No Other Name (Acts 4:5-12)
My Papaw Imel joined the Army in January 1941; of course, within a year, the United States was at war with Germany. Papaw and the rest of his family pronounced our last name with a short “i” instead of a long “i.” However, Papaw’s commanding officer decided that pronunciation sounded too German, so he told Papaw that his name would be pronounced with a long “i.” To this day, my Papaw’s descendants pronounce “Imel” with a long “i,” while his brothers’ descendants pronounce “Imel” with a short “i.”
As you can imagine, the pronunciation of my last name has not been easy for many folks. I had one college professor—the sweetest and most godly of men—who never pronounced my name properly—Brother Underwood called me “Email.” I was lamenting with a close friend not long ago how many folks have a hard time pronouncing Imel correctly, and Alex sheepishly said, “Justin, I’m not exactly sure how to say your last name myself.”
But my last name isn’t my only name to cause me grief—you see, Justin is my middle name. Every year on the first day of school, I was “Randall.” Every time I go to the doctor I must always answer to Randall; one excellent doctor I had years ago always called me “Randy.” Uber and Lyft both use the name on your driver’s license when you’re a driver; so, when I drove for them, every passenger I picked up knew me as Randall.
You might have trouble with your name, too. I don’t think any of you have too much trouble with your last names. Maybe, though, you go by your middle name, and you’ve struggled as I have. Maybe you hate the name your parents gave you. Maybe you often get called a sibling’s name. Maybe you got called a nickname a lot as a kid that you absolutely hated.
But what you are called really doesn’t matter. What matters is the name you call on for salvation. That’s what Peter told the Jewish elders and teachers of the law. Peter had healed a man born lame at the temple. A crowd gathered, and Peter proclaimed the gospel; an important part of the gospel Peter preached was the resurrection of the dead (Acts 3:15). The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, and they arrived as Peter was explaining Jesus’s bodily resurrection; they were greatly disturbed (Acts 4:1-2). They arrested Peter and John (Acts 4:3), but because the apostles were arrested in the evening, the Sanhedrin waited until the next day to question them (Acts 4:4).
As Peter began to speak, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and addressed the Sanhedrin. Since Peter spoke by the Holy Spirit, we know every word he said came from God, not man. That word from God is about the name of Jesus. That message about Jesus’s name? “Only Jesus saves.”
Scripture (Acts 4:5-12)
The leaders mentioned represented the ruling Jewish court, the Sanhedrin; therefore, the folks here would have been well-known. The Jewish aristocracy was known to abuse their power.
The Jewish leadership wanted to know what right Peter and John had to heal the lame man. The miracles frightened the Sanhedrin; they were going to lose their power if the apostles kept healing folks and proclaiming the truth of Jesus.
Peter spoke after he was filled by the Holy Spirit. Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would guide his disciples when they were brought before judges (Matt 10:18-20); here, we see Jesus’s words being fulfilled. Because Peter spoke by the Holy Spirit we know every word he spoke is true.
In antiquity, gratitude was the expected response to a display of kindness. The Sanhedrin’s anger demonstrated just what kind of folks they were.
If you were on trial in the ancient world, you might try to levy a charge against your accusers; Peter had a charge he could easily lay at the Sanhedrin’s feet—they had crucified the Messiah. However, one was not advised to charge his judges with wrongdoing, or he would likely be convicted. Yet, Peter went to the heart of the matter—the Sanhedrin was guilty of crucifying the Son of God.
Peter quoted Psalm 118:22. As the cornerstone of the new temple, Jesus made obsolete the old temple to which the Sanhedrin clung.
Salvation can be found in no one else. Peter likely used “salvation” two ways in this verse: (1) Physical healing—only Jesus could make a lame man walk; and (2) Spiritual healing—only Jesus can save from death and hell.
“Name” often meant “authority”—only Jesus has the authority to save; there is no other name that can save us. Jesus himself said that he is the only savior of the world: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). If anyone is to be saved, he will be saved through Jesus. Muhammad cannot save. Buddha cannot save. No New Age guru can save. No one can be good enough to save himself.
“Only Jesus saves.” That was the clear message Peter gave to the Sanhedrin. How should you live this week since “only Jesus saves?” You need to trust Jesus ALONE for salvation.
That seems straightforward enough—not a one of you believes you can be saved by Buddha or Muhammad; not a one of you believes that God will save everyone; not a one of you believes you can disobey Jesus and be saved. But are you really living a life which trusts Jesus alone for salvation?
Are you trusting in your works to save you?
Some of you might immediately respond, “No, we’re not trusting in works to save us.” But is that the truth? Do you come to worship on Sunday mornings just so you won’t go to hell? Do you avoid certain sins just so that you can go to heaven? Do you pray just so that God will forgive you? Do you visit the sick or give to the church or teach Bible class or do anything else just so that you can punch your ticket to heaven? If so, you’re trusting in works.
Works do not save: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8–9). Jesus alone can save you.
Take a careful look at the works you do in your Christian life. You understand that while works will not save God expects you to be full of good works: “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). As you look at your good works, examine your motives. Do you do good because you love God or because you want to avoid hell? Do you do good because God has been so good to you or because you want forgiveness? No amount of good works will save; only Jesus can do that.
Are you trusting in your family to save you?
Do you believe what you do and live as you do just because that’s what Mom and Dad believed? Have you explored the Scriptures to see what you yourself believe?
There are so many who simply trust in their families for salvation. Whatever Mom and Dad did must be right. No need to investigate. No need to make faith one’s own. You simply do what Mom and Dad did.
That’s taking trust away from Jesus and trusting Mom and Dad to save you. Mom and Dad cannot save. Coming to Jesus means you put Jesus before your Mom and Dad: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26).
You need to take a careful look at your motivation for serving Jesus. Do you serve Jesus because of who he is or because of who your family is? Commit to follow Jesus because he is the Lord, not because your family serves him!
Are you trusting in your goodness to save you?
Do you believe that because you’ve never committed certain sins that you are guaranteed a place in heaven? Maybe you think since you’ve never killed someone or never committed adultery or never stolen or never supported abortion or never envied, you are guaranteed a place in heaven. If you think like that, you sound like the Pharisee who prayed at the temple: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector” (Lk 18:11).
The major problem in trusting in your own goodness to save you is that there is no such thing as a good person. Jesus said: “No one is good—except God alone” (Mk 10:18). “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom 3:12). “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Is 64:6). The Hebrew for “filthy rags” is a strong word—it refers to a soiled menstrual cloth: That is how God views the good deeds you do!
Your goodness cannot save you. Only Jesus can save you!
Are you trusting in some religious authority to save you?
Many folks in this world trust in their religious figures to save them. They might say, “My pastor says I should do things this way. . . .” Or, “The Pope says I should do things that way. . . .” Or, “I read this book by this really smart guy who explained the Bible this way. . . .”
You know better than that; only Jesus’s words can save. Peter said to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). The Lord Jesus said: “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (Jn 6:63). Again, Jesus said: “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day” (Jn 12:48).
While you might point fingers at denominational folks for trusting in religious authority figures, many of our own brethren do the same. They’ll say: “I once heard a preacher say. . . .” “We had an elder who said. . . .” Preachers and elders are not going to save you. Only Jesus can save you. Go to his words!
Do you need to go to Jesus’s words this morning to be saved? Do you need to believe in him as he commanded? Do you need to repent of your sins as he commanded? Do you need to confess his name as he commanded? Do you need to be baptized into his death as he commanded?