In the name of Christ

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).

6 Replies to “In the name of Christ”

  1. Contrary to our LDS tradition, a son or daughter of God is something that one must *become* while in mortality. (Prior to that, we are otherwise referred to as the “children of men”.) Having become a son or daughter is denoted by the Lord declaring to someone that he or she is His son or daughter. This happens all over scripture if you watch for it. One example, and the place you might consider looking next about this “taking upon [us] the name” is Mosiah 5. It’s pretty explicit.

  2. Good question. I wrestle with this as well. It seems so important, but I don’t really understand it. Maybe parts of it I do.
    Here are some of my thoughts.

    We do a lot of things or are told to do things “in the name of Jesus” or in the name of any of the other name titles that he has “taken upon himself.” For example, Jesus took upon himself the name of “beloved Son” when the Father called down from heaven and declared it. He also showed us how to become the “father.” I wonder if taking upon ourselves these names means to become that “name” as Christ did? He took upon himself the name of Redeemer and Lamb of God by becoming those things through the will of the Father. So, when we “do” things in the name of Jesus Christ, we are acting as he would act, or at least willing to act as distinguished by the blessing on the bread. Jesus was willing to take upon himself the name of the Son, by being baptized and receiving the Holy Ghost, showing us what we need to do to be called a Son or Daughter by the voice of God.

    The commandment to not take the name of God in vain has gained new meaning for me. To act contrary to what Christ would do and DO IT in His name is what brings us under condemnation according to the verses in DC 63. So, when we act according to the will of God, we do so by his authority and do so in his name. When we do something contrary to the will of God or without his authority, we take his name upon us in vain, which will condemn us. I’ve also wondered if calling on specific names has power in it? Not sure. Do I call upon the name of Jesus or the name of the Redeemer when I repent and desire my sins to be forgiven? Different names, different titles, for different roles? Does it matter? Is there power in a name? Seems so, according to the scriptures. I act as a father with my kids, a husband with my wife, a son to my parents, a sibling to my siblings, a friend to my friends Each is a different name that I’ve acquired throughout my life, by doing what it takes to take upon myself that name. When we are told to take upon ourselves the name of the Son, I think it means to do that which is required for that name title. Jesus did so by subjecting his flesh to the will of the father, according to Mosiah 15. I think we are supposed to do the same thing.

    Moroni 7:26
    26 And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.

    Mosiah 15:2-3
    2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—
    3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—

    DC 63:60-63
    60 Behold, I am Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ.
    61 Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips—
    62 For behold, verily I say, that many there be who are under this condemnation, who use the name of the Lord, and use it in vain, having not authority.
    63 Wherefore, let the church repent of their sins, and I, the Lord, will own them; otherwise they shall be cut off.

  3. The names of God in the Bible are nearly all reflections of his nature. It’s my understanding that Hebrew names were a reflection of the nature of the ones named. Doing something in the name of Jesus isn’t using his name like magic words. The sons of Sceva learned that lesson real quick (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+19%3A11-17&version=AMP) It’s doing something in accordance with the nature of Jesus Christ. Taking on ourselves the name of Christ isn’t like donning a name tag. It’s changing our lives so they become filled with the nature of Jesus. That is, first and foremost, the work of the Holy Spirit as we follow Jesus, listen to his words, live as he invites, and learn of him, being diligent and following through on the understanding we receive through God’s Spirit (Romans 12:1-2).

    Thinking about a counterfeit version of this is really instructive, for me: when someone joins a gang, they’re called by the name of the gang. They’re expected to act in certain ways (violent, dishonest, etc.). Who they are becomes subsumed into the gang–the gang becomes their identity.

    With God, there’s a wonderful opposite to that. As we take on the nature of Christ, we become, not less and less ourselves as the gang members do, but more and more ourselves as we receive more and more of His Spirit. We are liberated to become the full expression of the person God has planned for us to be from before the world was. It’s an incredible miracle.

  4. Appreciate the comments. Without wanting to lose perspective on the whole, it is interesting that in Mosiah 5, King Benjamin (acting as a Davidic Priest/King?) tells the people who have made the covenant that, they have taken upon them the name, AND that he has given them the name.

    …take upon you the name of Christ….(Mosiah 5:8)

    …this is the name that I said I should give unto you….(Mosiah 5:11)

    This duality makes sense in light of other teachings, such as:

    For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? (LE Doctrine and Covenants 88:33)

    [Update — Note: I’m sorry, I found this interesting, but should not have diverted from the question and thus caused a distraction. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.]

  5. I love that, in Mosiah, it’s the people that choose to receive the name of Christ. The offer is open.: “Come unto Me, ALL ye . . .” is the invitation. There are no exclusions to the offer our Savior has made, for we are all heavy laden and in need of the rest Christ offers. King Benjamin’s people took Jesus up on that offer of salvation.

    The price is paid for us to reach out and take hold of the name of Jesus Christ. That is an active choice, one that begins with receiving the work Christ has done and continues in a beautiful cycle of love pouring into us and flowing out of us through our words and actions.

  6. Fail.

    It is not uncommon for me to fail. In this case, I wonder if it is because I have asked the wrong question, or I have asked it in the wrong way, or, perhaps, that I shouldn’t even be asking this question at all.

    Annalea exposes the difficulty of attempting to ask a multidimensional question in a temporal existence using language (a temporal or linear means of communication) that so impossibly limits our capabilities. She talks about “salvation.” But, we all know that salvation is not one thing. We don’t even know if those who the people of King Benjamin were all on the same rung, making identical covenants based on a single, common understanding any more than those who partake of the sacrament are making identical covenants. As you are aware, that is only the beginning of the complexities.

    I do not know what it means to take upon me the “name of Christ.” Implicitly within the sacrament prayer there is a covenant being looked forward to (“that they may… witness”), which includes taking upon us the name of Christ, always remembering Him, and keeping His commandments. I think I have an idea what always remembering and looking to Christ means. I think I am growing to understand better what ALL of His commandments are. But, the first part, taking upon me His Name completely befuddles me. We know that there is a difference between being called up (offered), chosen/elected, and ordained/fulfilled. In LDS-land, it is common to hear disparagement of others (e.g., “saved Christians”) who do not understand these distinctions, and that think they are “saved” because they have received Christ. These same LDS-landites do not seem to understand that being aware of this distinction and the pattern of salvation is in no way an indicator of having actually followed the pattern and having actually achieved/acquired/attained that salvation. All of these are pretty good at claiming to have attained something that they have not. Well, I have not attained thereto. At what point in that progression does one become a daughter or son of the Father of our salvation? At what point does Yeshua consider us one of His elect? How is that related? At what point do we command in the name of Christ, or even pray in the name of Christ, knowing that we actually own that name and are not mere usurpers/pretenders doing miracles in His name, but not knowing him and He not knowing us? The deeper I dig, the profound my ignorance becomes. I’m sorry, I would like to keep this more scripturally based, but I am clearly being too emotional and perhaps personal here. I am exceedingly frustrated.

    So, after all that, what is the right question?

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