Comprehensive Christianity or Doing all in the Name of Christ? (3:17)
Some Christians are really good at compartmentalizing their faith. By that I mean they pick and choose when and where and in what ways their Christian values and beliefs are expressed. There are certain “sacred” arenas, so to speak, in which being a Christian is for them the “thing to do”. But there are also “secular” venues in which they check their Christianity at the door and live almost as if they know nothing of Jesus Christ.
Paul won’t have it! As far as he’s concerned, there is no such thing as “secular” space. There is no event, activity, endeavor, or goal that is exempt from the Lordship of Jesus. There is no idea, aspiration, dream, or belief that does not come under his sovereign sway. There is no achievement, accomplishment, work, or word that does not exist for the glory of the Son of God.
If you doubt this, consider the comprehensive, all-encompassing, universal scope of Paul’s language in Colossians 3:17. He writes: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). He said virtually the same thing in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Note carefully the language he employs: “word or deed” (Col. 3:17), “eat or drink” (1 Cor. 10:31). These are what we call “spectrum” terms, which is to say, they are designed to be all-inclusive of every conceivable option. They cover the spectrum. One cannot say in response to Colossians 3:17, “Well, there are some things in my life that are technically neither ‘words’ that I speak nor ‘deeds’ that I perform.” By “word or deed” Paul is spanning the spectrum of all possible activities, whether they be physical, mental, spiritual, vocal, or whatever.
Likewise, one cannot say in response to 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Well, I’m happy to ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ to the glory of God, always diligent to give thanks for the sustenance he provides, but my sex life and my career and my hobbies are something else altogether.” No! By “eating” and “drinking” Paul means all human endeavors, all human experiences, no exceptions allowed.
Some folk don’t like that. They want to hold back something for themselves. They want to lay hold of money or power or certain pursuits that they conceive as outside the dominion and lordship of Jesus, something over which they exercise independent and autonomous authority.
But again, Paul won’t have it. Don’t try to evade the force of this passage by saying it only applies to the subject of worship in the preceding verse (Col. 3:16). Yes, of course all the “words” and “deeds” that are utilized in the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are done “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” But Paul refuses to compartmentalize Christian discipleship by restricting the lordship of Jesus to something so obviously “spiritual” in nature. Note again: “whatever” you do, do “all” in the name of Jesus. There are no exceptions. End of argument.
The phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus” is found frequently in the NT. It is “in the name of the Lord Jesus” that we are baptized in water (Acts 10:48). Salvation itself is available only in that name (Acts 4:12). It is in his name that forgiveness of sins is found (Acts 10:43; 1 John 2:12), as well as eternal life (1 John 5:13), the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), dominion over demons (Luke 10:17), and miraculous healing (Acts 3:6,16), and the list could go on and on. “In the name of the Lord Jesus” thus means “for the sake of the Lord Jesus” or “in open and explicit acknowledgement that he alone is Lord and Sovereign over all” or “to the glory of the Lord Jesus” or “in humble admission that he is the source of all good things” or “because of who Jesus is and all that he has accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection.”
So, what would your life look like if it were actually the case that literally everything you did or said or thought or even dreamed was “in the name of the Lord Jesus”? Let’s take our speech, as one example. How often, before we speak, do we think: “What I am about to utter should reflect the fact that I’m a Christian, that Christ died for me, that he is worthy of glory and honor”? How might that affect what we actually end up saying?
How often, before we act, do we think: “What I am about to do ought to conform perfectly with what Jesus did and should make clear to everyone who watches that I am his and he is mine”?
The great Dutch statesman and theologian, Abraham Kuyper, once said (in paraphrase): “There is not one square inch in all the universe over which Jesus Christ does not say: ‘Mine!’” Well, that includes the thoughts in our heads, the words on our lips, the steps we take, the books we read, the things on television we watch, the food we eat, the music we hear. It is all to be placed in submission to him and made subservient to his glory.
In conclusion, and on a practical note, consider for a moment all the many decisions we face in life for which the Bible does not provide explicit guidance. I have in mind those so-called “grey” areas in which the scales of balance appear to be evenly weighted. How are we to proceed when a choice is unavoidable? Perhaps we should apply the principle of this passage and ask the question: “Can it be done in the name and for the glory of Christ? Is this a decision that will encourage and facilitate thanksgiving to God? Will it honor the savior? What choice or direction will most readily display Christ as the treasure of my life and as the glorious and beautiful God that he is?”
Do you compartmentalize the Lordship of Jesus, confining him to activities typically discharged on Sunday? Or is your view of his authority and dominion as utterly comprehensive and all-consuming as Paul envisions in this passage? May we joyfully consecrate all to him, in his name, and for his sake.
Writing in the name of the Lord Jesus,