This is the sermon for Sunday June 1st, 2008.

When God changes your name.
Genesis 17:1-5; Acts 13:1-2&9a; Revelation 2:17.

We are continuing our series on covenant lessons. We are looking into Abraham and Paul and seeing how God worked in their lives in relation to the covenant He made with them. Last week we looked at the subject of being chosen or elect by God.

Today we are going to look at the changing of Abram’s and Saul’s name and what it means biblically to have a name change.

In our culture we have a beautiful tradition when men and women get married. The woman receives a name change. She takes the last name of her husband. Why do I think that this is beautiful? Well, it shows two things: (1) the woman has placed herself under her husband’s authority. A true godly husband would not lead with an iron hand, but with a velvet glove of love.

Ephesians 5:22-24 ESV – 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

A lot of things are said about the word, “submit” in our world today. Some of them are positive, and some of them negative. To really get at what this word means, let’s look at the English definition and the Greek definition as well.

English definition of the word, “submit”: “To give over or yield to the power or authority of another; to defer to another’s judgment, opinion, decision.”

Greek definition: “To place oneself under, to be arranged under; to yield to one’s admonition and advice; This is a Greek military term meaning to arrange troop divisions in a military fashion under the command of one leader; In none military use, it has the meaning of a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”

(2) The woman has placed herself under her husband’s love and protection.

Ephesians 5:25 ESV – 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Husbands, what a responsibility we have. Not only to love our wives as Christ loved the Church, but to protect and care for them as well. Before I go further, Wives, please pray for your husbands. We cannot even come close to this task, unless the Spirit of the Living God helps us.

Marriage, and all that it entails, including the name change, is such a beautiful illustration of what Christ has done for us as we put ourselves under His authority and protection.

Ephesians 5:26-27 ESV – 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Within Scripture, a changing of a name was important. It usually represented a changing of one’s character. In fact, every time we have seen God change someone’s name, it is because they had an encounter with Him and that changed that person. Oh, the old nature may still be lingering, but they have a new nature that is God-given that can lead their lives if people will just submit to the Lord.

As we look into the heart of the sermon this morning, allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you, and encourage you. Let’s begin looking at the name changes of Abram’s, Saul’s, and ours this morning.

1. God changes Abram’s name to Abraham.

Genesis 17:1-5 ESV – When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, (2) that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” (3) Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, (4) “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. (5) No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

A. Abram was 99 years old when the Lord appeared to him and revealed Himself as God Almighty, or God, the Sovereign One (El Shaddai in Hebrew).

First off, I believe this is none other than a pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There are several reasons for this belief. But I will only share one this morning. My main reason for believing that this is none other than Jesus Christ is because Jesus in the New Testament reveals Himself as the Almighty – the Greek equivalent of El Shaddai, God Almighty.

Revelation 1:8 ESV – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

If you look at the context here, John is describing the coming of Jesus in the clouds, then Jesus says these words. Notice He describes Himself as the Lord God. He then goes on to describe Himself as the one who was, is and is to come. This is talking about His life on earth, His death, His resurrection, He being on the throne in heaven, and His second coming.” Then He uses the Greek equivalent of God Almighty – the Almighty.

B. Abram was a father already at the time of this appearing of Christ.

Ishmael was around 12-13 years old when Christ appeared to Abram.

C. Notice, God initiates another covenant with Abram – the covenant of circumcision.

Genesis 17:10 ESV – This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

Circumcision was to be the sign that Abram’s descendants were a people whom God Almighty has made a covenant relationship with. This means this covenant being made here goes beyond just Abram, but all of His descendants. One thing that is important to learn here: when God initiates covenant, there will always be a separation, or a cutting away. This separation is not the good people from bad people, or even the right from the wrong, but from the saved and the lost. What is the reason for this separation? I believe it is a sign, just like circumcision is. In the midst of a sin consumed, darkened, infested world, God has a people that He has separated unto Himself.

Colossians 2:11-15 ESV – 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

D. After God initiated the covenant with Abram, He changes Abram’s name to Abraham.

Genesis 17:5 ESV – No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

Abram meant, “exalted father.” Abraham meant, “father of many nations.” He is not just the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, nor of the Arabs either. He is also the spiritual father of all who believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Galatians 3:26-29 ESV – 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

I want everyone to notice something. This covenant was made with Abraham and his named changed before he performed circumcision on anyone. Therefore, making him our spiritual father.

Romans 4:11 ESV – He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well.

Abraham was declared righteous before any action on his part – showing that when God changed his name, he changed his character as well.

2. God changes the name of Saul to Paul.

Acts 13:1-2 ESV – Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. (2) While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Acts 13:9 ESV – But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit…

A. Before we go any further, we really don’t have any record where God just changes Saul’s name like we do with Abraham.

What we do have in this passage are a couple of things.

First off, Saul is set apart and commissioned or ordained by the prophetic word of the Holy Spirit. It says that Saul, also called Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit. We don’t see him going by Saul anymore after this. More than likely, Saul/Paul was both his name from birth. You see, Saul was his Jewish name because He was of the tribe of Benjamin. Paul though was also His Greek name because he was a roman citizen from birth.

It is rather interesting what both names mean and how we see the character of Saul/Paul change.

B. Saul in Hebrew means, “Desired.”

This describes Saul in detail before Christ. He had a desire to destroy the church. He desired the Law and all it had to offer. He was a Jew’s Jew. Then he had an encounter with Jesus Christ and that changed his desire. Now his desire was to walk with Christ Jesus and be used by Him.

C. Paul in Greek means, “Little.”

Paul humbled himself and submitted to Christ and His calling, and God used him greatly. Paul humbly exposed his struggles to us in Romans 7 and now we have his great teachings on grace. Though Paul could be boastful at times (hence the thorn in the flesh given to him) he, I believe, stayed little in the hands of God. God made His ministry touch not only those during his imprisonment and missionary journeys, but also all those who read his epistles. Why? Because Paul humbled himself, made himself little, in the hands of an Almighty God.

What does this teach us? That when we humble ourselves before God and others and make ourselves little in God’s hands; He takes us and does the exceedlingly abundant because He has made covenant with us.

D. Though Paul was little, he was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:9 ESV – But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit…

The strength that Paul operated in was not his own, but the Holy Spirit Himself.

Church, God longs for two things from us: (a) to walk humbly before Him and others; (b) to be filled with His Spirit. It is His Spirit that empowers us for service, not our own strength and abilities.

3. New Covenant believers name change.

Revelation 2:17 ESV – He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

A. I don’t really have time to expound on this passage too much, so I suggest you study the church of Pergamum yourself. It will be an enlightening study.

B. There are a few things here in this passage that I want to look at and apply to us this morning. Notice what is written.

Hidden manna.
A white stone.
A new name written on the stone.

Let’s look at each one for a few moments.

C. The hidden manna.

Remember Moses and Aaron put manna in a jar and put it in the ark of the covenant. This is what Jesus is alluding too here. New Covenant believers are to avoid feasting on this world and the demonic food it possesses. Look at the context of Pergamum. We are to feast on Christ in the secret, quite place of our lives. He is the hidden manna. He can only be truly feasted on in the hidden place.

I can’t help but think of that song, “in the secret.” “In the secret, in the quiet place. In the stillness you are there. In the secret, in the quiet hour I wait, only for you. Cause I want to know you more. I want to know you, I want to hear your voice, I want to know you more. I want to touch you, I want to see your face, I want to know you more.”

D. The white stone.

In Roman courts, they would have 2 stones: black and white. If you received the black stone – that meant you were guilty. If you received the white stone – that meant you were either innocent, or pardoned and acquitted.

We all stand before God guilty. There is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to change this position. But as New Covenant people, Christ Jesus has washed us, and declares us innocent, acquitted of all charges.

E. The new name.

The new name we receive represents our new character. We are transferred from darkness to light, from sin to righteousness.

Allow me to use my imagination for a few moments. I’d like to think of these new names as a first, middle and last name.

The first name, The Lord is my Righteousness.
Jeremiah 23:6 ESV – And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

The middle name, I shall never be cut off.

The last name, from everlasting to everlasting.

Isaiah 56:5 ESV – I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.


Maybe you are here this morning and you know you’re a sinner, and the only hope for you is found in Jesus Christ. Call on Him and ask Him to save you.

Maybe as a Christian you are struggling with sin and insecurities. I have great news for you – God has changed your name! He has given His Son as your righteousness. Become little in His hands, humble yourself before Him and let His Holy Spirit fill you and empower you.