What’s in a Name?

In the famed tragedy by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet are in love. The problem is that their families, the Montagues and the Capulets hate each other and so, Juliet, who is a Capulet, is forbidden to have any association with Romeo, who is a Montague. Their love is forbidden solely because of a name. In one scene of Shakespeare’s play, Juliet says, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet is pointing out that Romeo would still be the wonderful person she believes him to be no matter what his name was. She is asking what is so special or significant about a name.

When it comes to the name of Jesus, there is great significance to the name. Scripture is quite clear about that! In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul tells us that the name of Jesus is the name above all other names (Philippians 2:9). Paul goes on to say in Philippians 2:10-11 that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So when it comes to names, the name of Jesus Christ is not just significant. It’s the most significant name there is. The name of Jesus is so significant that, in the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus taught His disciples that they should pray in His name. And He told them this not just once but three times.

In John 14:13-14, Jesus said, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” Then, in John 15:16, Jesus said, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” And finally, in John 16:23-24, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.” Clearly, such emphasis on praying in His name tells us that there is an importance to it.

What makes it so important to pray in the name of Jesus is that, when we do, we are praying with faith in the authority of Jesus and praying for the authority and power of Jesus to be manifest in the situation we are praying about. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). There is power in the name of Jesus (John 17:12). Jesus taught His disciples that they should call on that authority and power by praying in His name. When we look at the book of Acts, we can see that this was a lesson they learned and understood.

In Acts 3, a man who was lame from birth sat each day at the Temple gate called Beautiful to beg from the people going into the Temple. One day, as Peter and John were about to enter the Temple, the man asked them for money. After telling the man to look at them, Peter told the man that he had no money to give him but what he did have to give the man was even greater–the power and authority of the name of Jesus. So Peter told the man to get up and walk in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene. Soon the man was running and jumping and praising God, healed from the lameness he had dealt with all his life. Later that same day, when Peter and John were questioned as to what power or by whose name they had healed the man. Peter’s response, found in Acts 4:10 showed that he fully understood the authority and power of Jesus name: “Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.”

When we call on the name of Jesus in prayer, we are calling on that same authority and that same power that Peter called upon. When we call upon the name of Jesus, we are calling on the only name given by God by which each one of us must be saved (Acts 4:12).

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