From the Preacher’s Pen…
It is a very old discussion but still relevant and important that we understand about names. After all, one of the first things a person learns is to identify by name all people and objects that they come into contact with. So let’s consider the religious side of this.
What’s your name? Does it really matter? Oh, come on, you are just being difficult. Shouldn’t we answer to whatever name someone else wants to call us?
I dare say that the preceding arguments are pretty ridiculous. After all, your name matters as it identifies you. It is really not a matter for discussion. Our identity is not for someone else to choose.
When it comes to religious names there are many who insist on some special name to define them. Of course you cannot claim every name that comes along that you like. There must be a defining name that is your identity.
By their own admission, there are many people that insist that they are Christians, or somewhat Christian, or some hybrid variety of Christian, but they especially want to be identified some other way. So if your identity is some man or woman who founded your particular religion or denomination, then that identifies who you really are. If your identity is some particular teaching (doctrine) that you champion above all other Biblical teachings, then that identifies who you really are. Those are just simple facts.
Now, let’s go back to the Bible (always a good way to learn the right way to do things) and consider that name given to God’s people of the New Testament.
The earliest followers of Christ were simply known as that, followers, or students (disciples) of Jesus. Acts 9:2 suggests that the Jewish leaders persecuting these followers of Christ identified them as “the Way.” After all, they were teaching people “the way of God” (Acts 18:26).
Aside from such descriptions, the first real “name” appears in Acts 11 at the end of verse 26 where it says, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Some years later this name seems to be in widespread use as Agrippa understands that Paul’s teachings would make Agrippa a Christian (Acts 26:28). Likewise, Peter would tell us to “glorify God in this name” if we were to suffer for this name (1 Peter 4:16).
What I find interesting in this choice of names is the simple thought that the Christians didn’t name themselves. But rather, they were called (or named) “Christians” by those watching their lives. I wonder if it would be the same today. Could someone look at your life or look at my life and name us as a Christian?
It gets even more humbling when you consider that the name most likely came from their enemies. What an honor that even those who disagree with us most would claim that we are “just like Christ!”
So, who are you? What are you proud of being? Obviously some are like the denominations in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) or the denominations of today and take great pride in some person or teaching for their identity. But doing so divides or separates us from the real body of Christ.
You would think there was something wrong with a person that went around claiming to be Mr. Smith AND Mr. Jones. Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that a Christ-like-person would also want to be known by another religious name?
Our identity is a precious thing and we work hard to preserve it. If your identity is ever stolen you will learn just how true this is! So how precious is our spiritual identity?
Another writer summed it up this way, “If being Christian were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
What is your name? Who are you really? After all, it does matter both now and throughout eternity!
— Lester P. Bagley