THE CHANGING OF HUMAN NAMES
Immediately after the divine title was revealed to Abraham, God told him that his name was to be changed (17:5). This is very meaningful. Not only must God’s title be unveiled to us, but our names need to be changed, meaning that we need to be changed. The name Abram has to be changed to Abraham. As we pointed out in the previous message, Abram means exalted father and Abraham means the father of a great multitude, that is, a multiplied father, “a father of many nations.” If you had a choice between being highly exalted and being multiplied, which would you choose? Instead of being highly exalted to the heavens, would you choose to be flattened out and multiplied? According to our natural concept, we would all desire to be exalted rather than multiplied. It is troublesome to be multiplied, for the more children we have, the more problems we have. Everyone likes to be exalted; however, God does not want to exalt us but to multiply us, making us a father of a great multitude. Are you willing to be multiplied?
It is impossible for an exalted father, who is only good for exhibition, to fulfill God’s purpose. For the fulfillment of God’s purpose, there must be a multitude. So we need to be multiplied, not exalted. Today most Christians want to be spiritual giants, and religion encourages them in this way. When I was young, I was taught and encouraged to be a spiritual giant, but I was never told that I needed to be multiplied. While our natural tendency is to be exalted, God wants to change our name from the father of exaltation to the father of multiplication. How our concept needs to be changed! What is the multitude that God wants? It is the church, a corporate people. God needs the church, the multitude. If you remain by yourself, God has no way of fulfilling His purpose through you. For the sake of the fulfillment of His purpose, we need to forget our old name and be changed from being exalted to being multiplied. To be multiplied is for the fulfilling of God’s purpose, not for anything else. It is not merely for the increase or for the expansion of our work; it is for God to be expressed and represented on the earth.
To change the name is to change the person. It is not that originally I am a frog and that now you change my name to fish. Although you may call me a fish, I am still a frog. The title has been changed, but the person has not. The proper changing of the name is the changing of the person. When our person has been changed, the change of title follows.
In the church life today we do not need any exalted fathers; we need many multiplied fathers. This is why the Lord has led us to have the communal life in so many homes. It is not easy for a family to live together with several young people because we all like to have our privacy and stay by ourselves. If the husbands are honest, sometimes even living with their wives is too much for them, and they would prefer to be left alone. But if we all stayed in private, how could we take care of the young ones? The changing of names helps the communal life. Why does the increase take place so slowly in the proper church life? Simply because we lack the fatherhood and because there are not enough homes to take care of the new ones. We need the multiplied fathers’ homes to take care of the multitude.
One of the qualifications of an elder is hospitality (1 Tim. 3:2). If you are not hospitable, meaning that you are unwilling to take care of others but only care to be individually holy, you are not qualified to be an elder. If we are going to be hospitable, our name must be changed from the father of exaltation to the father of multiplication. Only a multiplied father is hospitable. The more we take care of others, the better it is for the church life. This is the real changing of names and the real changing of our person.
Not only Abraham’s name was to be changed but also Sarah’s. The name Sarai, which means my princess, has to be changed to Sarah, which means princess. “My princess” has to be changed to “princess,” to “a mother of nations.” Your particular character has to be changed into a general one so that you can be a mother of nations and take care of many people.
While every brother likes to be an exalted father, every sister wants to be a “my princess.” When our name is Sarai we say, “My husband, my home, my day, my children, my position, my function in the meetings, my everything.” Although the sisters may say “my princess,” God wants them simply to become “princess” without any “my,” to be general, not particular. We should not be exalted but multiplied, not particular but general. Particularity always goes with exaltation; they make a good couple. In the church life, none of us should be for exaltation or in particularity. We all have to be multiplied and general, to be a “father of nations” or a “mother of nations” (17:5, 16).
The church life depends a great deal upon the changing of names. If the brothers still insist on being exalted and if the sisters still prefer to be particular, how could we have the church life? We could only have a religion with a Sunday morning service and come together once a week, greet one another, and then go our separate ways until the next Sunday. In order to have the church life, there must be a great multitude of people that has been built up and compacted together, a people who truly know and practice the communal life. When the brothers no longer want to be exalted but multiplied and the sisters no longer want to be particular but general, then we shall be able to live together and have the proper church life and the multitude for the fulfilling of God’s purpose. Then we shall live together day by day and be a churching people all the time. Nearly every time will be a meeting time. We shall be meeting together constantly because no one will want to be exalted but multiplied and because no one will want to be particular but general. This is not merely a doctrine. The changing of names is not only a change of term but a change of our being, of our person. Thus, we may change the title of this message to “the unveiling of the divine Being and the changing of the human person for the fulfilling of God’s purpose.” Although God’s divine being has been unveiled, if we remain the same, His being unveiled will not profit us. His unveiling depends upon our changing. We need to be changed not only in name but also in person. Then we can enjoy the unveiled God and drink at His rich udder.
The changing of names in the sense of changing the person is also seen in the case of Jacob and Peter. For the fulfilling of God’s purpose, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel (Gen. 32:27-28); a heel-holder, a supplanter (Jacob), was changed into a prince of God (Israel). If Jacob had remained a supplanter, he could never have been used by God in the fulfillment of the divine purpose. Jacob had to be changed into a prince of God. For the building of the church, Peter’s name, Simon, was changed to Cephas, which means a stone (John 1:42). Peter’s natural being was muddy, and he had to be transformed into a stone, even a precious stone, for God’s building (1 Pet. 2:5) to fulfill the divine purpose.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)