(New American Standard Version)
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.
The Scriptures speak often about the salvation which is bestowed on those who believe in, or call on, the name of Jesus Christ. By simple logic, we should be able to recognize that such verses must be referring to more than the literal name, “Jesus Christ.” For there are many who believe that there was a man named Jesus Christ, and many who freely speak that name, yet remain far from this salvation.
Christians regularly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Is this use of his name merely an optional ritual crafted by church tradition? Is it some kind of incantation, akin to “Open sesame” or “Abracadabra?”
For those who believe in the primacy of the Scriptures, it is critical that we come to an understanding of what God’s Word means by “the name of Jesus Christ.” With this understanding, we will be better able to introduce others to the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. In addition, our lives as Christians will be radically and powerfully uplifted when we come to recognize the potential resident within this name.
In the Scriptures, we often encounter examples in which a person’s “name” refers to … their name! For example, in speaking of his newborn son, Zacharias said, “His name is John.” (Luke 1:63). However, at times God’s Word will also speak of one’s name in a way that transcends the more literal usage.
Let’s look at some examples:
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
Were these poor people literally nameless? Or perhaps their given name was embarrassing, so they sought a new one? Clearly, more than this is implied.
II Samuel 8:13
And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men.
What was David called previous to this incident? David!
These two records sufficiently show that, Biblically, a name may also be used in reference to what one has accomplished. This implication should not be foreign to us, as even in modern English we speak of an individual “making a name for himself” or of a business which has a good name (or a bad one).
Further examination of the Scriptures will reveal that a name doesn’t only reflect accomplishments, but in a related way speaks to one’s resources. In the Old Testament, this is most often used in reference to the resources of God.
II Samuel 7:13
He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
Why would God’s name need a house? Obviously, He is speaking here of a place where His many resources could be both acknowledged and accessed by His people.
Psalm 20:1, 7
The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
These few examples should serve to illustrate the fact that, when not being used literally, the name of an individual or group serves to emphasize both accomplishments and resources.1 Thus, when any man or woman calls upon or believes in the name of Jesus Christ, they are acknowledging and appealing to all that he has accomplished, and all of the resources that are his to give.
What HAS Jesus Christ accomplished?
The salvation of mankind.
Though he was the flawless son of God, he had absolute free will. Therefore, he did not have to, but chose to live a life in total obedience to God’s Will, up to and including the agony of the cross. Why did he do these things? In order to pay a debt that we owed and to bear the penalty for our sin.
II Corinthians 5:21 (New English Translation)
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.
As a sign that Jesus Christ had completely accomplished this work, God raised him from the dead. He was then raised to the place of highest exaltation, at God’s own right hand. In this position, what resources are now at his disposal?
Colossians 2:9, 10 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ,
And you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.
All that is part of God’s nature—love, light, holiness, righteousness, eternal life, etc.—resides within the Lord Jesus Christ. And he is both able and authorized to fill others with all that fills him. Who, then, is eligible to receive such blessing?
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
In order to believe in Jesus Christ, I must know who he is, what he has accomplished, and what he is able to give. Then I am fully able to call upon his name. Whosoever does so, shall absolutely, receive salvation. And in that moment, all that he now is becomes mine.
As we saw previously, those who have believed on him are now children of God. For children of God, the name of Jesus Christ continues to be “a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). Because of his accomplished work, we are now a new creation, members of Christ’s body, his church. Happy is the Christian who never forgets what our Lord did for us.
But wait ─ there’s more. The name of Jesus Christ not only was, but continues to be of inestimable value in the daily life of the Christian. As we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we are neither reviving a memory, nor are we practicing a ritual. Rather, we are actively calling on that which belongs to us, because we now belong to him.
As Christians, we do not pray to Jesus, but we do pray in his name.
And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
What gives me the right to ask you for anything? If I were to ask you for the loan of your automobile, you might agree to my request, but your agreement would be based on something—our friendship, our blood ties, a favor owed, etc. I doubt if you would hand over the keys to a complete stranger.
Similarly, many Christians hesitate to make requests of God. In examining their own lives, they realize that they have very little, and have done very little, to merit an answer from God. And they judge rightly. But thank God that our Lord has given us the right to pray in his name. In other words, every prayer offered consciously in the name of Jesus Christ is a prayer being presented to God based on the merits of Jesus Christ.
Will God hesitate to answer that prayer?
Truly, for Christian and non-Christian alike, his name continues to be the only name, the precious name—the name of Jesus Christ.2
1Further examples include Genesis 12:8, Exodus 9:16, Numbers 6:27, Deuteronomy 7:24, Joshua 9:9, and Psalm 105:1–3. For further learning, a simple word study (using a concordance or Bible program) will reveal many more examples in both the Old and New Testaments.
2There is one further aspect of the name of Jesus Christ which is of enormous significance to the church. We will be examining it in our next article.