Asked who God is, Israel’s answer is, ”Whoever rescued us from Egypt.” Asked about her access to this God, Israels’ answer is, ”We are permitted to call on him by name”—just so, the name eventually felt too holy for regular utterance aloud and was replaced by stated euphemisms, in reading Scripture by Adonai, ”the Lord.” […]
To the question ”Who is God?” the New Testament has one new descriptively identifying answer: ”Whoever raised Jesus from the dead.” Identification by the Resurrection neither replaces nor is simply added to identification by the Exodus; the new identifying description verifies its paradigmatic predecessor. For at the outcome of the Old Testament it is seen that Israel’s hope in her God cannot be sustained if it is not verified by victory also over death; this will be a chief matter of the next chapters. Thus ”the one who rescued Israel from Egypt” is confirmed as an identification of God in that it continues ”as he thereupon rescued the Israelite Jesus from the dead.”
A new kind of naming also appears, enabled by the new description. In their missionary situation, the gospel’s messengers must again name the God to whom they introduce their hearers. They do not return to uttering "JHWH." Instead they name the one whom God has raised and identify God by constructions that incorporate this naming. In the New Testament, believers’ miracles, works, and churchly acts are done ”in Jesus’ name.” Their prayers is ”in Jesus’ name,” in consequence of which the name can even be taken as itself the proximate object of faith. Believers are those ”who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” as Israel called on the name of the LORD. Most comprehensively, apostolic witness refers to God as ”the Father of our Lord Jesus the Christ”; this way of identifying God is specifically enabled by Jesus’ adress in prayer and by his permission to share it.
One such construction appears in a special role. In the canonical account of the risen Christ’s appearance to commission the gospel’s mission, he institutes the church’s rite of initiation: this is to be a ritual washing ”in the name ’Father, Son, And Holy Spirit.’”
The earliest liturgical and epistolarly history of the triune name is obscure, but its logic is plain. In it ”Son” is a title for Jesus, who ”made himself the Son of God” simply by addressing God as ”my Father.” Conversely, God is here called ”Father” not generally, but specifically as the Father of this, next to be mentioned, Son; thus ”Father” does not here appear as a predicate of God, whether straightforward or metaphoric, bur as a term of address within a narrative construction that displays a relation internal to the logic of the construction. And the Spirit is the enabling future of the community so established, among themselves and with us. By these inner relations the phrase uniquely identifies the particular God of the gospel, recounting at once the personae and the basic plot of the scriptural story. When the phrase appears as a personal proper name in the mandate of baptism and elsewhere, the use is enabled and prompted by the phrase’s special ability to identify the one to be named in the fashion of many originally descriptive personal names.
Thus the phrase ”Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is simultaneously a very compressed telling of the total narrative by which Scripture identifies God and a personal name for the God so specified; in it, name and narrative description not only appear together, as at the beginning of the Ten Commandments, but are identical. By virtue of this logic, the triune phrase offers itself as the unique name for the Christian God, and is then dogmatically mandated for that function by its constitutive place in the rite that establishes Christian identity. The church is the community and a Christian is someone who, when the identity of God is important, names him ”Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Those who do not or will not belong to some other community.
- Jenson, Robert W., 1997: Systematic Theology; Volume I, The Triune God. New York: Oxford University Press. S 44-46.