This article explores the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as it is associated with collective Christian activity. Whilst it is often stated that believers should gather to the name of the Lord Jesus, it is important to appreciate the significance and the challenge of such an assertion.
There is only one Saviour for sinners and only one gathering centre for saints – the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. The name to which we are gathered is His full name, Lord Jesus Christ emphasizing His lordship, His person, and His work. Since the word ‘gathered’ is in the passive, this suggests that the two or three do not gather themselves. Someone else gathers them. The Holy Spirit is the gatherer, and He would not sanction any group that is indifferent to any one of the three things, the lordship of Christ, the doctrine as to the person of Christ, or His work.
The Corinthians had written to Paul about matters on which they wanted help, although Paul does not begin to deal with those matters until chapter 7. In the meantime, he deals with more important matters. He uses a threefold appeal in this verse. He is not commanding them, even though he is an apostle and he was instrumental in the large assembly in Corinth being planted. Instead, he is beseeching them. His second appeal is in his use of the word ‘brethren’. Appreciating that word helps all of us to be of one mind. His third appeal is the most important – the lordship of Christ. Paul mentions the Lord Jesus Christ, or Jesus Christ the Lord, five times in the first nine verses.
Corinthians is the epistle where much of the teaching concerning the local assembly is to be found, and it is pre-eminently the epistle of His lordship – mentioned sixty-eight times. How could Paul ever expect the Corinthians to accept this truth? Only the Holy Spirit working among them could bring them to one mind.
Although the truth of the church is not found in the Old Testament, yet there are examples of truth that would illustrate, and encourages us to follow, New Testament teaching relative to gathering. The divisions evident in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 are illustrated for us in 1 Chronicles chapter 12. All the thirteen tribes are there.1 Of the men of Issachar, we read that they had ‘understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do’, v. 32. How good it is when we have men like that! Indeed, knowing what the men of Israel ought to do so gripped their hearts that they had all their brethren at their commandment. They could see the enemies on every side. They needed to give David his rightful place. Thus, we read in verse 38 that all Israel were of ‘perfect heart’ and ‘one heart’ to make David king, and we read in verse 40, ‘there was joy in Israel’. There is joy in any assembly when we give our Lord Jesus the rightful place as Lord.
1 Corinthians chapter 5 deals with the subject of discipline for moral evil. The mention of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ suggests the action is taken by His authority, as representing Him and in fellowship with Him. Similarly, ‘when ye are gathered together’ suggests a special gathering to carry out this discipline.
The word ‘temple’, used for the local assembly2 is the Greek word naos, which means the inner sanctuary. How important to appreciate that the Spirit of God dwells within the local assembly, 1 Cor. 3. 16. God Himself dwells within, 2 Cor. 6. 16, and our Lord Jesus, Matt. 18. 20. Thus, the most important reason for putting away the morally reprobate is because of the indwelling of the Trinity – the assembly should always be characterized by holiness.
However, discipline of this nature should have restoration in view. I believe that the person in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 is the same man referred to in chapters 2 and 7 of 2 Corinthians. Clearly, the man had repented, but the assembly who had been slow to judge, were now slow to reinstate him.
This verse should govern everything that we do – we should always remember that we are representing Him. It is possible for any one of us to cause His name to be blasphemed, as the Jewish people did in Romans chapter 2 verse 24, or like David in 2 Samuel chapter 12 verse 14. But we can thank God that, by the grace of God, we can cause His name to be glorified.3
After the apostles were beaten in Acts chapter 5 verse 41, we read that they ‘were rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name’. What made them rise above the persecution? It was the value of the name of Christ to them. The more we value the name of Christ the more reproach we can bear for His name’s sake.
Three days after Paul the apostle got saved, the Lord told Ananias, ‘I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake’, Acts 9. 16. Paul never forgot that he once persecuted the saints. In reference to his past life, His words were, ‘who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious’, 1 Tim. 1. 13. He thought that he ‘ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth’, Acts 26. 9.
We are exhorted in Hebrews chapter 13 verse 13: ‘Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach’. The central word in the verse is ‘him’. As John Douglas said, ‘if it were me writing the epistle to the Hebrews I would have put the exhortation in chapter 1. There it would be a mandate. But the Spirit of God knew better. He guided the writer of the epistle to unfold the glories of Christ in the first twelve chapters. When he puts it in chapter 13, instead of it being a mandate, it is a magnet. He is the attraction!’ How good to capture the attitude of Moses, ‘esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward’, Heb. 11. 26!
It is encouraging for us to notice in Matthew chapter 5 verses 11-12 that for the first time the Lord Jesus changes from the third to the second person, ‘Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you’. When we are being persecuted, we should make sure that we are not being persecuted because of our inconsistencies or failures for it is a blessing when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake!
How important to remember that there is power in the name of the Lord Jesus. In Acts chapter 19 verses 13-17 we read, ‘Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified’. The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified, even though it did not work in the mouth of those vagabond Jews, who had never submitted themselves to the lordship of Christ.
A gospel meeting is like a battle. The psalmist provides us with pictures of battle encouraging us to take the ‘banner … that it may be displayed because of the truth’, Ps. 60. 4. However, it is ‘in the name of our God we will set up our banners’, 20. 5. Similarly, may the following verses encourage us to trust in the Lord in our gospel activity: ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth’, Ps. 124. 8; ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe’, Prov. 18. 10.
We read in 3 John verse 7 of some: ‘Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles’. They went forth without any guaranteed salary. His name’s sake was their motive for service and their trust for support. Perhaps some reader of this article might be challenged to go forth with the gospel today!