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  • Writer's picturePaul Coulter

No other name

Names have meaning. Perhaps we don't think about that fact as much as people in other cultures and times.

Amongst the ancient Israelites whose life stories are told in the Bible names had immense significance. Parents chose names for their meaning, prayerfully hoping their children would grow to embody what they signified. God changed the names of patriarchs like Abram and Jacob. Isaiah was told to give his children names that conveyed weighty truths about God's plans for his people. Jesus created a new name for Simon the fisherman that indiciated the person he would become - Peter, the stone - and some of his other disciples had nicknames too (James and John, the 'sons of thunder', andThomas, 'the twin'). A man named Joseph earned the nickname Barnabas - 'son of encouragement' - from the apostles.

Names carry reputation. Sometimes that is good; sometimes it's bad.

I have long been troubled by the tendency to name organisations, buildings and even churches after individuals. I understand why people want to do that. They want to honour a person who was highly respected. That's good. They may also want to capitalise on that person's reputation to gain more donations or enrolments. That's not so good. But whatever the reasons, I cannot see how it is wise to do this.

No person's reputation is unstained, with one exception. And no person deserves to be glorified, with one exception. When we name things after people, we draw attention to them and we set them on a pedestal. Not only does this risk the reputation of everything done in that name if some scandal later comes to light (I can think of at least one high profile example of that in recent years). Not only does it tend to divide God's people into factions as happened in Corinth when people chose to be identified by the names of their favourite leaders (1 Corinthians 4). Most troubling of all, this practice draws our attention to the wrong place. But, someone might protest, if that person pointed to Jesus then it's good to point to their example. But I find that no less convincing than those who say we should come to God through saints or even Mary, the Lord's mother. If we want to point people to Jesus we should talk about ... Jesus!

The name Jesus has meaning. It means 'God (Yahweh) saves'. It's the perfect name for the man from Nazareth who calls us to follow him. It encapsulates his mission succinctly.

We can add many other names and titles to amplify our appreciation of Jesus. He is Lord - God incarnate and king above all kings. He is the Christ - God's anointed and promised king and deliverer. He is Immanuel - God with us. He is the lamb who was slain and the lamb who is victorious. He is the Word, revealing God perfectly. He is the Son, eternally loving the Father. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I could continue.

But most simply he is Jesus. And his name, and his name alone, deserves a reputation.

His is the name above all names at which every knee must bow (Philippians 2:9-11).

His is the only name through which we can and must be saved (Acts 4:11).

His is the name we confess and so are saved as we believe (Romans 2:9).

When we have a name to speak like this, why would we bother with lesser names? Why would we want to make a name for ourselves? Why would we want to name things after others?

Confess the name of Jesus. Delight in the name of Jesus. Declare the name of Jesus. He is worthy!

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