In the ancient world, one’s name was more than just a designation for that individual. They saw the name as being closely associated with that individual’s personality. If you could invoke the name of a god, you could call that god’s powers into your own use. Writing in the TDNT (V:243), Bietenhard says, “Only when men know the name of a god can they call upon him, have dealings with him, or bring him into play by magic” (see also pgs 250-252, 269-270). The ancients believed they could manipulate their gods by invoking their names as a part of their magical rituals. Bietenhard continues: “Pronouncment or invocation of the name sets in operation the energy potentially contained in him.” Perhaps this is one reason why God warned Israel not to take His name in vain (Exo. 20:7; Deut. 5:11). God will not be manipulated.
We have observed that a name gives the owner authority and/or ownership. The name can distinguish one item, object, or person from another. Giving one a name can be a mark of honor, whether naming that person after yourself or after someone else respected and admired.
We have also seen that the temple in the Old Testament was given God’s name, showing His ownership, occupation, authority, and honor dwelling there. The designation “Tabernacle of the Lord” is found nine times in the Old Testament. When Israel forgot that fact, God removed His presence. Bietenhard observes: “The shem [name, p.h.] guarantees God’s presence in the temple in clear distinction from Yahweh’s throne in heaven” (256).
God chose to send His Son, to whom He attached His own name (Isaiah 7:14 – “Emmanuel” = “God with us”). “In the NT the name, person and work of God are – with various differentiations – inseparably linked with the name, person and work of Jesus Christ” (Bientenhard, 271). Jesus came to reveal the name of God (person, character) to mankind. In John 17:6, the Savior says, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.”
It is in and through Jesus Christ that God’s presence / name found within us. Thus it is, as Bientenhard writes (274): “The whole life of the Christian stands under the name of Jesus.” In the words of an inspired writer, Paul says: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).
Thus it is when we obey Jesus Christ, we do so “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). We are baptized “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). “There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The Gospel is equated with the “name of Jesus Christ” in Acts 8:12.
Saul of Tarsus, after being immersed into the Name, was commissioned to bear that name to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). In the Jerusalem conference, James speaks and says that the inclusion of Gentiles into the church reflects Old Testament prophecy whereby God is seen “taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). When the Gospel is preached, the name of the Lord Jesus is magnified (Acts 19:17).
It is thus that a penitent believer who has been immersed into Christ, into His name, carries His name – Christian (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). In wearing the name of Christ, we show that we belong to Christ. We show honor to Christ. We also show that Christ has authority over us. God places His name on the Christian, just as He did on the tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament. If we forget that we wear His name and we belong to Him, He can remove that name, just as He did with the tabernacle and temple.