Only Jesus can Save
Text: Acts 4:12
"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
We live in a day when everyone has their own opinion about everything. As a consequence truth is often assumed to be relative with one person’s opinion not being necessarily any better or worse than another’s.
The Bible does not sit comfortably in such an environment because it makes a large number of highly specific truth claims that challenge contemporary culture and its ways of seeing things. While our society tries to pretend that truth is what we choose to make it the Bible declares that certain things are true and others are false.
If our contemporary culture is right then we really ought to give up on the Christian faith altogether because the claims made by and about the Lord Jesus Christ in the Bible must not only be false but also regarded as extremely arrogant and deliberately deceptive. If on the other hand the Bible is right and some things are true regardless of how I personally might feel about them then it is me (along with the rest of contemporary culture) that is in the wrong and needs to be changed.
This evening we are going to look at some of the truth claims of exclusivity of Jesus Christ and his relevance to the world at large.
The Context of our Text
Peter’s declaration in Acts 4:12 that salvation is inextricably bound up with the Lord Jesus Christ did not come like a lightning bolt out of the blue but it arose in a specific historical context
In Acts 3 Peter and John had been making their way to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship. But before they got there they encountered a man who had been lame from birth. They spoke to him and then, acting upon the authority of Jesus’ name, they healed him. This event rapidly led to an amazed crowd of people surrounding Peter and John who saw this as a wonderful opportunity of speaking further about the Lord Jesus. If the lame man had been delivered from his physical problems by Jesus’ then the crowd should be told about the greater deliverance Jesus can bring to the soul troubled by sin.
In everything they said Peter and John took care to make it very clear that it was Jesus who had all the power and authority necessary to bring needed deliverance – they had no power or ability of their own.
Well, word quickly got to the Jewish religious leaders of what was happening in the Temple and they were not at all pleased. They hadn’t appreciated Jesus during his earthly ministry and they had been the ones who had planned and schemed to do away with him. They had expected with Jesus’ execution the whole "Jesus event" would soon be relegated to the annals of history; they weren’t pleased to discover that his followers were busy talking about him so openly and so powerfully.
What particularly annoyed the Jewish leadership was the way Jesus’ apostles made Jesus so prominent in their teaching. How dare they proclaim that resurrection from the dead was bound up exclusively with Jesus?! How they wished they could stop it all! They’d like to stop those apostles speaking out and they’d love to be able to deny that a miracle had taken place – but it soon became clear to them that they wouldn’t be able to do either.
Let us pause for a moment and make the simple point that religious leaders can get things wrong and in a big way! Just because someone occupies a position of leadership is no guarantee that their ideas are right or in accordance with the truth. These leaders who had opposed Jesus earlier continued to oppose him. They had rejected evidence and hard fact before and now when confronted with further evidence and explanation instead of revisiting their previous assessment they persisted in their hostility towards him.
Peter and John proclaimed that the resurrection of the dead was intimately and exclusively bound up with Jesus who had raised several people from the dead during his lifetime and who had himself experienced death and subsequent resurrection. And the fact that his name was still powerful to work miracles lent support to the claim that Peter and John were making. But the Jewish leaders didn’t want to believe that they had been wrong about Jesus!
Men and women today are little different! They don’t want to believe that Jesus and Jesus alone must be trusted. Different ones will use different arguments to shield themselves from the challenge of Jesus:
Some will deny any sort of resurrection – thus treating Jesus as irrelevant
Others accept resurrection but refuse to recognise Jesus’ unique role in regard to it – thus treating Jesus with indifference
Who will listen to what the Bible does affirm; that resurrection is bound up with Jesus?
Well Peter had preached his Jesus-
They had crucified Jesus
But God had raised Jesus from the dead
How different these two estimates were concerning the value of Jesus!
Would these Jewish authorities rethink their position now that God had so clearly come down on Jesus’ side? Would they be willing to look the fresh evidence of yet another man healed by the power of Jesus’ name in the face and change their minds?
Peter’s response to these Jewish leaders contained an implicit appeal and invitation for them to repent and to put their trust in Jesus. How necessary it was for them to do so for, as Peter continued, this Jesus had been prophesied in the OT Scriptures and having come he was the One, the Only One, who could offer them salvation.
Peter’s explanation further emphasised the complete uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Not only was resurrection uniquely bound up with him so was salvation!
The salvation that Peter has in mind is the salvation that the Jewish Messiah had been sent to secure, a deliverance from the bonds and consequences of sin. Matthew at the beginning of his gospel narrative described it like this:
Mt.1:21 "you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
Salvation in Christ Alone
We celebrate it in our services singing it in our hymns but how well do we really understand and grasp what it all means?
Listen again to what Peter declared to that hostile group of religious leaders:
Acts 4:12 "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
There such a thing as salvation. What good news this! Because the whole of mankind since the fall of Adam has had to live in a condition of sin and misery.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism helps us to understand the gravity of that condition by helpfully summarizing what the Bible says that means:
Q18. What is sinful about man's fallen condition?
The sinfulness of that fallen condition is twofold. First, in what is commonly called original sin, there is the guilt of Adam's first sin with its lack of original righteousness and the corruption of his whole nature. Second are all the specific acts of disobedience that come from original sin.
Q19. What is the misery of man's fallen condition?
By their fall all mankind lost fellowship with God and brought His anger and curse on themselves. They are therefore subject to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.
Immediately after Adam fell, dragging the entire race of whom he was the representative into this bondage of sin, the LORD promised that he would send a Saviour who would resolve the problem. He only ever promised one way of salvation and:
That salvation is only to be found in one person – the Lord Jesus Christ.
The great lesson of this is that if you are going to be saved it must be by Jesus. If you refuse Jesus you are turning your back upon the only salvation that God has provided for sinners. There is salvation to be found nowhere else.
Men and women don’t like to be told that they can’t save themselves and if they can’t save themselves they want to be free to choose by whom they might be saved.
Yet amongst all the millions and millions of other people who have walked on the earth not a single one of them has ever been able to supply the salvation of which a guilty sinner stands in need – most have never suggested that they could and those who have can’t. There is no other such name under heaven, no other such name throughout the entire world that can be trusted, for no-
Many within the Roman Catholic church have wanted to put their trust more in Mary than in the Saviour to whom she gave birth. Over the years extraordinary things have been written about Mary – but her name has not been given to us as a name by which we must be saved. Men and women have prayed to the saints hoping for help and support from them too but none is able to do what Jesus alone can do. The pope has claimed that unless a person is in fellowship with him then salvation is impossible – but the pope is wrong for it is by Jesus’ name that we must be saved.
Nor is it by the name of Mohammed, or Buddha or any other religious leader whoever he/she might be – Jesus only is the message of the Bible.
But praise God that this one name, "Jesus", has been "given"! And because he has been we don’t need another! He is a Saviour capable and willing to save. Jesus has what it takes to save and his blood can make the foulest clean! The hymnwriter declared "his blood availed for me" – do you sing that with joyful confidence? You can and should if you have placed your trust in the Lord Jesus as your only Lord and Saviour! And he told his followers that in his Father’s house there were many rooms and that he was going to prepare a place for them so that they might always be with him.
Praise God too that this one name has been "given"! The Saviour is not the invention of men but he is the gift of God. Salvation is not the achievement of men either, it is the gift of the God-
This name which has been given to us is an effective name. What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that no-
The Regular Constant Message of the Bible
Peter in answering the Jewish leaders as they questioned him and John over their recent behaviour in the Temple focused attention wonderfully upon the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. But in doing this we must not imagine for one moment that Peter was going out on a limb and expressing views that other inspired writers would not follow. We’ve already mentioned some of the verses that point to the fact that there is just one, efficient and sufficient Saviour. There are many other verses too. Together they clearly indicate that not only is there just one Saviour but that this One Saviour is indeed the Saviour of the World!
Here is a list of just some of them – note how they highlight just how important it is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ:
Jn.3:18 "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
Jn.3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."
Jn.14:6 "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Have you ever stopped to think just how arrogant these claims would be if they were not true? What an inflated ego this "Saviour" must have unless of course it is all true!
Peter had grown used to preaching about Jesus and seeing considerable success. 3,000 on the Day of Pentecost and now the numbers had just risen to 5,000 believers following further speaking about Christ in the Temple.
He spoke again fearlessly to the Jewish leaders and once more with effect. The effect however this time was not the same, these men weren’t converted. Yes, those who heard Peter explain himself were impressed – we are told that they were astonished, they marvelled. Listening to Peter and John they realised that these were not learned or educated men – they were just men who had been with Jesus! But they weren’t converted.
We should take from this the encouragement to speak out fearlessly. Sometimes there will be the fruit we look for and sometimes there might not be – but God’s word will never return to him void, it will always accomplish what he wants it to. Let us concern ourselves with what is our responsibility, to speak, and to leave the results in his hands.
And may God be glorified.