Saturday, April 4, 2009

Use of a Proper Name

In Acts iv. 7, the rulers and priests of the Jews summon Peter and inquire by what power or in what name he has healed the lame. Here a belief is assumed which pervades ancient magic and religion. Only so far as we can get away from the modern view that a person's name is a trifling accident, and breathe the atmosphere which broods over ancient religions, can we understand the use of the name in baptisms, exorcisms, prayers, purifications and consecrations. For a name carried with it, for those who were so blessed as to be acquainted with it, whatever power and influence its owner wielded in heaven or on earth or under the earth. A vow or prayer formulated in or through a certain name was fraught with the prestige of him whose name it was. Thus the psalmist addressing Jehovah cries (Ps. liv. 1): "Save me, O God, by Thy name, and judge me in Thy might." And in Acts iii. 16, it is the name itself which renders strong and whole the man who believed therein.

In Acts xviii. 15, the Jews assail Paul because he has trusted and appealed to the name of a Messiah whom they regard as an overthrower of the law; for Paul believed that God had invested Jesus with a name above all names, potent to constrain and overcome all lesser powers, good or evil, in heaven or earth or under earth. Baptism then in the name or through the name or into the name of Christ placed the believer under the influence and tutelage of Christ's personality, as before he was in popular estimation under the influence of stars and horoscope. Nay, more, it imported that personality into him, making him a limb or member of Christ's body, and immortal as Christ was immortal. Nearly all the passages in which the word name is used in the New Testament become more intelligible if it be rendered personality. In Rev. xi. 13, the revisers are obliged to render it by persons, and should equally have done so in iii. 4: "Thou hast a few names (i.e. persons) in Sardis which did not defile their garments."

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