In the Name

Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk" (Acts 3:6).
"And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all" (3:16).
And when they had set them in their midst, they asked, "By what power or by what name have you done this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God has raised from the dead, by Him this man stands before you whole. This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (4:7-12).
 " . . . let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name." So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus (4:17b-18).
 "Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus" (4:29-30).
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!" (5:27-28).
And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (5:40-41).
Being part of a church plant for the first time in my life, I'm having to think through the establishing of a church and its values. I kind of did that in Seminary, but an intellectual exercise is different from being in the thick of it. It's kind of amazing, then, to be spending time in Acts and seeing the establishment of the church and its values immediately after the resurrection of Christ.

One thing that has really struck me is the primacy of the Name. Those first crucial months of the life of the church witnessed a battle to crystallize the overwhelming priority of the name of Jesus over all others. The enemy's priority was to remove all trace of the Name from the earth, to weaken and destroy the church by erasing Jesus. "God" was fine, no problem. The term "God" can be very open to interpretation. Jesus? Generally, not so much.

Names were of utmost importance to the Jews--and specifically The Name, or ha shem. They were the only nation on earth to whom God had revealed Himself by name. His covenant name rings through the Old Testament. One of the Ten Commandments deals specifically with His name--that they were not to take it in vain. The Name was to be honored. Later in Israel's history, the people took this so seriously that they would often use a different pen in the text, and special ink, for the Name, to distinguish it from the rest of Scripture. As they established their alphabet in its postexilic form, they refused to use vowel points with the Name, ensuring that it would not be misused--because no one could pronounce it. Eventually they adopted an entire system to be able to read the Old Testament without using the Name, using the vowel points for Adonai to mark the letters, so the reader would read Adonai instead. Many Jews today will even write "G_d" instead of "God" out of continued respect for the Name.

In light of all this history, what happens in Acts is telling. As the apostles begin to preach in the name of Jesus and to heal people, they get into trouble and find themselves standing before the High Priest and the council. Their demand: to know by what name the apostles have healed the formerly lame man. The apostles have options. They can say, "By the Name of God," which will result in halleluiahs, general merriment, and their freedom (and possibly some speaking engagements and a weekly healing meeting). Or they can say, straight up, "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth," which will result in different kinds of speaking engagements, imprisonment, beatings, and eventual death.  They choose the latter, adding, "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved." Not only do they fail to exalt ha shem, but they lift the name of Jesus straight up into its place. Alea iacta est. No going back now.

The priests severely threaten the apostles and command them not to preach or speak in the name of Jesus any more (notice that they won't even mention His name), and the apostles appeal to a higher law, go back, have a prayer meeting, and ask for boldness and the further exaltation of His name. In the next chapter, they are arrested again for preaching in Jesus' name, and then they are beaten. Do they feel sorry for themselves? No, they go away rejoicing that they have been counted worthy to suffer shame for His name!

These times were crucial in the development of the life of the church. Had the apostles backed down, even once, regarding the preeminence of the name of Jesus Christ, we would not be here today. The church would have died. I guess my question, having written this, is: Is the Name still nonnegotiable? Are we still willing to die on that hill, or are we going to betray the Name to mollify people around us? What does the Name mean to us?

  • The Lord gave me a neat opportunity to share with a couple of ladies last Thursday. My landlord hosted a small henna party for two of her caucasian friends, and my Iranian friend and I got to draw the henna and share the stories. My landlord was really excited about the Bible stories and told her friends they would have to remember the stories so they could tell people who asked them. It was neat to see a different medium break down the walls for the message.
  • I got to go to an Indian wedding last Friday, and it was a fun and educational experience. The Lord is opening my heart more to Indians, and I got to sit there and pray for everyone while I spectated.
  • I've been able to have several good conversations with my Chinese friend, and it's amazing to see her be able to trust me and talk to me. I'm learning a lot from her.
Prayer requests
  • Several of my friends are going through very hard times right now. Pray that they would see the Lord's consistency and love in the middle of the turmoil.
  • Please pray for my Chinese friend and my landlord and her friends, that the Lord would open their hearts to the gospel.
  • Please pray for boldness to speak in His name, that His name would be totally nonnegotiable.
  • Pray for people who are ready to hear. Pray for our new church, that God would bring us into contact with people, and that He would shape this church.
  • Pray for the conflict that happens between us as we minister to bring about growth, communication, and the working out of God's will.
Thank you so much for praying,

No comments: