Shakespeare once asked through Juliet, “What’s in a name?” The bible answers, “A lot.” You can pray in the name of, baptize in the name of, preach in the name of, speak in the name of, call on the name of, and be free in the name of… We have songs about the name of Jesus, liturgies involving the name of Jesus, sometimes alone in the middle of the night all that’s left to say is His name, “Jesus.” It is, after all, the name above any other name.
What matters is whose name you’re using in all that name of stuff. Paul warns the church not to get caught up in celebrity pastor mania, “Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. […] For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be of no effect.” (1 Cor. 1:12-17) There is no name that replaces or supersedes the name of Jesus and we should claim no other name than His. Gifted speakers though there have been, are, and will be; they are still servants to Christ, mere messengers.
It’s kind of all right there in the Great Commission, the last words Jesus spoke to the disciples as he ascended into heaven at the end of Matthew, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mtt. 28:18-20 NKJV) Jesus is the great redeemer who won the authority over the earth back from the enemy. Jesus was given authority over all heaven. It is in His name and the names of the other members of the Trinity that we are baptized. It is in His name and under His authority that we go and spread the gospel and make disciples. Our validation, our calling, and the power to carry out that calling all come from Jesus and His name.
A stunning example of the power in Jesus’ name is found in Acts 16. While Paul and Silas were in Philippi doing their missionary thing, they acquired an unlikely herald. On their wd. A girl “possessed with a spirit of divination” started to follow them around calling out, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” Paul didn’t like this. Luke doesn’t tell us why Paul wasn’t happy, just that Paul was, “greatly annoyed.” Whatever the reason, Paul finally has had enough and turns to face the girl and says to the spirit in her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” Luke tells us that the spirit came out “that very hour.” (Acts 16:16-18)
What’s amazing to me about this story is that Paul wasn’t even speaking from a place of ministry in his heart. He was annoyed, and he acted on his feelings. Yet the spirit still came out of the girl! She was freed in Jesus’ name whether or not Paul was at his finest or his grumpiest. The authority belongs to Jesus. We just wield that authority as His agents, and despite our imperfections God carries out His will through His name.ay t
Jesus gives power, or rather, lends power, through the use of His name. Sometimes power can be removed by using a name. When we name a fear or lie, especially when we do it in the presence of Jesus, that fear or lie loses its power over us. Jesus’ name defeats their names. His power defeats their power in our life.
We have an active part to play in the power struggle over our lives. By using the names of what is happening in our hearts we can take the power from the bad and give it to Christ who will replace the hurt with His healing. Jesus replaces the old names with His name and we are new in Him.
The thing is, we have to be the one to call on the name of the Lord. We have to name the enemy agents in our lives. We participate in the power struggle by inviting Jesus into the fray within us. We then must allow the Holy Spirit to fill the gaps left by the enemy agents so there’s no longer any room for them within us.
Like Paul, we can turn and face what’s inside and call it out in the name of Jesus Christ. And like that girl we too can be freed in Jesus’ name. That all is exciting and liberating, but we should be careful not to get caught up into the heady drama of this liberating power in our lives. We need to remember the why behind the liberation and the power Jesus brings to help us overcome the demons in our lives.
The reason Jesus went to the cross, made atonement for our sins, won all authority, gave His disciples His name so they could use His authority so they could reach us: To give us new life and bring us back into relationship with Him.
Some of the disciples made the error of getting caught up in the power of the Name of Jesus and forgetting why they carried the power in the first place. At the beginning of chapter 10 in the gospel of Luke, Jesus sends out 70 of His followers to spread the gospel. He gives them some instructions and off they went. Upon their return they were filled with joy and told Jesus, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Jesus replies by reminding them that He was there when Satan first fell from heaven. He then reminds them that He gave them the authority they used to subjugate the demons, and goes over some of the power that comes with that authority. But He doesn’t stop there, in the middle of his speech there is the equivalent of a big fat BUT… at which point he points out that they altogether missed the point of what they had. “Neverthelesss, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Lk. 10:1-20 NKJV) *
It’s almost as if Jesus said, “Satan is out of heaven, the demons are out of heaven, you may be out of heaven at the moment and here with Satan and the demons and all their distractions. BUT your names are in heaven. One day you will join your names and Me there, while Satan and his crew will not.” When we accept Jesus as our savior our names are written in heaven too. Our names now hold a promise for life with Jesus, and no amount of success or struggle here in ministry or non-ministry work should distract us from the joy we have in that promise.
So let’s remember the power of Jesus’ name when struggle rises in our lives or in our hearts. I always tell my kids that Jesus’ name is their super power and they can speak it over their lives to scare fear away. They do pray like this. On more than one occasion I have suddenly heard a young voice cry out, “In the name of Jesus!” and I know fear is being vanquished somewhere in our little home.
And let’s remember the promise hidden in our own names. The promise that says we are redeemed, reclaimed, loved for eternity, and home in Christ. Because our names are written in heaven for all to know we are His.
Romeo and Juliet. William Shakespeare. Act 2, Scene 2.
*I gleaned some of my insights into this bible story from Jon Tyson’s book The Burden is Light. So if you want to go further into the meaning of this passage, and so much more, I highly recommend this read!
The Burden Is Light, Liberating Your Life from the Tyranny of Performance and Success. Jon Tyson. 2018. Multnomah, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Pages 41-45.