IN THE NAME OF JESUSBy Pastor Benjamin Robinson

December 5, 2004

There is a three word phrase that is found on the lips of Christians more frequently than any other phrase, yet probably understood less than any other phrase also: ¡§In Jesus¡¦ Name.¡¨ The name of Jesus is invoked in prayer, in declarations, over food, during sermons. The name of the Lord is mentioned so frequently that rarely does one stop to ponder what it means to invoke His name. The way the name of Jesus is chanted at times could give the impression to onlookers that the name is a magical spell that unlocks mysterious powers. But this is hardly the case. I propose that in the midst of our persistent use and overuse of the name of the Lord we should stop and consider what it actually means to invoke it. First of all we must understand the concept of names. Mr. Webster defines the term ¡§name¡¨ as ¡§a word or words by which an entity is designated and distinguished from others.¡¨ We all understand that a name is more than just a label that happened to be associated with the person or object that bears it. ¡§The name is an indispensable part of the personality.¡¨ In the OT there is an interesting significance given to the names of people. So significant is the name given to a person in the OT that one commentator states that in the OT, ¡§as a man is named, so is he.¡¨ First Adam is created out of Adamah. Adam literally means ¡§earth creature,¡¨ or creature of the earth. This is a description of who he is. Even more peculiar is a little known man named Nabal. Nabal means fool, and a fool he is. It is not known what circumstances surrounded his birth that would cause his parents to name him fool, but I wish I could have been there to see it. Also, certain places were given names to represent their character. The tower of Babel is the place where God confused the languages. There are many individuals and places in the OT that are explained through their names. Isaac means laughter and recalls Sarah¡¦s laughter when God told Abraham that she would bear him a son in one year. Abraham means father of many nations. Jacob means swindler (literally, ¡§one who grabs the heel¡¨) because he grabs his brother¡¦s heel on the way out and he steels the birth right from under his nose. In ancient Semitic culture, the knowledge of the name of a Deity gave the bearer of that name power to summon the presence of that Deity. Thus, many gods and devils were said to have secret names. They could maintain their freedom as long as they were careful not to divulge their names. However, once their name was known, their presence could be invoked and they would be forced to appear whether they wanted to or not. There is a story in the Babylonian Talmud in which Jacob Israel was ascending to his throne in heaven and he was confronted by two evil angels. In the story he overcomes them by discovering and calling their names. Even Jesus commanded the demonic presence that bound the Gerasene Demoniac to divulge its name (Mark 5:9). The implication here, however, was that the power of Jesus¡¦ name was greater than the demonic name and thus the demonic presence had to bow in submission. There is another purpose for the giving of ones name in the Scriptures. At the burning bush God reveals Himself to Moses and gives Him His name, not so that Moses could have power over Him, but as a symbol that He would be with Moses and that Moses was now in relationship with Him. The misuse of the name of Yahweh, as in magical incantations, was expressly forbidden in the Ten Commandments. EX 20:7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.¡¨ God refuses to be summoned through the utterance of his name. He promises His presence at His appointed place through the covenant that He makes with Israel, but they will by no means have control over His manifest presence. The purpose in the giving of His name is strictly relational. He gives his name, not as an instrument of magic, but as a gift of revelation. It was a relational symbol. Likewise for us, the exchange of names marks the beginning of relationship. Yet the possession of the name of God does more for the bearer than simply give him or her a token of relationship. Rather the possession of the name of God discloses to the bearer the character of His very nature. In John 14:12 Jesus states, ¡§Truly truly I say unto you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also. And greater works than these shall he do because I go unto the Father. And whatsoever you ask in My name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son.¡¨ This is one of the most difficult passages to understand in the entire NT. How is it that Jesus says that believers will do greater works than the works that He did? Some have solved this riddle by simply saying that this is impossible. The only problem with that conclusion is that Jesus prefaces this remark with the declaration, ¡§truly truly.¡¨ The Gk term used for ¡§truly¡¨ is ¡§amen.¡¨ It literally means ¡§I agree.¡¨ It was normally spoken as a response to an agreeable declaration, or as a conclusion to a certitude that one was not willing to compromise. Here Jesus uses it as the introduction to His own statement and thus it means something to the affect of, ¡§I strongly agree with what I am about to say.¡¨ In other words when Jesus uses a ¡§truly truly¡¨ it is not merely something that He says in passing. Rather it is something that you can take to the bank. ¡§Truly truly¡¨ can truly be understood as ¡§make no mistake¡K¡¨ Jesus says I¡¦m absolutely positive that if you believe in Me you will work the works that I do and do even greater things. Since this is not immediately apparent, we should ask Jesus how this can be: ¡§because I go unto the Father.¡¨ This is significant because His going meant the coming of the promised Holy Spirit (John 14:16; 16:7). That is the first answer. In the first sense, greater means multiplied because His works will no longer be confined to His physical presence. But Jesus gives another answer to the riddle: ¡§and whatever you ask in My Name, that will I do¡K¡¨ This is the 2nd answer: He has given us the authority to pray in His name. We will do greater works because He is the one who will do them through us. So then, the works that He promises are not qualitatively differentiated from His works, they are part and parcel of His works and should be seen as a continuation of His works. He promises in no uncertain terms, without qualification, within the context of a ¡§truly truly,¡¨ that whatever is prayed in His name will be answered, guaranteed. I know that you think that you have prayed prayers ¡§In Jesus¡¦ Name¡¨ and had them denied. I know that a thousand examples came to mind the moment I made the statement above. But it is true. There is no prayer offered in Jesus¡¦ name that does not get answered. Otherwise Jesus did not speak so truly when He uttered His ¡§truly truly.¡¨ The problem is that the majority of us still understand the act of praying in Jesus¡¦ name in the magical sense. You thought you prayed in Jesus¡¦ name simply because you spoke His name. You thought that the license to use His name gave you complete power over His presence. You just speak it and He will come. When you spoke it and He didn¡¦t come you did one of three things: 1. You reinterpreted the text. 2. You quit believing it. 3. You reinterpreted your experience to force a fulfillment of the text on your terms. Praying in the name of Jesus is not speaking the name Jesus continually and forcefully while praying. If you go through the book of Acts, you find that a number of the miracles that occurred there happened without the name of Jesus being spoken. The death of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5); Peter and Tabitha (Acts 9); Paul and Elymas the magician (Acts 13:8); Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:11)¡K In all of these miracles the name of Jesus was never spoken, yet we would not think to suggest that these miracles were not done in his name. The name of Jesus is more than a word, and acting in his name takes more than the ability to sound out the syllables of his name. Praying or doing anything in Jesus¡¦ name means first and foremost doing it in relationship with Him. Remember, the giving of a name is a relational act. Jesus gives us His name first and foremost because He wants to be in relationship with us. The seven sons of Sceva learned this the hard way. They learned that the name of Jesus cannot be invoked like a spell. Many have attempted to use the name of Jesus without growing in relationship with Him. Your authority in the use of the name is in direct correlation with your level of intimacy with Him and the level of substance You have developed in Him. Secondly, it means to pray in His presence, or literally, being. To pray in the name of Jesus is to enter into His name. His name is not merely a word, but the revelation of His being. If you are merely chanting a word, but are far from His person, you have not prayed in His name at all. There is power in the name, not merely in the word. Lastly, it means to pray in accordance with His will. To act in someone¡¦s name is to act on their behalf. When you enter into His being and pray to the Father from there, it is as if Jesus were the One praying. This prayer is never rejected. It is always answered.