1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 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. 11 He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ 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.”
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.
In the ancient world there were a lot of things you could believe in.
There were all sorts of Greek or Roman ‘gods’ to choose from - just take your pick. Epicureanism was a common philosophy. So was Stoicism. There were all kinds of mysterious religions and pagan worship ideas.
There were all kinds of things one could believe in, and not much has changed today. We dress them up with fancy new names and labels, but worldly, manmade religions are exactly the same as they were thousands of years ago – empty, hollow and lifeless.
To many people Christianity is also just one of many belief systems.
And so long as we don’t become fanatical in our Christian faith, most non-Christians are quite happy for us to have our Church buildings and our weekly get-togethers.
Most people nowadays believe that there is some kind of God out there somewhere, even if they don’t believe in the Christian God.
Many of them will even go so far as to accept that Jesus is His Son, even if they don’t understand what that means, because they sing the same old Christmas carols each year.
And they probably don’t have too many objections when it comes to the Bible either. Many non-Christians have a Bible at home. It may be an old leather-bound King James Version handed down to them from granny, or a Sunday School prize from when they were 6 years old, but most “western” homes have at least one Bible somewhere in an old box in the garage.
Even though many may not believe it actually came from God, most pay lip service at least to it as a book of potential wisdom.
They certainly cannot deny the reality of the Church - the Church belongs to God; even if we experience it in imperfect ways.
The attitude of the vast majority of non-Christians to us is something along these lines: “Well that’s all very nice. If you want to believe all that, that’s great. Everyone needs to believe in something, so you may as well choose Christianity.”
But – Christianity is not just one of many belief systems. A cornerstone of what we believe is the fact that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation.
John 3:36 says, “All who believe in God’s Son have eternal life. Those who don’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life, but the wrath of God remains upon them.”
And that’s what really makes us unpopular.
When you proclaim the true doctrine of Christianity without watering it down, be prepared to be accused of being intolerant, close-minded, backwards, old-fashioned, un-enlightened, bigoted, etc. The list is endless.
How dare you suggest that there is only ONE way to Heaven?
Because there are all kinds of things we can believe in today.
There are all kinds of religions and there are all kinds of philosophies.
It doesn’t matter what you believe, because we’re all on the same journey, and we’re just taking different paths, right?
That’s what the world wants to tell us, but what Peter told that panel of religious leaders in Acts 4 has never been more true.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
This great statement comes in the middle of a wonderful story in Acts.
Peter and John had been ministering and continuing the ministry of Christ. They were teaching the good news and healing the sick. In the previous chapter they came across a man crippled from birth, and they healed him.
Quite naturally the crowd was amazed, and Peter knew a good opportunity when he saw it, so he began preaching to the crowd.
But this soon got him and John into trouble, as we see in chapter 4.
The religious leaders were not happy with Peter preaching about Jesus and the resurrection, so they threw them both into prison.
The next day they have a meeting, and Peter and John are hauled up before them.
But the Peter we see in the book of Acts is very different to the Peter who denied Jesus three times in the Gospels.
Now he is absolutely fearless, and he even starts preaching to the panel of religious leaders.
“Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 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. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus described His mission in Luke 19:10 like this – “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Now, as far as the Jewish leaders were concerned, what Peter was preaching was heresy, because Jesus had not saved anyone. Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah, because the Messiah, the deliverer, the Saviour, was supposed to come and restore Israel’s power and might - not die on a cross!
Jesus hadn’t brought the Jews salvation from Rome, so how could He possibly be the Messiah?
The question is though, did they understand what it meant that He came “to save what was lost?”
What does it mean that Jesus brought “salvation?”
What is it “to be saved?”
You hear the words saved and salvation in the Church all the time. They are kind of religious sayings that that Christians often use, maybe without realising that there might be some people who don’t understand what we mean.
We sort of take it for granted that everybody wants “to be saved.”
Well, maybe some people don’t want “to be saved” because they don’t understand what it means to be lost.
Maybe they don’t feel the need for Jesus in their lives because they don’t feel the need to be saved.
For them, life is just fine, thank you very much.
They’ve got good jobs, they’re paying their bills, their kids are in good schools and they have a good circle of friends.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons that many people don’t bother to get involved in their local Church – they don’t feel a burden to be saved, because they don’t feel like they’re in any trouble.
But that’s exactly what satan wants them and us to believe, especially in a capitalist society where our wealth and prosperity and our ethic of self-reliance has blinded us to the fact that we are lost and in need of a Saviour.
Yes, there are many people who oppose the Christian faith and all it stands for. There is a determination among some people to close down Churches and ban Christianity from society, but for most non-Christians, they just couldn’t be bothered. Their philosophy is, “Whatever. Believe that if you like, but I choose not to.” They’re lost, but they don’t know it or believe it, and they’re certainly not losing any sleep over it.
2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
So we shouldn’t be surprised at the apathy of some people.
But the truth of the matter is that whether we realise it or not, without Jesus we are lost.
Romans 3:23 – “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 6:23 – “the wages of sin is death.”
We are all lost and we cannot save ourselves.
The second half of Romans 6:23 holds the answer though: “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If you had to ask people to be completely honest, I think you’d find that most of them would agree that we are in at least some kind of trouble.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the human race - we’re just not sure what.
Some people call it dysfunction, some bad karma or psychic voids and some blame their problems on oppression or social ills. We all sort of intuitively know that this isn’t the way things are supposed to be.
But not to worry, because there are all sorts of solutions and remedies available.
I get sick, I go to the doctor and take a pill.
I’m too fat, I go on one of a million different diets.
I have a drug problem, I can go to a rehab centre.
I suffer from any kind of illness, and there is some medication available.
There are all kinds of things out there offering us help, but they don’t treat the real problem.
Like a lot of things, they will only treat the symptoms, but not the root of the problem.
Our real problem - our real disease is sin.
Sin is one of those 3-letter words that we prefer not to talk about.
We’re more at home talking about diseases and dysfunction, but at the heart of it all is sin.
Sin clouds our judgment, twists our motives and distorts our relationships.
It is sin that we cannot escape from, because it affects us all so profoundly.
It’s sin that we so desperately need salvation from.
You’d think that people would jump at the opportunity to be forgiven for their sin, wouldn’t you?
But there are so many who don’t.
Why is that?
Why would anyone not want salvation?
There’s a story of a plague which was ravaging a tiny village in the middle of a jungle somewhere.
A lone missionary doctor, who had given his life to fighting this particular disease, had gone in there with the only cure available.
It was made from plants indigenous to the region and could quite easily be made by the villagers themselves just by taking some of the leaves and mixing it with some herbs and spices.
But when the doctor went to the village, he found that there wasn’t a single person in the village who was free of the disease. They all had it and were dying at an alarming rate. A characteristic of the disease was a rash on the back of the neck. All he had to do was treat the rash with the medication and the people would be healed, but he couldn’t get anybody to let him give them the medication.
Despite the fact that people were dying, nobody realised that they were sick. They all had the same rash, so to them there wasn’t anything unusual about it.
Since everybody had the same markings on their necks, they just assumed it was normal and nobody realised any different. Nobody realised it was killing them.
Isn’t that same with sin in the modern world? We look around at the world and think this is normal. That’s just the way things are. Maybe that’s why so many people don’t want to be saved - nobody realises that we’re all infected by sin and it is killing us!
But we are infected, and there is only one cure - Jesus Christ. He has come into our village with the only cure available, and He’s the only one who is not sick.
God knew we were going to sin when He created us, so He made a plan to save us.
God’s plan for salvation from the very beginning was Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:20 says, “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”
Now, if salvation is found in Jesus alone, that opens a whole different can of worms in our modern, God just loves everyone society.
You’re not going to find salvation in any other religion. No matter how peaceful other religions may claim to be, they cannot offer you true peace.
You’re not going to find salvation in the secular world. Hope for mankind does not lie within the realm of science or technology or politics.
You’re not going to find salvation by working harder or by trying to earn it yourself.
You cannot get there on your own!
Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Salvation is a gift. You cannot earn it - it just doesn’t work that way.
You will find it only in Jesus Christ. The world will tell you that it doesn’t matter what you believe, just so long as you’re sincere. Now that may sound all nice and flowery, but it is not Scriptural. In fact, it directly oppose Biblical truth.
Salvation is in Christ, and in Christ alone.
Once we have decided that we are going to stand on the promises of God, we have the privilege of taking that truth into this world that so desperately needs to hear it. There is so much confusion and false teaching out there, and they simply have to hear the message that salvation is in Christ alone.
Have a look at what Peter and John did after their inquisition before the authorities.
They were so dramatically changed by their salvation in Christ that they couldn’t help themselves – they simply had to tell others the good news.
They couldn’t stop themselves from making a difference in the lives of people everywhere they went.
God doesn’t simply save us from our sins – He saves us for a purpose.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Part of this “plan for salvation” includes good works that God has planned for us to do here and now.
I think many of us have sort of an ego-centric view of salvation.
What Jesus did on the cross was just so I could go to Heaven, so I can go and live in a fancy mansion, take daily walks down the streets paved with gold and maybe take a dip in the crystal sea every now and then.
Now, all of that may be true, and we certainly should be looking forward to Heaven, but Jesus didn’t die just so you and I could live in Heaven when we die.
He also died so that we can live our lives to the glory of God right here and right now – even and especially while we’re surrounded by all this sin.
We are to live our lives as living sacrifices, as Paul puts it in Romans 12.
Our lives should be shining examples in a dark world of the light of Christ.
So maybe the big question is not “Are you saved?”
I certainly hope that you are, but the question we need to be asking ourselves is this: “How is my salvation reaching others?”
Has it at all?
What example am I setting?
Am I telling others about Jesus?
Am I living my life to bring glory to God?
Is my salvation being demonstrated by my works and my actions?
Am I being true to the commission that Jesus has given to me – to tell the world that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved? Do they know that it is in Christ, and in Christ alone?
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Matthew 7:13-14
This is just one of many instances where the Bible teaches clearly that salvation is not universal, but is available only and exclusively through faith in Jesus.
Why do you think there is so much resistance to this Biblical doctrine in the modern world?
How have you seen the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus being challenged from within the Church? In other words, have you heard Christians saying that there are many roads to God, and Jesus is merely the one the Church has chosen?
How do you feel about this popular view?
Read Acts 4:12
Peter and the other apostles faced tremendous opposition by proclaiming that there is only one way to God, and it is something we still see today.
Words such as ‘narrow-minded, arrogant and intolerant’ are frequently used by those who oppose the truth of the Bible.
How do you feel when you are faced with such accusations?
How have these occasions strengthened or weakened your faith in Jesus?
Close by praying that God would give us the courage to proclaim that there is Good News.
Give thanks that because of His immeasurable love and mercy, salvation is even possible in the first place.