What’s in a Name? – by Milton Hook

May 15, 2015 1602

Call me whatOur name, Good News Unlimited, is deliberately chosen to identify with the gospel of Jesus Christ for “the gospel” means “good news.”

There are many denominational names that do not indicate a link with “gospel” or “Jesus Christ.” I think of names like Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Latter Day Saints, Hillsong and Unitarian.  No doubt others will spring to mind, some very close to home.

I am intrigued by the names of our earliest spiritual ancestors.

First there was THE WAY. Saul went hunting members of The Way in Damascus (Acts 9:2). Early believers in Ephesus were also known as The Way (Acts 19:9,23). Paul admitted to being a member of The Way when appearing before Felix at Caesarea (Acts 24:14. Paul didn’t have to explain the term because Felix was already well acquainted with the group (Acts 24:22). Quite obviously the term was widespread in the eastern Mediterranean world and one which the believers themselves were proud to use. It did, of course, originate with Jesus Himself when He made the claim, “I am the Way….” (John 14:6).

Secondly, there was THE NAME (3 John 7). These folk were probably the earliest Jewish Christian missionaries who used the Hebrew term Ha-Shem to identify themselves. “Ha-Shem” means “the name,” a nondescript term for God that was used by the Jews when they wanted to avoid using the name Jehovah out of extreme reverence for Him. In view of the fact that Jesus claimed equality with Jehovah it is understandable that these Jewish missionaries were reluctant to use any name such as Christ (The Anointed One) or Adonai (Divine Master).

Thirdly, there was THE SECT OF THE NAZARENES. This seems to be a derogatory term. The orator, Tertullus, when accusing Paul before Felix, said, Paul was the ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5). Tertullus was obviously trying to diminish Paul’s group by limiting it to an offshoot of Judaism in or around Nazareth only.  Or is Tertullus somewhat ignorant of the range and nature of the group? It is clear that Tertullus does somehow link the group to Jesus of Nazareth.

Finally, there were CHRISTIANS. The Greek term means “like the Anointed One, or Messiah.” Peter, in his first letter, wrote, “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Pet. 4:16). When Paul was brought before King Agrippa in Caesarea Agrippa’s response was, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28). It was further north, in Antioch, that the name “Christian” is said to have originated (Acts 11:26).

Personally, I’m pleased to be associated with any of these early names because they all indicate a close association with Jesus. I’m happy to be classed as a follower of The Way, or Jesus of Nazareth, or the Name that is too sacred to name, or the Anointed One. I don’t mind what people call me provided it is clearly linked to Jesus and His good news.

– Milton Hook

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