“The link between God and His name” by Herman Bavinck

“All we can learn about God from His revelation is designated His Name in Scripture… There is an intimate link between God and His name. According to Scripture, this link too is not accidental or arbitrary but forged by God Himself.

We do not name God; He names Himself. In the foreground here is the name as a revelation on the part of God, in an active and objective sense, as revealed name.

In this case God’s name is identical with the attributes or perfections that He exhibits in and to the world: His glory (Ps. 8:1; 72:19), honor (Lev. 18:21; Ps. 86:10–11; 102:16), His redeeming power (Exod. 15:3; Isa. 47:4); His service (Isa. 56:6; Jer. 23:27); His holiness (1 Chron. 16:10; Ps. 105:3).

The name is God Himself as He reveals Himself in one relationship or another (Lev. 24:11, 16; Deut. 28:58). That name, being a revelation of God, is great (Ezek. 36:23), holy (Ezek. 36:20), awesome (Ps. 111:9), a high refuge (Ps. 20:1), a strong tower (Prov. 18:10).

By proper names, particularly by the name YHWH, God made Himself known to Israel. He revealed Himself to Israel by the angel in whom the Lord’s name was present (Exod. 23:20).

And He put His name on the children of Israel (Num. 6:27), caused His name to be remembered (Exod. 20:24), put His name among them and made it to dwell there (Deut. 12:5; 14:23), especially in the temple that was built for His name (2 Sam. 7:13). Now His name lives in that temple (2 Chron. 20:9; 33:4).

By that name He saves (Ps. 54:1), and on account of that name He cannot abandon Israel (1 Sam. 12:22; Isa. 48:9, 11; Ps. 23:3; 31:3; 143:11–12). Israel, accordingly, may not blaspheme and desecrate that name, or use it in vain (Exod. 20:7; Lev. 18:21; 19:12; 24:11).

On the contrary: that name must be invoked, passed on in story, magnified, known, feared, exalted, expected, sought out, sanctified (Gen. 4:26; 12:8; Exod. 9:16; Deut. 28:58; 1 Kings 8:33; Ps. 5:12; 34:3; 52:9; 83:17; 122:4; Isa. 26:8; Matt. 6:9; John 12:28; etc.).

In the New Testament God’s name acquires an even richer and deeper meaning. For the Logos, who was in the beginning with God and is in the bosom of the Father, has made Him known (John 1:18) and revealed His name (John 17:6, 26).

Since no one knows the Father except the Son, only those to whom the Son reveals the Father gain knowledge of God (Matt. 11:27). Those who confess the Son have the Father also (1 John 2:23). Those who have seen Him have seen the Father (John 14:9).

The name of Jesus Christ, accordingly, guarantees the truth of our knowledge of God and all the associated benefits. He is called Jesus because He saves His people (Matt. 1:21) and is the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

By His name miracles are performed (Acts 4:7); by it we receive forgiveness (Acts 2:38), the right to become God’s children (John 1:12), and eternal life (1 John 5:13). Where two or three people are gathered in His name, He is in their midst (Matt. 18:20).

Those who pray in His name are heard (John 14:13), and those who call on the name of the Lord are saved (Acts 2:21). All salvation for humanity is comprehended within the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Being baptized in that name is a sign and seal of fellowship with God. And an even richer revelation awaits believers in the new Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12), when His name will be inscribed upon everyone’s forehead (Rev. 22:4).

The name of God in Scripture does not describe God as He exists within Himself but God in His revelation and multiple relations to His creatures. This name, however, is not arbitrary: God reveals Himself in the way He does because He is who He is.

Summed up in His name, therefore, is His honor, His fame, His excellencies, His entire revelation, His very being.”

–Herman Bavinck, Eds. John Bolt and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 97, 98-99.

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Filed under Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, God the Father, Herman Bavinck, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

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