New Name, New Life
Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”) (v.42).
Each year, thousands of people change their names. Some of these changes reflect a deep desire for a new life. “I changed my name and it changed me,” wrote singer Alina Simone in The New York Times. “When I think back to my old self, I think of an entirely different person, not altogether likable,” she reflects. That old person, Alina Vilenkin, was put aside. Alina Simone formed a band, tried new things, and poured her “best self” into her new name.
A visitor to one of Alina’s gigs liked her name so much that she took it too! For this woman, a failed marriage had left her wondering who she was. Changing her name gave her a “new birthday”—an opportunity to be “reborn.”
Life is clearly not working for many people. They want to be released from their past. A name change seemingly offers salvation. A change of name can indeed mark a significant change in one’s life. Abram and Sarai had such an experience (Genesis 17:5). Simon became Peter (John 1:42), and Saul the Pharisee was later known as the apostle Paul (Acts 13:9).
But there is a fundamental difference between these scenarios and an official or legal identity change—the supernatural. Abram and Sarai were old and barren, but as Abraham and Sarah they miraculously conceived a son (Genesis 21:1). Saul had been a murderer (Acts 9:1; Galatians 1:13) and Simon Peter a coward (John 18:15), but Paul became history’s finest missionary and Peter was crucified for his brave following of Jesus. For these followers of God, it wasn’t just their names that changed but their souls—through a supernatural encounter with God. It led to the new life we each desire.
Why would you want to change your name and start again? Why do you think biblical name changes were important?