There is much to be said about having a good name. Some of us have a long lineage of great men and women in our families of whom we can be proud. We can glory in the fact alone that we share a common name. Some names are so meaningful that they are passed on for generations! Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:1, “A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s life.” He said this meaning that your day of death brings with it a remembrance of all the great deeds of your life and seals the memory of your bold name.
I can say that I have much to be proud of when it comes to my name. For generations, the Goodwins have been strong, faithful Christians. My great grandpa LeRoy Goodwin fought hard in the 1950’s against institutionalism and against the apostasy of the marriage-divorce debate. He was an elder at the church in Eugene. My grandfather Leroy Goodwin has been one of the strongest, boldest members of the church in Beaverton since it was established many years ago. He served as a deacon. And the good name was passed on to me, Ryan Leroy Goodwin. Solomon makes another pertinent statement in Proverbs 17:6, “Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers.” I would say, then, that I take a lot of glory in my forefathers because of the legacy and the good name they have left behind.
With that being said, we must acknowledge one important fact about a good family name. That is, we cannot choose it before our birth. It is like an inheritance in that we either have a good name or we do not. Some individuals come from a family with a bad name, perhaps. A name that may bring tension to a room, hard feelings, bad memories. Perhaps you do not glory or revel in the remembrance of your forefathers and you are the first of your line to accept the Gospel and bring pride back to your family. In that case, what good is a name? Well, we must all know that there is another name for which we can praise. There is a name that we can all have, that is not determined by chance or lineage. There is a name that far above any other good name of men. No Rockefellers, or Lipscombs, or Lincolns, or Jeffersons, or Jefferson Davis Tants, or Kennedys, or any other supposedly great name under the sun can compare to a name that is available to everybody. That name is Christ.
A person may not have a good name in this world, with a long history of service in the church of Christ. But that does not matter if we can say that we have taken all of our pride in the one and only name that saves – Jesus Christ. So I want to answer the question of what is in that name. What can that name do for us that every other name cannot do?
It Is A Name That Separates
First, the name of Christ separates us from the rest of creation, in both joyful and painful ways. It is the name that marks us for persecution as well as for mutual hope of Heaven. It is also the name that distinguishes us as different and apart from all the sin and lust of the world. Turn to Acts 5:40-41. After several attempts to convince the apostles not to teach in the name of Christ (Acts 5:28), the Council of the Jews finally determined to have them flogged and sent on their way. It was, indeed, for the name of Jesus Christ that Peter and the rest of the apostles suffered this flogging. It was not without joy, however, that they endured the ill treatment of men, because they took glory in the Name.
Paul understood what it meant to be separated for the name of Christ. He was called for that very purpose in Acts 9:16. As Christ speaks to Ananias about Paul, He says, “Go for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” How much did Paul actually have to suffer for Christ’s name? Put simply, he suffered almost every day for the rest of his life, in prisons and torture chambers, on the open sea and left for dead. Paul himself explains how much he had endured as a Christian in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27. There are few people today who can say they have suffered so much for the cause of Christ. There are few people who have sacrificed as much for that name. Today, we enjoy our comfort and our wealth (as we should, for they are blessings from God), but forget the suffering of saints even today.
· The pain of our brethren in many parts of the world seems so distant to us that it becomes difficult to even care. Reports from preachers in the Philippines indicate that Islamic terrorists murder Christians in their beds.
· It has become almost too dangerous for an “American” preacher to even go to some places in that country. One preacher in South Africa, Steven Buys, was shot going across the border into Zimbabwe, simply because he wanted to preach the Gospel. He survived with help from God, but is paralyzed and must remain in a chair for the rest of his life. Because of God’s mercy, though, he still attempts to make regular missionary trips into the bush lands of Africa – he preaches from his wheelchair.
· In China, Christians are arrested for simply carrying a Bible.
· Indeed, we should even expect it when we are persecuted for His name’s sake. Turn to Luke 21:17, Matthew 10:22.
We must thank the Lord every day that such suffering is not experienced by Christians everywhere. The unfortunate side of our prosperity, though, is that we have become indoctrinated by the society around us. Suddenly, being a Christian does not separate us quite like it used to. Now, the name of Christ is so flippantly and casually thrown around that being “Christian” means very little. Perhaps it is time for us, as true worshippers of Christ, to make sure that we are actually separated for the cause of His name.
Understand that it is the duty of every true Christian to keep himself apart from the world and all its lusts. Notice what Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:19. If we think that we have the right to “name the name of the Lord” than we must act like it. We must abstain from all the forms and frames of wickedness. We must be Christians to such an extreme that there is no way that an unbeliever would not say, “He must be a Christian.” In fact, Paul makes it clear that being a Christian involves the rejection of evil to such an extreme extent that we do not even talk about it! “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:11-12). In all of our mannerisms, in the way we speak, in the way we discipline our children, in the way we work with all our hearts, in the way we respect each other and love the brethren – our Christianity should be so extreme that we cannot help but be different from the rest of the world that claims to be “Christian.”
So let me ask you a question. How separate to you want to be? There are many who claim to be of the name of Christ who advocate looseness when it comes to socials drinking. There are many who want tolerance when it comes to things like divorced individuals living in sin. There are those who do not see a problem with immodest dress occasionally under some circumstances. Is Christianity a matter of degrees? Can you be more or less “Christian”? If that is true, then I want to be as much of a “Christian” as is humanly possible. I want the name of Christ to separate me so that there is no question as to “how Christian” I am. Otherwise, that name does not separate us at all. There are many who supposedly call on the name of Christ who are no less sinful and worldly than any unbeliever (consider immodest dress among Christians). From observation, you cannot tell that they are a Christian!
It Is A Name That Is Everlasting
What joy we have in that name, brethren! If we are separated and distinct from the unbelievers of this world, than we can be adopted as sons and daughters into a name that is eternal, everlasting, and will not fade from its glory or honor. What a name! Isaiah 56:5 says. “To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.” That is the kind of name that I want attached to myself. I mentioned at the beginning of the lesson that some people have great names and legacies that bring them pride and confidence. Perhaps a greater name would be the one God offers us because God’s name does not fade like the glory of men. Perhaps the name Goodwin is strong and faithful now in this generation. But there is the possibility that future generations of Goodwins may bring shame to that good name. I cannot take glory in any name on earth because it cannot compare to the glory and eternal nature of the name in Heaven.
We all have this opportunity, too! The wonderful thing about God’s name is that anybody can have it. You need not be born into His family to wear the name Christian with joy and hope. See Galatians 4:3-7. For a time, we were all held in bondage under the sinful ways of the world. We were without a good name by which we could be saved. But the adoption as sons is available to us all. It is there for the taking, for anybody who will accept it. “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” We need not fear about the name of Christian wearing out or going into disrepute. It is a name that is forever blessed and good and righteous. It is a family that will always be fruitful and happy, no matter the trials or tribulations that face it. It is a family that is an everlasting kingdom (2 Peter 1:10-11).
It Is A Name That Is Above Every Name
“Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” (Philippians 2:9-10). Christ has a name that is far above every other name under the sun. There is no name that can be compared to Christ’s! Do you remember those credit card commercials, in which a famous person would try to purchase something with a personal check? Well, even the most famous people need to have identification if they intend to write a check for something. It is a silly commercial, but the concept is the same in that every name on this earth is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. On the Day of the Lord, there will be people who expect to get in to Heaven only because of their good name, but they will be rejected. That is because no name is above the name of Christ, and that is the only name that is worthy enough to go through those gates into eternal paradise.
It Is A Name That Saves
So what is in a name? In this name is a great deal! We have seen from the Scriptures that no other name separates us from the sin of the world like God’s name. There is no other name that differentiates us from “fake Christians” like that name. There is no other name that is everlasting, or that is above every other name! Could there be anything else that this name can do?
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Christ’s name is the name that saves us, brethren! And not only that, we must be saved by that name. We cannot put faith in the name of any human prophet, or any manmade religion, or even ourselves, in the same way we put faith in the name of Christ. Muhammad cannot save us, Joseph Smith cannot save us, Martin Luther, or Alexander Campbell, or Billy Graham, or Pope John Paul II, or Elvis Presley, or any other name under heaven cannot save us but Christ’s alone! He said it Himself, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).