No other name
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.
When we wrap Christmas presents in the Zarling home, we don’t put name on the presents. Each of the girls gets a style of wrapping paper. All of her presents are wrapped in that paper.
The girls each open a present and have to decide if that present is hers or one of her sisters. They are able to figure out the wrapping paper based on the present inside. For example, if it’s Littlest Pet Shop characters, it belongs to Belle. If it is the Captain America: Civil War movie, then it’s Lydia’s. If it’s a soccer ball – then it could be for any of them.
We have fun with our presents by not putting names on them. But in everyday life, names are important. Names have meaning. Names gain you access.
When you purchase something, your credit card should match your drivers’ license. When you have a baby, that child receives your last name because that child belongs to you. When you hand in a homework assignment, your teacher or professor won’t know who to give credit to unless you have your name on your assignment.
Names are important.
Perhaps you invited your friends or family to church with you this evening. They politely declined saying that they don’t go to church because they are “spiritual,” not “religious.” Being “spiritual” sounds so good – but it’s not Christian.
Listen to the way people talk today about their faith. They will speak generically about “God” or “the Lord,” but not about “the Almighty God” or “the Lord of heaven and earth.” Music will talk about having faith, but not who that faith is in. Prayers are often addressed to God, but not specifically to the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We may be willing to talk about morality with people, but we hardly mention from whom we have received that morality.
It’s like trying to open a present without having a name on it. Except there are countless presents and only one of them is the correct one. That isn’t any fun.
It’s as if people are afraid to mention the name of Jesus. That’s because the name of Jesus divides people in this world. The name of Jesus is confrontational, it doesn’t let you sit on the fence. His name is not politically correct. It is not sensitive and inclusive of all religious thinking.
We need to repent of being afraid to use the name of Jesus in polite conversation. We need to repent when we hide our affiliation to Jesus at work. We need to repent when we do not set aside our busy schedules to worship Jesus in His house. We need to repent when we do not approach Jesus in our prayers. We need to repent when we appear to be “spiritual” – just having a nominal belief in some deity, instead of being religiously, faithfully, steadfastly committed to Jesus as our Lord and God.
Tonight’s worship service is all about the name of Jesus.
The name Jesus is a perfectly ordinary human name. Jesus is the New Testament version of Joshua meaning “the Lord saves.” Any carpenter in Nazareth might have been named Jesus.
But this is no ordinary name. The name of Jesus also causes controversy, scandal and offense. It has always been this way. In Acts 3, Peter and John heal a man who was crippled from birth. Then they get hauled in before the Jewish church leaders and thrown in jail. Were the Jewish church leaders upset that Peter and John healed a man? No. Was it because Peter and John were preaching and teaching in the streets? Not necessarily. So, why did they get so angry with the apostles? It’s because Peter declared how this miracle happened: “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” (Acts 4:11).
It is only the name of Jesus that causes the politically correct to be on edge. It is the name of Jesus that throws false religious leaders into a tizzy and causes political leaders to tumble. No other name causes such a ruckus.
And yet Peter declares to the Jewish church council and to all of us: “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 is the name that is higher than any other name. King of kings. Lord of lords. God in human flesh. Name of names. Jesus. This is the name that causes demons to flee; the name that causes diseases to shrivel; the name that causes the dead to rise; the name by which prayers are heard; the name by which God in the flesh is known; the name by which we are saved.
You need this name and only this name. Satan has created all kinds of big presents covered with shiny wrapping paper. They all look so good and appear so spiritual. Yet each one of those nameless presents leads to eternal damnation. It is only the humble present wrapped in human flesh and blood that bears the name of Jesus. That’s the only present you need. That’s the only name that saves.
It is the name that left the throne of heaven to be laid in a manger.
It is the name that gave Himself on a cross to exchange His life for the guilty.
It is the name that was placed on you in your Baptism.
It is the name that is placed into your mouth in the Lord’s Supper.
It is the name that is placed into your ears in the Invocation and Benediction of worship.
It is the name that is placed over your heart in the forgiving all your sins in the Absolution.
There may be all kinds of names that people try to substitute to make themselves feel spiritual. There may be names that people use to appear less divisive and more inclusive. There may be times when we forget to pray in Jesus’ name or fail to worship the name that is above every name. But know this – on this holiest of evenings – that the name of Jesus alone is exalted above the earth and heavens, because there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Amen.