What's In A Name?

September 15, 2019
Pastor Clint Ziemer

Audio of the sermon preached on September 15, 2019, at Cable Community Church, Sherrard, IL

Episode Notes

What's In A Name?

Acts 11:25-26


"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." These words from Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet not only ask an important question, but also imply an interesting answer. The answer which Shakespeare assumed is probably the same answer you would find prevalent today. Most people, like Shakespeare, would say that there is really not much in a name. After all, a rose would smell as sweet no matter what you called it.

Yet names do stand for something, don't they?

Maybe you’ve heard this classic newspaper classified ad:

--LOST DOG - $50 REWARD. Black and tan dog of poodle and German

Shepherd descent.  Flea-bitten.  Left hind leg missing, bald in patches, blind in

one eye, left ear bitten off in dog fight.  Answers to the name of “Lucky”.

Some of the worst names I have ever heard of belong to preachers

a. Maybe you remember the Baptist preacher/humorist who died in a plane crash several years ago who was named Grady Nutt.

--He used to say, “I grew up in a Nutt house and now I run one.”

b. The minister of the Christian Church in Lebanon, IN is named Harry Pitts

c. But worst name of all time belongs to a now-deceased Christian church


1). Last name was O-D-O-R (Odor) like, “Whew!”

2). You’d probably have enough trouble with that last name even if you first name was John, Bill, or George … or Sue.

--People would still probably snicker

3). But this fellow’s first name made it even worse

--I-V-A-N Ivan Odor

So, what’s in a name? Do names matter then? Or are they unimportant?

Regardless of what Shakespeare thought, or what some think today, there is much, Biblically speaking, involved in names. As we open the pages of the Old Testament, we find that names are very significant. Names mean something. Here in our text, we come upon a name by which we are all known today as believers in Jesus. It is the name Christian. Our text says, "And they were called Christians first at Antioch." What does it mean to you to be called a Christian? Do you understand the significance of bearing the name of Christ? Does it mean the same thing to you as it did to those early believers. Is it a badge of honor or an embarrassing epithet? 

Let's look at today's scripture from  Acts 11: 25-26  And we will see that, for Christians; your name  represents your past, reflects your present, and reveals your future.

Read text  Acts 11:25-26

  1. Body
    1. Your name represents your past
      1. The disciples were called Christians
        1. Prior to this believers had been called several things. The first word used to describe them was “disciples.”  They were disciples of their Master.  They were disciples or “learners” after their master Jesus.  That name prevailed throughout the ministry of Jesus.
        2. Afterward they were called “saints.”  Jesus gave them this word, calling them literally “the holy ones, or the set apart ones.”  A saint is not one who is perfect.  Not one who has been credited with so many miracles as in the Catholic understanding of the word.  A saint is one who is committed to or devoted to God, which encompasses all the followers of Jesus Christ.
        3. They were called “believers.”  This does not refer only to an intellectual adherence to a set of facts, but to someone who's undergone a joyous reception to the gospel.
        4. They were called “witnesses.”  Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses..” (Acts 1:8).  They were to be witnesses of what they had seen and heard, of the truth about Jesus Christ to the rest of the world.

      1. Proverbs 22:1  A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,  Loving favor rather than silver and gold.
      2. Ecclesiastes 7:1  A good name is better than precious ointment,  And the day of death than the day of one’s birth
      3. Even in relations between men, your name can represent your past.
        1. Most of us at one time had a last name that represented our father.  Some people today are given a hyphenated name, representing both parents, but even that is an indication of that person's heritage - their past.

      1. Illustration - 
        1. Several years ago, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, offered WGN Chicago Radio sports-talk host David Kaplan $50,000 to change his name legally to "Dallas Maverick."
        2. When Kaplan politely declined, Cuban sweetened the offer. Cuban would pay Kaplan $100,000 and donate $100,000 to Kaplan's favorite charity if he took the name for one year.
        3. After some soul searching, and being bombarded by e-mails from listeners who said he was crazy to turn down the money, Kaplan held firm and told Cuban no. Kaplan explained: "I'd be saying I'd do anything for money, and that bothers me. My name is my birthright. I'd like to preserve my integrity and credibility."
        4. Likewise, the name, "Christian" is the birthright of every follower of Jesus Christ. We have a responsibility to live every day in a way that brings honor to that name.

    1. Your name reflects your present
      1. The disciples were called Christians
      2. They were "called" of God -- that is to say, they had a calling...
        1. To demonstrate the life of Christ in a real, visible manner
        2. To love their world as Christ taught them
        3. To reach out by the leading and power of God's Spirit
      3. Illustration - 
        1. little boy, Sunday afternoon, crawled up on daddy’s lap and asked, what is a Christian?
        2. Well, son…and he described these concepts. Then his heart broke when his son asked…
        3. “Daddy, have I ever seen a Christian?”
      4. They were called this name by others.  --- that is, others recognized their calling.
      5. Back to the image of our names... it's tradition for women, on getting married, to take on their husband's name.  It represents their present status as a part of his family.  In a similar way, the Church is called the bride of Christ.
      6. Illustration - 
      7. Joe was a drunk who was miraculously converted at a Bowery mission. Prior to his conversion, he had gained the reputation of being a dirty wino for whom there was no hope, only a miserable existence in the ghetto. But following his conversion to a new life with God, everything changed. Joe became the most caring person that anyone associated with the mission had ever known. Joe spent his days and nights hanging out at the mission, doing whatever needed to be done. There was never anything that he was asked to do that he considered beneath him. Whether it was cleaning up the vomit left by some violently sick alcoholic or scrubbing toilets after careless men left the men's room filthy, Joe did what was asked with a smile on his face and a seeming gratitude for the chance to help. He could be counted on to feed feeble men who wandered off the street and into the mission, and to undress and tuck into bed men who were too out of it to take care of themselves.
      8. One evening, when the director of the mission was delivering his evening evangelistic message to the usual crowd of still and sullen men with drooped heads, there was one man who looked up, came down the aisle to the altar, and knelt to pray, crying out for God to help him to change. The repentant drunk kept shouting, "Oh God! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe!
      9. The director of the mission leaned over and said to the man, Son, I think it would be better if you prayed, 'Make me like Jesus.
      10. The man looked up at the director with a quizzical expression on his face and asked, "Is he like Joe?"

    1. Your name reveals your future
      1. The disciples were called Christians
      2. In the Bible, a new name often indicates a new hope, a new future.
        1. God has often given names to His people. 
          1. He named Jacob, Israel, 
          2. the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth, John. 
          3. He gave His son the name, Jesus. 
          4. He named Simon Peter and Saul, Paul.
        2. In the book of Isaiah, the Lord predicted the destruction of rebellious Israel and predicted a new name for His faithful people: Isa. 65:15
        3. As God’s people, the mission of Israel has been fulfilled in Christ and now His Spirit calls to the Church, His Bride.
      3. The word Christian means "belonging to" Christ.
      4. According to 1 Peter 4:16, that name "Christian" may cause us some temporary suffering at present, but that name reflects a distinguished status (according the Peterson's translation, The Message.)
      5. In terms of the future, that term indicates those people who:
      6. are saved from the punishment of sin through the blood of Christ
      7. are adopted into God's family and heirs of His kingdom
      8. are promised the hope of heaven and life eternal with God through Christ

  1. Conclusion
    1. One of my favorite stories is one about Alexander the Great. Alexander was a brilliant strategist and a mighty conqueror. He was not only a leader of men, but he was fearless in battle. Often times, he would charge forth leading his men, riding his mighty horse, Busephalis. He would hurl himself headlong into the fray and be standing when everyone else had fallen. He was a courageous man. There was not a cowardly bone in his body. He conquered the known world of his day. And it is said of him that he wept when there were no more lands to conquer.
    2. The story is told of him sitting in judgment on the battlefield. There he was judge and jury. His word was law. When he had spoken, it would be done. There on the battlefield, he would take his seat, flanked on either side by his most trusted officers. Before him would be brought all of those with charges against them. Many times his judgment could be extremely harsh, especially in those situations of desertion.
    3. Before him one day was brought a young lad. He was a fair-haired youth and very young. Alexander asked what the boy’s name was. The officer presenting him said, "Alexander, sir." At once, the great general’s countenance softened. It was as if he was flattered that the boy had his name. His men breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps there would be some leniency for this young man, whatever his crime. Alexander inquired as to the nature of the charge against the young lad. His officer replied, "Cowardice, sir. He fled in the heat of battle." The once soft countenance of the great general was suddenly transformed into an intense, tight-jawed grimace. Looking the boy squarely in the eye, he said to him deliberately, "Son, what did you say was your name?" The lad replied, "Why, Alexander, sir." Speaking again to the boy, this time in a louder tone he said, "Young man, what did you say was your name?" The young man answered in a stutter, "Why, uh-uh Alexander, sir." To that answer, the emperor bolted off his throne and grabbed the terrified young soldier and said to him, "Young man, change your behavior or change your name!"
    4. I guess that may be the only valid excuse for changing one's name.  
      1. If we're not proud of the past that name bears, 
      2. if that name does not reflect your present condition, or
      3. if that name fails to speak to your future
    5. In other words, if you're not interested in living and upholding the name of Christ, by all means, don't call yourself a Christian.
    6. Because we have the name of Jesus and are called by that name, we must live for Him lives which would be glorifying to His name. "And they were called Christians first at Antioch." They were called Christians there because they lived for Christ. May we be called Christians today for that very same reason.

Content Copyright Belongs to Cable Community Church