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The Name that is Above Every Name
Chapter 13

"BY INHERITANCE A MORE EXCELLENT NAME"

WE have had occasion more than once to emphasise that Christadelphians are regarded by the churches as being "outside the main stream of Christianity" because we adhere to the Scriptural doctrine of the mutual relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity is unscriptural because it is completely inadequate to express all that is contained in the doctrine of the Godhead and of the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

From the beginning of our history all brethren and sisters, whether they have been capable of following the detailed exposition of the theme or not, or of understanding any of the linguistics involved in that exposition, have been able to rejoice in the knowledge that our God (Elohim), the Creator and Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth (Adon), is the Redeemer of His people who has manifested the glory of His Name (the LORD, or Yahweh) in His Son, and will manifest it in a multitude of sons brought unto glory.

The excellence of the Lord Jesus Christ, "the chiefest among ten thousand", is clearly described in the New Testament, where the titles of majesty and power and the glory of the Name are ascribed to him. If it be asked, How can this be if the Lord Jesus was not God? the Scriptures provide an unmistakable answer: "Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they" (Hebrews 1:4). To this agree the words of Philippians 2:9-11:

"God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name (R.V. the name) which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

The inheritance was foreshadowed in the Old Testament and especially, as we should expect with the covenant Name, in the covenants of promise. When God promised David a son to reign upon his throne He explicitly stated: "He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will he his father, and he shall be my son" (2 Sam. 7:14). So here, in the promise which forms one of the foundation principles of our faith, yet is so simple that a child can understand it, the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ is foretold. We have the authority or the New Testament Scriptures that this is so, for it is this verse together with the psalm about the Lord's anointed (Psalm 2) that the apostle cites when he asks the question:

"For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?" (Hebrews 1:5)

The Father of our Lord
Many times in Scripture was the LORD likened to a father. In Deuteronomy 32 He is represented as a father to Israel because He had redeemed them: "is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee and established thee?" (v.6). Later through the prophet Hosea, God declared, "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt" (11:1). Thus Isaiah could cry, "Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting to everlasting" (63:16).

For the man who fears Him, the LORD is merciful and kind: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him" (Psalm 103:13). So the very name of the LORD implied fatherhood, since all the attributes of a father, as source of life and sustainer and as one having compassion, derived from Him the longsuffering, the merciful and full of compassion, yet stern towards the rebellious. To the fatherless and the widow He was both father and husband.

Yet God was rarely, if ever in the Old Testament, addressed as Father. Even so, in Psalm 89, where the mercies of the LORD are and the covenant with David remembered with gratitude, the LORD says of His anointed:

"He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him" (vv. 26-28).

"Our Father, which art in heaven"
The above passage brings together in words of great beauty the meaning of the memorial Name, the covenant with David, and the Divine Sonship of the Lord Jesus, the LORD'S anointed and His firstborn. So Jesus first has the privilege of addressing the LORD as Father, a title which combines both deep reverence and love. The word is frequently on his lips, sometimes with the word "Righteous" or "Holy" as part of the address (John 17, for instance), but never surely in more revealing fashion than in the Garden of Gethsemane where he offers up prayers with strong crying and tears: "Abba, Father . . ."

We too have an inestimable privilege by reason of our relationship to the Lord Jesus. What the only begotten Son was able to do, the "joint heirs with Christ" are invited to do also, for we "have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15).

We are now in a position to answer the question, What has happened to the Name of the LORD in the New Testament? Various theories have been put forward to explain why there is no transliteration of Yahweh or Jehovah in the Greek, when a Hebrew expression like Tsabaoth does appear twice in a Greek form. In both Romans 9:29, in a quotation from Isaiah, and James 5:4 the Hebrew Yahweh or Jehovah Tsabaoth is represented by kyrios sabaoth, or in the English version as "the Lord of sabaoth".

It is evident that either the Name, which was of course known to both Paul and James, was rendered by them as "the Lord" because they refrained from using it regularly, while keeping the Hebrew word for "hosts"; or as some prefer to think, there has been a tampering with the Greek text to make it conform with the Old Testament Greek version, the Septuagint, which regularly renders the Hebrew YHWH by kyrios, just as the English versions print it as "the LORD"

Most commentators agree that the Jews refrained from uttering the Divine Name as a mark of reverence, although the practice became almost a superstition in itself. There is evidence of this in the New Testament, for example where the High Priest asked Jesus, "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" (Mark 14:61). There is, however, another reason why the Name of the LORD does not appear in reference to God in the New Testament. It is Jesus who inherits "the name that is above every name": God Himself is known to His people as "the God and Father of our Lord" and is addressed by them as Father. It was the Lord Jesus who taught them by example and by precept to use that title of reverence and love.

The Lord's Prayers
Apart from the numerous occasions when the Lord Jesus talked to his disciples of "My Father", there are several prayers of his recorded for our instruction. Among the most important for our present study are those prayers which are in effect allusions to the Old Testament, where we should expect him to use the Name of the LORD as he does otherwise in his quotations. Let us consider the two outstanding examples.

Luke records Christ's prayer when the disciples returned from their mission with their report of the power of his name to cast out demons:

"In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes." (Luke 10:21)

Here is an obvious allusion to Psalm 8, at a time when the glory of the "excellent name" (v.1) was being displayed in the Son of man, to whom all things in heaven and earth are to be put in subjection -- "O LORD our Adon, how excellent is thy name in all the earth." Adon becomes "the Lord of heaven and earth", but "O LORD" has become "Father", a title obviously of at least equal importance with the Name. The title also serves to distinguish the great God from His Son to whom He will grant the title of "Lord".

We find confirmation of our interpretation of this passage in the words which follow. "It seemed good unto thee" is a reference to what Moses described as "the good will of him that dwelt in the bush", the LORD's good pleasure, or purpose (Deut. 33:16). The same idea is contained in the angelic announcement of Christ's birth, for with that event the covenant Name was confirmed: there was "glory to God in the highest" and "good will towards men" (Luke 2:14). So after his prayer of thankfulness, the Lord added:

"All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and no man knoweth who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." (Luke 10:22)

With the exception of the anguished cry, when the Hebrew he takes upon his lips is "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?", the Lord's prayers from the cross are all addressed to his Father: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do", and "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit". This last prayer is in fact a quotation of psalm 31:5, which was in effect interrupted for three days while he lay in the tomb awaiting the final redemption from death:

"Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth."

The LORD God of truth of the Psalm which was here his inspiration and strength, who would redeem his soul from the grave, was the Father of our Lord, and He would shortly raise him from the dead and declare him to be both Lord and Christ.

"Abba, Father"
The only actual Hebrew word beside Eli which our New Testament records attribute to Christ at prayer reveals a degree of affection and intimacy which even the ordinary Hebrew word for "Father" does not carry. At the great moment of crisis in Gethsemane, when he who taught his disciples to pray that the will of their Father in heaven should be done on earth, struggles to resign his own will to the great purpose, he cries "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee." Perhaps the sentence contains overtones of the Hebrew El Shaddai, the Almighty, but it is to the Father who is able to save him from death that he offers up his strong crying and tears.

The theme of John's Gospel is the declaration of the Father by the only begotten Son who is in His bosom, just as the glory of the LORD was proclaimed by the man to whom it had been revealed in the hollow of the rock (Exod. 33). At the opening of his great prayer in John 17, the Lord prayed: "Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee." Thus when the Son is honoured as Lord, the Father is not deprived of His title and His supremacy: Re is honoured more. Jesus had indeed answered his disciples' request, ''Show us the Father", and he has also revealed to us the deep significance of the name which he uses. We also can begin to understand the deep significance of the name of Jesus "The LORD is become my salvation".

 


Chapter 14

"AT THE NAME OF JESUS . . ."

ONE of the most explicit Scripture testimonies to the fact that, since the New Testament title of God has become "Father", the Name of the LORD has been attributed to Jesus is to be found in Philippians 2, a passage which has been the subject of much speculation and misunderstanding. Yet it yields the full beauty of its meaning to us when we understand the true doctrine of the Godhead, and here once again we have reason to be thankful for our Christadelphian heritage.

In considering the passage (Phil. 2:6-11) we follow the suggestion put forward in The Letter to the Philippians, by Brother T. J. Barling (to whom we are also indebted for the interpretation of "in the form of"), that we are here dealing with an early Christian hymn. This enables us to follow the parallelism of the Apostle's thought as he contrasts the greatness of the Lord's inheritance with his lowliness of mind. "Let this mind be in you", he says, "which was also in Christ Jesus:

  1. Who, being in the form of God,
    Thought it not robbery
    To be equal with God:
  2. But made himself of no reputation,
    And took upon him the form of a servant
    And was made in the likeness of men:
  3. And being found in fashion as a man,
    He humbled himself
    And became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
  4. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him
    And given him a name
    Which is above every name:
  5. That at the name of Jesus
    Every knee should bow,
    Of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
  6. And that every tongue should confess
    That Jesus Christ is Lord,
    To the glory of God the Father."

Those who believe in the Trinity see in this passage the confirmation of their faith. Much is made of the Greek verb for ''being" in verse 6, which is given in the Revised Version margin as "being originally". Often 1 Corinthians 11:7 is cited in support, where the same expression is translated as "Forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God". The latter reference, however, is to the creation of man, and not specifically to the Lord Jesus. Even if there were any emphasis on the idea of "originally", it would be quite correct. But the wide usage of the verb uparchon does not allow us to place such emphasis upon it. Otherwise we should find ourselves compelled to render Romans 4:19 as "(Abraham) being originally about an hundred years old ..."! There are another 45 passages in the New Testament where the meaning cannot extend beyond that of simply being or existing.

The Lord's Divine Status
The real question centers upon the meaning of the expression "in the form of God". The word morphe is used only three times in the New Testament, always with reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. Two of them are in this passage; the other is in Mark 16:12: "After that (Jesus) appeared in another form unto two of them". The word for "transfigured" or "transformed" in Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2, Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 contains morphe as a root.

It is the double use of the word in the Philippians passage which helps us with the interpretation: He who was in the form of God took the form of a slave. It implies more than the fact that the Lord was of man's nature; he accepted the status of a servant, the word having no reference to nature or even shape in this context. The passage is a hymn about what the Voice from heaven had declared at the Lord's baptism. In clear reference to Psalm 2:7, "Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten thee", God declared, "This is my beloved Son" (the Hebrew for "beloved" and "only son" is the same word). And in equally clear reference to Isaiah 42:1, "Behold my servant . . . in whom my soul delighteth", He added, "in whom I am well pleased".

Christ's divine status derived from his direct descent from God his Father; his status as servant he chose in obedience to his Father's will. When his disciples saw him transfigured before them, the visage that was so marred more than any man's shone with glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Of No Reputation
The Lord's temptation in the wilderness, literal yet representative of all the temptations of his earthly ministry, centered upon the fact that, Son of God though he was ("If thou be the Son of God . . . "), he had the status of a servant: he emptied himself as Paul has it in our passage, not of a pre-existent divinity but of the privileges of a Son of God.

Thus did he glorify his Father's name, as God Himself attested in the Voice from heaven (John 12:28). And the Father "glorified it again" when He raised His Son from the death to which his obedience had brought him -- an emptying of himself indeed! and raised hint to His right hand. But there was more: the Father gave him the Name which he had glorified! For so Paul declares: "That every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." We pause to note that far from detracting from the honour of God by recognizing Him as Father and attributing the Name to the Son, it is enhanced by the glorifying of the Son, even as the Lord himself had said: "He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him." As we pursue the theme, with all the rich harmonies of this hymn about the glory of the risen Christ, we see how completely the Father's Name is glorified in him.

Paul's quotation from Isaiah confirms this, since the reverence accorded the risen Lord is that which formerly belonged to the LORD alone but has now become Christ's by Divine gift. So Paul's verses 10 and 11 link together Psalm 8 and the supremacy of "the Son of man", with Isaiah 45:23-24 and that of the LORD Himself:

"Unto me (the LORD) every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear . . . thou hast put all things under his feet: all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea."

As we have seen from our former studies, the Name of the LORD is a proclamation of both the goodness and severity of God, the mercy and the judgement. So it is with the Son who inherits the Name. in him the love of God was manifest, and men beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. It is no mere coincidence that the Gospel writer who emphasizes the love of the Father lays stress also upon the fact that the Son has been appointed judge.

"For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgement unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. For he that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him . . . (He) hath given him authority to execute judgement also, because he is the Son of man (that is, he to whom the Psalmist and the prophet refer)." (John 5:22-27)

So the concept of Christ as judge is presented in the New Testament as a necessary part of his work as Saviour. His resurrection is the assurance to all men that God "will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained" (Acts 17:31). Fundamental to the preaching of the apostles, as witness Peter's message to Cornelius and his household, was the testimony "that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead" (Acts 10:42). To this may be added the solemn charge laid on Timothy "before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom" (2 Tim. 4:1).

The Judgement Seat of Christ
In the Letter to the Romans the importance of the Lord's role as judge is given prominence in the discussion of the relation of brother to brother in matters of personal conduct. It is the first time the term the judgement seat of Christ appears in the New Testament, although the idea of a tribunal before which all must stand is used in Matthew 25. "But," says Paul, "why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." And he finds his Scriptural justification for that warning in the same words from Isaiah already considered in connection with Philippians 2. The words written, "As I live saith the LORD, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God", are attributed by the prophet to the LORD Himself. Paul cites them with reference to Jesus, and adds:

"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:10-12)

There can be no clearer indication that the Divine Name and title have been bestowed upon the Lord Jesus, and that the disciples were quite right in changing their usual form of address to him during the days of his flesh, Master (Didaskalos, Teacher), to Kyrios, the Lord. But it is also important to recognize that in the use of that title they were not simply offering it as a courtesy, like the everyday use of kyrios as we would say Mister, or even Sir. "Adon" is the modern Hebrew for Mister! Nor was it limited to the prevalent idea of "Jesus as Lord'', meaning that the disciple is willing to allow him complete dominion over his life and thought, true and necessary a concept though that is. The fullness of the title lies in the fact that God has given him the Name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and that "he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name" than the angels. With no impropriety, therefore (and certainly with doctrinal accuracy!), the Apostle can ascribe the words of Psalm 45:6,7 to Jesus:

"Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity: therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." (Hebrews 1:8-9)

The Supremacy of the Father
We also see the emphasis on the supremacy of the Father, who is, even for the exalted personage addressed in these passages, thy God. This fact, that the Father is ever exalted above the Son, reveals the total inadequacy of the doctrine of the Trinity, which makes the Fattier and Son co-equal and co-eternal. Those who think they thus glorify the Lord Jesus in truth diminish the glory of God. In Philippians, however, Paul makes it plain that the exaltation of Christ to the Divine Name and title enhances the glory of the Father still further, since every tongue shall confess "that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".

The supremacy of Christ, then, makes him both Lord and the LORD of the New Testament. To use his own words to his disciples, as they worshipped him after his resurrection, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth". We must never lose sight of the fact that this power was his because of his obedience unto death: it was "when he had by himself purged our sins" that he "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" until the time appointed of the Father to take his great power and to reign.

Consequently when John saw the vision of the throne in heaven, and waited with bated breath to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah who had prevailed to open the book of what was to come hereafter, it was "a Lamb as it had been slain" who appeared to take the book "out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne" (Rev. 5:4-7). It was to the Lamb of God that the power to rule and to judge was granted! One could almost describe the Revelation as the Book of the Wrath of the Lamb, so full is it of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God manifested in Christ (6:16-17).