In The Name Of ….

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ~ Colossians 3:17

I’ve read a lot of writers in the fellowship of churches of Christ who insist that this verse means that (in the words of at least one of them): “Whatever we say and do must be supported by His authority” and “The church should obey the apostles’ teaching and should not adhere to anything not authorized by Christ.”

Which all sounds very scriptural and obedient and worthy, except that not everything that a church can do (even a lot of good things) can’t be said to be specifically authorized by Christ.

And a lot of things that churches — even churches led by some of these writers — are doing all the time are not specifically authorized.

I don’t really want to get into all that; it’s an old argument.

What I want to ask is: Where does the word “authority” fit into this verse? Which words is it between, so I can find it? Does this verse really have anything to do with the authority of Christ as a prerequisite for doing anything?

These writers’ logic goes like this: because a great many Old Testament verses and a few New Testament verses use the phrase “in the name of” to connote that someone spoke or acted “by the authority of,” that’s what it means here in Colossians 3; it can have no other meaning. (They’ll cite Deuteronomy 18; 1 Samuel 17:45; 2 Kings 2:24; Esther 8:10; Isaiah 48:1; Jeremiah 11:21; Acts 4:18; 16:18; James 5:14 and perhaps some others, and I won’t quibble.)

Trouble is, in the Old Testament and New, there are plenty of instances where “in the name of” has little or none of that connotation; it can mean “in behalf of” (1 Chronicles 16:221:19Psalm 129:8; Jeremiah 26:16; Matthew 21:9; Acts 5:40; 1 Corinthians 1:10) or “in honor of” (1 Samuel 20:421 Kings 18:32; Psalm 20:5; Micah 4:5) or “trusting in / dependent upon” (Psalm 20:7; 124:8; Isaiah 50:10; Zephaniah 3:12; John 3:18; Acts 2:38; 10:48; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 John 3:23) or even “in gratitude to” (Psalm 106:47Ephesians 5:20)

The context of this verse is gratitude; giving thanks to God through Christ. Let’s just read a few verses which verse 17 culminates:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ~ Colossians 3:15-17

Yes, the context is worship; specifically the sharing of gratitude to God with fellow believers in wisely teaching and edifying each other in song. It should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus.

How does that mean “with the authority of the Lord Jesus”? Is His authority needed in order to say “Thank you” to God? Is it a command to close each prayer “In Jesus’ Name” or God will not hear it? Was Jesus’ name required at the end of every prayer from Adam until the resurrection, too? Did the apostles all pray and sing and close each prayer and hymn “In Jesus’ Name” lest God not listen to them? Must we?

Is this a command to sing and sing only? Is this a command that specifically forbids instruments of music by not mentioning them at all?

Is this the only way that we are authorized to teach and admonish one another by vocal music? Should we have cantors rather than preachers?

Is there anywhere in this verse something that says everything a church or believer does must be specifically authorized by the authority of Jesus Christ and/or that anything not specifically authorized is automatically forbidden and condemned and punishable if violated by eternal hellfire (as some writers would have you believe)?

Does it only apply to gathered worship or also to individual worship?

Does it apply only to worship? (It does say “all.”)

I think there’s at least one alternative and better interpretation of the phrase “in the name of.”

I think this passage is a reminder that Jesus promised and explained:

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. ~ John 14:13-14; see also 15:16; 16:23-26

It is a custom that reminds both Jew and Gentile (who have been used to another way of praying and praising their God or gods) of the One through whom they have believed in a God who has accepted His last sacrifice for sin.

Surely we are to be as grateful to the Son as to the Father God; both made that sacrifice.

And let’s just think about the concept of worship for a moment. Is worship something that God wants from us because He has commanded it and requires it and expects us to only do it in prescribed ways with no margin for creativity and so we do it out of obligation, duty, fear and selfish desire to obey in order to be saved in heaven and avoid eternal punishment? Is that the motivation from which true worship springs?

Or does worship best flow from gratitude … from the joy of receiving the promise, of being blessed, of having worth ascribed to us by God and being entrusted with the precious gospel of Jesus Christ, to faithfully and truthfully bear it to others who need it as dearly as ourselves? Not to mention the power and promise that He will give what we ask (and doesn’t that imply a responsibility to know His will and to want it to be done and to ask for it to be done through us)?

Are we not to do all that we do in gratitude for what God through Christ has done for us?

The verse says what it says. Does it mean what these writers say it means? Is that the one and only meaning it can have — that “in the name of” means “by the authority of” and no other?

And if it can have both meanings in this passage … where in the context of the verse are the words that talk about authority?

Yes, I am using a different hermeneutic from most people, a Jesus Hermeneutic, that asks “Which interpretation draws me closer to God through Christ?” and the answer that it yields has nothing to do with the law Jesus fulfilled or instructions God left out but expects us to obey anyway.

And I will keep using it, because it points to the Way, the Truth and the Life and not to the law of sin and judgment and death.

16 thoughts on “In The Name Of ….

  1. Using Colossians 3:17 to say what you described as the position of some in the a cappella churches is beyond me to understand. I guess people see what they want to see and I probably have blind spots as well, but WOW what a poor way to use that verse.

  2. So kb, what I hear you suggesting is, what ever I do, as long as I do it in the name of the Lord, it will be ok with Him. I can be creative do as I WISH, do it my way, put the Lord’s name on it, and it will be perfectly ok. May we remember that all authority on earth and in heaven has been given to Him. Jesus Himself said, if you love Me, keep my commandments. We are to do His will, we are to worship Him in spirit and in TRUTH. His truth, not mine, not yours. We strive to do as He has instructed, by His authority we serve Him. Matt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord,Lord, will enter the kingdom of God, but he who does the will of the father in heaven.”this would be those who refuse His authority. vs 23 “then I will declare to them, I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” God said, “this is my Son, hear ye Him.” Matt 17:5. We have no right to place His name on anything, of our own making. To do as he has instructed is to do in His name, by His authority. And yes I have a selfish desire to be obedient to the one who bought me.

    • What you heard me saying is that Colossians 3:17 says nothing about things not specifically commanded being automatically forbidden.

      What you heard me saying is that “in the name of” in this verse has a much stronger connotation of recognizing Jesus as the channel through whom God blesses us than the connotation (if any) of His specific authorization for any given thing a believer might conceive of doing in order to bring glory to God.

  3. kb, I can say for sure, we are live by every word that procedes from the mouth of God. If He didn’t speak it, I must believe it’s forbidden. Or else I am going by my own authority.

    • Did He speak Romans 14? If He did, then there are matters about which He gave no instruction, no command — yet they are acceptable if done to honor Him, and not acceptable if done against one’s own conscience.

  4. I would disagree, when you have a direct command we honor His authority by following the command. If its an example or inference we do the same. If God authorizes in a general way we must use expediency to respect His authority. We are to go teach and baptize making deciples. What we teach is not a matter of expediency nor is it a matter of conscience. We have been told what to teach. We are to go, how we go would be a matter of expediency and conscience. We have instructions on how we are to worship and what day, the time of day would be a matter expediency and matter of conscience. We must be very careful when it comes to such things, as Jesus said, “let thy will be done, not mine. Even Jesus submitted to the Authority of the Father, why can’t we? All authority has been given to Him, why can’t we honor Him and follow His lead. His way is perfect, good for all times, why must we progress and change what is timeless?

    • Perhaps because some of what we have regarded as timeless — like doctrines of expediency and silence-that-prohibits — are only a few years old and are teachings of man rather than God. Progress is what draws us closer to God and reshapes us less like ourselves and more like Him. We are being transformed; that is progress.

  5. The law of expediency is timeless, Noah used it in building the ark. God told him to build a ark out of gopher wood and gave him the dementions. What tools he used were up to his conscience and expediency. And yes our personal groweth is progressing. But many want to change God’s ways and call it progress. Would you say since God didn’t say anything about using pine in the ark, Noah would have been ok to add it, just because his conscience deemed it neccesary? The doctrines of expediency and silence are biblical ideas.

    • How do you know that Noah used tools? He could have built that ark barehanded, you know. Should we assume there were instruments of construction used, and therefore they were permissible?

      On the other hand, how do you know that God didn’t tell him exactly what to use and not use?

      You see, Noah’s tools (if any) aren’t mentioned in scripture at all. Genesis 6:22 just says “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” It doesn’t say he used the doctrine of expediency to to determine how to build the ark; with or without tools.

      So … the imaginary doctrine of expediency is based entirely on something scripture doesn’t even mention?

    • Are you trying to tell me that if Noah had used a single peg of pine that God would have sunk that ark and drowned all eight souls aboard, as well as all the animals? After Noah had worked and preached (2 Peter 3:5) righteousness so long (perhaps as long as 100 years – Genesis 5:33, 6:10 and 7:6)?

  6. Yes, I believe if Noah had used one peg of pine he would have been disobedient and he would have been damned. Remember Naaman the leper, who was instructed to dip 7 times in the river Jordan, if he had only dipped 6 he would not have been cleansed. Faithfulness is all about respecting God’s authority, submitting to HIS will not ours. If Noah had used pine when not instructed to he would have been respecting his own authority. Your concerned about the last 8 souls, what about everyone else? they were distroyed because of their disobedience. Moses sinned along the way, God rebuked him and he didn’t get to enter the promise land, why? because he disrespected God’s authority. We use expediency in our daily lives, at work we are told to do certain tasks, but its not always explained to us how to do each step, that may be left up to us. We are told to report to work by what ever time, how we get there is up to us. As for the tools used by Noah, common sense kb. I think your grasping at the wind. God has always instructed by speaking. He has spoken, “this is my Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye HIM. No where will you find a statement that says, hear what I didn’t say. Following Jesus is all about forsaking our own will and submitting to HIS. Just do it kb.

  7. I didn’t damn Noah either, he was saved because of his obedience. He submitted and followed the instructions given him. And I dought that he ever said to himself, God didn’t say I can’t use pine.

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