Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 6-11-23 “A New Name”

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Genesis 17:1-7 and 15-16

 We all know that Abraham is the founder of Israel. We all know that Abraham is the father of faith. However, many of us tend to forget that before being called Abraham, his name was Abram. In Eastern countries, during Biblical times, a change of name was the announcement of new circumstance in the life of a person. Through the course of interaction with His people, on many occasions God changed the name of those His chosen. It was generally done to establish a new identity which God wished them to embody. The change of name was done in different ways. Sometimes it happened with the old name being entirely changed for a new one, — this is the most common way in the Bible. For example, Jacob was given the completely new name of Israel. Other times the change was made by conjoining the new name with the old one. Sometimes only a few letters were inserted, so that the altered name may express the difference in the life of the person. This is the case of Abraham and Sarah. Since changing the names was a custom at the time of Abraham and Sarah; when God was dealing with them, that is what he did. He gave them a new name to remind them of their new life. Abram means “a high father.” However, when God called Abram, He was being called to be father of many nations. Therefore, his name was changed to Abraham, “father of a multitudes.” That letter H was inserted there to let Abram know what God was planning. In Sarah’s case, the old name of Sarai, which means princely, was changed to Sarah, which means princess. The change of name, as I said before, meant a change of their circumstance. Based on the Book of Joshua, Chapter 24, Verse 2, Scholars agreed that maybe Abram and Sarai worshiped other gods as did their ancestors. Now Abraham and Sarah started a new relationship with El-Shaddai Who asked them to leave their land and their household behind to follow what He asked them to do. From this moment on everything changed for them. A new God, a new life and new promise, even a new nation was waiting ahead for them. All these changes deserved new names, which is what God did. In the New Testament, we find a couple of similar cases of people whose names were changed to symbolize a new life. Simon was the old name of Peter; Saul was the old name of Paul. In Acts 22:3-8, Paul describes Saul’s old life, saying: “I am a Jew. I was born in the City of Tarsus in the Country of Cilicia. When I was a young man, I lived here in Jerusalem. I went to Gamaliel’s school and learned all about the Law of our early fathers. I worked hard for God as you all do today. I worked hard and killed men and women who believed as I believe today. I put them in chains and sent them to prison. The head religious leader and the leaders of the people can tell you this is true. I got letters from them to take to our Jewish brothers in the city of Damascus. I was going there to put the Christians in chains and bring them to Jerusalem where they would be beaten. I was near Damascus. All at once, about noon, I saw a bright light from heaven shining around me. I fell to the ground. A voice said to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you work so hard against Me?’ I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the One you are working against.’ The new person he became after that encounter on the road to Damascus is described in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The change we see from Acts 22 to Galatians 2 is expressed in the change of names from Saul to Paul. [Saul had dual citizenship. Saul was his Hebrew name and He now chose to use his Roman name Paul.] You see, Abraham, Sarah, Peter, and Paul left their old life behind and became new people, new creatures who lived according to their new names, their new life and their new calling. When God called Abram and named him Abraham He told him, walk before Me faithfully and be blameless, That is what God expected from Abraham as a person who carries the name given by Him. Jesus, who changed Peter’s name when he became His follower, continues with the same practice of giving new names. When we become followers of Jesus, we also become new creatures, new persons. Take a listen to 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.” According to Paul when we come to Jesus, we become new persons, new creations and, if we are a new creation, we need a new name. What is it; the new name we have been given? John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” I told you before that in the Old Testament the changes of names were made by conjoining the old name and the new one. That is our case, our names are the old one plus child of God. Your name plus daughter or son of God. And if we are God’s children, we are heirs of His promises. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Chapter 4 Verse 1, Paul says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” The calling Paul is talking about, the calling we received is to be a child of God. Then in Verses 2-6, he describes the life worthy of our calling, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” That is how the heavenly Father expects His children — the carriers of the new name — to live. Revelations 2:17 also says something about this new name, it says, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” In Greece white stones were given to the winners in the Olympic games; white stones with their names written on them with the value of the prize they won. To we who persevere to the end, Jesus will give us a new name as sign of our victory. As Abraham, Sarah, Peter, and Paul, we also must live up according to the new names given to us by Jesus. We must live as Jesus lived. We must love and serve each other as Jesus did. We must keep God’s commandments as Jesus did. And at the end of our race an even more excellent name is waiting for us. At the end of our race, we will hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!”  We will also hear God the Father say, “This is My Son or My daughter whom I love; with him or her I am well pleased.”

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