I've often heard that the phrase "in the name of" is equivalent to "by the authority of".
I would certainly agree that this is one of the meanings, but there are at least two others as well.
The second meaning is "in honor of". For example, if my grandmother dies of cancer, and I make a donation in
her name to a group trying to cure cancer, that doesn't mean I've made a
donation by her authority; it means I've made it in her honor. We see
this type of usage in Romans 14, where Paul says if a person does X, he
does X in honor of the Lord, and if he does Not-X, he does Not-X in honor of the
The third meaning is "as a representative of". If my wife sends me in her name to the PTA meeting to vote on several
unspecified issues, that doesn't mean I have to call her on every issue
and ask her how she wants me to vote; it means she wants me to vote as I
know she would, because I know her. I believe this is the usage
intended in Col 3:17 - a form of "WWJD" (What Would Jesus Do?). Act as if you're a representative of Jesus, as his ambassador; this is living in the name of Jesus.
Granted, in all of these meanings is the inherent understanding that what you're doing is in alignment with the desire of the person in whose name you're acting. So in a sense, they are all done "by the authority" of that person. But it doesn't mean you have to have specific authority for all your actions; God has given us free will and a mind and his spirit to know how to make good decisions that make him look good.
HCSB Col 3:17 [So] whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
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