Usually, in this series, I’ve only tried to cover a couple of areas in each program. However, there are several aspects to this study which have only one or two verses that refer to them. I’m thinking particularly of the idea that the Holy Spirit is in and among us in Jesus’ name, that our access to God the Father is through the name of Jesus, that the proclamation of the gospel is to be done in Jesus’ name, and that works done in the name of Jesus will be rewarded. These are not insignificant, it’s just that references to them are fewer. Because of this, I’d like to try to cover them all on one program.
Let’s begin by looking at some verses from John’s gospel. But before we read them, let me remind you that the context of these words is Jesus’ last teaching session with His disciples before He would go to the cross. It seems they sensed that there was big change coming, though they couldn’t fully grasp it. In these verses, Jesus offered comfort as well as information.
John 14:25-27 Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Here we see that the Father sends the Holy Spirit into the world in the name of Jesus. This is one of the rare instances where we see mention of all three members of the Trinity in the same sentence. It is interesting that the Father sends the Spirit in the name of the Son. This demonstrates the equality between the Father and Son. We’ve already seen that to act in the name of someone, is to do so with their authority. In a way we may never completely understand, the Son authorized the Father to send the Spirit to indwell believers. This is the main thing that I take away from these verses. They give us a little window into the relationships within the Trinity.
The next idea is a more common one. In fact, specifically in prayer, many Christians do this verbally, perhaps without thinking very much about it.
Ephesians 5:19-20 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
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.
These passages remind us that our only approach to the Father is in the name of the Son. This has given rise to the common habit of ending prayers with a phrase that usually goes something like this: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.” This is something I learned to do when I was still a child. I confess that, at first, it was just something to say, especially in public prayer, to let others know that I was finished.
The concept of “praying to the Father, in the power of the Spirit, in the name of the Son” is theologically sound, though it took me years to understand the significance of it. Now when I pray “in Jesus’ name,” I am much more aware of what I am saying. This is not just a tag line to close a prayer, but a conscious acknowledgement that my requests in prayer are not based in my perceptions, desires, and goals, but on what I know of the purposes and plans of the Lord Jesus. This reminds me that my prayers should not be focussed on my comfort and pleasure, but on the will and glory of God.
It’s important to keep in mind that adding the words “in Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer does not instantly sanctify it. I suspect that many times we add the words “in Jesus’ name” at the end of prayers that are selfish at best and sinful at worst. This past summer, a friend told me about a pastor he knew who had a parishioner approach him at the end of a service to request that he pray and fast on her behalf for three days. He was a conscientious man and knew it would be a challenge for him to devote so much time to her request, so he asked her what she wanted him to pray for specifically. Though he repeatedly tried to get her to tell him, she remained vague about the details and would not reveal the issue.
At last he relented and agreed to do it. It turned out to be the most difficult fast of his life. He suffered hunger pangs as never before. It seemed everything reminded him of food. Yet he used these reminders of hunger as reminders to pray for the situation which was such a concern for this lady in his congregation.
On Wednesday, he finished the fast and spoke to her that evening, asking if her request had been granted. She indicated it had not. He told her how challenging it had been to fast and pray when he didn’t know what he was praying for and pressed her sharply for an answer. At last, she responded sheepishly that she was asking God for the death of her husband. That sounds extreme, selfish, maybe silly, perhaps funny, (everyone laughed when my friend told the story in public) and lots of other adjectives. But I challenge you to think about the prayers to which you might thoughtlessly add the words “in Jesus’ name,” which in no way reflect what you know of the will of God.
Approaching God is serious business, even though we are told to do so boldly and without fear. We can only do so through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, because He died for us, removing the barrier of sin between us and our Heavenly Father. Whether or not we say the words “in the name of Jesus” in our prayers is secondary to understanding that the only right we have to approach God at all is in Jesus’ name.
We need to keep moving along, so we’ll look at two verses which teach us another truth about the name of Jesus.
In Acts 9:27-29 we read about a situation early in the ministry of Paul when “Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.”
James 5:10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.
In these verses we have examples of the gospel being proclaimed in the name of Jesus. This is a good example to follow whether we are speaking to one individual or to a crowd. Talking about the Lord to others, consciously and intentionally doing so in His name will keep us from getting sidetracked by our own egos.
Let’s remind ourselves that doing anything “in the name of Jesus” is to do so with the awareness that we are attempting to accomplish His purposes and serving as His representative — that is, doing it under His authority. This is particularly important when we are proclaiming the good news of salvation. To do that with any other motivation would be insulting to the Lord we claim to love and serve.
When we proclaim the gospel in the name of Jesus, startling things can happen. People’s lives can be changed. When that happens, they sometimes think more highly of us than they ought. They know that God has touched them — they have been blessed — and we were the conduits of that blessing. This can cause them to give us more attention than we deserve. Sadly, this has turned the heads of some who have begun to act as if they were special and that God was using them because of their abilities and godliness. May I encourage you to avoid such a path. Living all aspects of our lives “in the name of Jesus” will help us keep our perspective, realizing that He is the one who is doing the spiritual work we are seeing and consequently, He is the one who is worthy of people’s attention.
Let’s look at three more passages which are encouraging to those who recognize the importance of living “in Jesus’ name” and deflecting all credit to Him when He works in power.
Mark 9:41 “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
Heb 6:10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Re 11:18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
In these verses, we see the truth that a life lived and works done in the name of Jesus will be rewarded. I confess that for a long time, I rather looked down on this. Even now, I think we should be careful about becoming overly reward-driven. However, it is a fact.
The thing that jumps out here is not the mere fact that there are rewards for living and acting in Jesus’ name, but that these rewards are not just for great spiritual exploits. Rather, we see things as simple as offering a cup of water in the name of Jesus will not be overlooked. In over thirty years of ministry, I’ve seen all kinds of acts of service rendered in Jesus’ name, a child comforted, a bill paid, blood donated, hospitality extended, even a grave dug. None of these seem to be particularly spiritual, but because they were motivated by the love of Jesus and done in His name, I am sure they will be rewarded. All this in spite of the fact that thoughts of reward never entered the mind of those taking action.
Let’s quickly review what we’ve learned today. Once again we’ve seen that the name of Jesus is remarkably significant. It is through this name that the Holy Spirit was sent by God the Father to indwell His people on earth. It is also on the authority of the name of Jesus that we dare to approach God as our Father. Because of Jesus’ death for us on the cross, faith in His name removes the sin that stood between us and God. Then we saw that in the New Testament, the gospel was proclaimed in the name of Jesus. It was by His authority that the good news was preached and many wonderful works were done as lives were changed for the glory of God. Lastly, we learned that there are rewards that accompany living and acting in the name of Jesus.
Allow me to ask you today what your response is to all you’ve heard. Perhaps you need to begin by believing in the first place. That is the place to start. But maybe you’ve been a believer for some time and you’ve forgotten the significance of the name of the One who saved you. You aren’t taking advantage of the spiritual power that is available to help you glorify God as you do His work in the world. Let me encourage you to think deeply about your own life and how the power of the name of Jesus is, or should be, affecting it.