The Exclusivity of Christ

Title: The Exclusivity of Christ

[Audio http://ab86qw.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pFSLrRpEN7jS1_RXpVAJKx39Q9yleNEko2yA8-aL4a9A1Vin2apueB0P_IpSGEECx1276isVVZXTpfrQaeWQ-4w/7-6-08exclusivityofchrist.mp3%5D

Text: Acts 4:1-12

Time: June 23rd, 2008

We’re back in the Book of Acts after a brief Sunday dealing with the topic of death last week. In the Book of Acts we are learning about how Christians, how the early church, operated. Everything was brand new back then, there was no baggage accumulated after many, many years of religious faith and practice. Today, we operate under conditions in which the Christian church finds itself embedded in the modern world under customs, traditions, cultural practices and historical developments 2000 years old. We ask the question, “How much of what we believe and practice of Christianity is the truth from God and how much is mere human tradition?” As we read and study the Book of Acts we are in a better position to answer that question, because in the record of the early church we see a pure and simple Christianity – before all the historical baggage of human culture was added to it. Now not all tradition and historical additions are wrong; in fact, many of the things added on to the original message and practice of Christianity are not only helpful, but essential. For example, the New Testament itself isn’t a feature or fixture of the early church, yet through the historical process of recording the writings of the Apostles and their associates, we now have the Gospels, Paul’s Epistles, and the other writings which complete the canon of scripture for Christians. The New Testament is not only helpful but essential to our faith today, as it has been for the faithful for nearly 2000 years, even though it wasn’t a part of the church in the early years – at least, it wasn’t in its entirety, in its present form. So the New Testament is an example of a good, important, even essential traditional historical development. So not all tradition is bad. Also, again, another example is the doctrine of the Trinity. This teaching is not spelled out as a doctrine in the record of the early church, but it came about upon reflection on the New Testament teaching that God is One, yet Three Persons are called God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So if there is but One God, yet Three Persons are called God, then it must be that the Three Persons are the One God. This is another example of true, accurate, important historical, human tradition that is perfectly consistent with the truth of God. In fact, we would today call the doctrine of the Trinity a truth from God even though it came through human reflection upon the Word of God instead of direct revelation from God. So, not all human tradition is bad, some tradition is even part of God’s revelation, as in the case of the Trinity. But then again, there are other cases, many cases, where harmful human tradition and cultural baggage have crept into the church and corrupted it. That’s why reading and studying the Book of Acts can help us sift and sort between essential truth from God and hurtful human cultural baggage. Our aim should be to believe and practice the pure Word of God, not opinions and customs of men that have been mixed with God’s truth. The Book of Acts can help us tell the difference between the two. Today, I’d like to give attention to what is called the “exclusivity of Christ,” or the “exclusivity of the Christian faith.” That is, how salvation is found only in Jesus Christ, despite all the other religions in the world. Today, this idea that only Jesus saves is being challenged in our modern world. So let’s return to the original Christianity of the 1st Century and see what it taught. Acts 4:1-12 (read), focusing on verses 10-12, “Then know this, you and all the people of Israel; it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

First, there is mention of salvation. Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” What kind of salvation is this referring to? The Greek words for salvation and save, “soteria” and “sozo,” can mean a few different meanings and have a range that can include everything from healing of the body to the salvation of the soul to deliverance from a bad situation. We use the word “salvation” or the word “saved” in a number of different meanings today also. For example, if you are on a boast, let’s say a cruise ship, and it sinks on the open sea, you would pray for someone to come along and “save you.” If the Cost Guard came and rescued you, you might thank them for “saving” your life. It could also refer to healing today, for example, if you get into an accident in an automobile and injure your leg, you might ask the doctors, “My leg, can you save it,” meaning, “can you help repair or heal my leg so I don’t lose it.” So the words “sozo” and “soteria” can mean a few different things, they don’t always have to refer to the salvation of the soul. But what do they mean here in the Book of Acts, in this passage? Here, it looks like they really do refer to soul salvation. Why? Might they refer to healing, since after all, there was healing involved and it is within the context of this healing of the man at the Temple that Peter begins to preach. Isn’t Peter referring to healing when he mentions salvation? No, because Peter is not speaking of healing as the main topic in his sermon, although he uses the example of the healing to demonstrate Jesus’ power. But Peter’s main point is Gospel preaching for the salvation of the soul. While healing is important, it isn’t nearly as important as getting people saved, getting people prepared for heaven. When Peter says, “Salvation is found, . . .” he isn’t now talking about healing, but forgiveness of sins, deliverance from judgment, receiving eternal life in heaven. Today, we have to be careful that we don’t lose the essence of the gospel on secondary or side issues. If you listen to some teachers, you’d think that the most important message of Christianity is healing – you see that on television sometimes, when healing is emphasized more than soul salvation. That’s wrong. While other preachers seem to put material prosperity and financial blessings above forgiveness of sins, deliverance from judgment, and eternal life in heaven. That’s wrong too. Still other pastors seem to preach political action and saving society ahead of soul salvation. Again, that’s wrong. We must never, ever forget that Jesus came to do primarily one thing, which is summarized in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave is only Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” The primary salvation message of Christianity is soul salvation. That is what the Apostle Peter is referring to here in the Book of Acts.

Second, salvation is found only in Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Who is the “name” referring to in this verse? None other than Jesus Christ. In verse 10 it says, “Then know this, you and all the people of Israel; It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” So he is talking about the name of Jesus when he later mentions simply the “name.” He’s talking about the name of Jesus when he says that there is no other “name” under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. It’s like the old gospel hymn called “Jesus Saves”: “We have heard the joyful sound, Jesus saves, Jesus saves.” The whole New Testament from Matthew to Revelation describes the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. If you want to read the best explanation of it, read the Apostle Paul in Romans; that explains it better than anyone or anything ever could. How does Jesus save? The Gospel tells how Jesus died on the cross for our salvation. We were lost in sin, original inherited sin and also our own personal sins. Because we are sinners we are headed for Judgment Day without hope, with all of our sin and guilt before us. It would only take God the Father a short time to determine that we are indeed guilty and deserving of eternal punishment in hell for our rebellion against his will. But Jesus came to save us from our condition. Through his sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf, we are given an opportunity to repent of our sins, admit that we are sinners, turn away from our rebellion and sin, and place our whole-hearted trust in Christ to save us. Now what about people before the time of Christ? What about the Old Testament believers? Were they saved? They didn’t know about Jesus Christ. They were saved on the basis of their faith in God looking forward to the cross, just as people today are saved looking backwards to the cross. God gave the Old Testament saints the sacrificial system of offering up a burnt animal offering for sins, but that was only a temporary fix. The prophecies such as Isaiah 53, which speaks of the suffering servant, point to Jesus on the cross offering himself as the final sacrifice for sins. The Old Testament saints trusted in God for salvation through the sacrifice that they didn’t fully understand. Now we can fully understand it in Jesus Christ. But it was always salvation through Jesus, only today we understand the identity of the Savior fully, whereas before, the ancient people didn’t understand much about the Savior. But salvation still came through faith. But Peter doesn’t stop with salvation through Jesus, he goes further.

Third, salvation comes through no one or nothing else, except Jesus. Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” All men and women must be saved in order to gain eternal life in heaven, but that salvation can only come through Jesus Christ. Now that’s where our world rejects the gospel message. Our world today wants to say that there are many ways to God. It’s popular today to say that all religions lead to God. Buddhism leads to God, Islam leads to God, Hinduism leads to God, etc. That’s the politically correct definition of polite tolerance of all faiths in the world today. It’s considered very rude to say that Jesus is the only way to heaven, or that only through the name of Jesus is salvation found. And yet, that’s exactly what the Apostle Peter and early Christianity teaches. It’s what the whole New Testament teaches too. It’s popular and polite today to say that sincere followers of Buddhism, people like the Dali Lama, are saved too, because they follow their own religion honestly. But Peter makes it very clear in this passage that no matter how sincere a person may be in their faith, unless they believe upon the name of Jesus, they are not saved. Other people claim that Muslims, followers of Mohammed, because they are dedicated to their own religion, God accepts them, but that is not what the early Christian teachers taught. Islam teaches that Jesus is just one of many prophets, and not even the most important of them, because the so-called prophet Mohammed is more important in Islam than Jesus. Jesus isn’t the Savior in Islam. He didn’t die in place for the sins of the world. The Koran teaches that no one can die for our sins, only the person can atone for his or her own sins. Even Hinduism with its many gods and idols can’t save, because it rejects Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. In Hinduism, Jesus is just one of many ways, many truths, and many lives. Hindus are happy to include Jesus along with the other gods, but it won’t give Jesus the exclusive position of only Savior of the soul. And today, it seems the world is moving toward the Hindu position instead of toward the position of the Bible in the New Testament. The world will let you believe and practice anything you wish to as long as you take the position that your way isn’t the only way for all people. But that is exactly what the Bible teaches – that Jesus is the only way to heaven: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” And if you think about it, Peter’s teaching is the only one that can really make sense. Since truth is truth, and if Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world, then it follows that he must be the only way. Why? Because if there were any other way, do you think God the Father would have sent his only Son to die on the cross and suffer as he did? Jesus in the garden prayed, “Father, is there any other way, nevertheless not my will but your will be done.” If there were many ways to heaven, surely God the Father would have chosen to save people through some other way than the death of his only Son. But no, there was only one way, because Jesus is the only Savior, the only means of salvation. There simply is no other way. That’s why we must spread the gospel every chance we get – it’s the only way to heaven. What about those who’ve never heard in lands far away? We need to keep praying for them, that God might send a missionary to them, that they might read a gospel tract, or something. God has his ways of reaching those who are seeking after him whole-heartedly. Let us keep praying for those who have yet to hear, that they might hear and believe in Jesus.

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