Our New Name

From God comes…

From God comes our new name.

Changing one’s name is not a unique concept. Movie stars used to do it all the time. Doris Kappelhoff became Doris Day. Marion Morrison became John Wayne. Issur Danielovitch became Kirk Douglas. Leonard Slye became Roy Rogers. Eugene Orowitz became Michael Landon.

Most film stars don’t change their names anymore. We just learn how to pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Seyfried, Lupita Nyong’o, Joe Manganiello, Saoirse Ronan, Zach Galifianakis, Gal Gadote, Idris Elba, and Timothee Chalamet or go see a different show. Annette Funicello once asked Walt Disney if she should change her name. He advised her not to do it because once people learned how to enunciate Funicello, they would never forget her. And although Schwarzenegger rolls off the tip of our tongues now, doesn’t mean it came easy the first few times we tried to say it.

God was not beyond changing a few names in the Bible, usually to remind people of their new identity in Him. (Isaiah 43:1) Or perhaps to let them know He had something special in mind for them.

For example, Abram means “high father,” but God changed it to Abraham meaning “father of multitudes.” (Genesis 17:5) Sarai means “my princess,” but God changed it to Sarah meaning “mother of nations.” (Genesis 17:15) Jacob means “holder of the heel” or “supplanter,” but God changed it to Israel which means “having power with God.” (Genesis 32:28) Simon means “God has heard,” but God also called him Peter meaning “rock” to indicate that he would help lay the foundation for the church. (Matthew 16:18; John 1:42)

Saul became Paul. (Acts 13:9) We have no reason given. However, Paul means “little or small.” Saul was a haughty, proud man until his transformation. He then became a humble servant of God. (Philippians 3:7-11)

Name changes can have a profound effect on people. Years ago, I heard an NPR interview with Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries which works with L.A. gang members. He said that when kids get inducted into a gang, the first thing done is to give them new names like Scrappy, Bugsy, or Spike. These new names give a sense of belonging and become their new identities. They write them on walls to acknowledge their existence.   

Today, when we encounter Christ, God changes our names as well. We are called Christians. Our personal encounter with Christ is just as significant as when God changed the names of those in the Bible. We put off our old identity and get a new one in Christ. We are not the same person. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We belong to Christ.

People will know us by our God given new name because metaphorically we write it everywhere we go by the way we live our lives.


“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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