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What's in a Name?

"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'"1

When my sons were born, we wanted to give them meaningful names. My oldest son's name is Brent, which means "upright." My youngest son's name is Mark which means "noble warrior." Their middle names are also meaningful. When Mark was studying overseas, he struggled because he is bi-polar. At the time I told him that he was very courageous in what he was doing and reminded him that his name means “noble warrior” and that his middle name, Shaun (Irish for John), means “sent from God.” I also told him that I believed in him.

One tragedy is when a parent repeatedly calls his/her child a negative name such as "stupid" or "clumsy." Chances are, the child will grow up to believe that this is true, act accordingly, and also have a very poor self-image. Calling anyone a bad name is very destructive. The exact opposite is true when parents call their children positive and affirming names.

In days of yesteryear, a person's name had much to do with what he/she did. John Baker, for example, would have been a baker. Fred Shumaker, a shoemaker, and so on.

The greatest name of all was Jesus. His name means Savior. He was given this name by God, showing to all who hear or use His name who He is. As another has said, His name "teaches us the purpose of His incarnation. It is His human name reminding us that He who is God also became man. Peter made much of this name in the healing of the crippled beggar, and declared that there is no other name sufficient for our salvation."

Speaking about Jesus, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "His name is not so much written but plowed into the history of the world."

For those of us who have invited Jesus into our heart and life as personal Savior and Lord, it is of great comfort to know that He has written our name in his Book of Life. It will be interesting to know what meaning He has given to it. I believe it will describe who He wants us to be and what He wants us to do. Whatever it is, may He help us to discern that and live up to it!

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank You for giving Your Son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the world. Because I have accepted Him as my Savior, I thank You that You have my name written in Your book of life. Help me to discern what meaning You have given to my name and with Your help, live up to it for Your glory. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus's name. Amen."

NOTE: For more about Jesus, see "Jesus Christ: God or Man?" at

1. Matthew 1:20–21 (NIV).


All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.