I am teaching on Sarah this coming Sunday in our ladies Bible study class.
On the first page of the chapter on Sarah, MacArthur (affiliate link) speculates about Sarai’s name. He shares how it means “my princess”, and how she may have acted like a prima donna.
I started looking up why God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. God does not change a name just for fun. Everything He does, He does for a purpose. When God changed a person’s name, it was usually to establish a new identity. Even though Sarah does mean “princess” which is not that much of a change from “my princess”; it also means, “mother of nations.” God was letting the world know that He was fulfilling His promise by letting Sarah become a mother to a baby that was the predecessor of the promised Messiah. Through her, all nations of the world would be blessed.
I find it interesting that God only changed a few people’s names in the Bible. Here are the ones that I could find where their name was changed to a new name that they were to use for the rest of their life:
- Abram (“high father; exalted father) to Abraham (“father of many nations”)
- Sarai (“my princess”) to Sarah (“mother of many nations”)
- Jacob (“supplanter”) to Israel (“a prince with God” or “someone who prevails with the Eternal”)
- Simon (“God has heard”) to Peter (“rock”, “a little stone”)
- Saul’s name changed to Paul, but the Bible does not say that God changed his name. Saul means, “asked for” or “prayed for”; Paul means, “small” or “humble.
God has changed our names and identities too once we become a child of His through salvation.
As soon as we believe in the finished work of Christ on the cross, we are are no longer of the world. We are now adopted into the family of God, and we can call Him, “Abba” or “Daddy.” We are considered His sons and daughters.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: John 1:12
We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are freed to serve!
Knowing this,that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Romans 6:6
We are chosen by God and are royal priests, a set apart people.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; I Peter 2:9
We are totally new creatures.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
We now have the Holy Spirit indwelling us.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. I Corinthians 6:19-20
We have a new name. We are now called “Christians” or “little Christs.”
And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. Acts 11:26b
Just like God changed Abraham’s and Sarah’s name for a purpose, He has given us a new name for a purpose too!
Let these quotes about Christians through the ages inspire you:
Thus those who before their conversion had been distinguished by the names of Jews and Gentiles might after their conversion be called by one and the same name, which would help them to forget their former dividing names, and prevent their bringing their former marks of distinction, and with them the seeds of contention, into the church. Let not one say, ‘I was a Jew;’ nor the other, ‘I was a Gentile;’ when both the one and the other must now say, ‘I am a Christian.’
Once we are saved, we should all be united as one. No longer are their cultural, ethnic, racial, social, and economic divides. We are all one because of the One who died for us all.
Thus they studied to do honour to their Master, and showed that they were not ashamed to own their relation to him, but gloried in it…. They took their denomination not from the name of his person, Jesus, but of his office, Christ-anointed, so putting their creed into their names, that Jesus is the Christ; and they were willing all the world should know that this is the truth they will live and die by. Their enemies will turn this name to their reproach, and impute it to them as their crime, but they will glory in it: If this be to be vile, I will be yet more vile.
Wow! How convicting! Do you glory in the fact that you are Christ’s, and are you willing to die for this truth or to be reviled for His sake?
“Are we Christians? Then we ought to think, and speak, and act, in every thing as becomes Christians, and to do nothing to the reproach of that worthy name by which we are called; that that may not be said to us which Alexander said to a soldier of his own name… Either change thy name or mend thy manners.
Let’s walk worthy of that great name we are now called! We have it for a reason: We are to be a”little Christ.” In every way, we are to represent the Christ after which we are called!
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