What's In A Name?
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." These words from Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet not only ask an important question, but also imply an interesting answer. The answer which Shakespeare assumed is probably the same answer you would find prevalent today. Most people would say that there is really not much in a name. After all, a rose would smell as sweet no matter what you called it. So, what’s in a name?
Our name marks and identifies us. Over time, as people get to know us, our name represents who we are. Think of someone whom you love very deeply—your child, grandchild, friend, or spouse. When someone says the name “Kerra,” I get lots of good thoughts in my head—especially if you spell it correctly, with an “e” and two “r”s—because I can’t separate my wife from her name. A whole flood of emotions, experiences, sights, and sounds come to me with it.
Through the course of interaction with His people, God occasionally changed someone’s name. He did this to establish a new identity for the people whose names He changed. Our name marks and identifies us. Over time, as people get to know us, our name represents who we are. Think of someone whom you love very deeply—your child, grandchild, friend, or spouse. When someone says the name “Kerra,” I get lots of good thoughts in my head—especially if you spell it correctly, with an “e” and two “r”s—because I can’t separate my wife from her name. A whole flood of emotions, experiences, sights, and sounds come to me with it.
As we open the pages of the Bible, we find that names are very significant. Names mean something. Several times in the Bible we see God changing someone’s name. He did that to establish a new identity for the person whose name He changed. God changed Abram’s name, meaning "high father," to “Abraham,” meaning "father of a multitude" (Genesis 17:5). At the same time, God changed Abraham's wife's name from “Sarai,” meaning “my princess,” to “Sarah,” meaning “princess of all. Sarah would become a “mother of nations.” Kings of peoples would come from her (Genesis 17:15-16).
God changed Jacob’s name, which meant "supplanter," to “Israel,” meaning “having power with God.” In the New Testament, when Jesus first called him as a disciple, Jesus changed Simon’s name, which means "God has heard," to “Peter,” which means "rock." Jesus occasionally called Peter “Simon” at other times, probably because Simon sometimes acted like his old self instead of the rock God called him to be. The same is true for Jacob. God continued to call him “Jacob” to remind him of his past and to remind him to depend on God’s strength.
The practice of name changing wasn’t limited to the Jews. Royalty from Assyria to Judah to Ancient Egypt to China often took different names when they took the throne. It is tradition for a new pope to take the name of a former pope whom he wants to emulate. This practice has taken place ever since 533 A.D. when Mercurius was named pope. He thought it was bad form for a Catholic pope to have the name of a Roman god, so he took the name John II. More recently, in 1917, King George V of England changed the name of the British royal family from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, which were German names, to the name Windsor, which was a proper English name. It’s not hard to see why King George V wanted to change the royal family’s name. The German aircraft that bombed London were Gotha bombers.
God chose new names for some people to let them know they were destined for a new mission in life; that they now had a new direction, a new meaning, and a new nature. The new name was a way to reveal the divine plan and also to assure them that God’s plan would be fulfilled in them. In the same way, we believe the name Christ First Church, indicates that we have a new identity and a new mission—to put Christ First in all things.
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