In the Name of the LordDecember 28, 2006
Col 3:17 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.
What does it mean to do everything “in the name of the Lord Jesus?” A simple Google search confirms that many people in churches of Christ understand that phrase to mean “with the authority of the Lord Jesus.” In other words, they hold that we cannot do anything which God has not specifically authorized in the scriptures. Therefore, if the scriptures are silent about a practice, it would be forbidden. This is a key passage used to support their belief that the silence of the scriptures is prohibitive.
It is evident that “in the name of the Lord” can mean “with His authority” in certain contexts. Throughout Acts, we read of Peter and Paul preaching “in the name of the Lord.” In those contexts it does seem that the phrase carries the idea of authority from God. Certainly, in our teaching we must not claim to speak with the authority of Christ unless our teaching comes directly from scripture.
But in other contexts it is clear that “in the name of Jesus” did not necessarily imply by His authority. For example:
Mar 9:38-41 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
These people were driving out demons in the name of Jesus. But they had not been sent by Him and had not been authorized by Him. If by saying “in the name of Jesus” they were claiming to have an authority from Jesus, they would have been in the wrong, because He had not authorized them. But Jesus had nothing bad to say about what they did. They were not specifically authorized to do what they did, but that did not make it wrong. They appealed to the name of Jesus, and God honored their appeal, and the demons came out.
Note that John apparently thought that the lack of specific authorization implied that their deed was prohibited. But Jesus corrected him. Even though they were not specifically authorized to cast out demons, they were permitted by Jesus to do so! So silence was not prohibitive. And in this case, “in the name of Jesus” apparently did not mean they had specific divine authorization.
There are many deeds referenced in the scriptures which are to be done “in the name of the Lord.” Some examples include: baptism, preaching, healing, casting out demons, appealing to the church (1 Cor 1:10), assembling together, giving thanks, anointing the sick, even believing “in the name of the Lord.” Finally, Col 3:17 teaches us that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed” is to be done “in the name of the Lord.”
If we are to live up to Col 3:17, we need to understand what God meant. Fortunately, He proceeded to explain it in the subsequent verses:
Col 3:18-24 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Doing everything “in the name of the Lord” means “as is fitting in the Lord.” (verse 18). It means doing what pleases the Lord (verse 20). It means doing it with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (verse 22). It means doing everything as for the Lord rather than for men (verse 23). It means doing it as service to the Lord (verse 24). In other words, it means doing everything in a manner worthy of one who calls Jesus Lord.
Note that none of these explanatory verses even suggest that silence is prohibitive. On the contrary, verse 17 tells us that “whatever you do, whether in word or in deed” is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. The broadest possible language is used to describe what we might do. That includes the things that are specifically mentioned in the context, and also the things that are not specifically mentioned (ie the things on which the scripture is silent). The phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus” simply tells us the manner in which we should do any of those things.
This understanding is consistent with 1 Cor 10:31:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
And also with 1 Peter 4:14-16:
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
I do not believe Paul was thinking about whether silence prohibits when he wrote Colossians 3:17. Neither would his first century readers have been thinking about that when they read this. The passage cannot mean something today that it did not mean when it was written. It means that we are to do everything in a manner worthy of those privileged to be in Christ.
I think that when people today teach that silence prohibits based on Colossians 3:17, they are conforming the scripture to fit their belief. Instead they should conform their belief to fit the scripture.