Names and the Name – 2

God has a name – 1

One of the great gifts that the people of God enjoy is knowledge of God’s name. The God who claimed Abram and that nation to be birthed from his loins has a name. The God who has claimed humanity in Jesus Christ has a name. God is no abstract ‘ground of being’. In latter posts we shall see that God’s name is Father, Son, Holy Spirit. But the economy of revelation is such that this tri-fold name was not always known. Nevertheless …

God has a name. The misery on this earth is nameless, the evil among men is nameless, for the powers of darkness love to be without a name. Nameless, anonymous letters, letters without signatures are usually vulgar. But God is no writer of anonymous letters; God puts His name to everything that He does, effects, and says; God has no need to fear the light of day. The Devil loves anonymity, but God has a name. He did not get this name by chance; in fact He did not receive it at all: He gave it to Himself because He wants to have a name. For him, name does not mean noise and smoke that cloud the splendour of Heaven; His name is His sign, the sign that shows that He is the true God; His name is His signature, so to speak, His monogram, His seal, His stamp (His trademark, if you will!) – whatever bears His stamp is God’s. God would certainly have had the power to be nameless; but because He loves clarity and hates obscurity He preferred not to be a nameless God. (Walter Lüthi)

Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the NT demand that God have a proper name. In the MT, God’s self-revealed name is YHWH, the meaning of which is filled out in Israel’s experience, primarily that of liberation from Egypt and the coming into their own land of promise. When we come to the NT, we learn that God’s proper name is ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. Again, the believing community is given to know this name, and so God, in the experience of redemption, this time final. This name-knowing and redemption both happen in the one place. More specifically, they happen in a person, Jesus Christ.

Robert Jenson notes that the NT understands by God ‘whoever raised Jesus from the dead’. This identification by the Resurrection, Jenson argues, ‘neither replaces nor is simply added to identification by the Exodus’. Rather, ‘the new identifying description verifies its paradigmatic predecessor … Thus “the one who rescued Israel from Egypt” is confirmed as an identification of God in that it is continued “as he thereupon rescued the Israelite Jesus from the dead”’.

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