History tells us that last names derived from people’s professions. For example, John the town cook would eventually become John Cook. Bill the town blacksmith would eventually be shorted to Bill Smith. The last name identified who the person was and also revealed their purpose.
Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, and Saul to Paul. There are just a few of the name changes the Bible mentions throughout its 66 books. Have you ever asked yourself why God changed certain people’s names in the Bible? Here’s a tip, it wasn’t just because He got tired of their old name. Every time God changed a person’s name it is because He was changing their identity and purpose.
Let’s look at a couple of scriptural examples. God changed Jacob’s name from Jacob which meant deceiver to Israel which means God prevails. Prior to the name change Jacob had deceived his brother Esau out of his blessing and birthright. He had a hunger for God’s blessing, but engaged in ungodly means to obtain it. After God changed his name, He changed Israel’s destiny and the manifested favor of God was upon his life. God gave him favor and protected him from his brother Esau and then anointed his sons to be the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. The nation of Israel still stands today in the face of overwhelming odds as it is surrounded by nations that hate it in the middle east. This is a sign of the prevailing power of God!
God changed Abram’s name from “Fatherly” to Abraham which means, “The Father of Many Nations.” Abram was 99 when God changed his name. Before the name change, Abram and his wife Sarai didn’t have any children together. Abraham only had one child named Ismael, who he fathered through his handmaid, Haggar (not the will of God). God also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. Sarai means “princess” while Sarah means “my princess” with a queenlier or more exalted meaning to denote her upcoming stature among God’s chosen people.
These name changes were necessary to help Abraham and Sarah walk in their destiny. What do I mean? Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing. When we hear what God is saying about us, we get faith to steps into His plans and purposes for our life. Abraham literally had to begin introducing himself to other people as “The Father of Many Nations” before Isaac was born. Could you imagine doing that? Would you fill foolish being 99 years old saying something that outlandish about yourself?
Every time Abraham made that confession it had to take courage, but this courageous act built faith on the inside of him and caused him to see himself differently. At some point, the reality that he was the father of many nations got so big on the inside of him that his reality on the outside had to change and Sarah became pregnant. The continual hearing of his own name “Father of Many Nations” put faith on the inside of Abraham and caused him to step into his destiny.
Any time God gives us a name, he is defining our identity and purpose. The name He has given you and me is Christian, which means little Christ. God sees you and me as “In Christ.” Our reality is “In Christ.” Once we get born again, that is how God sees us. He no longer sees us apart from Him, but He literally sees Himself on the inside of us. He wants us to learn to live from that reality and do life that way. This is why Philippians 4:13 says:
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I want to encourage you to meditate on the name God has given you. You are in “In Christ” and Jesus wants you to derive your identity and purpose from that reality. When God sees you, He sees Jesus in you and he wants you to live from that identity. If you would like to learn more about who you are “In Christ” check out this article and video teaching. If you would like to learn more about the power of a name, check out this mp3 I taught at Grace Life Church.