In the Christian Life, the Name of Jesus Is Everything
There are a number of times throughout Scripture where someone has an encounter with God’s glory. As I’ve written previously, nearly every time the scene begins with abject terror, not with warm fuzzies. For sinners to stand in the presence of God is so overwhelming that the usual response is, “I think I’m about to die!”
One of these encounters stands out to me as unique—when Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai. After receiving the 10 Commandments, Moses asks to see God’s glory. God reminds Moses that if he were to meet him face-to-face, Moses would be a dead man. So he offers to hide Moses in a cleft of the rock while his glory passes by.
Most of us miss the significance of what happens next. When God’s glory and presence pass in front of Moses, it doesn’t say that Moses saw a brightness or a dazzling light. It says that he heard something—the declaration of a name:
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that there is no passage of Scripture where you see more clearly what it is like to be in the presence of God. He puts us in a place of safety and declares his name to us, a name of covenant love. But for the believer, instead of putting us into a rock, God places us into the safety of Christ. And instead of just proclaiming steadfast love, he proclaims the covenant love of a Father for his sons and daughters.
A couple years ago, my wife’s wedding ring went missing. For months I saved up to surprise her with a new one on our anniversary. I even re-enacted the whole proposal. (She said yes.) Now, legally speaking, giving her a new wedding ring didn’t make her any more my wife. But it made the sense of my love for her more real. That’s what it’s like to hear God’s name declared over your life. It’s a promise of the gospel that renews your relationship with God, the Spirit washing over you saying, “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter!” (Romans 8:15)
The word of affirmation that the Spirit speaks to us comes through the name of God. If you look throughout Scripture, you’ll see that God’s presence and God’s power reside in his name.
In the very first sermon preached after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter would say (quoting the prophet Joel) that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). That doesn’t mean some magical incantation. A person’s name reveals their character, so to trust God’s name is to trust who he says he is. It’s faith in the character behind the name.
Moses knew something of this name, but it must have been confusing for him. After all, how could God be simultaneously absolutely just (“by no means clearing the guilty”) and absolutely merciful? What Moses couldn’t quite grasp, however, we see clearly in Christ. We see how Jesus substituted himself for us, so that God’s justice could be satisfied and so that God could extend mercy to us.
That’s why Christians don’t just talk about God. We’re obsessed with the name of Jesus. God’s power and God’s presence reside in the name of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul would say that Jesus’ name is the one name at which every knee in the universe will one day bow (Phil 2:9–11). Every king, every cynic, every scoffer, every doubter…everyone past, present, and future…when they hear the archangel proclaim the name “Jesus” across the skies, will drop to their knees before the rightful king.
The name of Jesus is a fount of incredible power. As Paul said, all the promises of God “find their Yes” in the name of Jesus (2 Cor 1:20). By the name of Jesus, paralyzed men rose and walked; deaf men regained their hearing; blind men received their sight; demons fled in fear. And it was the name that the early apostles were willing to suffer and die for (Acts 5:41).
In the Christian life, the name of Jesus is everything. The name of “God” might evoke images of fear and distance, but the name of Jesus has a different effect. It doesn’t make me cower backwards in fear, but come closer in worship, because the name of “Jesus” means “God saves.” When we know God as Savior, that produces a radical transformation in us that nothing else can.
For more, be sure to listen to the entire message here.