What’s In a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Those are Shakespeare’s words. Actually Juliet said them. Would a rose smell as sweet if it were called something else? Say, a skunk cabbage or a stinking corpse lily? It’s hard to imagine.

Have you ever thought about the importance of names? People pay a lot of attention to names. Just look at Hollywood. Would a movie starring Archibald Alexander Leach and Doris Kappelhof have been as successful as one starring Cary Grant and Doris Day? And somehow a gun fighter played by Marion Michael Morrison wouldn’t seem as threatening as one played by John Wayne. Maybe it’s a good thing they changed their names!

Speaking of name changing, there are many examples in the Bible where God or someone else changed a person’s name. Frequently it was to signify a change of heart or a redirection in his or her life. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. God chose those names to call Abraham and Sarah into a new direction as parents of a new nation. Naomi changed her own name to Mara to describe how bitter her life had become. Simon became Peter, the rock on which God would build his church. All of these are quite significant events.

Another significant event is marriage. The tradition of most English-speaking countries has been for the woman to take her husband’s name when she marries. There is no real proof as to why this tradition began, but there is speculation that it was similar to the name changes in the Bible. A new bride has had a redirection in life. She is now one with her husband and shares his name. It is definitely a change of heart when two become one and the name change is one way to acknowledge its importance.

Biblical names had great significance. The meanings of many names turned out to be prophetic in nature. Many Christian families today take seriously the naming of their children and seek God’s direction before deciding on what name they will give each child.

There is definitely power in names. But there is one name which is above every name. One name that all of creation must bow to. One name that has the ultimate power.


Call upon His name when you feel stressed, when you need comfort, when you need power. Call upon His name when you are discouraged, when you are sad, when you are afraid. He is there and the power of His name is available to you in every situation.

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
Philippians 2:8-10 (NASB)