The Name of Jesus

Last Sunday, in looking at the Third Commandment, we looked at the idea of the name of God, and how the name of God is much more than just a phonetic symbol identifying the God that we worship. Rather, it is the idea of the way that God chooses to reveal Himself. In the Scriptures, it is associated with such rich ideas as the people of God (those on whom He puts His name, Jeremiah 15:6), the worship of God (where His name is proclaimed, Psalm 69:10), , the nation of God (where His name is made known, Psalm 76:1) and the city of God (the place where God put His name, Deut. 12:5). The Third Commandment tells us not to take God’s name in vain, meaning to rob His name of the richness and weightiness which it deserves. “Vain” means light, empty, without substance. Proverbs 18:10 tells us that God’s name is “a strong tower”, meaning a sure defense. We take refuge in the knowledge of who God is, and in the promises that He has revealed to us.

We also saw how the idea of the Name of God in the Old Testament is largely transferred to Christ in the New Testament- Jesus is the way that God reveals Himself in the New Covenant era. Therefore, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-12), and Peter tells us that there is no other name whereby we must be saved.

Our hymn of the month, #510, says that Jesus’ name is the place where we hide ourselves from sin and shame (v. 1) and that our salvation is His name (v. 2). The title of the hymn is “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose” and it talks about how in every kind of calamity and distress, whether internal of sin and shame, or external of war, tyranny, poverty, or sickness, the name of Jesus is our comfort and our salvation.

In our worship and in our lives, we are privileged to bask in the fullness of the glory of God’s name, as it is revealed especially in Jesus Christ. He is the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and therefore He is the full revelation of God. In Him God’s name is fully seen.

Therefore we must not, as the Third Commandment teaches us, empty God’s name, or Jesus’ name, of its full weight and glory. We must not use that in a light and frivolous manner, to talk about Him according to our own opinions. When we do that, we rob God of His true glory and honor, and we also rob ourselves of the comfort and “high tower” that we have in the full revelation of Jesus Christ. Our own opinions and dreams will never protect us from the hardships of life, let alone the horror of God’s wrath. But in Jesus, there is real comfort and safety. There is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved.

Redeeming the Time

Some thoughts from sermon preparation for this Sunday:

Ephesians 5:16 “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Say you’re driving along in your car, and suddenly, you run out of gas. You’re out in the middle of nowhere, an old country road with nothing around for miles. But you’ve got cell phone coverage, so you call your wife or AAA or someone to come fill you up. They say they’ll get there in a couple of hours or so. Now you’ve got nothing to do but wait. Your day is ruined.

But you’ve got a good book with you. Now you realize that even though the day isn’t what it was supposed to be, you’ve got something productive to do with your time that will reap benefits down the road. The wasted time is salvaged- it’s not a complete loss. I think this is the sort of thing Paul is talking about in Ephesians 5:16.

Contrary to what some tell you, you are not going to have your best life now. This world does not work. It’s broken. Because of sin, your relationships, at their very best, are going to be only a pale shadow of what they ought to be. You will spend a great deal of your productive time simply sweeping back the bad effects of the curse rather than making any forward progress. Illness, conflict, poverty, disaster, death- If you look for your satisfaction in this life, you’re going to be extremely disappointed.

But Jesus tells us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Thanks to the gospel, we can “redeem the time”. We can start overcoming sin now. We can learn to be faithful with the little bit of responsibility that we have now, and Jesus tells us that he that is responsible with a little now will be put in charge of a great deal in the age to come. In this way, we can “redeem the time”.

Redeeming the time doesn’t mean fixing the broken nature of this age. This age isn’t going to be fixed. It’s going to be burned up with fire. But we shouldn’t just put on our hippie clothes and wait around for that to happen. We should be productively using the short time we have as best we can. We should be learning to be faithful in our relationships, faithful in our work, faithful as citizens, as spouses, as employers or employees, faithful with our own bodies. It may make some small difference in the quality of our life right now. But that’s not really the point. The laborer doesn’t labor in order to improve the quality of his workday; he labors for the paycheck at the end of the day. And by God’s grace we have a big paycheck coming one day. Let us labor with that in mind.

We don’t really know a lot about how the eternal age is going to work, or how our labors now translate into our state then. We do know it’s all of grace, that even God’s reward of our good works is of grace, and not of merit. He is, in fact, only crowning His grace with more grace, since the good works themselves were works of His grace. But we do know, with no doubt, that what we do now has eternal implications. So in the light of the gospel, in the light of His grace and mercy covering all our sins and failures, let us redeem the time, laboring not for the payoff we can get right now, simply seeking to minimize suffering or enjoy this life as much as we can, but being faithful as best as we can with what God has put in front of us, looking to eternity and God’s grace for the harvest of our labors.

The Use of the Law in Worship

This Sunday we read the Ten Commandments as part of our confession of the Heidelberg Catechism. This begins our examination of the Ten Commandments and the role they play in the Christian life. As we are also studying the Ten Commandments in the Sunday School class, we should remind ourselves what role the law in general plays in our lives, and particularly, what role the law plays in Christian worship.

Paul told us that we are not under law but under grace. But we need to understand what he means. He does not at all mean that God’s moral truth no longer applies to us, for he spends a great deal of time in his epistles teaching that moral truth. Rather, he means that God’s people are no longer under the Covenant of Moses, which taught them their guilt through the requirement of commandments. We are under the Covenant of Grace, which holds out God’s gracious forgiveness and all of the blessings of His fellowship freely to His people through faith in Christ. God’s moral truth cannot possibly stop being relevant, however, because it is an expression of God’s own nature and of His intention for the creation of mankind as an imagebearer. We therefore strive for personal and practical holiness out of thankfulness for His gifts and out of a desire to lay hold of all of the blessings of our salvation, and never to earn anything. This is what it means to be “not under law, but under grace.”

In this light, we can see what use the moral law of God has to us in worship. By reflecting on the law of God, we first recognize our own failures and our inability to earn God’s blessings through lawkeeping. This drives us to the cross of Christ. Secondly, we study the law in our worship in order to see what it is that Christ has saved us to. He is restoring us to God’s original intention for mankind, and conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ. The law shows us what that looks like, for He kept the law perfectly.

Contemplating the law of God and its precepts within the worship service, therefore, praises God’s own righteous nature, thanks Him for the good and glorious way He made man, expresses our sorrow for our failure to be what God has called us to be, and commits ourselves to laying hold of all of the benefits of Christ’s salvation. A Christian worship service therefore should always involve contemplation of God’s moral truth. Properly done, this is not something separate from the gospel; God’s moral law is an aspect of the gospel, as it shows us the intention of God’s salvation.

The Heidelberg Catechism’s use of God’s law demonstrates this understanding. The Ten Commandments, in the Catechism, are not used to demonstrate our sinfulness. The general and simple expression of God’s law by Jesus Christ is sufficient for that. Our failure to love God and our neighbor amply shows our need for Christ. But the Catechism exposits the Ten Commandments in the section on thankfulness. The Ten Commandments structure the way we respond to and understand the purpose of the redemption we have freely in Christ, showing first the nature of the right relationship with God that we are saved into, and secondly the nature of restored human relationships that will flow from that restored divine fellowship.

The Trinitarian Salutation

In the salutation, we say, “Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are fully Trinitarian in our theology, a question might arise- why just from the Father and the Son? Why not from the Spirit?

From the blog “Feeding on Christ” (, we find a quote from Jonathan Edwards that provides an interesting answer. From An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity ( Edwards says,

“I can think of no other good account that can be given of the apostle Paul’s wishing grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the beginning of his Epistles, without ever mentioning the Holy Ghost, – as we find it thirteen times in his salutations in the beginnings of his Epistles, – but [i.e., except] that the Holy Ghost is Himself love and grace of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; and in his blessing at the end of his second Epistle to the Corinthians where all three Persons are mentioned he wishes grace and love from the Son and the Father [except that] in the communion or the partaking of the Holy Ghost, the blessing is from the Father and the Son in the Holy Ghost. But the blessing from the Holy Ghost is Himself, the communication of Himself. Christ promises that He and the Father will love believers (John 14:21,23), but no mention is made of the Holy Ghost, and the love of Christ and the love of the Father are often distinctly mentioned, but never any mention of the Holy Ghost’s love.

(This I suppose to be the reason why we have never any account of the Holy Ghost’s loving either the Father or the Son, or of the Son’s or the Father’s loving the Holy Ghost, or of the Holy Ghost’s loving the saints, tho these things are so often predicated of both the other Persons.)”

So Edwards says that the Spirit is present in the Apostolic greeting in that the grace and peace from the Father and the Son is itself the Spirit- the Spirit is the person of the Trinity who delivers to us the grace of God and works the knowledge of peace in us. The Spirit of God proceeds from both the Father and the Son, and the Spirit of God works in us the power of all of Christ’s gifts, opening our eyes to the truth. So when the Apostle wishes us “Grace and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”, He is wishing us the Spirit, since the Spirit is the way those things come to us.

As we worship the Lord our God, let us always keep sight of the full Trinity. The Father ordains our salvation; the Son achieves and accomplishes that salvation for us, and the Spirit applies it, delivering all the benefits of that salvation to us. That Spirit of God must guide our worship in particular, for without His illumination, our worship will be nothing but empty ceremony and self-glorification, but with His guidance we can begin to understand what it means to worship in Spirit and in truth.

Hail Thou Once Despised Jesus

Hymn #176 is a song of praise to Jesus Christ for His sacrificial death on our behalf. The Second Person would have been worthy of praise had He never been incarnate and had He never died, but Revelation 5:9 cites this fact in particular: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…” Indeed, we would have never known God to praise Him rightly if Jesus had not died to save us. He became lowly and despised, a common poor man, in order to enter fully into our suffering. He released us from slavery to sin and misery, and we find the favor of God through His merits, the hymn tells us in the rest of verse 1.

Verse 2 calls Jesus the “paschal lamb.” This refers to the Passover, the Old Testament remembrance of the tenth plague in Egypt and their deliverance from slavery. That tenth plague was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt, and by the presence of the blood of the Passover lamb on the door of the Hebrew houses, in obedience to God’s instruction, the Hebrews were spared the visit from the Angel of Death who passed over their houses. Jesus is declared to be the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), is seen by John as a slain Lamb (Rev. 5:6) and is declared to be “our Passover who was sacrificed for us” by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:7). He atones for our sins, paying the price for them as they are laid on Him on the cross, so that we are guiltless before God, and made peace between man and God (verse 2, last line).

For this cause we worship Christ and we thank Him for all we have. We know that without this act of sacrifice, we would be doomed to hell and destruction, and that means that every single good thing we enjoy is Christ’s gift to us. Even the unbeliever enjoys God’s good things for a time only because of Christ’s death; without that death all of mankind would have been destroyed by God. So we thank Christ not only for forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but for every other good thing as well.

It is therefore very fitting, as the hymn writer says, to worship Christ always. He is our Savior and our King, and our very best worship does not do Him justice. Therefore the hymn writer even calls on the angels to assist us to worship Christ more perfectly and purely, which we know they will do in heaven. In the meantime, aided by God’s word, we can do our best to honor Christ for all His gifts to us and know that we can never even come close to worshiping Him enough. When we sing and praise Him, therefore, let us do so joyfully and thankfully, offering Him the best praise we are capable of in this life.

1 Hail, thou once despised Jesus!
Hail, thou Galilean King!
Thou didst suffer to release us:
Thou didst free salvation bring.
Hail, thou agonizing Saviour,
Bearer of our sin and shame!
By thy merits we find favor;
Life is given through thy name.

2 Paschal Lamb, by God appointed,
All our sins were on thee laid;
By almighty love anointed,
Thou hast full atonement made:
All thy people are forgiven
Through the virtue of thy blood;
Opened is the gate of heaven,
Peace is made ‘twixt man and God.

3 Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory,
There for ever to abide;
All the heav’nly hosts adore thee,
Seated at thy Father’s side:
There for sinners thou art pleading;
There thou dost our place prepare;
Ever for us interceding,
Till in glory we appear.

4 Worship, honor, power, and blessing
Thou art worthy to receive:
Loudest praises without ceasing,
Meet it is for us to give.
Help, ye bright angelic spirits,
Bring your sweetest, noblest lays;
Help to sing our Saviour’s merits,
Help to chant Immanuel’s praise.