What’s in a Name?

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These famous words from the well-known tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, were written by William Shakespeare in the early part of his career as a playwright. These words have been on my mind recently. I don’t believe I’m having flashbacks to my matric year when we had this as one of our set works for English Literature. It’s more than likely linked to our weekly focus on a new name of God and how we see that name revealed to us in Scripture. I trust this has informed your prayer life and renewed your adoration for our great God.

Names play such an important role in society. Consider how unusual it would be to live in a world where no one or nothing had a name. Not only would it be very impersonal and confusing, but it would probably be quite boring: no brands, no icons, no logos, no celebrities. Thankfully, when it comes to names, God never intended for us to live in a nameless world. The first man, in Genesis 2:20 (some translations reveal this in vs. 19), after giving names to “all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field,” is introduced to us as “Adam.” From this time forward we read of names given to sons and daughters, tribes and nations, lands of inheritance, etc. Names connect us to heritage, culture, society, and family. Names give us identity and belonging.

But as believers, there is one name that should hold particular relevance to our lives every day because it is the name that we bear as Christians: Jesus Christ. If you do a quick word search for “name” in the New Testament, you will find it used often in reference to Christ. When Christ, the second Adam, came into the world, he was announced as “Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Luke would add to this in his gospel record that “he shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32). We see Christ’s own submission in his ministry to the will of the Father and how his teaching pointed to the Father: his pattern for prayer (Matthew 6:9), his commissioning by the Father (John 5:43), the proof of his ministry (John 10:25); his commitment to the Father (repeatedly in John 17); and many more.

Christ also drew attention to his own name in teaching his disciples. We are to receive children in his name (Mark 9:37) and to ask in his name (John 14:14). The promised Holy Spirit was to be sent in his name (John 14:26). We could many more references to the “name” of Christ. Down through the ages, it has been the name of Christ that has saved and continues to save in fulfilment of the promise at his birth: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

And, when God delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, Paul was moved to exhort and encourage us with these words: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power; so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12).

What’s in your name, believer? Jesus Christ. May his name be glorified in you.

Ed