Tradition and the Name
By Gordon G. Mallory
Some declare that it cannot be substantiated that God has a particular and specific name. This conclusion indicates the confusion that relates to the traditional concept of a three-fold Name to conform to the Trinity. A clear and positive message of The Name of the One True God is generally in evidence. Reactions are varied and sometimes hostile toward teaching which proclaims God’s divinely appointed Name.
Some have stated that we are making a fetish of the Name and worshipping the Name instead of the Creator. While such charges may in some cases be justified, there is no more reason to become legalistic over God’s Name than for a wife to worship the name she received in marriage, separate and apart from the man whose name she bears. Neither would we expect her to be secretive and evasive about her husband’s name.
The universal common denominator in the meeting of strangers is the introduction of the parties by their names. Church denominations, educational institutions and business firms declare themselves by making their names known. Worshippers of heathen gods address them by their names. This truth is spoken in the text, “For all the peoples walk everyone in the name of his god; and we will walk in the name of Jehovah our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:5, ASV).
In order to know who the True God is, the Bible teaches the necessity of knowing His Name the Name by which God has chosen to declare Himself to man, whom He created. If we would truly know our Creator, we must know His Name.
The Muslims worship one god, but they have not learned His Name. “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee…” (Psalm 9:10). Every Christian should be able to confidently and gratefully identify the One worshipped by God’s divinely appointed Name.
The foundation of the great doctrines of the Bible is laid out in the Old Testament. The traditional church, however, has generally made Matthew 28:19 their `golden text’ for teaching the Name: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
The Scofield Bible offers this comment concerning Matthew 28:19: “The word is in the singular, the `name,’ not names. Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the final name of the one true God” However, Dr. Scofield is strangely silent regarding his verdict for the three-fold name in the Old Testament.
The conclusion, that Matthew 28:19 contains the Name, violates God’s law that “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”(Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; II Corinthians 13:1). A single portion of Scripture is not an adequate basis for teaching Bible truth. Since the words of Matthew 28:19 were never used or repeated by the Apostles of the Early Church, it is evident that the above verdict regarding God’s Name is not supported by the Scriptures.
We would also submit that the teaching of the phrase, `Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ as God’s divinely declared Name draws no distinction between common and proper names, for there are many fathers and many sons. The same is true of the word ‘spirit.’
The angel did not instruct Mary that “Thou shalt call His name ‘son,’ ”but rather,” And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS” (Matthew 1:21). Nor do the Scriptures designate God’s Name as `Spirit,’ but the Word declares that, “God is a Spirit.” (John 4:24)
The historic practice of some churches is to speak the words of Matthew 28:19 throughout most or all of their worship and ministry. Among revivalists or evangelical churches, a distinction is generally made whereby the phraseology of Matthew 28:19 is spoken in water baptism, while other areas of their ministry are administered in the Name of Jesus. If one were to grant that the words, ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ constituted a proper name, then the practice of speaking that phrase in water baptism, and the Name of Jesus in other areas of ministry would indicate names, rather than a single name – a distinction which is not visible in apostolic practice.
Some church leaders have upheld the use of the words in Matthew 28:19 by contending that they would rather accept the words of Jesus than the words of the apostles. Since the Bible is not the word of men, but the Word of God, this conclusion is in no way addressed to the issue and is, in effect, treating the Bible as the word of men and not of God. Further, they have not reckoned with the records of Jesus’ commission to preach the gospel as recorded by Mark and Luke.
We read in Mark 16:15-18, “Jesus” said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”
The words recorded in Luke 24:46-47, “(Jesus) said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. ”
Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, beginning at Jerusalem,- fulfilled Luke 24:46-47 when he answered the question of the crowd, “What shall we do?” by preaching repentance and remission of sins in Jesus’ Name (Acts 2:37-38). Peter’s command was, “…Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” It is inconceivable that Peter, in opening the door of salvation into the New Testament Church, should have misinterpreted the Apostolic Commission, as it was delivered by our Lord.
Some years ago, the leadership of a leading evangelical denomination took strong exception to this message. They have since adopted the practice of substituting the word ‘formula’ for ‘the Name’ when teaching the subject of baptism. Their use of the word ‘formula’ would appear to indicate doubt or misunderstanding on their part concerning the validity of their position on the Name. The issue, of course, is not a ‘formula,’ but the Name.
An interesting defense has been offered for the trinitarian form of water baptism. It has been charged that there is no established pattern or formula to substantiate emphasis on the Name of Jesus. The phrases “name of the Lord,” and “name of Jesus,” “name of the Lord Jesus,” and “name of Jesus Christ” have been cited as being variously spoken by the apostles. The error of such reasoning consists of making a ‘formula’ the issue, whereas the Scriptures consistently speak of “the Name” and that Name is Jesus.
Luke 2:21 is a significant Scripture: “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” The Early Church did not pretend to institute a legal formula through which to minister. They exercised the options of using no titles, of using the title of Lord or Christ, or of using both titles with the name, reasoning that since Jesus is both Lord ‘and’ Christ, therefore He is the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s name is not a formula nor may the Name be properly defined as `power,’ authority, ‘influence,’ or `doctrine,’ notwithstanding some prevalent teaching to the contrary. Rather, God’s power and authority are vested in His Name, and are therefore given to those who speak and minister in His Name. To teach otherwise is to miss the meaning and significance of the Name of the One True God.
It has been well said that if language means anything, that Jesus gave to His Church the legal right and privilege to use His Name. In other words, the ‘Power of Attorney’ is in the Name of Jesus. Jesus is with us in the power and authority of His Name. Concerning the healing of the blind man, Peter said, “And His name through faith in his name bath made this man strong, whom ye see and know.” (Acts 3: 16).
The sons of Sceva witnessed the authority of Paul’s ministry in that Name. Therefore, they tried to minister deliverance to a man afflicted with demons by calling upon “Jesus whom Paul preacheth” (Acts 1 9:1 3- 1 7). The demons in that man, however, attacked the brothers, and they ran for their lives, for they did not personally know the Jesus whom Paul preached.
Concerning ‘Lord’ as the Name
Some years ago, much research and study, a most interesting and scholarly book was written and published by William Phillips Hall, entitled A Remarkable Biblical Dictionary. The writer’s study convinced him that the words in Matthew 28:19 “were never used in baptism by the original apostles, or by the Church during the early days of its existence, according to the record of the Acts of the Apostles and the apostolic epistles of the New Testament.”
Again, Hall says, “Although the Lord Jesus Christ commanded his original disciples to ‘disciple all the nations, baptizing, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ neither they nor the church of the apostolic age ever literally repeated the words of that command in baptizing anybody, so far as the New Testament bears witness.”
Regarding God’s Old Testament Name, Mr. Hall concurs with other authorities from whom we have quoted when he says, “Apparently from the time that Ancient Israel believed the true God had forbidden them to pronounce His Name in its original form…they habitually substituted for the name as originally expressed …the word Adonay in the Hebrew, which is…Kurios in the Greek…and Lord in English.”
While he accepts the historical fact of the basis for the traditional use of the title ‘Lord’ by the Hebrew people, Mr. Hall nevertheless concludes that ‘Lord’ is The Name of The True God in the Old Testament and The Name of God in Christ in the New Testament.
The following quotations from Mr. Hall’s book, A Remarkable Biblical Discovery, disprove the premise that ‘lord’ is the Name of the one True God:
(1) “It is true that the word ‘Lord’ as the name of God does not express that name as God Himself originally declared in the Hebrew to Moses at the burning bush.” (Exodus 3:14).
(2) “It is a fact that the word ‘lord’ is applied in a number of instances to other than God and God in Christ in the Old and New Testaments.-
(3) “When the word ‘Lord’ is used to express the name of God it ceases to be merely a title and becomes not only a name, but the name of all that God is, or in other words, ‘the name which is above every name.”
We are unable to accept the premise that God delegated to Israel the prerogative of substituting LORD or GOD for God’s declared name of Yahweh, the English form of which is Jehovah. We would further submit that, in the New Testament, Jesus is the “name which every name.” The phrase course, sprinkled throughout the Old Testament but LORD (capital letters) indicates its improper use as a substitution for the name of Jehovah.
Concerning the Hebrew `acionai’ (or adonay) in the Old Testament and the Greek ‘kurios’ in the New Testament, which are properly translated ‘lord’ or ‘master,’ these words are not similar in meaning to Yahweh, or Jehovah, but rather they signify oversight, rank, or authority and do not constitute a proper name, although the Hebrew people used it as such.
Although his personal and proper name was Ronald Reagan, the American people appropriately addressed him as ‘Mr. President’ or ‘President Reagan,’ while he held the highest office in our nation. The analogy is the same when we address Jesus, as ‘Lord’ or as ‘our Lord Jesus,’ for He is our Lord and He is Lord of lords.
The correct translation of God’s Old Testament Name in the American Standard Version eliminates the confusion of the Authorized Version and other similar Bibles, and presents a true picture of God’s Name as declared to the nation of Israel. For example, whereas we read frequently of the ‘Lord Jesus’ in the New Testament, we similarly find many passages in the Old Testament, which speak of God as the ‘Lord Jehovah.’ The following are typical:
“…O Lord Jehovah, thou art God, and thy words are truth.” (II Samuel 7:28, ASV).
“…Thou barest the ark of the Lord Jehovah…” (I Kings 2:26, ASV).
“For thus said the Lord Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel…” (Isaiah 30:15, ASV).
“…the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces …” (Isaiah 25:8, ASV).
The Hebrew people could not acceptably serve Jehovah, except by acknowledging Him as Lord. Similarly, to be a Christian is to proclaim Jesus as one’s Lord or Master.
The following are cited as examples of verses using lord’ or ‘master’ when related to man:
“…his lord (kurios) commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had.” (Matthew 18:25).
“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master (kurios) he standeth or falleth…” (Romans 14:4).
“… if that servant say in his heart, My lord (kurios) delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the men servants and maidens…” (Luke 12:45).
He is Lord, He is Lord,
He is risen from the dead and He is Lord,
Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess,
That Jesus Christ is Lord.
This chorus gives us the true significance of the term ‘Lord.’ So also do these Scriptures:
“And ye masters (kurios), do the same things unto them” knowing that your Master (Kurios) also is in heaven.” (Ephesians 6:9). “Masters (Kurios), give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master (Kurios) in heaven.” (Colossians 4:1).
“And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord (Kurios) and my God.” (John 20:28).
Peter said, “…He is Lord (Kurios) of all.” (Acts 10:36).
“…no man can say that Jesus is the Lord (Kurios), but by the Holy Ghost.” (I Corinthians 12:3).
“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Kurios)…” (Philippians 2:11).
“…the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord (Kurios) of lords (kurios), and King of kings…” (Revelation 17:14).
Concerning “Christ” as the Name
The apostles proclaimed Jesus as both Lord and Christ. Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, or the Anointed One, and these three terms are of similar meaning. They are defined as “a smearing: an anointing.”
The Old Testament priests anointed ‘men’ with oil, who were appointed to serve as prophets, priests and kings. The New Testament elders anointed ‘men’ with oil to heal the sick (James 5:14). The oil is symbolic of the Spirit, which anointed those elders who became political and religious leaders of Israel. Beginning on the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit anointed and filled New Testament believers. It is further commanded that believers “be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5: 18).
We have emphasized ‘men’ because neither Deity nor angels receive this anointing. Melchizedek has been thought by some to be an angelic or divine being. Since only men are anointed and only men serve as mediators or priests between man and God, we may rest assured that Melchizedek was a man, who as priest, ministered to Abraham. (See Genesis 1 4: 1 8-20).
Inasmuch as Jesus was a common name at the time of His birth, the title ‘Christ’ served to designate Him as the promised Messiah of Jewish expectation. Christ, or the Messiah, was the title (not the name) of the glorious King of Israel who was to reign in the age to come.
There are relatively small areas of the Church where `Christ’ is declared the Name of the Spirit. The fanciful idea that Christ represents the Name of the Spirit finds no support in the Word of God. Such a premise is a fantasy of the minds of men who are seeking for a threefold name to conform to the concept of the Trinity. The Spirit is the Anointer; man is the anointed. Therefore, Christ is not the name of the Spirit, for this is to say that the Anointer is the anointed. The Spirit does not anoint Himself; Deity does not anoint Deity; Deity anoints man (or humanity).
Jesus was both God and man. The Anointed, the Christ, or the Messiah, was the ‘man Christ Jesus’ � the Mediator or Priest who stood between God and man (I Timothy 2:5). That the anointing of the spirit applies exclusively to man is indicated in the following texts:
“And he poured of the anointing oil upon Aaron’s head, and anointed him, to sanctify him.” (Leviticus 8:12).
“These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests which were anointed, whom he consecrated to minister in the priest’s office.” (Numbers 3:3).
“And Samuel said… Jehovah anointed thee king over Israel.” (I Samuel 15:17, ASV).
David said, “…I will not put forth my hand against my lord; for he is Jehovah’s anointed.” (I Samuel 24:10, ASV).
“Saying, Touch not mind anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” (Psalm 105:15).
“Now He which… hath anointed us, is God.” (II Corinthians 1:21).
“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16).
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?…� (I Corinthians 10:16).
Note that in the final quoted text it was certainly not the blood of the Spirit, but the blood of Christ of which the Apostle Paul spoke. Since God is Eternal, the Bible never speaks of the death of the Spirit. The death of Christ is often told forth in the Scriptures. This is in accord with our position that ‘Christ’ represents the Son or the humanity of Jesus. We cite the following:
“…Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6).
“… while we were yet sinners, Christ died! r us.” (Romans 5:8).
“Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” (Romans 6:9).
“…It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34).
“For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” Romans 14:9).
“…Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” (Romans 14:15).
“…I declare unto you the gospel…By which also ye are saved… how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (I Corinthians 15:1-4).
We have maintained that ‘Christ’ is a title, not the Name of the Son of God. The following Scriptures attest to the fact that the apostles did not preach Christ as the Name, but they proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ or Messiah the Anointed One:
“…God bath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36).
“Saul… confounded the Jews… proving that this is very Christ.” (Acts 9:22).
(Paul) “mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, sheaving by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” (Acts 18:28).
“Who is a liar hut he that denieth that. Jesus is the Christ? …” (1 John 2:22).
“Whosoever helieveth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” (I John 5:1).
“…We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.” (John 1:41).
The apostles declared Jesus was both Lord and Christ. This, then, was the significance of their use of one title or the other or both. They could speak of Him as Jesus, or they could speak of
Him as Lord, Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ, or Lord Jesus Christ.
Concerning “Lord Jesus Christ” as the Name
There are those who hold to the traditional doctrine of the Trinity whose study of the New Testament convinces them that the phrase contained in Matthew 28:19 was never repeated by the apostles of the Early Church in administering water baptism, and that it does not represent God’s Name. Is there an alternative for those who hold to the concept of the Trinity?
Some, in their quest for a three-fold name, have embraced the phrase, ‘Lord Jesus Christ’ as the Name, and the Name to be spoken in baptizing converts. Such individuals have taught that ‘Lord’ is the proper name of the Father, or first person, and that ‘Christ’ is the name of the Spirit, or third person of the Trinity.
Sufficient space has already been given to show the use of ‘Lord’ or ‘Christ’ as proper names of Deity. Proponents of the above teaching, however, have presented a comparison of several biblical translations, the supposition being that if a particular Scripture designates our Lord as Jesus in one version, as Lord Jesus in a second version, and perhaps as Jesus Christ in a third version, then the original manuscripts of the Bible must have contained the proposed triune name of ‘Lord Jesus Christ,’ as spoken by the apostles in the Book of Acts.
The four gospels speak of our Lord as Jesus over 600 times. The Book of Acts uses ‘Jesus’ alone 36 times, `Lord Jesus’ 13 times, ‘Jesus Christ’ 10 times, and ‘Lord Jesus Christ’ 6 times in the Authorized Version.
Dr. Allan A. MacRae and Dr. Robert C. Newman, in the booklet entitled, Textus Receptus, published by the Foundation Press, Anaheim, CA, writes, “As scribes copied manuscripts in century after century, it was easy for a scribe unintentionally to write a longer form even when a shorter form occurred, so the word ‘Christ’ occurs more frequently in the later manuscripts than in earlier ones. Yet even in the latest manuscripts we find that Jesus is often called by short terms.”
It is illogical to attempt to capitalize on the errors and variations resulting from copying manuscripts to support the premise of a three-fold name. The findings of these writers in studying the multitude of existing manuscripts do not support the assumption that the earlier or original manuscripts used or recognized ‘Lord Jesus Christ’ as God’s proper name.
The above article, “Tradition and the Name” was written by Gordon G. Mallory. The article was excerpted from chapter 4 in Mallory’s book, Jesus.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.