By Gregory V. Selby
Most people have heard of the expression: “A rose by any other name is a rose just the same!” I believe that this expression was derived from the following lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Act. II, Scene ii):
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
It is thought by many people today that this same expression also applies to Christians. When used in this manner, the original expression becomes the following: “A Christian by any other name is a Christian just the same.”
Of course, this statement is true when the ‘other name’ is a name that is scriptural. One should speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent, since “all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
In the New Testament, followers of Christ are called: Christians (Acts 11:26, 26:28), disciples (Acts 6:1), saints (1 Cor. 1:2), brethren (1 Cor. 15:6), children of God (1 Jn 3:1), sons of God (Rom. 8:14).
Such names as Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Protestants, and Catholics are names not found in the New Testament, and are, therefore, not authorized by God for Christians today. They are only names created by men.
A rose might smell just as sweet when called by another name, but when a Christian is called by an unscriptural name, the situation is just not the same. Names that are divinely given through the scriptures should not be changed, for man is commanded not to add to or take away from the Word of God (Deut. 4:2, Rev. 22:18-19).
The Bible teaches that names are very important. The first man was formed of “dust from the ground” (Gen. Z:7) and was called Adam, which means “red earth”. The first woman was called Eve, “because she was the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). She was called ‘woman’ because “she was taken out of man” (Gen. 2:23). Abram, which means “father”, had his name changed to “Abraham”, which means “father of many”, when the promise was given to him that he was to he the father of many nations (Gen. 17:5). Yes, there is something in scriptural names.
It was prophesied in the Old Testament that a new name would be given God’s people. “I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off” (Is. 56:5). “You shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord shall give” (Is. 62:2). In Is. 65:15, the Jews were told: “You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse, and the Lord God will slay you; but his servants he will call by a different name.”
In the New Testament (Acts 11:19-25), we learn that Jews and Gentiles worshiped together for the first time in Antioch, and a great number of Gentiles turned to the Lord. It was there, in Antioch, that “the disciples were for the first time called Christians” (Acts 11:26). In 1 Peter 4:16, Peter writes: “If one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God.” In Acts 4:12, Peter shows how important a name is, when he speaks of Jesus in this manner: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved.” Salvation is in the name of Christ-and in none other. The name Christian has been given us that in this name we may glorify God.
Is there something in a name? Yes! Yes, there is! The rose that is a Christian does not smell as sweet when it is called by an unscriptural name, if it is indeed a rose. For Christians, there is something in the name “Christian”. Those who are Christians will wear only that name that signifies that they belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Truth Magazine XXI: 26, p. 402
June 30, 1977