Why Does “Faith in the Name” of Jesus Christ Bring Life?
“YOU may know that you have life everlasting, you who put your faith in the name of the Son of God.” So wrote the apostle John to fellow followers of Jesus Christ toward the close of the first century. (1 John 5:13) More than half a century earlier, the apostle Peter had told the Jewish supreme court or Sanhedrin: “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.”—Acts 4:12.
Why is salvation all bound up in this “name”? Is it some sort of magical lifegiving formula? And what does it mean to have “faith in the name of the Son of God”? Could a person who knew nothing else but just the name “Jesus Christ” be in position to exercise such lifesaving faith? Would our using it at the end of our prayers be sufficient to show that we have such faith?
WHAT THE “NAME” EMBRACES
Obviously we cannot put faith in someone if all we know is his name, any more than we could put faith in some remedy for an illness just through knowing the name of the medicine. The apostle John shows that life-bringing faith is actually not placed just in the words composing the name “Jesus Christ” but in the person it identifies. That is why John says of his Gospel account, that it was “written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that, because of believing, you may have life by means of his name.” (John 20:31) So knowledge of God’s Word the Bible and all that it tells us about his Son, the Messiah or Christ, is essential to have that lifesaving faith. Do you have such knowledge?
Mere use of the name “Jesus Christ” does not prove that one has genuine faith in it, faith of the kind that assures life everlasting. Did not Jesus himself say that, at the time of his expressing God’s judgment, some would say: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name”? And yet Jesus said he would tell such ones: “I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:21-23) Today there are clergymen, ministers and preachers, as well as members of their flocks, who use the name of Jesus Christ and who claim to do works ‘in his name’ and yet they do not have true ‘faith in his name.’ Why not?
EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY REPRESENTED
Because they are not acting and living in harmony with God’s Word the Bible. You see, Jesus’ “name” stands not only for himself, his person, but also for something more. What? His authority to carry out and execute God’s will and purpose as set forth in the Bible. We can understand this if we remember the expression sometimes used by police officials: “Open up, in the name of the law”; or the expression “in the name of the King” found in royal edicts and decrees. Here the phrase “in the name of” means “by the authority of,” that is, by the authority of the government whose law is being enforced or of the king whose decree is being published.
Showing that the Greek word (oʹno·ma) for “name” was used similarly back in the time of the apostles, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Vol. III, pp. 99, 100) says: “ONOMA (ὄνομα) is used . . . for all that a name implies, of authority, character, rank, majesty, power, excellence, etc., of everything that the name covers.”
Yes, Jesus’ “name” stands for the vast executive authority that Jehovah God has entrusted to him, even as Jesus told his disciples following his resurrection that “all authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matt. 28:18) The crucial question therefore is: Do we have faith that he has such authority and do we show that by submission to him?
When the apostles Peter and John performed a mighty work of healing, the rulers and elders of Israel brought them in for questioning and asked them: “By what power or in whose name did you do this?” In effect, they were asking them, ‘Who empowered you to perform such works, or to whose authority did you appeal to be able to do such a miracle?’ It was then that Peter expressed his faith that the name of God’s Son is the ‘one name under heaven’ through which saving works can authoritatively be accomplished. (Acts 3:1-10; 4:1-13) But those religious leaders did not have faith in that name. They had earlier shown where their faith was placed when they had cried out to Pontius Pilate, “We have no king but Caesar,” thereby rejecting God’s Son. (John 19:13-15) They put faith in the name or authority and power of Caesar and his imperial government. Many persons who use the name of Christ Jesus and claim to have faith in it actually belie that claim by putting their faith in human leaders and political governments of men to bring peace and righteous conditions on earth.
But of Christ Jesus it was prophesied that “his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6) Today persons by the hundreds of thousands are turning from human schemes and systems to the kingdom of God’s Son as their real hope and they look to his rule as the one with authority and power to bring them the justice and relief for which they hunger. In this way a further prophecy is fulfilled, that “in his name nations will hope.”—Matt. 12:18-21; compare Isaiah 42:4, where the Hebrew uses the word “law” instead of “name.”
This helps us to understand why it is that, at Ephesians 1:21, the apostle Paul links ‘names’ with ‘governments, authorities, powers and lordships.’ We can also see that it is because God has put his Son at the head of the Kingdom government and given him all authority to carry out the divine will that Philippians 2:9-11 says that God exalted Jesus to “a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Yes, the name of Christ Jesus should inspire in us a feeling of respect and honor and obedient submission superior to that of any human leader on earth and second to none in heaven except that of his Father, Jehovah God.
GOD’S CHIEF AGENT OF LIFE
Christ Jesus gave his life as a ransom sacrifice and serves as God’s great High Priest on behalf of mankind. So, while many pray to God “in the name of Jesus,” some use this phrase without appreciating its real significance. They think of Jesus more or less in terms of a sort of celestial ‘switchboard operator’ who relays their requests on to God.
In reality, praying in the name of Jesus, as he himself instructed, means doing so through his good offices as God’s “Chief Agent of life” who, as appointed High Priest and Judge, effects cleansing from sin and judiciously administers the ransom benefits to individuals of mankind according to their worthiness to live under his Kingdom rule. (Heb. 2:10; 6:20; Eph. 1:8-10; John 5:22, 27) When we pray in Jesus’ “name,” therefore, this means we are making an appeal to his authority. We are petitioning that his power and position and benefits as Chief Agent of life be exercised on our behalf, making our prayer acceptable to the Sovereign Ruler, Jehovah God.
LOYAL TO HIS NAME
If we want to be among those showing faith in the name of Christ Jesus so as to be assured of everlasting life, we must also show loyalty to him. We must serve him as the Head of the Christian congregation, faithfully upholding his executive authority and his Kingdom interests. We must be like those Christians in the first-century congregation at Pergamum who, under danger to their lives from those opposing Christ’s Kingdom rule, kept on ‘holding fast his name and did not deny their faith in him,’ and like those in Philadelphia who ‘kept his word and did not prove false to his name.’ (Rev. 2:13; 3:8) Our conduct, both among ourselves and toward those in the world, must be such as will not deny what the name of God’s Son stands for. Even as Christians back then experienced persecution, we can expect the same today, for Jesus foretold: “Then people will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name.”—Matt. 24:9.
Does such international hatred come upon religious organizations and church members who merely claim to believe in Jesus as their Savior who redeems them from sin? No, such hatred does not come merely from accepting Christ Jesus as the “Lamb of God” who shed his lifeblood for us. It comes because of persons’ loyally ‘holding fast to his name’ as standing for the ‘all authority in heaven and earth’ that is his through God’s commission of him. It comes because of recognizing him as the rightful King of all the earth and his government as the one and only rulership with divine backing. Is that your stand and the stand of your church? Or does your religion claim to put faith in the name of Jesus while actually looking to “Caesar,” the governments of the present system, as their hope?
For your eternal welfare and that of those closest to you, learn all that the “name of the Son of God” signifies. Put your full trust in God’s backing of his Son’s kingly rule, and then you too may “know that you have life everlasting, you who put your faith in the name of the Son of God.”—1 John 5:13.