Posts Tagged "Acts 4:1-12"

No Other Name But Jesus

April 22, 2018
By Rev. James Barton

     The text for our meditation today is the First Lesson, from Acts, Chapter 4.  Especially we hear these words of Peter, “There is salvation is no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

     These are very controversial words to many people in our world - and even to many in our own country, these days. How dare Christians be so narrow and exclusive in their views, they say, as to claim that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  Don’t they know that the greatest virtue today is the celebration of diversity, differences of opinion - and the acceptance and approval of others, no matter what they think or do or believe? This seem to be the view of so many, today.

     Someone asked recently in a Bible study a very good question. What do you say, when people won’t accept the clear words of Scripture and openly challenge them? That happens so often. People seem to hear only the rules and regulations of the Bible, and they don’t like them.

     Maybe you saw in the news, this week, that a U.S. Senator directly challenged a nominee for office in our country, because he had once said that though he cared for all people and respected their right to their views, he still believed, as a Christian, that certain sexual behaviors were wrong, were perverse. The Senator then said, in effect, to him, that he was not qualified to serve in the government if he thought that any people in our country were perverse. You just can’t judge and say that! (Notice, though, that the Senator was judging, himself, as he spoke.)

     Contrast this Senator’s ideas with what the Scriptures say. Paul, in his own day, calls his own generation “a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15), because of the reality of sin and evil in the world, (ever since the fall into sin, actually); and using the picture image of this Good Shepherd Sunday, Isaiah says that we all, like sheep, have gone astray. (Isaiah 53: 6) We are all sinners, who have done wrong; and we need to know and admit that.

     Our text for today gives us some help in how to respond to these challenges, for those early Christians faced the same sort of problems, and even worse, at times. Peter and John were in the temple in Jerusalem, taking with people and “preaching in Jesus the resurrection from dead.” (Acts 4:2)

     A crowd had gathered, because by a miracle of God, a man who was crippled all of his life and had never been able to walk, was suddenly healed. People wanted to see how this man could be “walking and leaping and praising God.” (Acts 3:8) And Peter and John took the opportunity they had to tell the people about Jesus.

     Suddenly, religious authorities and temple guards came and shut Peter and John down and arrested them and took them into custody. The next day, the authorities began to question them about how the crippled man was healed.

     Peter and John took the opportunity given to them, again. They could have said nothing or said nothing controversial; but they spoke boldly. They knew that Jesus had died and then had risen from the dead. They took no credit for themselves for the healing, the good deed done. They can only point to Jesus and say, “Let it be known....that by the name of Jesus Christ of Him, this man is standing before you well.” (Acts 4:10)

     They knew that what Jesus said in our Gospel lesson for today was really true. “I am the Good Shepherd”, (John 10:14) He said. There are lots of sheep, but only one Shepherd for them all, He says. (John 10:16) And he is that one Good Shepherd.

     Jesus also contrasts Himself with “hired hands” - people who say that they care about the sheep, but ultimately can’t help them and die and leave them alone - to try to do what they can for themselves, on their on. (John 10:12) Think about all the world religions and teachings - lots of ideas, some of them with bits of good - but no one can really live up to these ideas, no matter how hard we try - and Buddha and Mohammad and Joseph Smith and on you go with other names  - are dead and gone and can’t help and did nothing ultimately to save, to rescue other people.

     Yet we sheep do need help, as weakened as we are by our sins and failures. Our church choir director, Amanda, whose family raises sheep, was telling the choir on Thursday that sheep just don’t know how to care for themselves or for each other, or how to protect themselves, or do much at all for themselves. They are lost, on their own. That’s why Jesus and the Scriptures call all of us humans “sheep”. We are spiritually lost, on our own. We can’t rescue ourselves. We need a Savior.

     And that’s why Peter has to say, very bluntly, in our text, that Jesus is the Messiah, the promised One, and yet “you crucified Him”. (Acts 4:10) And quoting the Old Testament, Peter says, “this is the Stone that was rejected by you....which has become the Cornerstone.” (Acts 4:11) People had to be confronted and to know their sins, so that they could know their need for the Savior, and to appreciate Him.

     And Jesus did care for and love His sheep, including us, in spite of our failings, and He did exactly what He had promised, in our Gospel lesson.

“I am the Good Shepherd, Who lays down His life for the sheep, and I take it up again.” (John 10:11, 17-18)

     What we sheep could never do, Jesus did for us - dying on the cross, willingly, to pay for our sins and the sins of the whole world, and rising from the dead, taking up His life again, to show us that we are saved and have new and eternal life, simply by listening to His voice and trusting in Him. And even that saving faith is a gift from the Good Shepherd. Peter and John were arrested, but we still read that “many of those who had heard the Word (about Jesus as Savior, from them) believed.” (Acts 4:4) They believed by the working of the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God.

     And when you really think about it, the last words of Peter in our text are not narrow and exclusive, but are amazingly Good News for everyone in the world.  Listen again. “There is salvation in no one else.” (Acts 4:12) That means that there is salvation, and it is completed and available for anyone and everyone in Jesus Christ, And it is available now!

       “For there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) These are actually very comforting words. They mean that we don’t have to keep looking for or waiting for a Savior to come. We don’t have to try this or that religion or idea or try to work out things by our own goodness or efforts. We have everything we need, all we need - in Jesus Christ. And He has already come, in love, just for us sheep, to save us.

     Remember that Jesus prayed from the cross, as He laid down His life for His sheep, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

(Luke 23:34) That’s the essence of our being sheep. Too often, we don’t know what we are doing or what to do about situations in our lives. And it is especially true of those who don’t yet know Jesus as Savior and as the Center of life. They are lost and confused, on their own, and really need forgiveness and hope and new life and salvation that come through no other name but Jesus.

     Even as baptized believers, we continually need that reassurance in Jesus, too, as we tend to be wandering sheep, ourselves, at times, and need to hear the Law of God calling us to repentance, too. We hear in our Epistle for today, “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.” (1 John 3:20). He knows exactly why He gave all those rules and commands in the first place, for our own good; but He also knows His own Son, Jesus, Who has done His saving work for us and will forgive us, as we humbly return to and trust Him, by His grace, and will give us strength to try to do better.

     And now, humbly and lovingly, as forgiven sinners, we try, as we have opportunity, to share Jesus Christ with other sinners, even though they can sometimes be very resistant.

     Martin Luther once said that all we really are as Christians is to be beggars who have found bread in Christ and now want to help other beggars find that bread - but it is the Bread of Life, eternal life, in Jesus, that we have received freely from Jesus, and that everyone desperately needs, whether they know it or not. And so we keep trying to share both Law and Gospel, the bad news of our sins, but the Good News of our Savior.

     “For there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) No other Name, but Jesus.

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