Paul’s instruction to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus is designed for spiritual safety. The danger that Christians usually face is doing or saying something in the name of another authority, and there are several such authorities around. Sometimes when we listen to alternative authorities, the outcome will be similar to what Jesus requires. Yet if we are doing it because these authorities say so, we will not be doing it in the name of Jesus.
What are some of these alternative authorities? There is the authority of tradition, which has a strong grip on some people. There is the authority of novelty, which also has a strong grasp on some persons. There is the authority of human reason, which can be very powerful. There is the authority of claimed experiences, which can be very impressive.
The common feature of submitting to such authorities is usually the desire not to think for oneself about what Jesus says in his Word. Doing so results in missing out on the experience of spiritual liberty.
Imagine the existence of a castle in a neighbourhood. People around it have their opinions about the owner and whether or not he allows people to walk round the castle grounds. The only way to discover his requirements is for a person to go and read what the owner has put on the notice board beside the entrance to his grounds. One person goes and finds out that all are welcome to walk round the castle grounds on Tuesdays between 2pm and 4pm.
Sitting beside the notice board, however, is an individual who advises the visitor not to believe a word the owner says, that he does not mean it, and he will not let anyone in. Nevertheless the visitor decides that on the following Tuesday he will walk in the grounds and he discovers that the owner had truly revealed his will.
However, the visitor’s neighbours, because they have not read the notice board, imagine he is very forward or very foolish, that he is going to be in trouble for trespassing. They cannot understand the calmness and pleasure he has. But he only has it because he is doing what the owner said could be done.
Spiritual liberty is only given to those who live according to the instructions of the King and ignore the assertions of the devil not to believe them. The calmest Christians are those who are sure they are walking in the paths that the Bible enjoins for them. They are marked by gratitude to the King for giving to them such instructions and they delight to obey them. In contrast, those who base their practices on other authorities are marked by uncertainty and often swing from one authority to another. That is not the spiritual freedom that Paul expects the members of the new humanity to enjoy.