“In the Name of Jesus”
© C.O. Bishop 12/15/2018
Colossians 3:17 compared to other passages.
We have been studying Colossians for some time. Last time, we discussed the command to allow God’s Word to “dwell in you richly, in all wisdom.” The result of allowing God’s Word to deeply affect our lives, as commanded in verse 16, should be that everything we do is under His authority, and is to be done as ambassadors of Christ.
When a police officer (in times past) said “Open up, in the name of the Law!” the order he was giving was given under the auspices of (and with the full authority of) the Law of the government he served. The phrase “in the name of” is not to be taken lightly. It is not just a “charm” to apply to everything we do, or a magic spell, an incantation, or something. It is saying that we are operating under the Authority of Christ…not our own authority.
When an Old Testament prophet spoke “in the name of” God, his prophecy had better have been absolutely correct. In Deuteronomy 18:20-22, God said that a person who claimed to speak “in the name of God”, and who was proven to be lying (because the sign he claimed would happen did not happen), was to be put to death. So, this is not a light thing, to claim I am doing or saying something “in the name of Jesus.” And yet, here it is: we are commanded to do so! In fact, there are to be no exceptions! Everything we do or say is to be under that mantle of authority.
Do All in the Name of Jesus
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
So, I’m not at all sure that when we pray, and just say, “We ask these things in the name of Jesus, and for His sake” that we are properly using that concept. Possibly we are, in the limited sense that the only reason we can talk to God at all is that we are “in Christ”: we must come to God under the mantle of Jesus’s authority. But, over in 1st John 5:14, 15, we are also told to pray “according to God’s will”…in other words, we are to be learning what God’s will is, so that we can be obedient to His will and pray in accordance with what we know to be His will.
I don’t think it just means to tack on the “disclaimer”, saying, “If it be thy will.” That just makes it sound as though we really don’t expect results, so we are leaving the option open for God to say “No,” since we already expect that answer. I hope that is not our real motive, as that is not His intent, at all: in Romans 12:2 he tells us to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” That means we have to learn His will, and put it into practice. If we really are living that way, then it would be very likely that when we pray, we really are praying according to God’s Will, and that we should expect solid responses from Him. We are to know that we are in His will, so that we can ask confidently, and expect to see results.
Is it possible that (frequently) we genuinely don’t know, and are simply confessing that to be the case? Of course it is, and there is nothing wrong with that. We need to be completely honest in prayer, and be confident that the Holy Spirit knows our hearts in all things. There is nothing wrong with subjecting all things to the will of God.
Being in the Will of God
The other side of the question is that “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18) If I know that I am not doing what God wants, then why should I expect Him to answer my prayers? How ironic it seems, that, while I am stubbornly going my own way, I simultaneously have the gall to claim that I am asking in His best interest, and in His name!
This really ought to call each of us to confession! We need to see that, far from actually acting under the authority of the eternal God, and our Savior, we are mostly acting under our own authority and only asking—praying—in order to fulfil our own desires. James 4:3 drives this point home pretty clearly. We “ask amiss….”
Perhaps we need to do some soul-searching, as to where our hearts really are in this matter: think back to the Old Testament charlatan; the false prophet who claimed to be speaking “in the name of God.” He said those words, all right, but he was not acting on behalf of God, which is what that phrase actually means!
How repugnant it must be to God, to hear His Name bandied about as a “charm,” instead of being treated with the respect it deserves. I suppose that the false prophets were in far worse trouble, as they knew they were lying: we don’t even understand the meaning of the phrase, and so we tend to use it too casually. It seems that, rather than curtailing our use of the phrase, we need to change the nature of our prayers and actions. We are commanded to “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” We are not commanded to simply say that they are done in His name. We are to do all in the name of Jesus.
What are some things we can know to be God’s Will?
- God says he desires all to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
- God says that he wants us to lead others to Him.
- God says that he wants us to live holy lives, in obedience and faith.
- God says that he wants our lives to shine as lights in the darkness of this world.
We can find many things in scripture that God says are His will. We can find long lists of things for which Paul prayed for other believers or for himself, and we can take these as examples of what constitutes appropriate prayer. Then we can confidently say “we pray these things in the name of Jesus and for His sake.”
Acting on behalf of God
Just as an illustration; if I were to go to a hardware store, and make a purchase “in the name of” my employer (that is, to be charged to the account of my employer), when in fact it was for something I intended for my personal use, it would be fraudulent at best.
When we ask for something in prayer, saying “in Jesus’ name”, we are “attempting to buy something” on the account of our master, Jesus, and we need to be thinking in that way. It is fine to ask for something in prayer because it is something we desire, too, but we need to realize the difference. If we don’t know which things are “for the sake of Christ” and which are “because I want it,” then we need to be honest and say so. That is when the “not my will, but thine be done” should come into play. I need to remember who my Master is, and that I am always “on the job.”
Here’s another, very negative, example: If I were to commit a crime, as a uniformed police officer, driving a marked police vehicle, it would be taken as being far more serious than the same crime committed by a civilian, and I would be punished accordingly. During hurricane Katrina, there was surveillance video footage of a pair of uniformed officers, looting a store in New Orleans, and loading the stolen items into the back of a marked police car. It was a shameful act, and universally condemned, nationwide. It not only condemned those particular officers, it also called into question the character of all other police personnel, everywhere. It shamed Law Enforcement servants everywhere, and shamed all Americans who support the Law Enforcement professionals. Why? Because they were in uniform, acting against the will of the people they serve and against the laws they are sworn to uphold. They were far worse than a common criminal, because the criminal has never taken oath to obey the law. This was a treachery against the principle of Law Enforcement.
Give this some thought: When a Christian sins, regardless of the severity of the failing, it reflects badly on Jesus, personally. Like it or not, as a believer, you are “in uniform.” You are part of the body of Christ: you are an ambassador of Christ, everywhere you go, and in every circumstance. Consider yourself to be constantly “wearing the uniform” of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and that there are always witnesses to your behavior and attitude. We are to maintain that awareness, and act accordingly. The Name of Jesus is a serious matter. Treat it that way.
Putting on the “Uniform”
A few weeks back, we spoke of the command to “put on the new man.” We also pointed out that Galatians 3:27 says we “…have put on Christ.” That is a permanent reality. We now havebeen commanded, as those who have put on Christ (in terms of salvation,” to continually “put on” the new Man, and to put on the characteristics of that new life: the humility and the gentleness, and the love of God. We are told to also “put off” the old way of life, and lay aside our old priorities.
All of these things could be considered the “standard uniform” of the believer. On top of these, we are also commanded to put on the full armor of God. The pieces of that armor (the belt, the shoes, the breastplate, the helmet, the shield, the sword and prayer) are to provide us with the protection and confidence we need to face the daily struggles of life, as well as to guard against the deliberate attacks of the evil one against us.
But, be aware, we are not doing anything “in secret.” Those around us are aware of our position in Christ. If they see that what we claim to be is not matching what they see us to be, they will not be “sympathetic” and say, “Well, he’s trying…give him credit for that!” They will simply dismiss us as “hypocrites,” and assume that everything we say must be false. It is a harsh, inaccurate, unjust judgment, but it is what the World has to offer.
We do not want to bring shame on the name of Jesus, and we do not want to use His Name in an inappropriate manner. We are to change our way of life and the things for which we pray, so that we really can “pray in the name of Jesus,” and confidently look for God’s answer. So that we really can speak and act in His name and for His sake.
The evil high priest, Caiaphas, commanded Jesus, by the name of the Living God, to tell him whether he was the Messiah. Jesus answered to the authority of the Name, even knowing that the man wielding it really had no right to use the Name at all, as everything he was doing (secret trial; trial at night, abuse of the accused, etc.) was illegal. But the answer Jesus gave was not to the man, Caiaphas, it was to the authority of the Living God. Even though it came from an evil, ungodly man, the Name of the Living God was sufficient for Jesus to respond clearly and resoundingly that He was the Messiah. And, he was immediately condemned for doing so. They did not want the truth; they were looking for an excuse to execute Him.
In spite of this knowledge, Jesus responded to the authority of God.
That is an important idea to keep in mind as we move into the following passages, regarding our submission to God and our submission to those he has placed over us:
We are commanded to “do all that we do, in word and in deed,” in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is a tall order for most of us, and completely impossible apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit. We simply cannot function in a way to please God unless we are in submission to His Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Apart from me ye can do nothing.” He meant just exactly that: unless we learn to walk with God on a daily basis, we will still be muddling along in the flesh, and frustrated, as believers, knowing that we are not being the witnesses He has called us to be.
God help us to learn this critical, fundamental lesson.
Lord Jesus, fill us with the desire to live for you, and, by your Holy Spirit, give us the ability to serve faithfully, resting on Your Grace for all things. And this is truly something we can ask in the name of Jesus, and for His sake.