Name Change?

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

“Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” John 1:42 © NIV

Dear Church Family

I wonder if you’ve noticed how often in the Bible God changes a person’s name?

He may not give us a new name like Cephas, but He is working in us as individuals and as a whole church to change us into the likeness of His Son.

It happens to Abram (who becomes Abraham) and to Jacob (who becomes Israel) in Genesis. In the New Testament some people think God changed Saul’s name to Paul though that’s not likely. However, there is a much clearer New Testament example. Right at the start of His public ministry in John’s gospel, Jesus changes Simon’s name to Cephas or ‘Peter’ as we know it better.

Names in the ancient world were highly significant. Usually they were chosen because they meant something and related to the character of the person. I’m told Andrew means ‘manly’ and I like to think that perhaps my dear Mum, gazing down into the cot at her newborn, thought quietly to herself ‘isn’t he manly? I’ll call him Andrew!’ Far more likely given our modern western culture, she simply liked the name and it was popular at the time in the late 70s.

Most of our names therefore don’t relate to our character. But they did in Jesus’ day. His own name was chosen because it means ‘God saves’ which brilliantly describes who He is. When Jesus meets Simon His first act is to rename him ‘Peter’ meaning ‘rock.’ On Peter’s apostolic testimony and ministry Jesus would build His church.

It’s worth pausing to reflect on what a massive change that must have been for Simon. Going through life for decades with one name only to have it radically changed in one day. New passport, new driving license, correcting family members and friends endlessly for years afterwards.

In all seriousness though it’s a stark reminder that Jesus is all about chang