“Everything you do or say, then, should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus…” Colossians 3:17 (GNB)
This is the 20th memory verse that I will use as a guide/focal point to writing these articles. The Table of Contents is available in the series introductory article. Back when the memory verse cards were handed out week after week, this verse was repeated at the end, and thus you will see the second scanned card further down in this article.
Immediate Literary Context
A shared literary context exists for this latest memory verse along with Colossians 3:14, under the same paragraph titled The Old Life and the New. It is important to remember that this whole chapter, up to verse 17 is one section of a bigger letter. First, in verses 1-4 we are taught to seek heavenly ways because we have been raised with Christ. Second, verses 5-17 extrapolate out the exhortation. The positive focus of verses 12-17 above are contrasted to the negatively focused once that precede it (verses 5-11). In verses 5 to 11, there are two lists of five negative items Christians are to shun:
- sexual immorality
- evil passions
Then, in 3:12-17 there are a series of admonitions, including another list of five items, this time positive items that Christians are to embrace:
These virtues were explored in the previous article. Thus, we begin this article from verse 15 which builds upon verses 12 to 14. As a result of following the directives to love and to forgive – that is, the Colossians are both to let the peace of Christ reign in their hearts and to be thankful to God for the peace and forgiveness that they experience. Verse 16 then focuses on the life of the community in quite concrete terms: The Colossians are to “let the word of Christ dwell within them richly, which means teaching and admonishing, and singing. Thus we see education, exhortation, and worshipful expression. Finally, in verse 17, Paul tells the Church at Colossae to do whatever they do, be it in word or in deed, in the name of the Lord, all the while giving thanks to God through him. Thus, all of life is to be devoted to the Lord and lived in accordance with the gospel of God’s grace and love at work in Jesus Christ.
Wider Literary Context
Since this memory verse is also from Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae (Colossians), the same commentary and article content from Memory Verse #19: Colossians 3:1 applies.
To do things in the name of the Lord Jesus is the heart of the application here. The context, as explored above, is important – when we do things in the name of Jesus, the fruits and behaviours are consistent with gentleness, kindness, compassion, patience and humility; all an outflow from the core love of and from Christ. When we do things that fall outside of this list, and the source of our motivation is not Jesus/love, we distort and misrepresent His love and name.
One important verse to consider whilst we discuss invoking the name of our Lord Jesus, is from His own teachings in Matthew 7:21-23.
Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’ Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!’
What Paul taught here in Colossians was thus consistent with Jesus – our behaviour and actions demonstrate when we are connected to God as the head, and manifest in our actions, words and general behaviour. This also reminds me of a recent quote that LightFM helped to increase awareness of – “your beliefs don’t make you a better person, you behaviour does”.
Colossians 3 helps to equip us with the tools to discern when people use the name of our Lord Jesus in vain too. The five negative behaviours listed at the start of this article all are clear situations and behaviours that are inconsistent with the virtues exposed by Paul and indeed Christ. No wars can ever be waged in the name of Christ, except against the evils of this world, and even so, the way we are taught to fight the darkness is through pray, and by wearing the armour of God, as explained in Ephesians 6:14-18:
So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One. And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you. Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people.
In summary, the armour of God is:
- belt of truth
- breastplate of righteousness
- shoes of readiness in announcing the Gospel
- shield of faith
- helmet of salvation
- sword as the Word of God
The armour is all mainly defensive and the only two weapons identified in the passage from Ephesians are the sword, which is only metaphorical for the Word of God, and prayer. The action that Paul calls us to in standing up for our faith is… prayer. Pray in the name of the Lord. It is for these very reasons that the current (as at time of writing) movie War Room provides believers with a powerful reminder of the power and need for prayer. It is through prayer that God works and His mighty name and presence takes over. When we call upon the name of our Lord Jesus in prayer, miracles and healing will surely flow.