What’s in a name? Well, that depends on whose name it is. For most of us a name is how we are called, given to us at birth by our parents. Typically, we are known by our first and last name; some, however prefer their middle name, while others hesitate to let that second name be known. However, in Scripture the word “name” has a much broader context and significance. In his final prayer before his arrest, Jesus prayed for his disciples and all those who would believe in him. In John 17:12 he made a curious statement regarding his name. He declared to God his Father, that he had kept the disciples in God’s name, which God had given to him. Jesus’ words here are unusual and indicate that Jesus is referring to more than a word that is used to identify someone when speaking of them. That being said, there are several ways to understand the word “name”. First, when the disciples went out and healed in Jesus’ name, we understand that they healed with the delegated authority of Jesus. Associated with this, being baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, indicates that the individual associates with that name. Second, to name someone meant to exercise authority over someone. God gave to Adam the authority to name the animals, implying that he had dominion over them. Knowing someone’s name implies a certain level of relationship, which carries with it a certain responsibility in that relationship. When the demons declared that they knew who Jesus was, Jesus commanded them to be silent, because they had no relationship with Jesus.
So, when Jesus declared that he had kept the disciples in God’s name, there was much meant by him. He had kept them in relationship with God, he had delegated authority for them to operate in Jesus’ and God’s name. In his prayer, Jesus revealed the foundation of the Gospel, relationship with Jesus and God the Father. So often people assume that being a Christian is merely holding a certain set of beliefs, when Jesus indicated that being a Christian is being in relationship with Jesus and His Father and being known by their name. Being known and identifying with their name, also carries a certain level of responsibility to live in a manner worthy of their name. Since in John 17, Jesus prayed for not only his disciples but for all who would believe in Jesus, that responsibility also falls upon those of us who identify with Jesus as the early disciples did.