I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about what it means to be “willing to take upon [us] the name of Thy Son….” I just don’t get it. Help, please.
As I look at the scriptures, “name” is used in a wide variety of contexts. Before diving deeper, it seems reasonable to note the the Hebrew word for name (Shem, used as a substitute for saying the actual name of God -> Ha Shem = “the name“) is also used to mean “renown” (see Genesis 6:4 KJV). With that, let me now quote a few example excerpts (all KJV):
- hallowed be thy name
- in thy name done many wonderful works? (Matthew 7:22)
- And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake (Matthew 10:22)
- He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward (Matthew 10:41)
- And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. (Matthew 19:29)
in his name shall the Gentiles trust. (Matthew 12:21)
- And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. (Matthew 18:5)
- where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)
There are order 1000 uses of “name” in KJV, though many have nothing to do with this topic (e.g., the name of the second river is Gihon).
I can map very little of this to our current vernacular. We just don’t talk this way. One exception in Mormon culture is doing something in the “name of Christ” or “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” By this, we are speaking about authority to “act in His name,” (or Their names) which maps pretty well to the concept of power-of-attorney. Those saying such things believe that they are agents/representatives/ambassadors acting in behalf of the Savior and have the right to sign His name to whatever document their keys authorize.
I have always presumed to have understood what it meant to “take upon us the name of Christ.” I call myself a Christian. There. Done. Really though? If I put on a name tag with the name of “The Church of Jesus Christ…” does that mean I have taken upon me His name? Did Christ actually give cart-Blanche to His name? If we are of His church (pick your favorite definition for church), then have we taken upon us His name through baptism or by having witnessed of Him, or…. Is it that automatic? From this scripture, you would think so: And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. (Mark 9:38–39). Yeah, the work miracle may be key here. Nevertheless, how do we reconcile that with: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22–23)?”
Do we, instead, actually have to first keep His commandments and be worthy to take upon us His name? Meaning, it is automatic so long as we meet the criteria of obeying all His commandments? But, we don’t. So…? Can we just “take it” or does He have to “offer it.” Is it possible that this is actually tied to receiving the 2nd Comforter? Said differently, in the covenant that should be associated with our partaking of the sacrament, if we say (in part) to the Father that “We covenant with Thee that we are willing to take upon us the name of Thy Son,” do we think that we are effectively saying “We have taken upon us the name of Thy Son?” Or, is this phrase about potential, and not about fact? Would we instead be saying something more akin to “We desire, and are ready and willing to be adopted into the family of Thy Son, to be His children, and to have Him as our Father and be called by His name, and therefore covenant with Thee to always remember Him and keep His commandments.” In a slightly different version, we would be servants of Christ and thus called by His name because He owns us (note here that the word “servant” most often used in the KJV would be more accurately translated as slave; see: James 1:1, 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1:1).
Or, is there something entirely different going on here? Why is it the “name” of God that is hallowed and not God Himself? Why are the gentiles trusting in the name of Christ, and not just trusting in Christ? Similarly, why are we not sacrificing house, family…, for Him, rather than for His name‘s sake? Ditto for “calling on the name of God.” Is that the same as calling on God by name? Is this, is all of this, a distinction without a difference? Or is there something going on here that is lost in translation? Or, is there nothing going on here at all.
All the animals were brought before Adam and he named them. Is this all about language? When we think on the things of God, we frequently think (or at least communicate) using words, which are effectually names (“and the Word was made flesh…”). They are cognitive substitutes for the real thing. Could that be the totality of it?
In conclusion, if I am “willing to take upon me the name of [the] son,” what exactly am I doing? It must be something different than remembering Him and keeping His commandments, right (which are also things that I am “willing” to do).