In His Name

Have you ever been in love?  Do you remember your very first?  That time when you realised why the opposite sex was ‘opposite’ and when this strangely attractive anomaly became embodied in someone who made all the otheranomalies disappear?

How well did you know that person who made your heart throb and stopped your brain in its tracks? Do you even remember his or her name?  For most of us it was a distant infatuation. I can only picture a little girl, maybe six years old, who made my heart flutter. I recall little blond curls, but it is entirely possible that they were added to enhance the memory at a much later date.  And I have no idea what her name might have been.  I would have been about six or seven myself.

Over the years, I fell many times for this same magic potion.  Part of God’s magnificent creation included this magic.  Not one of my loves would have appreciated it, if I had called them by a wrong name.  For many, such indiscretion would have aroused unbearable suspicions and may well have spelt the end of the relationship.  I have had girlfriends who accidentally called me by the name of some ex-boyfriend. To me, it showed who was on their mind, and I know how much damage it did.

It is my contention that God feels much the same.


Recent research showed that the name we give our children can have a dramatic impact on the development of their personality.  David and Madeline are sure to become strong, self-confident adults.  About Herbert and Tiger-lily we are not so sure. Nowadays, when a child is on its way, we pour through the book of baby names and surf the net to see what is the latest ‘in’ name, wanting the best for our offspring. None of us would contemplate naming our boy ‘Sue’, just so he would have to fight for survival and become tough. None of us want our child to be picked on or bullied in the playground. Yet it is amazing how many unwise choices still are made.

But it wasn’t always this way. In earlier times our names reflected something significant about us.  Surnames particularly reflected occupations or connection to royalty. Butcher and Baker are sure to have been occupations somewhere in the dim dark past. First names were often passed on from the father to the first born son. The first Johnson was very likely the son of some John.  Even I carry, as my two middle names, the names of both my grandfathers.

But the further we regress into history, the more significant the naming process becomes. In Biblical times, names often reflected a perceived calling.  The name of Jesus, the Greek translation of Joshua, means “Salvation of Yahweh”.  Changing Simon’s name to Peter and Saul’s name to Paul signified a large shift in life direction and purpose. And going back another three or four thousand years, names described the essence of the person, their personality or character, their mission in life or their God appointed role.

And for Himself, God has used the principle of naming, to reveal Himself to the world. He has a number of names.  Some claim enthusiastically it is in the hundreds.  At last count, I think the tally came to somewhere close to three hundred. Each ‘name’ makes a statement about Him, describing some quality or characteristic which applies to Him. There is no way I could cover all these ‘names’ in one essay, however I will make a start on what are probably the most important ones.  The main purpose of this essay is not to provide a complete analysis of His names, but rather to examine the purpose of the names and the implication of limitation. 

A friend asked me not so long ago whether it mattered what name we give to God.  This friend has a wonderful giving nature and a searching heart. But he has not yet encountered Jesus and believes being ‘good’ is a sure way into eternal life. I believe it is very important to limit His names to the ones He has revealed. Using a different name could well be equivalent to whispering “I love you, Mary” in Judith’s ear.


There is a tendency among some enthusiastic Christians to think that the more names for God, the better. I tend towards the other extreme: the fewer names, the more specifically we worship the one and only true God.  On the other hand, it was God Himself who decided to reveal Himself through multiple names, and so who am I to question Him?

‘El’ is the generic Hebrew for ‘god’.  It is used many times in combination with a descriptor of pagan gods.  It can therefore not be considered to be one of His names, anymore than the word ‘man’ can be considered to be my name.  El Berith is a pagan god.  El Bethel is the name of a place. El Elohe Israel is the name of an altar. El Olam does refer to our God as the God of Eternity.  And El Roi is the God who sees.

In Genesis 1, the word for God is ‘Elohim’, the plural of ‘Eloah’. But this term is used a number of times in relation to other gods, eg. Chemosh, the god of the Amorites (Judges 11:24) and Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron (2 Kings 1:2).  Whilst it is used over 2300 times in the Old Testament to refer to Yahweh, I believe it is, like El, also a generic term meaning ‘god’.  (The Greek word ‘Theos’ is used in a similar generic way to indicate any supernatural higher being.)  What is interesting is that Elohim is a plural, an indirect reference to our God being a Trinity.  Other scriptures, like Colossians 1:16, indicate Jesus was present at creation, the reason for creation, and at least part of the creative energy.

El Shaddai
Is a recognised name of Yahweh meaning “God the mountain”. Older definitions attached the meaning “God the Provider”, believing the word shaddai to be derived from the word ‘shad’ meaning ‘breast’. It is often used without the ‘El’ prefix, further indication that it is an acceptable title for addressing God.

This is undoubtedly the main name by which the God of Israel, the God of the Old Testament, wanted to be known. It is used edging up towards 7000 times. It is personal and revelatory. It sounds much like the term ‘hayah’ (“I am that I am”.Genesis 3:14) used by God to reveal Himself to Moses at the burning bush.  When Jesus declared in John 8:58 “before Abraham was born, I am,” all of His audience knew exactly what He meant: He was saying “I am God”.

Yahweh is frequently used in combination with other words, such as Nissi (banquet), Rapha (healer), Shalom (peace), Shammah (there), and Tsidkenu (righteousness) and Jireh (provider).  In my opinion, these do not really qualify as names of God.  They are qualifiers and descriptors and the combined forms sometimes are names of places, or places which will one day be.  Yahweh Tsabbaoth means “Lord of Hosts” or “God Almighty”. The word ‘hosts’ can refer to human armies, but the meaning conveyed by the combined form refers to God’s sovereignty in the universe. 

Adonay or Adonai
The word ‘adon’ means ‘lord’ and conveys sovereignty, however, it can be used in relation to any relationship where one party is superior to the other (eg. slave to master, subject to king, etc)  The special derivation Adonay appears to have been meant for exclusive use for our God and Lord, intended to convey His ultimate sovereignty in the entire creation. However, I have not been able to locate this name used in the Bible sp I have to conclude it is man-made.

The original Hebrew was written using only the consonants and the pronunciation of words was passed down orally. Confusion between the names Yahweh and Adonay resulted in the gradual development of the incorrect term ‘Jehovah’. It is used four times in the Old Testament in Exodus 6:3, Psalms 83:18, Isaiah 12:2 and 26:4.  It is probably better translated in those scriptures as “I am that I am”. 

This is the Greek counterpart of both Adonay and Yahweh and appears used exclusively in relation to our Lord.

This word means “the Most High”. Certainly in the Bible, it appears to be used exclusively in connection with our God.

This is the Greek counterpart of Elyon and appears used exclusively in relation to our Lord.

Loads of other titles are used to describe the many qualities of our God, like Deliverer, Father, the First and the Last , the Holy One, Prince of Peace, Ancient of Days, etc, etc. To me, they are wonderful attributes of my God, but they don’t really qualify as names.  (Eg. if you have read some of my essays and think that I may have some interesting insights, that doesn’t make ‘insight’ one of my names.)

And so far, we have only considered the God of the Old Testament.  Whether the name ‘Yahweh’ applies to the Father only, or to the Trinity as an integrated unit, is still up for debate. I believe it applies to all three. We need to look at the other two members of the Trinity, as additional names are used to describe them individually.

Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit, as an isolated entity from the Trinity (not that they can be separated), has names such as Comforter, Counsellor, Teacher, Spirit of Truth. Again it is my belief that these are descriptive terms for attributes of the Holy Spirit, not names.

Jesus also had numerous titles allocated to His person.  ‘Jesus’ actually means “Salvation of Yahweh”. He was God as much as the Father and the Spirit. Hence His names add to our understanding of the total triune being we call God.

These are among the numerous titles which are used in the Bible to refer to Him. Which of these are names and which are merely descriptive terms? Alpha and the Omega, The second Adam, the Bread of life, Bridegroom, Capstone, Christ, Deliverer, Faithful and True, Gate, God, Good shepherd, High Priest, Holy One, Horn of salvation, Jesus of Nazareth, , Judge, King, King of the Jews, Lamb of God, Life, Light  of the Gentiles, Lord of lords, Man of sorrows, Master, Messiah, Morning star, One and only, Prince of Peace, Rabbi, Ransom, Redeemer, Righteous servant, Root of David, Root of Jesse, Rose of Sharon, Ruler, Saviour, Seed of Abraham, Son of God, Star, Stone, Teacher, True vine, Truth, Vine, Way, Wisdom, Witness, Wonderful, Word, Word of God.  This is only a selection and there are many more.


From one perspective, it might seem pedantic to argue over whether these are proper names or not. They certainly all are valid and accurate encapsulations of some special aspect of His nature. But central to this question is the first and second commandment:


“I am the LORD thy God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;”  
(Exodus 20:1-40)


In today’s world it may be difficult to identify with cultures that worshipped graven images.  Elsewhere I have spoken about these other ‘gods’. They have no power.  In fact, they don’t really exist.  At the very most, it is possible that graven images may have represented a portal into the spiritual realm, and hence been indwelt by an evil spirit or demon of some sort.  Whatever power they possessed was granted them by the belief of the worshipper.  However this could never exceed the inherent power of their fallen demonic nature, no matter what the worshipper believed.  But God doesn’t change. Regardless, the worship of false idols was, and remains, the thing that grieves God the most, enough to deal with the matter by devoting two whole commandments to it. 

Cultures involved in idol worship incurred God’s wrath as far as four generations into the future. And when Israel returned to the Holy Land from Egypt, they were instructed to wipe out entire cultures to prevent them from contaminating His Chosen People with these practices.


There is great power in the name of Jesus. Following His victory on the cross, Satan and his cohorts have been defeated and the mere mention of His name will make them scurry for cover, (provided we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. (Acts 19:13-16))


“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;” (Mark 16:17) 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes in Me, the works that I do he shall do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask any thing in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)


The Christian Church should be evidenced by miracles. I believe that the reason there is so little in substantiated evidence is that we ask selfishly and for things outside of His will. “Lord won’t You give me a Mercedes Benz?”  And when the signs aren’t there, sometimes we feel obliged to make them up. How many testimonies have I heard over the years, of ‘healings’ of undiagnosed diseases?  How many people blindly praise God for things He hasn’t done? To this faithless generation shall no sign be given!

We have jumped on the words of Jesus and deliberately misinterpreted them. We have taken them in isolation, overlooking His other instructions to not seek earthly wealth and to avoid being deceived by money. In many congregations His words are now so abused, they have been turned into the spiritual equivalent of a ‘genie in the bottle’, a means of financing our selfish ambitions and avoiding hardship, in His name.

Yes, there is great power in His name. But only to bring about His will and accomplish His eternal purpose.  His words were never intended for use as a Visa card in the hands of a child.  Such a Visa card could easily become a god before Him.


God looks on the heart, so He knows who or what we worship.  And even today, the thing that angers Him the most is when we have other gods before Him.  In this environment, we in the western culture have a strong tendency, (in the words of T. D. Jakes), to focus on the ‘blessings rather than the Blesser”.  And so there is an inherent danger in focusing on these wonderful descriptions, that they may take our eyes off the One they describe.  If we think about the Redeemer, the most important thing may become our redemption.  The healing may surpass the Healer in importance.  And the provision may surpass the Provider in importance. 

Before doing the research for this essay, I imagined writing an exposé of His names for an enrichment of our walk with Him. But when my friend asked me whether it mattered what name we call Him, it became very clear that it did matter. It matters to Him! God wants to be foremost in our heart. The Holy Spirit was sent to make it so for those who are going to spend eternity with Him. 

This essay may never have been written, if it wasn’t for the fact that today’s churches are facing a spiritual pandemic.  Everywhere, Christians are being tempted, tempted to love the blessing more than the Blesser. And the temptation is being delivered by our own leaders! Everywhere Christians have a distorted message shoved right under their noses: God wants you to prosper financially.  How can you bless others if you have no money? Give us your money and God will bless you out of your socks. Your own success is the main goal of your Christian journey.

If you don’t believe me, have a close, critical and honest look at your own lifestyle and try listening to next Sunday’s sermon with new unbiased ears.  Don’t take my word for it. Search the scriptures for yourself and then take it to the Lord in private. And ask Him to show you Truth.


It is my stand that only words which refer exclusively to our God can qualify as His name.  Yahweh, Holy Spirit, Jesus and Christ are all acceptable names for our God. There are others. 

At the very centre of this issue lies the fact that God demands that we have no other gods before Him. To obey that commandment, we must first of all know Who He is, and secondly call Him by His right name.

Calling Him Lord and Father is fine, provided we are very clear in our heart and mind to Whom we are speaking and how we feel about Him.  Calling Him ‘Lord’ means you submit to His will in everything.  Calling Him ‘Father’ means you acknowledge your rebirth.  In addition, there certainly can be great benefits in appreciating the wonderful qualities of our God described by the hundreds of adjectives used in the Bible to enhance our appreciation of Him, but we must be careful how we apply them. Whenever you use them as descriptors, make sure that foremost in your mind is the One you worship.

Which of these names is the most important?  Without any doubt it is Jesus Christ.


“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)