In The Name Of Jesus
By Kulwant Singh Boora
The phrase “in the name of” Jesus occurs five times in the New Testament and is found primarily in Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Matthew. But before addressing this, it should be noted that one fundamental belief lies at the core of the use of the name in ancient times, and other beliefs and practices that stem directly from it. The belief in sum is essentially that the name is equivalent to the person, object or higher being which it applied to.1
The whole essence of the name-bearer is summed up in the name, so that the name becomes much more than a mere designation, it in fact represents in itself the very existence of the name-bearer. It could be said that the name embraced the total sum and potency of the owner. This was a view to which the ancient Babylonians adhered to. A. H. Sayce points out that:
“Like all primitive peoples, the Chaldaeans confounded the person and the name by which he was known. The name, in fact, was the personality, and whatever happened to the name would happen equally to the personality.”2
Even the ancient Egyptians believed that a man’s name was as much a part of him as his soul, and if the name was the object of a curse it brought down evil upon the owner. They also believed that the names of the gods of Egypt were equivalent to the gods themselves. This point may explain why in ancient times people generally avoided uttering the name of a god, since merely pronouncing it might summon its possessor who would take summary vengeance on discovering that he had been lightly invoked.
This mechanism of identification of a name and person is not limited to any civilization, people or countries. However, Hans Bietenhard rightly observed that: “In the faith and thought of virtually every nation the name is inextricably bound up with the person, whether of a man, a god or demon:” It appears then that the name of a person had everything to do with him, his personality, character and demeanor. The late renowned F.C. Conybeare notes that by knowing a name a person obtained power:
“In Arabic tales the first thing to do with a gin or spirit is to find out his name, as a preliminary to availing yourself of his power. Thus it is that in old Georgian, Sakheli, the word for name, means, that which gives power.”3
Conybeare then recognizes that the name of a person is equivalent to the power that it conveyed and bestowed upon an individual. We have already been told by the Apostle Luke that there is no other name given under heaven, being the name of Jesus, Acts 4:12. The name of Jesus carries with it all the rights and privileges that are bestowed upon a person when they enter into the Covenant with him, such Covenant can only be entered by being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
We now turn back to the theme of the phrase; a more invigorating study is produced in the work of J. A. Ziesler, University of Bristol, England, entitled, The Name of Jesus in the Acts of the Apostles. 4 Firstly, Ziesler’s study points out some distinct features like Kelcy, Coneybeare and others, that the name is associated with the person himself. For a start off, Ziesler notes others who also hold to such a view:
“G. Stahlin . . . (Apostelgeschichte 16:7)”, Christ and Spirit in the New Testament, ed. B. Lindars and S. S. Smalley, Cambridge 1973, pp. 229-251, at pp. 240-241: “for in his name the Lord Christ is present himself just as Yahweh the Lord is present in his name.” Cf. also E. Schweizer, Jesus, E. tr. London 1971, p. 145.”5
Ziesler also points out that:
“In the biblical tradition generally, ‘name’ is often a periphrasis for the person, and represents the reality of that person especially when God is being spoken of. To glorify God and glorify his Name are not two different things, for the Name is the reality and conveys his power or authority or both. Further, the name of someone used in healing and especially in exorcism, both in Judaism and in Hellenistic magic, amounted to invoking the power of that person.”6
The baptize someone in the name of Jesus, means to invoke the power of Jesus and to pass such a person into the personal property of Jesus. That is why the Bible is clear; as the Apostle Paul stated whatever you do, do ‘all’ in the name of the Lord Jesus, including baptism, Colossians 3:17, for it is this name that invokes the power. Additionally, Ziesler, notes that: “baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is about becoming Christian.”7
The study also takes L. Hartman’s views further, since Hartman has been noted for lingering on the fence with respect to his view on baptism. Ziesler is clear that being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ ‘means being under Christ’s Lordship.8 If being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ places a person under Christ’s Lordship, where does being baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost place a person or under who’s Lordship?
We have seen that the phrase in the name of Jesus is in alignment with the power and authority of the person. That being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, gives a person the forgiveness of sins and places a person under the Lordship of Jesus himself. A name of a person has so much to do with his personality and character. The name of Jesus of itself transfers ownership into him that is why one is baptized “into” Christ.
Another interesting feature of the name is presented by the work of the late Otto Pfleiderer, Professor of Theology in the University of Berlin,9 which was expanded from a lecture delivered before the International Theological Congress at Amsterdam, September 1903. Professor Otto’s study is notable in recognizing the supernatural weight acquainted with a divine name. To start off, he notes that:
“‘To believe in a Scared (divine) name’ is this the same as to bear it in the heart, and in consequence to be filled with the supernatural forces which are possessed by the owner of the name; to call upon the name, is no more speaking a word, but establishes a vital connection with this supernatural energy, so that it wonderfully manifests itself in the world of experience and action.”10
The sheer dynamic energy that is imported into the name of the person is manifested in the world and that by using the name of Jesus, the energy that it unfolds is manifested to a person who believing is baptized, which results in the forgiveness of sin. It is this experience that a person is afforded by being baptized in His name. However, Professor Otto then reverts to referencing the supernatural empowerment of the name of a person with reference to Christian baptism in the name of Jesus, he states that:
“The same is true also of Baptism into the name of Jesus, only in this case the magical power of the spoken name is reinforced by the sacramental purifying and invigorating power of water, which by the invocation of the sacred name is charged, like an electric accumulator with supernatural energy:’11
Here Professor Otto notes the distinctive power of the name of Jesus as an electric accumulator with supernatural energy that invigorates the waters of the baptismal sacrament. In accepting the name of the Messiah in water baptism, we find that it is widely accepted that His name provides access to a realm of supernatural energy that is discharged according to its appropriate purpose. Whether it be to turn the water into the blood of Jesus and is so doing its ingredients contain the mystical Power to forgive a person of sin, and in accordance with 1 Peter 3:21 to program a good conscience in a person towards God.
It cannot be stressed enough that being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, is the first and foremost, as Professor Sprinks of Yale University has said. The Bible itself tells a person that baptizing ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ is the only way that person is brought and placed into a Covenant, for without Him, ye can do nothing, There is clearly something mystical and powerful about the name of Jesus, that it has to power to make people whole.
This article “In the Name of Jesus” written by Kulwant Singh Boora, was excerpted from the book Apostolic (Acts 2:38) and Post-Apostolic (Matthew 28:19) Baptism. It may be used for study and research purposes only.
1 For the readers interested on detailed information on this subject see: Robert T. Osborn, `What Is In a name? St. Vladmir’s Seminary Quarterly 12 (1968); Wilhelm Heitmueller “Im Namen Jesu’ Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Gottingen (1903); Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Hans Bietenhard; the author is also grateful for the work of Roger W. Kelcy, “In The Name of” Jesus: A Study Of The New Testament Phrase, Abilene Christian University (May 1995) which provided some assistance on writing this chapter and abstracts, the author highly recommends that anyone wanting a detailed understanding of this subject “In The Name of” should review this work.
2 See ‘In The Name of Jesus by Roger W. Kelcy, pp.9-20.
4 Ziesler, J. A. The Name of Jesus in the Acts of the Apostles. Journal for the Study of the New Testament (1979); 2; 28, pp. 28-41.
5 Ibid at p. 38
6 Ibid at p. 28
7 Ibid at p. 29
8 Ibid at p. 31
9 Pfleiderer, Otto. The Early Christian Conception of Christ and Its Significance and Value in The History of Religion, Vol X. Williams & Norgate, London & G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York (1905).
10 Ibid at p. 116.
11 Ibid at p. 117.