What’s in a name?

I have been reading Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur, and I have been struck time and time again at the way the Lord uses ordinary people to accomplish His will. If you are ever wondering how the Lord can use “a nobody like me”, pick up this book and marvel at His ways. There are so many wonderful points in this book. But the one that has been staying with me and on my mind since I read it, is in the chapter regarding Simon/Peter. All of the disciples had strengths, but it was their weakness that the Lord used to bring forth greatness.

I have often wondered why Jesus changed Simon’s name. It had happened before in the bible. Abram became Abraham and Sari became Sarah. But this one seemed different. As you read through the gospel accounts, you’ll notice that Jesus refers to him as Simon and Peter. He doesn’t just become Peter. He’s both. (“Simon, whom He also named Peter” Luke 6:14)

Our Lord is not a God of accidents and randomness. So what is the significance of this?

As you might already know, “Peter” means Rock. (Petros is the Greek word for “a piece of rock, a stone”). And from the moment Jesus came face-to-face with Simon Peter, He nicknamed him Peter.

John MacArthur’s thoughts on the dual name follow:

“Sometimes, however, the Lord continued to refer to him as Simon anyway. When you see that in Scripture, it is often a signal that Peter had done something that needs rebuke or correction.”

See, Simon was a known hot-head. The chapter that bears his name in this book is titled: Peter – the apostle with the foot-shaped mouth. He was often quick to react.

“The nickname was significant, and the Lord had a specific reason for choosing it. By nature, Simon was brash, vacillating, and un-dependable. He tended to make great promises he couldn’t follow through with. He was one of those people who appears to lunge wholeheartedly into something but then bails out before finishing. He was usually the first one in; and too often, he was the first one out. When Jesus met him, he fit James’s description of a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). Jesus changed Simon’s name, it appears because He wanted the nickname to be a perpetual reminder to him about who he should be. And from that point on, whatever Jesus called him sent a subtle message. If He called him Simon, He was signaling him that he was acting like his old self. If He called him Rock, He was commending him for acting the way he out to be acting.

…The nickname was a reminder of what he ought to be, and after awhile, it shaped his whole attitude.

This young man named Simon, who would become Peter, was impetuous, impulsive, and overeager. He needed to become like a rock, so that is what Jesus named him. From then on, the Lord could gently chide or comment him just by using one name or the other.”

I simply love that.

It reminds me of how I call a loved one by an endearing nickname when feeling close, or shout out a firstmiddleandlastname when I am angry or irritated with them. We have nicknames for all of our children. But they get called their given names when I am trying to get their attention and remind them to straighten up!

More importantly, it makes me wonder what the Lord would nickname me. I’m sure there have been numerous times when my given name conjured up negative thoughts about me in someones mind. But the Lord calls me by another name. A name I do not yet know. A name that He has chosen for me.

What would that name say about me?
How would that name shape my attitude?

A name is so much more than just a name, when it is the name chosen by Christ.


  1. http://Beth says

    Great post, Karla!

  2. http://Kimmy says

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your insight. I’m going to have to find that book and read it. I love looking deeper into the personalities of Biblical characters, and this book seems to do just that.

  3. http://Beck says

    Lovely, lovely post. You have such a gift.

  4. http://THE%20OTHER%20HUSE says

    This is a great post, Karla. I’m going to have to check that book out as well.

    That’s just one more thing to be excited about in heaven; finding out His name for us!

  5. http://Our%20Family says

    I LOVE your site! I came across it today when I was on the blogging basics site trying to add a signature to my blog. Your title (Looking to Heaven) caught my eye. Your words are encouraging, and I’m sure I’ll be back later. Right now, I’m having a hard time figuring out the signature thing. I can edit the HTML ok, but I can’t figure out how to get the signature onto FLICKR to show up right. ?? ANyways, I’ll get there.
    Thanks for your Godly wisdom!

  6. http://dlyn says

    A lovely and thoughtful post – I enjoyed it very much. I’ll be back to check out your blog more.

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