"The New Name, Written In Glory"
Six centuries before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah foretold that a new name would be given to the people of God. The prophet wrote, “And the nations shall see thy righteousness and all kings thy glory; and thou shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name” (Isaiah 62.2). The Lord was going to give his people a new name! This prophecy is fulfilled in Acts.
By this time, Jesus has come, given his blood for the sins of the world, and has been resurrected from the dead. The church has now been established and the gospel is being preached among the nations. Thus the stage has been set for the giving of this new name, and in Acts 11.26, we read, “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
The name “Christian” is not a term of derision. Rather, this is the new name which God gave to his people. It is a name to be worn with joy and thanksgiving. The apostle Peter wrote, “If a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name” (1 Peter 4.16).
A Christians is one who follows the example of Christ both in word and deed. By this behavior, one is identified with Christ. We see this from what was said about Peter and John in Acts 4.13: “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” This is what it means to be identified with Christ. Many people followed after Jesus during his earthly ministry, yet few followed his words and example. Most feared to be identified with him.
To be identified with Christ is to be in a covenant relationship with him. Jeremiah had prophesied of the day when God would “make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31.31). Jesus was the mediator of that new covenant (Hebrews 12.24). His laws would be written upon the minds and hearts of his people (Jeremiah 31.33; Hebrews 10.16). This pointed to the fact that their consciences would be purged from sin (Hebrews 10.2; 2 Peter 1.9). Jesus would cleanse our sins with his blood (Hebrews 1.3). This is why Jesus, after observing the Passover with his disciples, took a cup and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26.28).
Entrance into this covenant relationship is by means of the new birth that Jesus spoke of in John 3 to Nicodemus. The Lord said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3.3). When Nicodemus failed to understand the new birth, Jesus explained it more fully by saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3.5). Notice from John 3.5 that Jesus spoke of the new birth in connection with entering into the kingdom of God. This indicates that the new birth could not occur unless the kingdom of God had been established.
Jesus also taught in Matthew 7.21 that entrance into the kingdom was conditioned upon obedience to the will of the Father. He said, “Not everyone who saith unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
From these texts, we learn several things. We see that the new birth is an act of obedience to the will of the Father and that entrance into the kingdom is by obedience. Further, we see that entrance into the kingdom is identical with entrance into a covenant relationship. Therefore, entering into a covenant relationship with God is an act of obedience.
Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be “born anew.” There was something for Nicodemus to obey in being “born anew.” How would this happen? When would Nicodemus undergo this new birth? It would happen as Jesus explained it to the apostles. Jesus taught them that the kingdom of God would come, and come “with power.” This power would come from on high. The apostles were to wait in Jerusalem until this happened. When this power came upon them (the apostles), they would preach words of repentance and remission of sins. This meant that they would explain the concept of repentance. They would explain how and why remission is connected to the blood of Jesus. All these things were preached in the book of Acts. There would be others who would be “born anew” in like manner as Nicodemus.
In Acts 10, Cornelius, although a good, moral man, was not a Christian. He is described as devout: He gave alms, prayed always, and was a just man with a good reputation (Acts 10.2,22). Yet, Cornelius had not been “born of water and of the Spirit.” An angel of God was sent to tell him words that pertained to being “born anew” (Acts 11.14)! He would need to obey these words, as did Nicodemus. Cornelius was told the same words as Nicodemus. When anyone exercised their faith in these words by obedience, it was elsewhere described as obeying the gospel. Thus we can read of those who will eternally lost as including those who do not obey the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1.8), in addition to those who do not know God. There are many who do not know God, but many who know God have not obeyed the gospel commands that pertain to being “born anew.” Those who have are knobby in Glory by this new name: Christian.