QUESTION: Why did God change some people’s names? Like Abram to Abraham and Saul to Paul. Was there any importance of the name changing?


ANSWER: Let’s begin by reading Genesis 17:4-6, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called ABRAM, but thy name shall be ABRAHAM; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.” In view of the covenant the Lord made with Abram, the Lord saw fit to change his name to reflect the impact of this covenant. While ABRAM means ‘a high father’, ABRAHAM means ‘father of a multitude of nations’.

We also read of Abraham’s wife in Genesis 17:15, “And God said unto Abraham, As for SARAI thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but SARAH shall her name be.” While SARAI means ‘my lady or my princess’, SARAH means ‘a lady or a princess’. The name SARAI shows her confinement to one family. The name SARAH takes away that restriction and shows her to be princess to great multitudes.

Throughout the Word, we find the Lord changing people’s names to reflect a change in their lives. I’ll just give a couple more examples and leave it up to the reader to investigate further.

PETER – John 1:42, “And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called CEPHAS, which is by interpretation, A stone.”

Matthew 16:16-18, “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art PETER, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” When the Lord first met Simon, He announced that one day he would be called CEPHAS, which means a stone. In Matthew 16, Simon Peter boldly announced that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Although the narrative calls him ‘Simon Peter’, it is at this point that the Lord declares that he is now PETER, which means a stone. Peter is NOT the stone upon which the Lord built His church. That is Christ Himself (read Ephesians 2:19-22). Peter was a ‘little stone’ used greatly of the Lord to carry His word to the Jews after the resurrection of Christ.

PAUL – Acts 13:9-10, “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” The changing of Saul’s name to Paul is also quite significant. Saul means ‘large’ while Paul means ‘small’. Before his conversion, Saul was a mighty man in the Jews’ religion. He said of Himself in Philippians 3:5-6, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” After being saved, Paul lost that prominence in the world and became ‘small’ to the world. He goes on to say in Philippians 3:7-8, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” He gladly gave up that degree of importance in the world, counting it as garbage. (325.6)