"Do All in the Name of the Lord"
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (Col. 3:17)
The above is arguably one of the most misunderstood and neglected verses in all the scriptures. Putting it in its context, Paul is writing to the Colossian church about maintaining proper relationships. In the first part of the third chapter he instructs the church about those things they must keep out of their lives - things that destroy relationships. Then beginning in verse 12, he writes about things they must put into their lives -- things that make for peaceful and happy relationships.
After telling the church to put on things like mercy and kindness and humility and forgiveness and love, Paul tells them to teach and admonish one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. He then reminds them in verse 17 that everything they say and do must be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. In the remainder of the chapter, and on into chapter four, Paul takes up specific relationships - husbands and wives, children and parents, servants and masters, Christians and unbelievers - telling the church what God expects them to say and/or do in those relationships.
God has a way for us in every relationship. We are never left in the dark as to how we should conduct ourselves at play or at work, in the home or in the church. Paul reminds us that we are never free to make up our own rules for any relationship; whatever we do, in word or deed, must be done in the name of the Lord Jesus.
To say and do "in the name of the Lord Jesus" is to say and do what Jesus our Lord has instructed us to say and do. R. C. H. Lenski writes, "It means that absolutely everything... is to be done in the light of the revelation of our Lord and harmonize with that revelation. It ever reveals Jesus as our Savior-Lord to whom we belong absolutely and altogether." (The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles, Colossians - Philemon, 179) Paul was not commanding that the Colossians say the name of Jesus before everything they said or did, he was commanding that they have the authority of Jesus for everything they said or did.
What does that mean in the context of Colossians 3-4? It means fornication and covetousness and filthy language and lying are always wrong in every circumstance (3:5,8,9). It means Christians can do nothing but forgive one another when forgiveness is asked (3:13). It means that Christians must teach and admonish one another in music only by singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to one another (3:16). (Note: Verse 16 is in keeping with every other scripture that relates to spiritual music in the New Testament. Worship with instrumental music does not harmonize with the revelation of our Lord.)
Further, it means that wives must always submit to their husbands, and husbands must always show love for their wives in whatever they say or do (3:18-19). It means that children must obey their parents in all things, and fathers must never say or do things that provoke their children (3:20-21). It means servants (for us, employees) must obey their masters in all things, and masters (employers) must always be just and fair with their servants (3:22-4:1). It means that Christians must never do anything unwise or say anything ungracious to unbelievers (4:5-6).
To say or do other than what the inspired apostle Paul instructs in all these relationships is to say and do outside the name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle John wrote that such transgression of the doctrine (revelation) of Christ would mean that the transgressor "does not have God" (2 John 9). To be outside the name of the Lord is a condition of condemnation.
But is Colossians 3:17 limited only to what Paul wrote about relationships in chapters 3 and 4? Certainly not. Surely we understand that it is a general principle true of the entirety of the doctrine of Christ in the New Testament. We have already seen the principle taught by John in 2 John 9. See it taught by Jesus in John 14:15 - "If you love Me, keep My commandments." See it again in John15:10 - "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love." And again in 2 Corinthians 10:5 - "Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." There are plenty of others, but these verses ought to more than prove the point - whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
The old restorationists pleaded, "Let us speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent." That is what it means to say and do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. The old restoration plea was right. It ought to be the plea of all modern restorationists as well.
By Jerry King
From Expository Files 9.2; February 2002