Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Is Jesus Really The ONLY Way To God? (and is it a good time to debate this theological point when you are standing before the Sanhedrin?)

Peter and John have healed a lame beggar in Acts 3, and an amazed crowd has gathered. Peter boldly preached the gospel to them until he was interrupted by the authorities (who were "greatly annoyed" 4:2).  Now the two apostles are arrested, spend the night in the slammer, and the next morning are hauled in front of the giant, intimidating semi-circle of the 71 elders and Ruling body of Israel: the Sanhedrin. I'm scared already. But to make matters worse, this is the same council that has sentenced their Master, Jesus, to DEATH recently. Now they are staring down their noble robes at Peter and John and asking them, "By what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7)

What would you do?  How would you answer?  Would you chicken out, or give an earth-shattering bold answer? 

Before Peter could think of an answer he was filled (again) with the Holy Spirit!  Just as Jesus promised: (1) there would be persecution (Matthew 10:22-23); (2) they would stand before leaders to bear witness of Christ (Luke 21:12-13); (3) the Holy Spirit would give them an answer in that moment! (Luke 12:11-12).  The Holy Spirit, who breathed out the words of the Bible through men (2 Timothy 3:16), made sure to include in this passage that Peter was FILLED with the Holy Spirit (God) when he gave his answer (Acts 4:8 - "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them...").  This is important!

So what is Peter's God-inspired, earth-shaking, bold-to-the-utmost answer? Well, first he gives the glory to God for the healing. He says that this "good deed" (v9) was done in the name of Jesus.  But did Peter stop there?  Was he content to just answer their question and be safe?  NO.  He then said, "whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead..." (v10).  Ok.  He's bringing it home. He is accusing the Sanhedrin of despising the one God loved. They killed him, but God raised him from the dead.  Should he stop there?  He's only getting started.

Now Peter quotes the Scripture and puts it in their face.  "This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone" (v11). Quoting both the Psalms and the Prophets, Peter is building his case against his judges!  They are now the ones on trial.  THEY are the builders who rejected the most important stone in the building!  They rejected their Messiah, had him killed, and God validated him by raising him from the dead and exalting him as the cornerstone of the whole thing!  Surely Peter has said enough now!  Nope.

Here's the earth-melting part. Peter just won't quit talking (remember, we know he is filled with the Spirit of God, who is giving him this answer, as Jesus promised).  Peter drives home his point: "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" (v12).  Yipe!  Did Peter just tell the leaders of the Jewish nation that they cannot get to God except through Jesus?  Why, yes he did!  (Feel the earth quivering yet?)  It's an unpopular message today, and it was certainly not popular in this Jewish courtroom!  But the Spirit of God, through the man of God, gave us a clear and bold revelation of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ

He didn't even leave us any wiggle room!  Think about it: if the Jews can't get to God except through conscious faith in the name (person) of Jesus - no one can!  I mean, Israel was God's chosen nation in the old covenant.  Out of all nations on earth, God chose them to be his people, brought them into covenant with himself; gave them special revelation of his Law; sent to them the Prophets.  These things were special favors of divine love to Israel. And none of them can save them apart from their promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, whom they have rejected and killed!  If Israel is not good enough without Jesus, no one is!  If the Jews can't come to God except through Christ - you and I can't either.

Think of the gravity of what Peter is telling the Sanhedrin.  You rejected your only hope for salvation! 

Peter, filled with the Spirit of God, has taught us that there is NO OTHER NAME for salvation besides Jesus. None under heaven (anywhere on earth) given among men (any culture).  All other names do not save.  The name of Buddha?  Does not save (don't blame me..this is what the Holy Spirit said!).  The name of Mohammed?  God says his name does not save.  Only ONE saves.  Jesus.

This is not just an isolated verse in the Bible.  Jesus himself taught this, as did the apostles John and Paul.  This is truth.  Examine the word of God:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Matthew 11:27

• 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. John 3:18

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:12

See how plain the Bible makes this? Refusing the clear truth that Jesus is the only way is not an intellectual or rational problem; it is a heart problem.  It is not that we do not understand what the Bible says; it is that we cannot accept what the Bible says, due to our depraved hearts.  Man simply WILL NOT bow to Jesus (John 5:40).  We see nothing attractive in the one who is altogether lovely.  Just like the leaders of Israel, we have rejected and killed Jesus...but God raised him up.  Jesus is "a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious" (1 Peter 2:4). 
Peter's message is clear:
1. Everyone needs a Savior (Jew or Gentile - Romans 3:9).
2. Jesus is the only Savior who saves.
What supremely wonderful news it is that God is drawing men to this glorious Savior - the one we have refused and rejected!  He is opening spiritual eyes to show us the Savior who died for us and rose again! He commands all men to repent of sin and believe on Jesus Christ.  And he gives amazing promises to those who can, by grace, repent and believe; he promised us forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and escape from the judgment!  Jesus is the only Savior who saves.  All other names do not save. 
Reject the names you are trusting in, and come to Jesus!

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