Summary: Jesus, the Son of God, became like us and used his authority to liberate us from sin and spiritual death.
In every human culture, a person’s name represents their identity, which includes their authority. It’s typical for people entering into covenant to exchange portions of their names as evidence of their shared identity and legal authority to use their partner’s resources and even conduct their partner’s business.
God Took Our Name
As we saw in an earlier article, Jesus, the Son of God, took on our identity by being born as a human, yet he remained totally sinless. While on earth, he consistently identified himself as the Son of Man to emphasize his humanity. As a human, he had authority to conduct our spiritual business for us and fulfill our spiritual obligation. As the Son of Man, he accepted responsibility for all of humanity’s sin and died in our place, freeing us from slavery to sin and spiritual death. (1 Jn 2:2; Ro 5:8)
We Take a New Name
By accepting Jesus as Savior, we enter the new covenant he made with God and receive a new name: child of God. Being a child of God entitles us to call him Father, which is only appropriate within the new covenant.
A person’s name represents their authority. For example, when I sign my name on a check or credit card receipt, I authorize payment with my funds. If my car needs repair, I can call and identify myself by name to authorize the repairs. So, using my name implies any authority I have, including use of my resources. Similarly, taking a portion of God’s name allows us to invoke his authority, power and resources as needed. When we do something “in God’s name” or “in Jesus’ name,” we’re doing it in his behalf as if he were doing it himself. An earthly legal analogy is power of attorney, which authorizes a designated person to conduct business in another’s behalf. This is the significance of taking a portion of God’s name in covenant.
Having a portion of God’s name or being associated with him brings responsibilities in addition to benefits. For example, we must conduct ourselves so that God’s name will not be slandered by what we do. (1 Ti 6:1) This parallels a command from the old covenant, that Israel must not misuse or take God’s name in vain. (Ex 20:7) To do something in vain means to fail to produce the expected results. We take God’s name by entering covenant with him but if we refuse to produce the results he expects, have we not taken his name in vain? Especially if our conduct completely misrepresents his nature and brings shame on him? We must be very careful not to misrepresent our covenant Partner or do anything to dishonor his name.
There are other terms we apply to ourselves as evidence of our covenant relationship; the most obvious one being “Christian,” which describes an adherent or follower of Christ. (Acts 11:26) Scripture uses several family terms for those in covenant, such as “family of God” (1 Pet 4:17), “children of God” (Jn 1:12), “sons of God” (Ro 8:14), “heirs of God” (Ro 8:17) and “brothers” (Ro 12:1). We also are the “body of Christ” (1 Co 12:27), “servants of God” (2 Co 6:4), and “saints” (Phil 1:1). All of these descriptions apply to us because we have entered the new covenant with God, and they reflect our special relationship with him.