If the term - name - as used of our blessed Lord and Saviour, is expressive of all that He is, it will not cause surprise to find it presented to us in so many different ways and aspects. The necessary connection, indeed, between the living Word and the written word, inasmuch as the latter contains the revelation of the former, affords the explanation. It follows that the more we have Christ Himself before us, in reading the Scriptures, the more fully are we in the mind of the Holy Spirit, and the better are we prepared for the discernment of the rays of His glory, which shine forth from every page. To regard the Scriptures as the display of Christ, of God as revealed in Christ, is a sure preservative from error, as well as the antidote to the rationalistic teachings of the day; while, at the same time, it tends to produce that reverence and adoration in the soul, without which it is impossible to receive the divine communications therein made. Too much stress cannot be laid on this point; and the remark is earnestly commended to the attention of the reader.
In passing now to consider the phrase, "unto His name," we propose to select two or three examples of its use to illustrate its significance, and to point out how, in every case, it brings into prominence, whether as Leader, Object, or Centre, the Person of our blessed Lord. We take, first of all, the expression, "Baptized unto the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 8:16; 19:5.) In both instances, in our translation, it is rendered "in the name of the Lord Jesus"; but the words are eis to onoma, etc., which could only be accurately given, we apprehend, as "unto the name," etc.* This, indeed, can be shown from renderings of the same word in other places. Thus in Acts 19:3, where the apostle says, "Unto what then were ye baptised?" And they said, "Unto John's baptism," the same word is used by both. Similarly in 1 Cor. 10:2, where we read that "they were all baptized unto Moses," the same word is also employed. It is, therefore, abundantly clear that "unto" should be substituted for "in" in the two scriptures cited; and it is necessary that this should be done, from the fact that "in the name of the Lord" is also found in connection with baptism. (Acts 10:38.) The meaning in this case, as explained in a former paper, will be that those who baptized Cornelius, and those who heard the word with him, acted, by the direction of Peter, on behalf, and under the authority, of the Lord.
*The Revised Version has "into" instead of "unto," in both places.
Having now elucidated the force of the term, its meaning may engage our attention. The similar expression in 1 Cor. 10 may help us to ascertain it. There can be little question that to be baptized unto Moses, implies the bringing of the people into association with Moses as under his authority. In like manner, to be baptized unto the name of the Lord Jesus, brought those who were baptized on to the ground where His authority was supreme, and into the company of those who owned that authority. The name of the Lord will then express, in this connection, what Christ is, as exalted and glorified as Lord; and the baptized confess Him as such, and own also His claims upon, and His authority over, them. It is not the whole truth of baptism, for Paul teaches that as many as were baptized unto Christ Jesus, were baptized unto His death. But we do not enter upon this here, as we desire to confine ourselves to the scripture before us, and to call attention to its meaning. To go no further, then, its import is the absolute authority of Christ as Lord, and the responsibility of the confession of it on the part of those who have been baptized. In a day of profession and declension, it is well to enquire whether souls who have been led on to the ground of Christianity are aware of the responsibilities which they have assumed. Surely the Lord might also say to many of us in this day, "Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" For there never was a time when the spirit of lawlessness was more prevalent, even in combination with the confession of the name and authority of Christ. If the first duty of a soldier is unquestioning obedience, surely a Christian should ever be marked out before the world by his unqualified subjection to the authority of his Lord as expressed in His word, and by his unwearied zeal and devotedness in maintaining the honour of His blessed name. "My people shall be willing in the day of My power."
Another example of the use of the same phrase may be cited from the Epistle to the Hebrews. There we read, "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward [or "unto"] His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." (Chap. 6:10.) In many respects, this is a most remarkable passage for the preciousness of the truths it contains. It will be observed that here it is the name of God; for Christ, in this epistle, is seen as the High Priest at the right hand of God, where He both represents and intercedes for His people. Still, it is the name of God as revealed in Christ, for in chapter 1 we are reminded that the Son is addressed as God. This being so, we have to enquire as to the meaning of the words - unto His name - in this passage. First of all, it is plain that the apostle alludes to ministry to the saints. These Hebrew believers had been doing good, and "communicating," that is, sharing what they possessed, with their fellow-saints who were in need, for they had apprehended the truth that with such sacrifices God was well pleased. (See chap. 13:16.) In thus caring, with true brotherly love, for the needs of the saints of God, they were, the apostle says, shewing kindness unto His name.
But this requires further explanation. It must, then, be remembered that our blessed Lord fully identifies Himself with His people, and that His name is called upon them, as well as entrusted to them to bear, and to maintain His honour, before men. Hence it is that to receive a Christian in the name of Christ, is to receive Christ Himself; and, further, to receive Christ is to receive Him that sent Him. God is thus identified with Christ (not now to speak of their essential unity), and Christ makes Himself one with His people. Turning then to the other side, it will be at once understood, that whatever is ministered to His own, is kindness showed to His name. He Himself has explained it in the ever-memorable words, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me." So too, in a still deeper sense, he could say to one who had been the bitter and relentless enemy of His people, "Why persecutest thou Me?" How blessed an encouragement, to remember at all times that the Lord regards what is done to His saints as done to Himself! And herein lies also the secret of all true service amongst His people. If they are our object, much as they might benefit by the service, it is not such service as the Lord can commend. In such a case there might be brotherly love, or at least the semblance of it, in exercise, but that which should be the divine spring of it, Christ Himself, would be wanting. To be imbued with this truth, would produce unwearying and incessant devotedness.
As another instance, we may refer to Matthew 18. We give the whole passage, "Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name" (the words here are also eis to emon onoma; that is, unto My name), "there am I in the midst of them." (Verses 19, 20.) To understand the blessed instruction of this scripture, it should be borne in mind that the chapter "supposes Christ rejected and absent, and the glory of chap. 17 not yet come. It passes over chap. 17, to connect itself with chap. 16; and the reason of this is that it deals with the two subjects introduced in chapter 16, the Church and the kingdom, which should occupy the place of Christ on earth, during the period of His absence, His session at the right hand of God, where He will remain until His enemies are made His footstool. (Psalm 110) It may also be pointed out, that in connection with the mention of the assembly in this chapter, provision is made for three things: First, the question of trespass against a brother; second, the administration of discipline, binding and loosing, with its divine ratification, when done according to God; and, lastly, what more immediately concerns us in this paper, the condition of prevailing prayer.
It will be noticed by the reader that verse 19 commences an additional instruction, as shown by the words, "Again I say unto you," etc., though we cannot doubt that the company, the "two of you," or the "two or three," is connected with the assembly in verse 17. What is added, is the teaching concerning agreement in prayer, rather than anything as regards the Church, except, indeed, the revelation of the wondrous grace which associates the Lord's presence and union in prayer, with any two or three who may be gathered unto His name. So understanding it, everything depends, as will be perceived, upon what is meant by being thus gathered. Speaking generally, it may be said that the essential point is, as "name" expresses the truth of the Person, that the Lord Himself must be the Centre and the Object of the gathering. But then it must also be remembered that His full name is the Lord Jesus Christ in this relationship. His name, as such, speaks therefore of His authority, His Person, and His work. The gathering then must be under, and as subject to, His authority, and also to maintain the truths of His Person and work. That the gathering power is the Holy Spirit, is evident from the fact that He is here to glorify Christ; and being so, He could not sanction any assembly where the supremacy of Christ was not owned, or where there might be any indifference to the glories of His Person, or to the character of the atonement made upon the cross. Every company, therefore, claiming to be gathered unto His name must answer to these tests.
This is the condition which the Lord Himself lays down for His own presence - "Where two or three are gathered together unto My name," there am I in the midst of them." It is not even, there will I be, but there am I; and we then learn that the gathering together, according to His name, ensures His presence. The realisation of it may depend upon our states of soul, as it must do; but the Lord's presence is a fact connected with the fulfilment of a condition. What grace! And what a fount of blessing and power in the midst of His own! An example of this, indeed, is given; for He tells us that He Himself present in the midst of His saints gathered after this manner, is the power to produce agreement in prayer, and the assurance that every such prayer shall be answered by the Father. What room for heart searchings, as to the character of our gatherings, is thus afforded! And what a call it gives to us to examine our own individual states of soul, even if we are truly gathered unto His name! On e of Satan's snares is to lead us to take things for granted; the means of avoiding it is to be constantly before God, desiring to have everything, as to ourselves and our associations, exposed by the light of His presence, and to have everything tested by His unerring Word.