Any power attributed to the name of Jesus originates in the Person of Jesus. When we “believe in Jesus’ name,” we are trusting in the finished work of the risen Christ on the cross (1 John 5:13). Jesus is not a magic word. There is nothing special about the arrangement of the letters in His name. Had Jesus not been God in the flesh who lived a perfect life, died for the sins of all who would believe, and rose again, we wouldn’t even be talking about His name. Any power that Christians access in Jesus’ name comes from true faith in who Jesus is and what He does for sinners.
There is no magical power in the name of Jesus—there is only power in Jesus Christ, Himself. By simply calling out the name of “Jesus,” one cannot expect a special power, outcome, or better standing with God. The name of Jesus is precious, however, and brimming with meaning. From Pastor Kevin DeYoung: “What about Jesus? ‘And you shall call his name Jesus,’ the angel told Joseph, ‘for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matt. 1:21). More than a great teacher, more than an enlightened man, more than a worker of miracles, more than a source of meaning in life, more than a self-help guru, more than a self-esteem builder, more than a political liberator, more than a caring friend, more than a transformer of cultures, more than a purpose for the purposeless, Jesus is the Savior of sinners.”
The saving, healing, protecting, justifying, redeeming power of God resides in the Person of Christ, and Jesus is His name. And how did the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator of the universe choose to wield His power? Through His Son, born in humble circumstances—a baby with all the power of the King (Luke 2:11–12). Jesus laid down His life to save sinners, and He exercised His authority to raise it up again (John 10:18) so that any who call on His name in faith can receive forgiveness of sins and salvation for all eternity (Romans 10:13). That is the resurrection power of the Savior—He alone is the force behind His name.
It is in Jesus’ name that God instructs us to pray (John 16:23–24). Believers are invited to pray in Jesus’ name with an expectation that God answers prayers (John 14:13–14). Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with His authority (Luke 10:19) and asking God the Father to act upon our prayers because we come by faith in the name of His Son, Jesus. Praying in Jesus’ name means praying in line with Jesus’ character and His will. Praying in Jesus’ name demonstrates our faith in God’s power to act when we believe that Jesus’ name is more than just a grouping of letters but a representation of who He actually is.
Jesus was a very common name in first-century Israel. The only thing that sets apart the name of Jesus of Nazareth is the Person it belongs to and what He did for us. In Christ “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). But where there is no faith, no relationship, or no submission to His lordship, the name Jesus is nothing but a word.
We are wise to guard ourselves from the temptation to misuse the name of Jesus. The Bible tells the intriguing story of a group of seven Jews in Ephesus who attempted to cast out demons using the name of Jesus. These men did not know Jesus. They were not believers. Instead they sought the admiration of others and an opportunity to make names for themselves. They had not submitted to God and thus failed to cause the spirits to flee (James 4:7). Once, a demon mocked the seven exorcists, who were essentially trying to perform magic tricks using “Jesus” as their incantation of choice: “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” the evil spirit taunted. Then the evil spirit empowered the man it possessed to beat the would-be magicians until they were bloody and naked (Acts 19:13–16). These seven men attempted to misuse the power in the name of Jesus for their own gain, but we serve a God who will not be manipulated and cannot be fooled (Job 12:16).
The name of Jesus, the one who saves His people from their sins, denotes all the power of the mighty Creator Himself. Jesus gives believers the authority to serve, work, and pray in His name when we do so believing in Jesus’ saving power and desiring God’s will. Jesus, with the authority of the Father, exercised power to save sinners, and His name is the only name we can call on for salvation (Acts 4:12). As adopted sons and daughters into God’s family, Christians experience God’s saving grace through faith in the Person of Jesus. When we call on Him, we participate in His power and find that “the name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).