Acts 4: 8 – 12
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.”
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
1 John 3: 18 – 24
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth, This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
John 10: 11 – 18
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep;
“I am the good shepherd: I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also, they too will listen to my voice and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord, I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my father.”
Aren’t you fascinated by the names that folk choose for their babies? I think the whole move away from saints names 7 other traditional names began in the 70’s with names that would do equally well for boys or girls – ‘River’ – ‘Moonbeam’ – ‘Storm’ etc
All names chosen for babies have meanings – even though those might only be clear to the parents! In the ancient past all names carried specific meanings. In our text, written in the book of Acts, we are reminded that what is in a name is very important and we are reminded that in the name of Jesus we, as believers, find salvation. It is a name above all other names.
Paul, writing to the Philippians 2 : 9 said:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
What power there is in the name of Jesus, and yet it seems to be the only name that people take in vain. It’s a name that folk seem to have a real problem with.
Have you heard anyone say “ What in Allah’s name is going on?” No one sends texts – OMB – or says out loud “Oh my Buddha!’ - even the casual use of ‘Jeez’ is a corruption of the name of Jesus. It’s not Allah or Buddha or Krishna that the world uses – No, it’s the name of God and Jesus Christ that are used so flippantly – names that to believers are holy and precious.
The name of the Lord is sacred – it’s a holy name – Angels bow down at the name of Jesus – demons tremble and the Word of God tells us that even Satan flees at the name of Jesus.
Yet, it’s a name that people use so freely, to swear and curse. It’s a name that stirs up anger – but, for believers, it is also a name which produces love when we speak the name of Jesus – it’s a name that speaks of grace.
Earlier in the book of Acts – 3: 6, when Peter spoke to the crippled beggar at the temple gate, he said:
Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.
And, in the power of that Name, instantly, the man’s feet and ankles became strong – he jumped to his feet and began to walk.
The names of Oprah Winfrey & Donald Trump open the doors of entertainment & business and finance, or any other worldly door that can be opened, but only the name of Jesus will heal our souls of sin and open the doors of Heaven to us.
His is the only name that can truly save us!
For the Orthodox Jew and Bible translators in the early centuries of copying the Scriptures, before the invention of the printing press, the scribes would faithfully copy the Word of God and every time they came across the name of God, they would get up from the table and wash their hands and pick up a new quill, which had never been used before, then proceed to write the Name of God. That could happen several times while copying one verse! That’s how respected and revered the name of God used to be……… and still is for some Jews today. Many never write the name of God in full – just G-d. God is too revered and perfect for even his name to be written by sinful man.
What a terrible thing it is, in our modern world, to hear the name of God, the name of Jesus, that beautiful name, dragged through the mud.
There’s one verse from our readings today that I’d like to emphasize: Acts 4:12
Peter said ; “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus is the stone that was rejected by the world, yet He is the capstone – the cornerstone by which our faith is held together.
There is no other cornerstone but Jesus – there is no other name by which we are saved..
We dare not water down that message even though the world around us is trying very hard to do just that! Even though it seems an unfriendly and tough message, it needs to be told as Holy Scripture tells it.
We celebrated Freedom Day on Friday – It’s the day when we acknowledge everyone’s right to choose – whether that’s a political choice, or a religious choice. So it’s our choice to be really free in the love of God through Jesus.
In the interests of cultural diversity, Religious pluralism has gained momentum over the past few decades. Pluralism is the view that all religions offer equally valid paths to God – through ancestors, through good works, through religious observance and so on. It’s a belief that all roads lead to the same God and all religions worship the same God but in different ways. And sadly, there is the encouragement to think along these lines purely because it is the ‘loving’ thing to do.
A very popular illustration of that point was made in a Buddhist parable.
A number of men who were blind from birth were gathered together in a room with an elephant. Each man was led to a different part of the elephant – one to the head, one the legs, the tail, the ears and the trunk. Afterwards they were asked “what is an elephant?” They began disagreeing when one said an elephant was a tree trunk – another who had felt the tail said an elephant was a brush – another who had been led to the ear, said an elephant must be a ploughshare. They all saw only the part they had been ‘exposed’ to and so the conclusion was that when we discuss the ‘truth’ we are discussing the same god that has been revealed to us in different ways.
It’s a very clever parable to try to explain religious pluralism, and it does hold one very important truth – one that I’m sure was not intended.
Each one of the men was totally blind and each one’s conclusion was wrong!
Until God reveals himself to us, we all grope around in darkness, vainly trying to find some meaning to life and search for the truth. As long as we remain blind, we remain in darkness and what seems true is in fact complete error. Jesus is the light of the world and through Him, God reveals himself to us – we receive His Truth and through His death and Resurrection, we can experience a relationship with our Creator.
There are many facts about Jesus that the secular world does find attractive – His gentle spirit – His compassion for the poor and hurting – His constant call for justice to be balanced with mercy. Jesus taught love and provided that perfect example of an all encompassing love for Christians - followers of His Way.
But there is one claim about Jesus that is highly offensive to our pluralistic society – the truth that faith in Jesus is the only way to Heaven. Peter confronted the religious leaders of his day with that fact when he said: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by wich we must be saved…… and they were no more receptive to that fact than people are today.
Our post-modern mind-set is still quick to accuse Christianity of being narrow-minded. Are we narrow-minded? Well, yes, perhaps. But the important thing is – is it the Truth? Without question!
Jesus had been explicit all along
John 4: 16 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Not just any way and truth and life – but THE – that’s the only way, the only truth and the only life.
A while ago I was reading of two incidents – one in America and one in the UK – where thanksgiving services were being organised. To show tolerance for other faiths & the diversity of the cultures in both countries – the various speakers represented the Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Wiccan, and Christian faiths.
In spite of the service being held in a Christian church, the organisers expressed a desire not to have the name of Jesus mentioned during the service because it would be offensive. It was even requested that the Crosses in the church be covered as they offended non-believers. The pastors naturally explained that it would be a dishonour not to mention the name of Christ in His own House and suggested that the service be moved to a neutral location if they wanted to include all the different groups. Many of the major newspapers, in both countries, picked up on the story but chose to focus only on the narrow mindedness of the pastor!
Once again, the verse from today’s reading:
Acts 4: 12 where Peter boldly states about Jesus: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
The Apostle Paul reminded his young student, Timothy, of the same reality:
1 Tim 2: 5-6 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men.
And John the beloved disciple wrote:
1 John 5: 12 He who has the Son has life; He who does not have the son of God does not have life.
In the face of all that our society is saying, these passages are indeed extremely exclusive but they are absolutely clear – this is what G.K. Chesterton referred to as the ‘wild truth’.
While other religions offer systems of thought & systems of work & systems of self-sacrifice that try to bridge the gap between man and God, Jesus, the only Son of God, through his sacrificial life and death – his blood shed for the whole world – He is the only one who has succeeded in actually bridging the divide.
To the world in general, that may seem a very narrow view – and there certainly are constant attacks on Christianity for being intolerant of what others believe. The underlying assumption seems to be that anything narrow, must be wrong.
Truth is always intolerant of error – one plus one equals two – that’s very narrow – but it’s right – It’s not something where we can say – “well it might be true for you but it’s not true for me” – or who cares “Whatever”!
How would if be if said that I don’t want the pilot of my plane to be narrow-minded – the pilot doesn’t have to land on the runway – he can land anywhere he feels is good!
There’s a lovely philosophical Law of Non-contradiction. It states that if two statements about an issue contradict each other, then they can’t both be right.
So, if Jesus Christ claims to be the only way to God and Mohammed says there’s another way to God, then either Christ is right, and Mohammed is wrong, or Christ is wrong and Mohammed is right, or they’re both wrong! They can’t both be right.
Since Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Bahai’s and Christians all view Jesus differently, they simply cannot, logically speaking, all be correct!
All roads cannot lead to Rome.
The Philosophy of today has moved away from what you believe, to how SINCERE you are – even in an erroneous belief! There is the belief that it makes no difference what you believe, if you are sincere in your belief, whatever it might be, salvation is yours. That’s sad!
Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the World – the only way, truth & life – none other! Not man’s efforts nor the sincerity of the people. This is the truth and we may not dilute it just to keep people feeling comfortable!
It’s good to remind ourselves that Jesus was God’s plan from the beginning –
Isaiah 28 : 16 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.
For each one of us , when we’ve put our trust in God through Jesus, we are not disappointed, we are not dismayed.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians
1 Corinthians 3: 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
This is the message that God gives to us:
Jesus is the name above every name, a message from the very beginning of time to the New Testament times, to the very end of time.
The name of Jesus is precious and dear to us. Jesus is the only name that saves. We learn that from His Life, and from His Death. We learn it through His being Raised from the dead and we’ll rejoice on the day that He returns.
None of what I’ve been saying is new to us who believe, but it is good to be reminded that God has everything under control – that His Word in Holy Scripture has explained everything – there are no surprises – just absolute assurance in what He has accomplished for us to be with Him in glory for all eternity.
Jesus – Our Saviour and Redeemer – it was never really a mystery was it? It’s just that eyes & hearts are closed to what was said about Jesus even before he was born:
We are told in Scripture, just as the angels of God told Jesus’ parents themselves. When Joseph was told about Jesus, they were also announcing to all mankind:
Matthew 1 : 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus – because he will save his people from their sins.
Jesus, Saviour, what a beautiful name –
Praise God that His Light has shown us the true way – the only way – may we live in the light of that truth – never wavering – and honour the Name that is above all other names – JESUS – to Him be glory forever and ever.