by T. Austin-Sparks
In any consideration of the effectiveness of the Church’s witness in the world in its early days, it is essential that careful note be taken of the governing factors which then obtained. That there were certain great governing concepts in New Testament evangelism is undeniable. We therefore essay to bring some of these into clear relief. That to which we would give primary place is—
The Power of the Name
In the book which gives us the record of those first decades of Christianity, we might almost say that—apart from the Holy Spirit Himself—the paramount place is given to the Name of Jesus. In almost His last words to His disciples before returning to Heaven, the Lord had said: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer... and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached IN HIS NAME unto all the nations...” (Luke 24:47). On the Day of Pentecost Peter cried: “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you IN THE NAME of Jesus Christ...” (Acts 2:38). In healing the lame man, he said: “IN THE NAME of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). To the crowd that ran to see the miracle, he said that it had been “by faith IN HIS NAME” (Acts 3:16). To the High Priest, he declared that the man was healed “IN THE NAME of Jesus Christ... Whom ye crucified, Whom God raised from the dead...” (Acts 4:10). The Council commanded that they should “speak henceforth to no man IN THIS NAME” (Acts 4:17). In the face of threats and commands the Church prayed that ‘signs and wonders might be done THROUGH THE NAME of Jesus’ (Acts 4:30). “We straitly charged you not to teach IN THIS NAME,” said the High Priest, but they rejoiced that “they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour FOR THE NAME” (Acts 5:28,41). So it goes on and on. The Name is the power and passion throughout.
But it is more than a title or designation. It is the content of the Name. What was it, and is it, that is contained in the Name?
Firstly, the Name embodies—
1. The Victory of a Nature
In Philippians 2:9, we are told that Jesus, as a reward for His condescension, humiliation, and obedience unto death, was given “the name which is above every name.” This represented among other things the triumph of an unsullied and unblemished nature. Sinless, He carried His robes of character through every ‘temptation common to man’ (1 Cor. 10:13), and “offered Himself without spot unto God” (Heb. 9:14). The world, evil men and the powers of darkness combined to corrupt or entrap Him and blemish His character, but, even when ‘He Who knew no sin was made sin for us’ (2 Cor. 5:21) and “bare our sins in His body upon the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), His own spirit remained unbending and undefiled. This victory cut the ground from under the feet of the evil powers. ‘The prince of this world came and had nothing’ in Him (John 14:30). The Name is the embodiment of tried and proved holiness: hence it is the ground and instrument of victory for the sinner over sin, and for the believer over Satan and the evil powers.
2. The Victory of Meekness
This is a feature that is made much of in the Scriptures. It is that which lies within the so-often-used symbol of The Lamb. The essence of meekness is selflessness. Unresisting, unassuming disinterestedness and teachableness; these are its marks. In its spiritual power and moral values, meekness is the most far-reaching virtue of all. The ruin of creation and man; the distance and discord between man and God; the rift in the universe, and the bitter and terrible entail of sin and death, with all the sorrow and suffering of a disrupted order: all this is due to that satanic pride which led its aspirant to set his throne “above the stars of God,” to be “like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13,14); and, on being hurled from his high place, to conspire to wreck God’s work and to dishonour His Name. The One Who would undertake the immense task of undoing and rectifying this damage and vindicating that name must Himself be without the slightest trace of the evil thing—pride; He must, indeed, be the very personification of its opposite. No ground suitable to Satan’s victory must be found in Him, for Satan cannot cast out Satan (Mark 3:23). That little phrase, “He humbled Himself” (Phil. 2:8), speaks of one of the mightiest and most potent forces in God’s moral and spiritual universe.
The Name, then, represents all that Satan-undoing virtue; hence its potency when used in the power of the Holy Spirit.
3. The Victory of Love
This universe is shot through and through with hate. From that primal hatred of God mentioned above, the work of the evil powers is ever to turn man against God, and to make man—as God’s chief creation—destroy himself by mistrust, suspicion, fear, jealousy, rivalry, sin, and a thousand other ways. Into such a world, there came One Who should declare and demonstrate the love of God, and inculcate His love in a new creation: it was the inbreathing of the Spirit of love; the planting of the Vine, the fruit of which is love. You will find that the New Testament, when you trace this matter of love through it, is just the Testament of Love. The Cross of Christ is where all the hate in the universe—human and satanic—converged and overflowed, and where all the love of God met and defeated it. That victory is embodied in the Name. No one can hate another and bear the Name of Christ.
How much more is gathered into the Name! The power of truth; the victory of faith; and so much more. It is indeed a mighty Name, in Heaven and earth, and hell. The Holy Spirit knows all its meaning, nature, and content; and when He came to vindicate and glorify that Name, and the Church lived and worked under His anointing, ‘mighty things’ happened IN THE NAME.
The recovery of faith in the name, with a new appreciation of its significance and a return to its ground, would prove that it is no less potent now than it was then. But there must be an all-dominating passion for its honour—a single-minded jealousy that will govern all things with the one consideration: Is this glorifying to the NAME OF JESUS?
So the Name is not merely a formula to be appended to our prayers or professions. It is a power: but its potency demands that everything correspond to and be governed by the Spirit and character of its Divine Bearer. We may take the Name upon our lips, but, as it happened with the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:4), the evil powers may turn and rend us because they do not recognize the person: “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” the Name must be taken and used in the power of the Spirit, and that power is only found where Jesus is truly present in unoffended good pleasure.