What's In a Name?
Your name is important. Perhaps your name reveals the aspirations your parents had for you; perhaps it speaks of their honour for some other person who bore the name before you. Whatever their intention may have been in naming you as they did, your name has come to reflect your character, for good or for evil. What you are called speaks of how people view you. But in the congregation of the Lord, your name speaks of who you shall be eternally because of God’s grace and mercy.
“Greet the friends by name.” There is a wealth of theology in that brief charge. I don’t want anyone to fall into a trap that leads to beating themselves up because they cannot remember names, but one’s name is important. To use the name of an individual is to acknowledge esteem for the individual. And to use the name of an individual is to honour that person.
“Greet the friends by name,” for each one who is a friend in Christ shall receive a new name in glory. They shall reveal the perfection of His salvation.
You Are Known by Name — I am struck, as you should be, by God’s knowledge of His own. I know that He knows all about me. The Psalmist has testified:
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.”
With perfect knowledge, should it surprise you that God knows your name?
However, God is concerned with the individual, and not merely with a crowd. We forget that sometimes; but it is always to our detriment to forget this fact. There exists among churches an emphasis upon getting a crowd—we speak of this as “building the church.” However, may I remind you that a crowd is not a church? A mob is not a church. While there is indeed a corporate aspect of a congregation, each church is composed of individuals whom God places as He wills in that Body. This is obvious from even a casual reading of the Apostle’s words.
“The body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honourable we bestow the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.”
Focus on the summation of Paul’s instruction concerning the composition of the Body. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” [1 Corinthians 12:14-27]. Each Christian is indeed responsible to recognise the Body of Christ—the congregation where the Lord is working and wherein He has placed them. However, no one dare lose sight of the individual in the growth of the Body, for the individual is important. If the individual is important to God, how much more important should they be to us?
When Israel had left Egyptian bondage and travelled into the desert, Moses took a census. Recall the instructions concerning that census as provided in the Book of Numbers. “The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, ‘Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company’” [Numbers 1:1-3]. Individuals were important to God, and they were to be listed by their names.
When the Lord appointed craftsmen to work on the Tabernacle, He called them by name, as we see in this account in Exodus. “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah” [Exodus 31:2]. This focus on one man—called by name—by the Living God is iterated soon after this, when Moses says: “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer” [Exodus 35:30-35].
Not only did the Lord call Bezalel by name, but He assigned him a specific job to do. Isn’t that precisely what we see God doing among His people in this day, just as we saw when we read the passage from the First Corinthian Letter? God knows you—calling you by name—and He has specifically assigned you with a task, equipping you to perform that unique task. God knows you and appoints you! That should be a source of encouragement to every child of the Living God and servant of the Risen Master.
When you pray, do you ever fall into the trap of thinking that your prayers do not matter to the Father? I want you to witness something God said to Moses when he made a request of God. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name’” [Exodus 33:17]. God answered, in no small measure, because He knew Moses by name. We have already seen that God knows you by name and that He has appointed you to a responsibility that you alone can fulfil. You are vital to the cause of Christ! You are vital to the health of the Body.
There is, in the prophecy of Isaiah, some wonderfully encouraging words that God spoke. I want to remind the people of God of those encouraging statements. Take special note of the fact that God deals with individuals, calling them by name.
“Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.”
Did you get that? God created the stars of heaven, and He calls each one by name. Can you number the stars? Scientists estimate that there are seventy sextillion stars in the visible universe—that is seven followed by twenty-two zeros. Another way of saying this is seventy thousand million million million stars. Of course, we can only estimate the number, because no one is really capable of counting those stars. God not only created all those stars—He calls each by name! Do you really imagine that He has a challenge remembering your name?
It is estimated that the average individual knows about two hundred fifty people. I have known a few individuals who were able to accurately recall the names of perhaps so many as five hundred people, relating details of their lives. These individuals were exceptional, to say the least. Think that God not only knows all to whom He has given life, but He knows all about them—every detail of their being. The Lord out God knows each star—He made each one; and He gives each one a unique name. Moreover, He remembers each name. Because this is true, you may be assured that He knows you, and that He knows your situation.
One of the verses that has sustained me often in the conflicts of life is that in which Isaiah quotes the words of the Living God to His people Israel.
“But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.’”
God continues by speaking of the implication of this personal concern when He says:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honoured, and I love you.”
I know that some who now listen are discouraged—they have faced disappointment and challenges that seem insurmountable. May I remind you as a child of the Living God that you have a Father who not only knows your name, but He is with you in every trial. The floods will not overwhelm, the fire will not burn, and the conflagration will not consume you. It is enough to make even a Baptist shout!
Then, shortly, Isaiah will again quote the words of the Living God.
“I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.”
[Isaiah 45:3, 4]
Of Israel, and undoubtedly of all who are called by His Name, God makes a precious affirmation when He says:
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”
[Isaiah 49:15, 16a]
Child of God, you are precious to the Father. He calls you by name, and He will never forget who you are. You may be discouraged. You may be disappointed by the vicissitudes of life. You may wonder what tomorrow holds. However, if you are a child of the Living God, you may be assured of this truth—He knows your name.
Perhaps you will recall the words Jesus spoke on one occasion when engaged in one of the frequent exchanges with the Pharisees. They had been insulted by His statement that implied that they were blind. They challenged Him, only to have their words turned against them, exposing their guilt [see John 9:39-41]. Then, the Master spoke these truly amazing words. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” [John 10:1-3]. Take special note of His avowal that His sheep are called by name. Your salvation is not an accident—not mere happenstance. Your salvation is the result of God’s love focused on you—love that called you by name.
Tommy Walker wrote a wonderful song that has often encouraged me to remember who I am, and Who I serve. Undoubtedly the words have encouraged many since it was written.
I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands
And sweet as that verse is, it is that second verse that lifts my heart. Listen to these words:
I have a Father
He calls me His own
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call
Now, here is the thing. If God knows your name, and if God knows my name, don’t we owe it to His people to know each one—to know each name and to know their fears and their triumphs? Don’t we have an obligation to discover who worships with us? It honours God, and it honours His beloved people, when we endeavour to remember their name and to call that name before God’s throne, asking Him to meet their need and to bless their labours.
“Greet the friends there by name” [3 John 15]. It should be obvious that John is saying that the members of the church are the friends. In this, he is following the teaching Jesus gave. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” [John 15:13-15]. Though it is true in the broadest sense that all Christians are friends, the members of this congregation are to be friends—each member is to know every other member, greeting them by name, and repeating their name before the throne of God. Thus, the Body is not an organisation, but a community of faithful friends. Amen.
Your Name Will be Changed — Here is an important fact that may sometimes be overlooked, or perhaps even ignored. Concluding the passage we have identified as “The Love Chapter,” the Apostle to the Gentiles testifies, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” [1 Corinthians 13:8-12]. “Then, I shall know fully.” What does that mean?
Today, we politely inquire about one another when we meet. We ask how we are doing or how things are going. If we are perceptive, we ask how a friend is feeling when we meet. Wives often ask their husbands what they are thinking, though the mind of most men is a blank slate. However, there is coming a day when you won’t need to ask how I’m feeling, or what I’m thinking—and I won’t need to inquire about your condition. We shall know perfectly, and that includes knowing one another. This is a positive thing, and not something from which we should shrink. We will have been perfected in Christ the Lord, and that perfection will include our knowledge both of the Master and of one another. This is one truth that flows from John’s words. “We are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” [1 John 3:2].
In preparing the message, I wondered how many people share my name. While I can’t answer the question for the entire world, one web site offered the information that 633 people in the United States share my name, Michael Stark. I certainly don’t know any of these people in the United States, but I am aware that there are people in Canada who share this name. I can’t say that I’m thrilled with each of the Michael Starks who make the news in Canada.
On one occasion I discovered that there were two other Michael Starks living in the Lower Mainland. One, a fireman in the Ladner area, was quite a ladies man. It created a bit of a problem on one occasion when my wife fielded a call from a woman with a sultry voice who insisted that I had spent the previous weekend skiing with her. Fortunately, Lynda was present when I had preached on Sunday and she knew I had spent the day Saturday in my study, which at that time was in our basement, until I had retired to bed in the late evening.
On yet another occasion, my eldest daughter took a call reminding her that she and I were to be at a hockey dance that evening, following a barbeque. The caller asked if we liked salmon, and Susan assured them that we did like salmon. It turned out that an electrician living in Maple Ridge was named Michael Stark. He was married to a woman named Susan, and we had inadvertently gotten a call for him.
Some years later, I was caring for some banking matters. I gave my name to the teller, and a woman at the next wicket turned abruptly to me and asked, “Are you Michael Stark?” When I confessed that this was indeed my name, she laughed and asked if I had received calls about dances and barbeques during the past couple of years. Upon admitting that our family had fielded several such calls, she laughed and said that she and her husband frequently received calls about pastoral matters. Then, both of us laughed at the calls we had each received from women who were dating the fireman. We had a good laugh over the confusion resulting from what turns out to be a more common name than we could have imagined. However, there will no longer be any possibility of such confusion when we are transformed into His image!
However, part of being made new is receipt of a new name—a divine name given each believer by the Risen Son of God. The Risen Lord of Glory promises, “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” [Revelation 2:17]. Perhaps none of us fully appreciate what this means, but it certainly means that we are unique in His eyes.
This promise is but anticipation of another promise that the Saviour makes to His people. “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” [Revelation 3:12].
Speaking to Zion, the Lord God says:
“The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her [Hebrew Hephzibah],
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you.”
God’s ancient people will be called by a new name. Surely, the same holds true for all who look to the Risen Son of God for life and liberty. We who believe in Him, who are now called by His Name, shall receive a new name—a name given by the Master Himself.
Cautioning the wicked who imagine that by living in the proximity of the righteous will suffice to endear them to God, those who foolishly think that observing rite and ritual will make them acceptable in the sight of the Lord, God warns:
“You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse,
and the Lord God will put you to death,
but his servants he will call by another name.”
Did you notice that the servants of the Lord our God will be called by another name? Moreover, it is the Living God Himself who will bestow on each one the name by which we shall be known throughout all eternity? Though we are not told what that name will be, I do not doubt that the name we shall receive will be delightful, causing us great joy each time we hear it. There will be no more Mike or Doug or Beth or Joan—no one will ever again share his or her name with another person. Each follower of Christ the Lord will receive a unique name—a name conferred upon each one by God Himself. I must believe that the name that He shall give will reflect the glory of His salvation every bit as much as each redeemed individual shall reveal the perfection of His glory in her own being.
Today, we look back to individuals who received a new name from God, and we honour God by calling our children by the name He conferred. Abram [“Exalted Father”] saw his name changed to Abraham [“Father of a Multitude,” see Genesis 17:5], and we still call our sons Abraham. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel after he had wrestled with God and prevailed [Genesis 32:27, 28]. And Simon’s name was changed to Peter [John 1:42]. I suppose the most significant change of name mentioned in the Word was when God changed Saul’s name to Paul [Acts 13:9]. However, each of us shall receive a name that reflects the glory of the Lord—a name which is unique, which we shall not share with any other.
He Who Calls You by His Own Name — Do you imagine that the Lord our God will forget your name? He knows who you are; He knows you. He cannot forget His own beloved child. When the Master stood before the tomb of His friend, Lazarus, we read in the Word that Jesus “cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out’” [John 11:43b], and Lazarus came out. Someone has perceptively observed that had the Master simply said, “Come out,” all the graves would have opened and all the redeemed would have come forth. However, Jesus called forth one man—His friend Lazarus. He who gives us life knows our name; and He shall call each of us forth at the appropriate time, and He will know each one whom He calls forth.
There is a cult that teaches that men may become gods by marrying multiple wives and producing numberless children. A barren wife presents a terrible burden on those of this cult. Such a woman is unfruitful and fails to carry her weight in making a man into a god. When the practise of polygamy was outlawed, this cult continued to weaken the marriage bond by creating a deceitful practise of “celestial marriages.” Ignorantly aligning themselves with the unbelieving Sadducees of ancient days, this group reveals their apparent ignorance of the Master’s words: “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” [Matthew 22:29, 30].
This cult believes that the last husband to “be sealed” to a woman gives her a secret name, and at the resurrection he will call her secret name and she must come forth to be his eternal wife. I say that the practise is destructive to the marriage relationship; it fosters doubt and encourages deception in the marriage bond as no man can ever be assured that his wife is faithful to him because he can never know whether she has secretly contracted a celestial marriage with another man, thus short-circuiting his own puny attempt to become a god. Perhaps she has received another secret name that supersedes the name that he conferred on her.
In contradistinction to this weird and twisted teaching that seeks to attain by deceit what God freely gives to all who believe in Christ Jesus the Master, God gives each of His children a name. No woman need wait for her husband to call her name, for God Himself has given her a name that reflects the beauty and glory of His own grace and majesty. No man need depend on another mortal to speak his name, for God will give him a name that is glorious and majestic.
To be precise, each individual who looks to Christ for salvation will bear His Name throughout eternity. Today, we are called Christians—little Christs. The name was conferred upon us by our enemies who sought to mock us because of our confidence in the Master; they imagined that calling us who believe by that glorious Name would somehow shame us. However, we have borne that Name with joy, knowing Him by whose Name we are now called. In eternity, we will still bear His Name. Then, that Name will not have been given in mockery, but as evidence of our relationship to the Son of God; and the Name will have been given by the Master Himself in demonstration of our relationship to Him. Listen to this statement from John the Revelator as he speaks of heaven and our presence there.
“The angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” [Revelation 22:1-5].
Citing the Prophet Hosea, Paul reminds us that God has promised:
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘My People,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘Beloved.’”
“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘Sons of the Living God.’”
[Romans 9:25, 26]
Identified as “Sons of the Living God,” saints shall serve Him. The thought of serving God is sometimes dismissed as drudgery by those who are ignorant of Him and of the joy that comes through serving Him. If there is no joy in your Christian service, there is a problem with your relationship to the Father. If there is no anticipation in your service, there is a problem with your profession. Those who are born from above live in anticipation of serving Him who called them to life, for He has given His Spirit to dwell in them.
One reason for this errant view of our relationship to the Lord God is that we misunderstand who we are. We see church as where we go rather than seeing church as who we are. We reduce the Congregation of the Righteous to an organisation that can be joined and manipulated to suit our desires rather than seeing the biblical picture that the Church of the Living God is a living entity to which we are added by the Spirit Himself. We imagine that worship is adherence to rite and ritual, forgetting that “those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth” [John 4:24]. Did you ever notice there is no book like Leviticus in the New Testament, to prescribe what ritual we must employ to worship? Worship is to be simple, as man meets the Risen Saviour in the Word.
The One whom we meet in worship is One who bears a glorious Name given by the Father. Therefore, we are instructed in the Word, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” [Philippians 2:5-11].
Our Lord has received a Name—a Name by which we who know Him, or rather are known by Him, shall also be called. This is the meaning of the promise that is recorded, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” [Philippians 3:20]. Jesus is coming again to receive His own people, and those who look for His return will bear His Name. What a glorious day that will be! What glory awaits the child of God at Jesus’ return!
Paul encourages believers with these words that have become precious to so many. “Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17].
This is the scene that awaits His return. “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” [Revelation 19:11-16].
You and I, if we are believers in this coming Lord, will witness His return as part of that great throng. We shall see that name written on His thigh, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Will you be there? Will you be part of that redeemed assembly? You will, if you are born from above and into His Kingdom. The Word of God promises everyone who is willing to receive it, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
I wish I could do this promise justice, but it is sufficient to repeat the promise of God, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” [Romans 10:9, 10, 13]. You can bear that glorious Name of the Master, being called a Christian; and you can know that you will receive a new name by which you shall be known throughout eternity. You need but believe this message of life. Do it today; do it now. Amen.
 The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version (Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, TN 2003)
 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers, 2001. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Robert Roy Britt, “Imperfect Estimate Claims Universe has 70 Sextillion Stars,” http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/star_count_030722.html, accessed 23 April 2010
 Buzzy Gordon, “Effective Networking for Busy People,” http://entrepreneurs.about.com/cs/networking/a/networking4busy.htm, accessed 23 April 2010
 “He Knows My Name,” Tommy Walker, Doulos Publishing ©1996
 The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006)
 http://howmanyofme.com/search/, accessed 23 April 2010