What’s in a Name?

Names are important! My wife and I are expecting a little girl at the beginning of October, and we are currently engaged in negotiations about her name. For those who are parents, you can imagine how well that is going for dear old Dad! Picking a name is tricky. Some parents love to include family names to honor a particular relative while trying not to offend others. Some couples just search for a name that is unique. Of course, the first, middle, and last names must flow together, and the initials must be examined carefully!

In all this discussion about names, I have started thinking about the importance of names throughout history. Throughout the Bible, we see several name changes that had significant meaning.

  • In Genesis 17 Abram’s name is changed to Abraham, a name that means “Father of Multitudes” (Sarai is also changed to Sarah).
  • In Genesis 32 Jacob’s name is changed to Israel which means “May God Prevail.”
  • In John 1:42 Simon’s name is changed to Peter.
  • In his post-conversion life, Saul stops going by his Hebrew name and starts using the more common Paul. This is not so much a name change (Jesus did not change it as is commonly taught), but a way of reaching the Gentiles as a missionary.
  • We also remember that conquering could lead to name changes like the young men taken to Babylon.

In a much broader context, the Bible discusses the importance of a name as it attached to reputation:

Proverbs 22:1“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

Ecclesiastes 7:1“A good name is better than fine perfume.”

The Bible has a lot to say about names, but it is somewhat strange that we don’t see the title Christian used that much in the sacred text. Acts 11:26 says “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”In Acts 26:28 Agrippa uses the designation, and then Peter talks about Christians suffering in 1 Peter 4:16.

This isn’t a huge deal, but it does make me think that maybe our names and titles are not of tremendous significance. What DOES matter is the name of who we serve. Christian simply means follower of Jesus Christ, and the Bible is clear about the importance of HIS name. Notice some of the descriptions that are used for our Lord. 

  • The Word – John 1:1
  • Creator 1 Cor. 1:16-17
  • Messiah – John 1:41
  • Lamb of God – John 1:29
  • Atoning Sacrifice – 1 John 4:10
  • Shepherd – John 10:11
  • Great High Priest – Heb. 4:14
  • Advocate – 1 John 2:1
  • Mediator – 1 Tim. 2:5

These are just a few of the many descriptions of Jesus. He is designated very poignantly in Isaiah 9:6 as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The power of the name Christian is in the name of Christ!

In Philippians 2:9-11, Paul describes the glory of Jesus’ name in one of the most powerful passages in all of scripture. Names are important. We should strive to have a good reputation that represents our family well. However, that is not what gives our lives meaning. We are CHRISTIANS, and we are given everything because of the power of the name of Jesus!

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jeremy Green is the Pulpit Minister for the Ellijay Church of Christ in Ellijay, Georgia and is currently working towards an M.A. in Ministry. In his spare time, Jeremy loves watching and playing sports (War Eagle!), reading, watching Jeopardy, and spending time with his beautiful wife, Karla, and their two spoiled rotten dogs.