It only takes a few words to produce dramatic theology. In the short letter we know as 3 John, the apostle is writing to a beloved friend, Gaius (v. 1). He commends Gaius for ministering to fellow believers who were strangers because “they have gone out for the sake of the name” (v. 7). John doesn’t use the phrase “in Jesus’ name” or “the name of Jesus”; it’s simply, “for the sake of the name.” Why this phrase? Is John trying to keep a secret?
John isn’t trying to be cryptic. He’s actually drawing on an Old Testament expression. When understood in that original context—and the context of his other writings—John’s odd wording amounts to a powerful statement on the deity of Jesus.
In Deuteronomy 12:5, God instructed the people of Israel that—when they got into the promised land—He would show them the place where they were to worship him. God described that location as “the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name.” God wasn’t talking about writing his name on a town or a building. He was referring to where the tabernacle—and ultimately the temple—was to be stationed. But he wasn’t talking about writing “Yahweh” on that either. Nothing of the sort is ever recorded in Scripture. Rather, God was talking about the place where He would choose to meet Israel personally—his very presence.
The description “the name” actually refers to the presence of God. This presence was at times visibly evident through the so-called “glory cloud” (e.g., 1 Kings 8:10–11). At other times, the name came in human form. For instance, in Exodus 23:20–23, God tells Moses that he is sending an angel to bring Israel to the promised land. God warned Moses that this angel would pardon no transgression since “My name is in him.” We learn from Judges 2:1–5 that the angel did indeed lead them to the land. But how could God’s name be in an angel? The answer is that “the name” referred to the very presence of God—his essence. This is confirmed in Deuteronomy 4:37. Here, we read that instead of the angel being credited as the one who would bring Israel to Canaan, it is God who brought them there “with his own presence.”
Before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus prays: “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11). The Gospels are clear that the name given to Mary’s child was Jesus—and that is not God’s name. The idea is that the very essence of the Father was in Jesus. They were one.
For John, ministering “for the sake of the name” meant spreading the news of Jesus. By using this simple phrase, he linked Jesus with the name of the Old Testament—the very presence of God himself. God’s name had come “in the flesh” (John 1:1–3, 14; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). It now abides in us—the children of God in the form of the Spirit (1 John 3:24; 4:4).
Dr. Michael S. Heiser is a scholar-in-residence for Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software. He is the author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible and has taught many Mobile Ed courses, including Problems in Biblical Interpretation: Difficult Passages I.
This article is excerpted from Dr. Heiser’s book I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible.
Keep exploring the strange, perplexing, and mysterious aspects of the Bible with these excerpts from Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. Or dive deeper into the supernatural world of the Bible and pick up a copy of The Unseen Realm today.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24
Do you ever dream of winning the lottery? It may interest you to know that about a third of all lottery winners go bankrupt within five years and that another quarter of these instant millionaires wind up selling their remaining payments at a discounted rate to pay off debts. People who are reckless with ordinary paychecks are just as reckless with bigger ones.
Rather than fantasize about hitting the jackpot, we should strive to be better stewards of what we have. Handle credit cards—if you must use them at all—with great care, and do everything you can to stay out of debt, one of the foremost marriage destroyers. Make purchases with cash when possible. Establish a family budget and stick to it.
Remember to give at least 10 percent of your earnings to the Lord—after all, everything is His, anyway.
Above all, make sure you spend less than you earn each month. It takes discipline, but this simple formula will go a long way toward establishing a worry‐free atmosphere in your home.
Heavenly Father, You bless us with so much. Even when money is tight, we know You care for us. But we often fail to be responsible and to honor You with how we manage money. Help us to know and live by Your wisdom. Amen.