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New Horizons

Only One Name

Douglas Clawson

We are resourceful people. The things that we want and cannot get by one means, we'll get by another means. If we can't buy what we want in the local store, we can order it by mail or purchase it from a website. If the usual route we take is under construction, we choose from a number of others. We have choices in doctors for our care, hospitals for our surgery, banks for our loans, and modes of transportation for our travel. No matter what we are concerned about—quality, service, speed, cost, or convenience—we have choices for everything, and we have the creativity to achieve our goal, even if someone else thinks that it isn't possible.

No Other Options

Perhaps that's what is so startling about Peter's words to the rulers and elders of Jerusalem in Acts 4. Peter wasn't trying to make room for Jesus' teaching within the then-current boundaries of Judaism. Peter was excluding all options for access to God, life, and salvation, except the one through Jesus Christ: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (vs. 12).

It is God, not man, who draws the boundaries of life and salvation. Peter was telling the Jewish religious leaders that no matter what they thought about God's Word, their own relationship to God, and the salvation they hoped for, they didn't have a hope or a prayer for salvation apart from Jesus Christ.

No New Claim

The sort of claim that Peter made with regard to Jesus was familiar to God's people. The exclusivity that Peter claimed for salvation through Jesus Christ was no different from the exclusivity that God claimed for his relationship with his Old Testament people. In the second commandment, for instance, he prohibits his people from making any image or likeness of God: "You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God" (Ex. 20:5).

Simply put, God refuses to share us with anyone or anything else that vies for our devotion or service. His demands on a relationship with him allow no room for anyone or anything else. This is his right because he alone is the Creator and Savior. He gives us everything we have and makes us everything we are. Therefore, we owe him everything we have and everything we do.

Likewise, God provides no way for salvation, other than through himself. He alone is able to save. God proved this to Israel time and time again, in instances like the parting of the Sea and the overthrowing of their enemies. He proved this to them over and over when, after they turned to other gods and other nations for their deliverance, he allowed them to come close to complete destruction.

No Other God

Peter is therefore making it clear here that the great truth that God alone is able to save must be understood to demand that we trust in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).

Peter's point is that the relationship between God and Jesus Christ is so close that they must be identified as one and the same. There was no room here for the Jews of Peter's day to imagine that they could have a relationship with God—let alone salvation—apart from Jesus Christ. Neither was there any room here for the Jews of Peter's day to imagine that the Christians were claiming that Jesus is some other god. There is no other name because there is no other God. Jesus is God.

No Other Savior

As individuals, as nations, and a species for which resourcefulness often makes the difference between survival and extinction, or between advancement and stagnancy, we might be frustrated and even angered by the claim that there is no other way or other name by which a man can be saved. However, we ignore this message only to our eternal loss. There may be many roads to a mountaintop, but there is only one way to enter heaven. There is only one name, there is only one way, and there is only one God who is able to save. He is Jesus.

This is the message that we preach and teach in our churches and mission works here and abroad, and this is the message that you help to spread through the Thank Offering, because there is no other message that holds out life and salvation. There is no other message because there is no other God, no other Savior, no other way—only Jesus.

The author is the associate general secretary for the Committee on Foreign Missions. Reprinted from New Horizons, November 2003.

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