On examination, it will be found, speaking generally, that there is a two-fold significance connected with this expression - one God-ward, and one man-ward. To this may be added the expression, which, while slightly different, may be fitly included under this head; viz., believing "in His name." (John 1:12, 2:23.) The word "in" in this case is not the one usually so translated, but rather "into" or "unto," and conjoined here with believing, it indicates the object to which faith has been drawn. This will be more easily understood if it is explained that there are three main ways of setting forth faith in the Scripture. For example, it is said that Abraham believed God; we also read constantly, especially in John's Gospel (though not always so rendered) of believing in Christ; and, in addition, we meet with believing on or upon Him, as in Acts 16:31, etc. There is a very distinct difference in these various modes of expression. To believe a person is to receive his word or testimony; to believe in him is to believe that he is trustworthy; and to believe on is really to rest upon, or to trust in, the object of faith which has been presented to the soul. We may see therefore that to believe in the name of Christ is the assent of the soul to His trustworthiness, and that the name of Christ, the expression of all that He is, is that which is proclaimed in the gospel as the object for faith. And the reception of this testimony, testimony to what Christ is, as the Lord Jesus Christ, is the commencement of all blessing. The title to take the place of children is connected with it (John 1:12); as also to the possession of eternal life. (John 3:15, 16.) Attention is called to this, and earnestly pressed upon the reader, because without the knowledge of this doorway into all blessedness, it is impossible to enter upon the consideration of the virtue of the name of Christ. The value of His name must be known for salvation before it can be enjoyed in the presence of God, or before it can be used in the world.
In John 14 we read, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it." As the last words of verse 13 show, it is here, in accordance with the characteristic truth of this gospel, the name of the Son rather than that of Christ; but this will all the more strikingly illustrate our point. What then is brought before us is, that believers are divinely warranted to appear before the Father in the name of the Son; that they themselves in relationship through having been born again, and having received the Spirit of adoption, and having been set, through the death and resurrection of Christ, in association with Himself in His own relationship (chap. 20:17), they are now free to enter into the presence of His Father and their Father in His blessed name. That these words look on to the period after His death, resurrection, and ascension is evident from the fact that the presence of the Holy Ghost is contemplated. (Chap. 14:16, 17, etc.) When that time should have come, not before, they might ask the Father in His name. This will explain the Lord's language in chapter 16: "And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you. Hitherto" (during the time of His sojourn with them on earth) "have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." (vv. 23, 24.) Who of us has entered into the vast significance of this scripture? Or who has availed himself of the unspeakable grace, in all its length, breadth, height, and depth, herein expressed?
Let us then examine these wondrous intimations, and to aid us we may enquire, first of all, what is meant by asking in the Son's name. To be before the Father thus, is to be there in all the value of that name, according to the Father's own estimate of it, with all the claim of the Son upon the Father's heart, and with the Son's authority for the presentation of our petitions. When He Himself, the Incarnate Son, stood by the grave of Lazarus, He said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always." If therefore we ask anything in His name, we shall also be always heard; and this is precisely what the blessed Lord here promises. Understanding then that He has given us this liberty and privilege, when we are in the enjoyment of the relationship which He has secured for us with the Father, two things have yet to be ascertained; first, as to His requisite authority for the petitions here referred to; and secondly, as to their subject. The authority of the Son for the utterance of any special desires begotten in our hearts can only be obtained in communion with His own mind, from the Scriptures as taught by the Holy Spirit. And hence their subject can only concern the Son's own things. That is, in other words, the assurance given that whatsoever we ask in His name shall be done, cannot allude to our own personal needs and desires; but it supposes His people to be in fellowship with His own desires, objects, and interests, so that they can pray for these both in His own name and authority. For when we have learned, in any feeble measure, what the Father's counsels are for the glory of His beloved Son, we are free, if we have ceased from self-occupation, to be led out into the vast circle of the Son's things and the Father's things (John 16:14, 15), and to pray for the accomplishment of all these wondrous purposes of His love. What a place it is into which we are introduced! And what grace to invest us with all His own preciousness before the Father!
If on this side we may appear before God in the name of Christ, on the other, it is enjoined upon us to do everything, whether amongst our fellow-believers or in the world, in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him. (Col. 3:17.) These two aspects are constantly, and in every variety of manner, presented in the Scriptures. In John 17, for example, after the Lord has put the disciples in His own place before the Father, He gives them His own place before the world. Peter, in like manner, teaches that, if believers are a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, they are also a royal priesthood to show out, in the world, the praises (excellencies) of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvellous light. This is only to state the blessed truth that the believer is inseparable from Christ, whether before God. or before men, that through grace he is so bound up with all that He is, and has accomplished, that he enters the holiest in all the value of His person and His work, and passes through the world as His representative. Indeed, this last word most nearly expresses what it is to act in the name of Christ, or, as in this scripture, in the name of the Lord Jesus. It is to act on His behalf, and under His authority. What an ambassador, or a plenipotentiary is in relation to his sovereign, the Christian is in relation to Christ. He is to be governed entirely by the will of His Lord, he must, with all fidelity, express His mind, study His instructions, and seek in every way to advance His interests. Self and selfish objects can have no place in such a mission: his motto must be that of the apostle Paul, "To me to live is Christ"; Christ alone the motive and object of all his activities.
We may well pause in the presence of such a statement, and exclaim, Who is sufficient for such a mission? Lest any, therefore, should be overwhelmed at the thought of what they might deem to be a tremendous responsibility, let it be remembered that He who sends us out to act in His name, sustains us in the mission with all His power. No one goes to warfare at his own charges at any time. His name, indeed, when rightly borne and used, carries omnipotence with it. Thus when the seventy returned to the Lord, they said, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us" (not "through," as rendered, but) "in Thy name." "Yea," replied the Lord, "behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy." The mission and the power for its accomplishment are thus intimately connected; only faith, faith in activity, is the essential condition for the use of the power. This truth needs to be earnestly insisted upon at the present time, if there is to be a revival, or recovery, before the Lord's return. It is written, "all things are possible to him that believeth"; we read the words, do not doubt them, and yet we seldom think of the possibility of their being verified in our own experience. A saint of olden time knew the secret when he wrote, "Lord, give what Thou commandest, and then command what Thou wilt." Even so, for it is only by the Lord's own power that the smallest of His precepts can be translated into practice; while it is equally true that His largest behests are as easy of performance as the smallest, inasmuch as adequate power is ever at the service of faith. This is seen in the case of the man with the withered hand. How stretch forth an arm that was dry and dead? He believed, and divine power flowed into his dead arm, and he stretched it forth; and lo! it "was restored whole as the other."
A few illustrations of acting in the name of Christ will help to the understanding of the whole subject. Take first an instance of apostolic activity in Pentecostal days. When Peter and John encountered the lame man at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, Peter expressly disclaimed acting in his own authority or power, saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." (Acts 3:6.) In like manner Paul, "in the name of Jesus Christ," commanded the evil spirit, which possessed the damsel who followed him day by day, to come out of her. In both cases they acted, therefore, as His servants, and used, in the exercise of faith, His power in the miracles wrought. So likewise, when correcting disorders among the saints at Corinth and at Thessalonica, the apostle acted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 5:4; 2 Thess. 3:6.) These instances will suffice to show that in all service, as well as in all the duties and responsibilities of daily life, it is the privilege of the believer to act in the name of his Lord. It is, indeed, his true calling to stand before men as the representative of Christ. This may be seen in another aspect from a scripture in Peter. "If ye be reproached," he says, "for" (literally in) "the name of Christ, happy are ye." (1 Peter 4:14.) Here it is evident that the enemies of Christ look upon His people as bearing His name, and as thus standing forth in the world as representing Him. Hence their enmity to Christ is manifested in the persecution of His followers. And the Christian can never divest himself of this relationship to his absent Lord. Whether in the assembly, in his home, or moving amongst his fellow-men, everywhere and at all times, he must remember that he bears the name of Christ, to act in His interests,
It may be again repeated, What an unutterable privilege to be endowed with the liberty of appearing before God and men in the name of Christ! It is, on the other hand, the very greatness of the privilege which indicates the vastness of the responsibility. For if we are entrusted with the name of Christ, as with a holy standard, what incessant vigilance, and what realization of our dependence, are required to maintain it in all its purity, and to guard it from all dishonour! To encourage ourselves to be diligent in this object, we may remind ourselves how precious it is to the heart of Christ to behold His people zealously and jealously caring for the honour of His name. As we read in the prophet Malachi, "They that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name." (chap. 3:16.) It was a day of abounding iniquity and corruption amongst God's people; but this pious remnant were drawn apart from the evil into the bonds of holy fellowship by their godly fear, and their love of Jehovah's name. The eyes of the Lord were upon them; and' in the joy of His heart He proclaimed, "And they shall be mine . . . in that day when I make up my jewels"; that is, in the day of coming judgment He would put them into His treasury-house amongst His most precious things. May we all covet the Lord's approbation for caring for the honour of His most precious and peerless Name.