You Bear A Name

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  Yes, disciples are to be made, that is evangelized and taught, through baptizing and teaching.  But what do we make of this phrase, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?”  What does it mean to baptize our children and for us to be baptized ‘in the name’ of the Holy Trinity?  How are we to understand God’s name? 

Names; they are important, are they not?  People spend hours upon hours carefully selecting names of children in the womb.  The background of names is researched.  Names are shared with family for feedback.  Entire websites are devoted to help parents place a name upon a child. 

In marriage a name is also important.  Typically the man proposes to the woman by asking her to marry him.  When the woman travels down the aisle to the altar, everything that properly belongs to her will come into the possession of the groom and everything that properly belongs to the groom will become the possession of the bride.  There is a great joining together of the husband and wife.  In that joining though, the woman typically takes the last name of the husband, coming underneath his care and protection.  The husband’s last name is placed over her as they become one, thus showing that he will nourish and cherish her as Christ loved the Church, giving Himself up for her.  The last name is placed over and upon the wife showing that she is one with her husband and that the husband is one with her.  The last name is placed on the bride showing that the husband will love her, honor her, keep her in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, remain united to her alone, so long as they both shall live. 

Yes, it appears that names matter.  Names mean something.  Names do things to us. 

More specifically though, what does it mean to be baptized ‘in the name’ of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit?  In ancient Judaism the phrase ‘in the name’ was a term to indicate that a person was being committed to something or someone.  Otherwise stated, in baptism God adopted you into His family, into the kingdom.  The name of God was placed upon you as water was poured over you.  Christian baptism was not a work done by you where you showed and expressed your obedience to God; rather, it was the way that the God of the universe adopted you and it was the definable place where God’s name was connected to you.  It was the way that God bound Himself to you and how you were joined to Him.  When you were baptized in the name of the Father, you received a Father.  When you were baptized in the name of the Son, you received all the benefits of what Jesus accomplished—for you.  When you were baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit, you received the life-giving Spirit, life-sustaining power, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.[1]

Do you realize what a gift this is to be baptized in the name of the Triune God?  Consider for a moment the horror, the despair, and the complete hell of not having the name of God upon us.  Consider the pressure of being bound to ‘our’ names, yes our names alone.  Lest we only apply this consideration to pagans, we must heed to the fact that all of us, yes all of us as baptized saints in Jesus, are prone to wander and are prone to leave the God that we love.  We are prone to forget, dismiss, and rebel from God’s name.  You see your old sinful nature (i.e., the old Adam) does not want the name of God upon him, but lives for your very own name.  Thus, we must confess that we do break the second commandment daily when we live for our own name, rather than living for God’s name.  We violate the second commandment when we live in ways that are not marked with the name of God in Baptism. 

Left to our own names, that is living this life on our own under the banner of self, does create true dreadfulness.  If we live to our own name, we will be under constant compulsion to bolster our own name, to prop it up, establish it, and to make it authoritative.  There is no escape to this.  Living for your own name, forces you to justify your name and it forces you to make sure your name is righteous and whole.  Living by your own name will bring about the need to constantly endorse your name.  Living by your own name will demand continual confirmation of your name and constant renewal of your name.  Tragically if others don’t agree with the prestige, authority, and worth of your name, you will be constantly driven to gain their approval and you may even try to sinfully coerce it from them. 

My friends, living ‘in, upon, and by’ your own name results in the need of having to constantly justify and fulfill your name.  There is no end to it.  It is a perpetual trap.  You become enslaved to this awful situation as all of your time and energy are devoted to seeking and enforcing that which will make your name great.  Yes, all of your time and energy will be devoted to denying and defending that which threatens your name.  Living by your own name will destroy you by constantly driving you to fear; it will destroy you by constantly bringing about a lack of assurance.  Ultimately the harsh reality is that there is only one name by which we are saved, and that is Jesus, not your name.  Your name and my name yields hell and damnation.

Thank God that there is another name for you; a name placed upon you; a name that joins you to the accomplished work of the Crucified One.

Once again considering our Gospel reading from today, Jesus says that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.  He then proceeds to say that the church is to baptize in the name of the Triune God.  What this means is that because you are baptized into the name of the Triune God—a baptism that is founded upon the authority of Christ Jesus and a baptism that includes the name of Jesus—you are baptized into the one who has all authority.  This means that your baptism has teeth.  Your baptism did stuff and does stuff for you.  Consider this, when you were baptized the Triune God called you by your own name in the waters, severed you from Satan’s kingdom, and joined you to His kingdom by His own name.  Yes, God’s name is powerful and special, it means something.  “It means eternal life, complete forgiveness, and peace that surpasses all understanding.  No other name—not Allah, not Buddha, not Enlightenment or Wisdom or Reason, not even the powerhouse trinity of Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Dr. Oz—can bring about the love, the forgiveness, and the everlasting salvation that's found only in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”[2] 

As baptized children of God, you bear this name on your heads and on your hearts; you are marked and sealed by His name making you one redeemed by Christ the Lord.   This means freedom from your own name.  This means freedom from the urge or pressure to make a name for yourself.  This means that your identity is in who God says you are.  Indeed, you are connected to the Lord in His name which means that you can rest securely knowing that He will never leave you nor forsake you.  He will be with you to the end of the age for you bear His name.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Concordia Self-Study Commentary (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1971), 42.
[2] Jason Zirbel, “What’s In A Name” (12 June 2014).

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