Hebrews 6:10 we read, “Your work and the love which ye showed unto (eis) His Name.” The believer is to help other saints in various ways, recognizing that they belong to Christ, that they are His property. Any action toward His saints also touches Him. Christ said to Paul, “Why persecutest thou Me?”
If every child of God were keenly aware of Christ’s ownership of all believers, he wouId be very careful not to hurt or hinder such, but to encourage and help them. One’s actions towards the Lord’s property will not be forgotten, “God is not unrighteous to forget.”
One believes “into His Name” transferring ownership, he is baptized “into the Name,” boldly announcing his new Master. The believer is then to gather with other saints “into His Name,” as a company recognizing that Christ is the Absolute Master, His Word the only authority. Besides all this, he can show kindness “unto” His Name as he treats other Christians with love and kindness, realizing they are Christ’s.
May believers delight and glory more in being the possession of the Risen Christ!
Another preposition used very often with the “Name” is the Greek preposition en, which is generally translated “in.” The thought of possession is not primarily in view, but that of invoking the authority, sanction, or might of some greater power. The humblest serf who speaks in the name of the king has the royal authority arrayed behind each word.
This concept is not new, for Moses, as he confronted Pharaoh with God’s demands, spoke in the Name of Jehovah (Ex. 5:22). He represented the Living God.
The religious rulers asked, “By what power or in what name have ye done this?” Peter replied boldly, “In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 4:10). The Name of Christ was sufficient authority for those early heralds of the cross.
The believers invoked Christ’s authority and power for preaching (Acts 9:27) and miracles (Acts 3:6). Evil spirits were rebuked in His Name (Acts 16:18). Eternal life came in virtue of His power (John 20:3;) and baptism was performed in Christ’s authority (Acts 10:48). Requests were to be made of the Father in His Name (John 16:23, 24, 26), and thanksgiving was to be given “in the Name” (Eph. 5:20).
Collective Christian activity is to be characterized by Christ’s authority. The Word of God is taught invoking Christ’s Name (2 Thess. 3:6), Church discipline is enforced “in the Name of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:4), and elders of a church are to pray for and anoint the sick with oil “in the Name of the Lord” (James 5:14).
Persecution and trial are to be endured patiently and with joy, if they come because the believer claims Christ’s sanction and authority (James 5:10; 1 Peter 4:14).
Is any sphere of Christian life overlooked in these references ? Paul’s exhortation echoes through the centuries: “And whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col 3:17 ).
One day the authority and power of Christ’s Name will be universally recognized. As His Name is trumpeted the knees of all creation will bend and the universe will prostrate itself before Him. “Wherefore also God highly exalted Him and gave unto Him the Name which is above every name; that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11, R. V.).
No other authority is needed today for the believer than the authority of “His Name.” It is sufficient for heralding the message of the gospel, or living the life of Christ. It is a tragic commentary on the age that many believers regard the authority of Christ as insufficient, yet man’s sanction and authority are esteemed as vital. Let us do all in His Name, the Name of our Risen and glorified Lord.