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It is all in a name



From the beginning of time we humans have addressed each other by name. Adam, the first man God created in his likeness was given a responsibility for names. He was asked to determine a title for each of God’s new creatures. (Genesis 2:19) What an honor and a privilege that was! Adam gave many names but he did not originate the name of the most Holy. Names are not to be taken lightly as they identify not only the person or object but also oftentimes they identify traits and characteristics of the named person or thing.

Throughout the Bible we see significance in names and the importance bestowed on them by God. Abram left his home for the unknown and served God faithfully. The Lord accepted his faith and bestowed on him the name, Abraham, for he was to be the father of many nations. (Genesis 17:5)

Jacob, too, received a name change. After wrestling all night with the angel of the Lord he is renamed Israel after he “has wrestled with the divine and with men, and prevailed”. Jacob showed his persistence with a great challenge, much like the people that would later bear his name, Israel. (Genesis 32:29)

When serving the Lord, regardless of position in life, each parent sees there is much to learn from a name. King Saul names one of his early sons, Jonathan. In Hebrew this name translated as “gift of God”. Indeed Jonathan was a gift of service and courage to his father, Saul, throughout his life and even when tragically dying with his father in the battles at Mt. Gilboa. (1 Samuel 31:6)

The regression of Saul was a terrible tragedy. He began aright but sadly lost perspective. Consider the names Saul gave to some of his other children, like Ishbaal. A closer look at this name shows the influence of a false god in Saul’s life. Ishbaal is identified to mean “man of Baal”. We recognize the unredeeming name, Baal, from the Bible. The constant idolatry practiced by the people of Canaan possibly led to the removal of the original name from the “Word”. The altered name appears Ishbosheth, a name belonging to the younger brother of Jonathan born in a time frame when Saul fell away from the righteous service of the Lord.

During the reign of Ahab, evil befell the divided kingdom of Israel. The Lord continued to guide his chosen people despite their spiritual failures. The people, though flawed, were given the prophet Elijah to recall to their mind the true God. “Elijah”, meaning “Yahweh is God”, proclaimed the eternal One to Israel as they witnessed his triumphs over the unholy prophets and leaders. The meaning of a name can state your purpose in addition to your identity.

These thoughts abound in the New Testament as well. In fact, Christ pays special attention to the names with which disciples would call themselves. (Matthew 12:50) There is a relationship in the human family we often assume to be bonding. Our Lord lends understanding to a much more sacred appreciation shared by Christ with the true believer. Jesus reminds us that “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister”, superseding the limitations of initial human understanding.

Correct allegiance, too, is necessary. To whom do we align our morals and spiritual authority? (Matthew 16:13-16) It is necessary that we recognize there is one God in three parts: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We recognize this belief could only be manifested and understood in its entirety AFTER the death of our Lord and savior on the cross. “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch." (Acts 11:23-26) Even the earliest groups of worshipping disciples could not be correctly, righteously identified until the Lord’s sacrifice.

There are those who argue they prefer another name, “Christ-follower”. We often find this label in response to those who have become disheartened with the world and life of the so-called “Christians” around them and the example they set. Perhaps they choose to accept a more abstract idea, without the true service born of love, as commanded. To what end? Are we not separating ourselves while focusing on an incomplete misconception to create division rather than uniting in a complete body, against which the Bible has warned? What name are we truly to seek?

God is our father, our creator. His authority has been and always will be. He is the great I AM. Our Lord’s providential plan included him sending His Son, the Word, and our Savior to live a mortal life on this earth, His creation. In His love He allows us to more completely understand His will for us through the complete revelation of the Holy Spirit along with its power to embolden us. We are His children. Is there any description greater? Is there any name more holy than that which He has directed us to bear, the name Christian. Being His disciples, followers, and children, we are expected to follow the selfless fulfilling example of sacrifice as offered by our Messiah. As Peter says (1 Peter 4:16), “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name.”

It is but a name, but what an honorable name, holy name, all praising name. Can we offer a greater praise to our Lord and Savior than to wear Him in our identity? Are you able to do that without hesitation? Is it a true and accurate description of the being you possess – mind, body and soul? If not, the greatest search lies within, salvation lies without. If we call upon our Lord, we should be certain to seek Him with purity of heart. (Luke 6:46)

May God bless us all as we serve Him as Christians.


-Ryan Griffith