Face Up?

The Name and the Face

A prophecy that has really struck me as true concerning God’s plan for Perth has been that revival will be led by “nameless and faceless” people. But what would this look like?

In scripture, “name” stands for character and function. Joshua/Jesus literally means, “The Lord saves”. When for example the LORD says he will act for the sake of his name (Ezek 26:22) this means he will act for his reputation and honour. God has a pre-eminent interest in exalting his name (Ps 138:2; Eph 1:21; Phil 2:9).

“Face” conveys attitude; in particular, God’s attitude towards humanity. He turns his face “away” when angry with his people and “towards” them when favourable (Ps 13:1; Num 6:25-26). English translations unfortunately have offered translated “face” as “presence”. For example, Hebrews 9:24 says, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God on our behalf.” Similarly, “times of refreshing come from the face of the Lord” (Acts 3:20). When believers invoke the “presence of God” they are actually seeking the manifestation of the face of God. Beholding the face of God (Ps 11:7) is far more intimate than having some vague emotional awareness that God is nearby.

Naming and Facing

We all know that the first face we look for in an old class photo is our own. This “look at me” narcissistic tendency has found endless new possibilities in the world of social networking. Today’s cult of celebrity embraces not only entertainers, but sporting idols, gourmet chefs, “biggest losers” and so on. We are being told in the Church that we need to be “influencers” with profile and destiny. Consider the numerous famous faces that confront you from the book racks when you enter your Christian book store. I will never forget the larger than life portraits of the senior pastor and his wife which were unavoidably displayed in the entrance foyer of a famous Australian megachurch. All the above are symptoms of a culture of shame that can only be broken by the manifest presence of Christ mediated through “nameless and faceless” people.

This is not an encouragement to cultivate anonymity. The self-effacing person is as self-conscious and ego-centric as the flamboyant personality. Both are controlled by an awareness of their own identity, in biblical language, their name and face. To be truly “nameless and faceless” we must turn to Christ.

The Nameless and Faceless One

Consistently throughout the Gospels Jesus commands those whom has taught and healed to “tell no-one” (Mark 7:36; 8:30 etc.). In the first three Gospels, Jesus never applies the title “Son of God” directly to himself and in John uses “Christ” only in private prayer. This contrasts dramatically with the public and prolific use of such names for Jesus in the rest of the New Testament. The reason for this radical transformation in usage has to do with the cross.

The King James Version powerfully rendered Philippians 2:6-8 like this, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” The translators have accurately captured the sense that for Jesus the cross meant absolute anonymity. This comes out in his cry of emptiness, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?””(Mark 15:34 ESV). The cost for Jesus of embracing the namelessness and facelessness we all so deeply fear is to experience himself as totally unrecognisable by the Father. The Son of God became nondescript and unknown to the Father; a person without an identity. The crisis of Jesus’ heart is that he seems to be so identified with human sin (2 Cor 5:21) that his representation of the face of God to the world has been totally and terminally obscured.

Jesus did this so that we have never to concern ourselves with our reputation and appearance before man or God. We may now be relieved of the burden of asking ourselves how we are coming across to either human or divine eyes. The reason is that we have an entirely new identity, that found in the name and face of Jesus.

Nameless and Faceless Leaders

To speak of “nameless and faceless leaders” is no oxymoron. The Message Bible translates some words of the great apostle Paul in a way that is directly relevant, “That’s why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God. God alone knows how well we do this, but I hope you realize how much and deeply we care. We’re not saying this to make ourselves look good to you. We just thought it would make you feel good, proud even, that we’re on your side and not just nice to your face as so many people are.” (2 Cor 5:11-12)

Those who through the gospel message of the cross know they can stand before God face to face (Rev 22:4) have no inner motivation to cultivate either a name or a face. In place of the constant human concern about appearances is the longing of Jesus that through his name the saving face of his Father be revealed to lost humanity. “Nameless and faceless” leaders intensely seek spiritual growth, conversions, signs, wonders, miracles, deliverances and healings “in the name of Jesus”[1] because they want above all else to witness a revelation of “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). These leaders are instantly recognisable because they exalt only the name of Christ (Acts 4:12) and bear clear witness to his glory.


The sole fervour of the “nameless and faceless” leaders of the coming work of God will be to manifest the limitless favour that Jesus has with the Father. This will lead to the testimony that of all humanity only Jesus sees God face to face and that salvation is coming to see God, just as Jesus sees him (1 John 3:2)[2].

The life-motto of Count Zinzendorf, the father of the modern Protestant missions movement, was, “I have one passion; it is He, and He alone.” Do we share this passion?

[1] Examples are prolific in Acts e.g. 2:38; 3:6, 16; 4:10, 30; 8:12, 16; 9:27; 10:48; 16:18; 19:5; 21:13

[2] As a famous Christmas Carol says, “And at last our eyes shall see him through his own redeeming love”

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