No other Name Under Heaven (Acts 4:12)
The name of Jesus Christ is known throughout the world. For some the name brings a sense of peace and joy when spoken, but for others it incites rage and anger. In the early days of the apostles as recorded in the book of Acts, each apostle was given the task of spreading this name throughout the world.
It was said in Luke 24:46-47 that the death burial and resurrection of the one called Jesus was necessary for the repentance and remission of sins. The apostles were instructed by Jesus to go into all the nations preaching this message. In doing so, the apostles would be met with some open arms as well as fierce opposition and persecution even to the point of death. From the very beginning when Jesus first gave the command to the apostles to go out preaching salvation in His name there have been many a brave men and women who have laid down their lives for the name of Jesus Christ.
Acts 4:12 says “nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NKJV) This statement spoken that day in front of the Jewish leaders would carry with it great meaning for some and be the center of controversy for others for years to come.
Prior to Peter making this statement, he and John had gone up to the temple at the time of prayer. As they were entering the gate they were addressed by a lame man who made it a habit to set outside the temple gate begging for alms from willing people who passed him by each day. For this lame man there was no other life, being crippled from birth he would be carried by friends and family and laid down outside the gates everyday in the hopes that someone would show some compassion and give him the monetary assistance that he needed to survive. The man asked Peter and John to give him something but what Peter offered him was sure to be a surprise. Peter responded to the man with a message that he had surely not heard before. Peter said “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6 NKJV)
After hearing these words spoken the lame man did as he was told. He stood up to his feet in what might have been the first time in his life and he followed Peter and John into the temple. As they walked into the temple the people who were there were struck with amazement and wonder with what they had just seen. No doubt there were some who wrote it off as a fake or maybe even a con, but surely there were some who knew that they had just witnessed a miracle.
It was this miraculous event that would set the stage for the future of the church. This act of healing would be viewed by some as an act of heresy rather than a miracle of God. With word of this spreading very fast it was only a short while before the Jewish leaders were informed of what had happened. Among the leaders was a rather important group of people. Bock says that the “Sadducees were a key sect of Judaism, he says that they claimed their roots went all the way back to Zadok, high priest under Solomon and even further back to Zadok, elder son of Aaron.” This group of people had a reputation for being fairly strict especially in their dealings with those outside of Judaism and they thought very highly of themselves as keepers of the Law. When they heard that were a couple of men who were in the temple preaching Jesus to the people and even healing people in the name of Jesus they were offended to say the least. The Sadducees believed only in the books of the Law and denied this new teaching of the resurrection. They opposed Jesus and His ministry and had hoped that they had gotten rid of Him until Peter and John came around preaching that name again.
The knee-jerk reaction of the Sadducees and the other Jewish elders would have certainly been to get rid of these crazy apostles who were spreading such awful lies and sweep this whole thing under the rug. They could not afford to have anyone compromise their good standing with the Roman rule of the day. They knew that disturbances like this could be viewed as an uprising by the Romans and the consequences of that would not fair well for anyone. However, in spite of their anger and eagerness to nip this in the bud they could not deny that a miracle had been performed on the lame man. They themselves knew the crippled man and could see clearly with their own eyes that he had been made whole. The only option the leaders could come up with was to arrest Peter and John and bring them before a make-shift tribunal where they would threaten their lives and command them to go their way but to never again speak to anyone about this Jesus.
While standing before the council, Peter being filled with the Holy Spirit would speak with a boldness that would only anger the leaders even more. When asked by what power or by what name they had done such a thing, Peter proudly proclaimed that by the name of Jesus Christ these things had been done. Being the slightly zealous man that Peter is, he decided to keep jabbing at the Jewish elders. He pointed out how they had rejected Jesus and handed Him over to be crucified but that through all of this Jesus had become the chief cornerstone. It was Jesus whom they crucified who would bring salvation to all manner of men. In fact it was Jesus who would provide the only road to salvation. For Peter the thought that Jesus is the only name given in which men must be saved would mean the world to him. It was the basis of his entire belief system. His hope rested in the belief that Jesus would one day return for all those who are His and everyone would enjoy life after the resurrection. For the Sadducees and some of the other leaders this would mean nothing, since they did not believe in a resurrection of the body at all.
Peter and John would leave that day but very little would come from the threats of the leaders. The Apostles would continue to spread the gospel message without fear of the persecution that lie ahead. The message that Peter laid out that day has never been forgotten, even today there are many people around the world who line up on various sides of the issue. Though there may be hundreds of different views for the sake of this paper we will focus on these three.
Exclusivism: Christian exclusivism is defined as the belief that (1) Jesus Christ is the only Savior, and (2) explicit faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation.
Inclusivism: “This view maintains that Jesus is the only Savior for all humanity but that it is possible to attain salvation apart from explicit knowledge of him. One can be saved by expressing faith in God based on the general knowledge of him that is available to everyone.”
Pluralism: “This view holds that Jesus is only one of many saviors available in the world’s religions.”
Based on the statement that Peter made it is feasible to believe that he held to an exclusive view of salvation. He was very adamant in his speech; he not only said that Jesus was the only savior but that it was a must that men be saved in the name of Jesus. Peter understood the true meaning of salvation as well as the process that was necessary for salvation. Dr Elmer Towns explains it like this; “Salvation means to be brought from a state or condition not favorable to our welfare or happiness into a condition which is favorable.” Peter explained this in his speech as well as his actions in showing the lame man being brought from an unfavorable state to a favorable state. Now the attention is turned to how and by who are we saved? How does the process of salvation work? To understand this it is helpful to understand why man is in need of salvation. Romans 6:23 tells us that wages of sin is death. This is the penalty set for sin by the Creator Himself. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden man has been cursed and without a substitution to take the place of our debt then we would forever be lost and separated from God. It was Jesus who came and laid down His own life in place of our own so as to pay the price for our sins. This act of sacrifice afforded us the opportunity to be cleansed by the blood and reconciled back to God. However, the fact that Jesus died is not enough to bring us back into fellowship with God. With His death the sin debt was paid but that alone would put us in good moral standing with God but we would still be left under the power of the grave. The resurrection of Jesus took care of this, upon his resurrection from the grave he conquered death, taking away any grip that it once had on man.
The point that Peter was making was that not only are we in need of salvation but that there is only one way to get it. There is only one person who is both willing and capable of being the savior of man-kind. Fast-forward a few thousand years and we see more and more evidence of this. History supports the story of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, but to date He is the only supposed Savior to actually accomplish that feat. There are various other religious leaders that offer that they hold the key to salvation but none of them can support their claims. Buddha died in 480 BC, Confucius died in 479 BC, and Muhammad died in AD 632 none of them showing in power over death or the grave. Jesus showed the willingness and the capability just as it was told in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
The entire bible is devoted to telling the story of God’s love for mankind and how He made it possible for man to be reconciled to Himself through the blood of Jesus Christ. “According to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22); “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8); “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7) If these scriptures are not enough for the skeptical mind then maybe the word of Jesus Himself would carry more weight.
Jesus made it clear on many occasions that He was the one and only way to salvation. In the Great “I Am’s “alone rest sufficient evidence that He was indeed the Savior of the world. He said, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35); “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12); “I am the door.” (John 10:9); “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25); and finally “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
According to the World Christian Encyclopedia there are 9,900 distinct and separate religions in the world.With this number of varying belief systems it is no surprise that not all believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, in fact it is surprising to many that Christians are so confident in the preeminence of Christ. As Christians we put our faith in the knowledge that Jesus was exactly who He said he was, we believe that He accomplished all that He came to do and that His promises will never be broken. For Christians these truths are the basis of our fundamental beliefs. If Jesus was just a mortal man then Christianity would not exist. C.S. Lewis, renowned British thinker said it like this:
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a Demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
If we were to follow the lead of the Sadducees and the many world religions of today that offer numerous ways to salvation then we too would be left with little hope and joy. It is this faith that gives us the strength to be bold just as Peter was and stand up and proclaim that Jesus Christ is our savior and if given the chance He would love to be yours too.Bibliography
Bock, Darrell L. ACTS Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.
Boyd A, Gregory, and Paul Eddy R. Across the Spectrum. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.
Graham, Franklin. The Name. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2002.
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1952.
Nash, Ronald H. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1994.
Towns, Elmer L. Core Christianity: What Christianity is all about. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2007.
Towns, Elmer. Theology for Today. Mason: Cengage Learning, 2008.
Bock, Darrell L. ACTS Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.
Nash, Ronald H; Is Jesus the Only Savior?
 Across the Spectrum.(Boyd ; Eddy)
 Theology for Today (Towns)
 Core Christianity (Towns)
 The Name (Graham)
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan publishing Co., Inc. 1952)