What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

Today, we begin a new series of daily reflections exploring our theme running through January and February 2017, of St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.
Described as a letter for our time, Paul is navigating the transition to the ‘new thing’ God is doing, whilst honouring the journey the traditional Jewish ‘church’ of the day had been on.


That’s it – just the first word of the letter – ‘Paul’.
Remember that when we first meet ‘Paul’, he is known by his Jewish name ‘Saul’.
Why the change of name?

Though it was not uncommon for people to be known by two names – perhaps a Jewish name and a Latin name – the name switch seems quite purposeful and deliberate.
‘Saul’ (Hebraic name meaning ‘prayed / longed for’) had been a zealous Pharisee, and at the time of his ‘conversion’, was key to the persecution of the early Christian church, seeking to wipe it our completely.
His encounter with the risen, living Lord Jesus changed the course of his life, and he becomes one of the greatest church planters, seeking to raise up communities of faith wherever he went on his missionary journeys.
He becomes known as ‘Paul’ (Latin, ‘Paulos’, meaning ‘small, humble’).

For me, this name change signifies three things:
(i) Paul’s dramatic conversion – he will talk about being a ‘new creation’, and the new name signifies a new identity in Jesus
(ii) God brings ‘Saul’ down to size – ‘Paul’ means ‘small, humble’ and we all need to be humbled to be of greater use to God; less of self and more of God – ‘I am no longer my own, but Yours, Lord’.
(iii) the change from a Hebrew name (steeped in Judaism) to a Latin/Gentile name indicated the mission Paul will be on, to raise up a new church filled with many Gentiles.

Lord Jesus Christ,
thank You for calling me by name;
may I have the humility to accept Your commission
to make disciples of all people,
by Your grace,
and in Your name.

Do you know what your name means?
Have you ever felt you’d like to be known by a different name?
Hear the words of God through Isaiah:
‘Do not be afraid, I have called you by your NAME – you are mine.’

Phil Gough