“Don’t forget whose name you have, son,” my mother would say to me when I was a teenager. She would exhort me to good and warn me from sin by reminding me that my last name belonged also to my father and grandfather. What I did would not only impact me, but would also reflect either poorly or well on the rest of my family. She would remind me that a good reputation takes a long-time to build but can be lost in a moment.
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” – Proverbs 22:1
The Bible too has a lot to say about names. In biblical times, your name defined you. Jacob was born grabbing the heel of his brother. His name means “supplanter” or “holder of the heel.” Biblical names were often used to convey a message from God. Hosea’s children had to bear names like “No Mercy” and “Not My People.” I can only imagine the school yard taunts! People were often given names that would set the course of their life and foretell of their purpose. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham which means “father of many nations.” And of course, the angel told Mary to name her son Jesus because He would save His people from their sins.
In addition to having a first name, people were identified by their father's name. You would carry your father’s reputation, good or bad, with you throughout life. A good son brought honor to a father’s name; a bad son brought shame. This is what my mother taught me. My father and my grandfather, by the grace of God, had good reputations. I got to carry that reputation with me, and it came with a responsibility to protect their reputations. Not only do I carry my father and grandfather’s reputations, my last name is Spurgeon. In many places that wouldn’t mean too much, but among Christians it immediately rings a bell.
“Are you related to the C. H. Spurgeon?” I'm often asked.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, as I was trying to figure out God’s call on my life, having the last name Spurgeon seemed like a lot of pressure. Rather than seeing it as a blessing, I thought it was a curse. To be honest, that was an excuse I would tell myself for why I would run from serving God in the ministry. My father was a pastor, and of course, Charles Spurgeon was a pastor.
“Just because my last name is Spurgeon, doesn’t mean I am going to be a pastor,” I told myself.
But God had other plans. By his grace, God broke down my rebellion and called me to preach the gospel. In turn, He taught me that my last name was not a burden, it was quite the blessing. A good name is greater than riches. What an honor and blessing it is to be able to look back through my family and see God’s mercy and grace poured out throughout the generations.
When the Bible says that God is a faithful and keeps His steadfast love to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9), I am extremely thankful for his covenant faithfulness. I am also overwhelmed by how much I don’t deserve his love. I have become so thankful for his love and my last name.
So what does someone, who used to struggle with feeling pressure because of his name, do when God blesses him with children? He doubles down on it. God gave us two precious daughters first. Then he gave us two sons. The first son was born on September 16, 2015. His name is Charles. That’s right, Charles Spurgeon. Then, again this year, my wife conceived. We had a name in mind when the ultrasound showed it was a boy. His due date was October 30, 2017. I knew God would going to let him wait one more day to be born. And that’s what happened.
On October 31, 2017, “Calvin Luther Spurgeon” was welcomed to the world.
Born on Reformation Day (500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation), Calvin Luther Spurgeon will always be a reminder of God’s providence and the undeserved blessings he has given us.
To be sure, my son has a big name to fill. We both do. Some might wonder if we are expecting them to grow up to be preachers and reformers. Are we putting pressure on them? No, we know that it is God who calls. Our hope is that our children will grow up to fear God and serve Christ in whatever vocation they are called to. We have given them good names to remind them of God’s faithfulness in the past. Men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Charles Spurgeon were tools in the hands of a faithful God who graciously raises up Christians to protect and care for His church.
These men were great because a great God used them. In giving these names to our children, we are confessing our faith in the One with a name “that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9) to be faithful to a thousand generations.
About the Author
Joseph Spurgeon is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is pastor and church planter of Sovereign King Church in Sellersburg, Indiana. He is married to Rowina Spurgeon and has four children. You can follow him on Facebook.