The name-changer

by J. Randal Matheny, editor

People talk about some new development being a game-changer. In the omnipotent God, people of faith have a name-changer. God changes peoples’ names as a sign that their fortunes and destinies will also change.

“No longer will your name be Abram. Instead, your name will be Abraham because I will make you the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17.5 NET).

Some scholars believe that Abram’s given name, meaning “exalted father,” probably referred to Terah. The name looked to the past and to Abram’s noble lineage. His life and position were built on his family.

But now his life would be built on a promise. His new name would reflect that future, using a wordplay which means “father of a multitude.” The elderly and barren couple’s fortunes would change.

Every time someone called his name, Abraham would be reminded that God had promised to do great things for him, but it was all still in the future.

The name Christian comes from Christ. We know that we are his people because of the past occurrence at Golgotha. Every first day of the week we look back and remember the crucifixion. Our existence is built upon that history.

At the same time, the name Christian is also built upon a promise. Christ will come again and remove us from this earth to take us to the eternal kingdom.

“I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too,” Jesus promised (John 14:3b NET).

That promise still stands. It has yet to be fulfilled.

That’s why, every time we eat the Lord’s supper, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

While we wait on that promised fulfillment, we experience another one daily.

“Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age,” Jesus said in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:20 CEB).

To be a Christian is to assume the purpose of Christ. It is to seek and save the lost. When we engage in that mission, we see the promise of his empowering presence fulfilled.

Those who don’t evangelize are left alone.

Abraham’s new name suggested his new future. The name Christian also suggests that, while our salvation comes from the cross of a past age, that salvation still has its future aspect in the second coming of our Lord and still has its present activity in our daily efforts as his anointed people to pull the perishing from the fire that burns even now.

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