Friday, October 5, 2012

Do All in the Name of the Lord

Praise for the Lord #121

Words: Austin Taylor, 1916
Music: Austin Taylor, 1916

Austin Taylor (1881-1973) was one of the most important hymnal editors, songwriters, and music teachers among the Churches of Christ in the U.S. during the 20th century. Born in central Kentucky, he came to Sherman, Texas as a child and began leading singing schools and writing gospel songs as a young man. Together with G.H.P. Showalter, he was the longest-running editor of the hymnals published by Firm Foundation in Austin, Texas. He also co-founded the Texas Normal Singing School, the oldest such institution still in existence among the Churches of Christ.

This song first appeared in New Songs of Praise (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation, 1916), one of the earliest songbooks co-edited by Taylor and Showalter.(Copyright Entries, 1211) A search of shows that "Do all in the name of the Lord" became a standard not only in the Firm Foundation hymnals, but also in those of the Quartet Music Company in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as the songbooks edited by Marion Davis, an editor and songwriter from Fayette, Alabama. Though it has probably always been a little more popular in its native Texas, the song has become well-known among the Churches of Christ in this country generally. It is an excellent example of a "teaching and admonishing" song,(Colossians 3:16) and one of the few we have on this particular subject.

Stanza 1:
Whate'er you do in word or deed,
Do all in the name of the Lord;
Do naught in name of man or creed,
Do all in the name of the Lord.

Do all in His name,
Do all in the name of the Lord;
In word or deed, as God decreed,
Do all in the name of the Lord.

The fundamental idea of the song, of course, is Colossians 3:17--"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." The key question about this verse is, what does "in the name of the Lord Jesus" mean? The original Greek phrase translated "in the name" is ἐν ὀνόματι (en onomati), and occurs in the following passages. I have tried to group these together by the sense in which they seem to be used, which hopefully will illuminate the manner in which this phrase is employed in the New Testament.
  • "Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord."(Matthew 21:9, cf. 23:39)
  • "I am come in My Father's name [ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ πατρός μου (en to onomati tou patros mou)], and you receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name [ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τῷ ἰδίῳ (en to onomati to idio)], you will receive him."(John 5:43, cf. 10:25)
  • "But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father shall send in My name [ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι μου (en to onomati mou)] . . ."(John 14:26)
  • "[Paul] preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus."(Acts 9:27, cf. v. 29)
In each of these statements one person is representing another, speaking and acting "in the name of" that person. Jesus came in His Father's name; after Jesus' earthly ministry was complete, the Holy Spirit came in the name of Jesus; and Paul, one of Jesus' specially appointed messengers, preached the Spirit-inspired gospel in the name of Jesus. Paul (like all Christians) was an "ambassador" empowered to speak in the name of another; the power and authority of the greater is invested in a representative, who is responsible to act and speak on that person's behalf.(2 Corinthians 5:20) In this sense, to "do all in the name of the Lord" means we should always remember, in everything we say or do, that we are representatives of Christ's will and message for the world.

But Jesus brought out another side of this responsibility in John 5:43, when He noted the importance of the source of authority, and the loyalty to be shown to that source. When Jesus said He came in His Father's name, He preceded that statement by emphasizing His dependence on His Father's authority: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise."(John 5:19) Jesus spoke and acted "in the name of the Lord" by doing what was within His Father's will. This was the proof of the authority of His words: "For the works that the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about Me that the Father has sent Me."(John 5:36) "Do all in the name of the Lord" means to represent the Lord to the world, but only in words and deeds that are in submission to His will.
  • "In His name [ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ (en to onomati autou)] shall all the Gentiles trust."(Matthew 12:21)
  • "That believing you might have life in His name [ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ (en to onomati autou)]."(John 20:31)
  • "Holy Father, keep through Your name [ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου (en to onomati sou)] those whom You have given Me"(John 17:11, cf. v. 12)
  • "You are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus"(1 Corinthians 6:11)
  • "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord."(Acts 10:48)
In these passages we see that "in the name of the Lord" we find hope, life, salvation, justification, and security. The "name" represents the power and authority of the Lord as a source of protection. If we "do all in the name of the Lord," we are speaking and acting in ways that are in subjection to, in harmony with, and thus empowered by, the will of our God.
  • "In My name [ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι μου (en to onomati mou)] they shall cast out demons, etc."(Mark 16:7)
  • "Even the demons are subject to us through Your name [ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου (en to onomati sou)]"(Luke 10:17)
  • "In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk."(Acts 3:6)
  • "By what power, or by what name [ἐν ποίῳ ὀνόματι (en poio onomati)], did you do this?"(Acts 4:7)
  • "By the name of Jesus . . . this man stands here before you whole."(Acts 4:10)
  • "Anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."(James 5:14)
Here we see the source of the miraculous manifestations of power and authority in the early church. The exchange in Acts 4, in particular, shows the apostles' concern to attribute their works of power to the true source. For them, "doing all in the name of the Lord" meant recognizing that it was in Christ, and not in themselves, that this power resided. When it came to miracles, if it was not done "in the name of the Lord," it was not done at all.
  • "Whatever you shall ask in My name [ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι μου (en to onomati mou)], that will I do"(John 14:13, cf. 14:14, 15:16, 16:23-26)
  • "Giving thanks . . . in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"(Ephesians 5:20)
These two passages speak of praying "in the name of" Jesus. We understand this first, of course, as praying through Jesus to the Father: Jesus is our "Advocate with the Father,"(1 John 2:1) "in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him."(Ephesians 3:12) Yet we understand that "ask in My name" is not a magical key to getting whatever we want, else I would have received that model airplane I specifically prayed for when I was about 10 years old. James 4:3 clarifies the situation: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." Asking in the name of Jesus also means to ask for that which is within the bounds of His authority and will for us, and to ask from a position of submission to that authority in the first place.
  • "Now we command you brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly"(2 Thessalonians 3:6)
  • "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together . . . deliver such a one to Satan"(1 Corinthinas 5:4-5)
Paul gave these instructions to two different congregations, both of which were facing the most sobering and difficult task any group of Christians can encounter--separating another Christian from fellowship. In both cases the apostle solemnly invokes "the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," reminding them of the absolute necessity of obeying His will in the matter, but also of the awful responsibility they shoulder by acting in His name. To "do all in the name of the Lord" in this case would mean to carefully and conscientiously carry out His will, doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason.
  • "Whoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in My name [ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι μου (en to onomati mou)]"(Mark 9:41) 
  • "If you be reproached for the name of Christ . . ."(1 Peter 4:14)
  • "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . ."(Philippians 2:10)
These passages remind us again that to "do all in the name of the Lord" is to represent Him to those outside His body in a way that is in accordance with the power and authority of His name. We are representing Him in some fashion, for good or bad, every day; therefore we should strive to make our "words and deeds" those that will bring respect to His name. (Even reproach is a form of respect, depending on the person from whom it comes!) As Philippians 2:10 tells us, every soul will bow someday in the name of Jesus; let us be those who do so now, and encourage others to do so, while there is still time to repent!

We in the Churches of Christ have sometimes been maligned for quoting Colossians 3:17 as a proof-text for the necessity of authority in doctrine and practice. After examining the use of the expression "in the name of the Lord," I agree that it is a mistake to think it means no more than "by the authority of"--but it is a bigger mistake to think it means less than that! "Do all in the name of the Lord" simply cannot mean, "Do whatever you want, and say it is in the name of the Lord." No authority on earth would permit its representative to act in such a fashion, and no authority in heaven has ever done so!

In Acts 4:7, when Peter and John were brought before the high priest and other Jewish religious leaders for their preaching of Jesus, the question was put: "By what power, or by what name [ἐν ποίῳ ὀνόματι (en poio onomati)], did you do this?" This is the same phrase as in Colossians 3:17, except of course for the interrogative, "What?" Here we have the equating of "by the power of" and "by the name of"--the New Living Translation (in a rare occasion of warranted paraphrase) reads, "In whose name did you do this?" It was an echo of the same rulers' question to Jesus in Matthew 21:23, "By what authority [ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ (en poia exousia)] do you do these things?"

On both these occasions we have to give credit to the high priest, rulers, and scribes--in my opinion, these were the most worthwhile words ever recorded from their lips. As Gamaliel pointed out, they had seen would-be messiahs before.(Acts 5:36-37) Anyone making such claims and doing such works as did Jesus and His followers deserved a careful examination. And notice that in Matthew 21, Jesus did not scoff at the question of seeking a ground of authority in religious matters. Instead He countered his opponents with the question, "The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?"(Matthew 21:25) Jesus' point, of course, was that His accusers were unwilling to face the consequences of the answer; but they were all in agreement that the authority behind a religious teaching or practice mattered!

In view of the majestic power and solemn authority of "the name of the Lord," the mention of "man or creed" in the third line of this stanza rightly pales in comparison. How many churches have been divided--and to be brutally honest, how much blood has been shed--over the words of uninspired men? Yet when we stand before the Judgment, all the confessions and creeds written throughout history will not answer to the Book that will be opened that day.(Revelation 20:12) And when we are called to account for our lives, we will not answer to Martin Luther, or Jean Calvin, or John Wesley, or Joseph Smith, or Mary Ellen White, or any other person. We will instead answer to the One who once said, "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?"(Luke 6:46)

Stanza 2:
Be not deceived by worldly greed,
Do all in the name of the Lord;
The Spirit says "In word or deed,"
Do all in the name of the Lord.


"Doing all in the name of the Lord" will bring us into conflict with this world in many ways. In the second stanza of this song, Taylor introduces one of the most universal of these points of tension--the lure of material things. Sometimes a person is directly tempted to forsake the Lord's way in the pursuit of money. A preacher seeking a bigger paycheck might preach what people want to hear instead of what they need to hear. A business owner might decide to engage in a practice that is technically legal but ethically or morally corrupt. But far more often, I think, we are suckered into materialism through things far less dramatic.

We all need food, clothing, and shelter--God made us that way--and these things cost money. This requires almost all of us to commit a large portion of each day to providing for those needs. We also require rest and a certain amount of recreation to maintain our physical and mental capacities, and a significant portion of each day goes to these (at least to the former) by necessity. But when a day goes by and has been occupied by nothing except caring for the needs of the body (of course I am excepting those whose circumstances give them little choice), we may be caught up in small-time hedonism without realizing it. One need not have extravagant tastes to be enslaved by them.

Jesus warned us against materialism in the Sermon on the Mount, using two memorable passages. The first of these asks us to consider the true nature of material and spiritual things:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.(Matthew 6:19-20)
The second points us to the problem of priorities, and our need to understand what must come first:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.(Matthew 6:31-33)
Food, clothing, and shelter are necessary things, but they are meant to be used, and used up. Once a meal is consumed, it is not long before the question arises again, "What are we having to eat?"
(Especially if, like me, you have a teenage son.) Clothing is eventually worn out, discarded, and replaced without much thought. Housing seems more permanent, but anyone who has owned a home knows that the law of entropy is very much in effect there as well.

By contrast, how much time and effort do we spend on things that last eternally? Physical food is important, and few of us would choose to go a day without eating or drinking, but Jesus pointed out that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."(Matthew 4:4, cf. Deuteronomy 8:3) Clothing is important, and few of us would go to work without wearing appropriate clothing for the job, but do we take the same thought about "clothing ourselves with humility?"(1 Peter 5:5) We take care of our best dress clothes and make sure not to soil them, but do we show the same concern not to soil our spiritual garments of holiness?(Revelation 3:4) And though physical shelter is a necessity in this world, and few of us would be homeless by choice, how often do we think of that eternal home Jesus is preparing for us?(John 14:2-3) Are we preparing ourselves for it, so that we will not be homeless in eternity? Doing all in the name of the Lord means that we put His priorities first in our lives.

Stanza 3:
If you are toiling for a crown,
Do all in the name of the Lord;
O do not trust in world renown,
Do all in the name of the Lord.


Toward the end of his final epistle, the apostle Paul foresaw his imminent death and was able to say:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.(2 Timothy 4:7-8)
The crown of which Paul speaks was not a symbol of authority but the laurel wreath, a token of recognition granted to an honored hero in war or in the great athletic contests. The crown would not be given, of course, to a soldier who quit the battlefield early, or to a runner who failed to cross the finish line. It was only for those who finished their course and completed the task. "Doing all in the name of the Lord" means to exercise a discipline over our day-to-day lives, making sure we stay on course to our goal:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.(1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
It also means staying at our posts in this fight, however long it takes. I have an interesting example of this in my ancestry--a certain Benjamin Hamrick who fought in the American Revolution. He was a Virginia Minuteman, and was in George Washington's army that crossed the Delaware River in the daring Christmas Day attack on Trenton, New Jersey. He served through the difficult winter at Valley Forge, where he used his frontiersman skills as a scout, and was present at other important actions. Unfortunately, according to Army records he also deserted while home on leave in the spring of 1779(not surprisingly, a young lady was involved). Benjamin later claimed in his pension application that he had paid a man to finish out his enlistment, and that may have been true. But in the opinion of the Army, he had not finished his term of service. All of the battles, all of the hardships up until that time did not matter--in official opinion, he had not fulfilled his obligation, and he was denied a pension.

Sadly, this can be the case with Christians who serve faithfully for a time but fall away. Paul regretfully informed Timothy, just after his own anticipation of victory mentioned above, that "Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica."(2 Timothy 4:10) This love of the world is poison to the Christian, so much so that we are warned by the apostle John,
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.(1 John 2:15-17)
"Doing all in the name of the Lord" will put us in opposition at many points to a world that has turned away from Him. Rather than seeking "world renown," which is a passing thing at best, let us be eager to be pleasing in the sight of God, who will reward us with lasting joys.

Stanza 4:
Till toils and labors here are done,
Do all in the name of the Lord;
Dear Christian friends, if you'd be one,
Do all in the name of the Lord.


In this final stanza Taylor reminds us that "doing all in the name of the Lord" is our only means of Scriptural unity as a body of believers. The language of Colossians 3:17, and in fact of the whole passage, is addressed to an implied plural "you" ("y'all" in the Southern U.S.), not the singular. It is possible to have unity, of course, by strictly following the dictates of men, as we see in some religious bodies with a centralized earthly authority. It is also possible to have a kind of unity by "watering down" our Christianity until there is nothing left about which to disagree. But the kind of unity Scripture describes must be the "unity of the Spirit,"(Ephesians 4:3) because "in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body."(1 Corinthians 12:13) The Spirit dwells within us both individually(1 Corinthians 6:19) and collectively.(1 Corinthians 3:16) If we would allow ourselves all to be led by that one Spirit, we will have the unity described in Ephesians: "One body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."(Ephesians 4:4-6)

Naysayers will immediately object that this will just reduce us to arguing and dividing over our interpretations of what the Scriptures teach "in the name of the Lord." But if Christians (in the broadest sense) would even return to the principle of Scripture authority, a vast amount of error would be eliminated right away. And if the concept of "doing all in the name of the Lord" became universally understood--along with its implied corollary, "do not do anything that cannot be done in the name of the Lord"--we would be well on our way to the unity Jesus so much desired in His church.

About the music:

Austin Taylor's music for this hymn is more functional than artistic in design; unlike many of his more ambitious quartet-style songs that I have seen, he seems to have aimed for a simple, workable vehicle for the words. I believe it was the right choice; he had a provocative thought to convey here, and a more complex musical setting might have been a distraction.

One interesting unifying feature in the melody is the arpeggiation of (that is, skipping around in the notes of) the tonic chord in the opening phrase. This signature melodic idea, which occurs again in the 3rd phrase, is almost mirrored in the next-to-last phrase of the refrain:

    (1st, 3rd phrases of stanza)                        (3rd phrase of refrain)

Whether that was intentional is debatable. It is the kind of thing a good melody writer does almost by instinct to give a melody internal unity.


Library of Congress Copyright Office. Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1916, Part 3, Musical Compositions. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1916.

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