February 27, 2023
“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.”
When I was in seminary, my professor and president, J. Robertson McQuilkin told us a story of his years as a missionary in Japan. As a young missionary, he was ecstatic over how many Japanese had easily come to Christ. But he became suspicious when they all asked for a small wooden cross for their homes. He was later to discover that all the “converts” were taking their small crosses and adding them to their collection of religious icons and holy objects of other religions. When Robertson told them that they must forsake all other gods and ways to spiritual completeness, they all returned the crosses to him and ceased to follow Jesus. The exclusive claim of Christ upon their lives was too much for them.
When the Sanhedrin demanded that Peter, John and the other apostles “speak no more to anyone in this name,” i.e., the name of Jesus (Acts 4:17), Peter and John refused to comply with that command. They had made their point extremely clear: “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.” (Acts 4:12)
Was Peter being narrow, exclusive and intolerant? Yes. James Montgomery Boice explains: “Why did Peter insist on this fact? He was an intelligent man. He knew he was saying these things at the risk of his life. Why would he take such a chance? He was saying it because he knew there was nobody else like Jesus Christ. There is no man who is God except Jesus, no one who could die for the sins of others. That is why Peter could proclaim Him fearlessly. You may say, ‘But it sounds so narrow.’ Yes, it is narrow. ‘But it sounds so exclusive.’ Yet, it is exclusive. ‘But it sounds so intolerant.’ Yes, in a sense it is intolerant. But it is also true. And any man or woman who turns his back on what is true is simply foolish.” (Acts, 1997; p. 78)
The exclusivity of Jesus Christ remains as offensive to modern Americans as it was to first-century Jews or twentieth-century Japanese. Perhaps that is why we often witness to others by saying something like, “When the gospel gets a hold of you….” Or, “If you would choose the way of grace….” We use “gospel” and “grace” as euphemisms for Jesus Christ. Less offensive. More open-minded. But the problem is this: The gospel never grabs hold of a person’s soul; Jesus does. Nor does living by grace save us; Jesus does. We need to be careful. In our efforts to make the claims of Christ more palatable, we run the risk of allowing people to think that the message of salvation is a philosophy called “gospel” or a lifestyle called “grace.” In fact, and in truth, salvation comes from no other name (no other label) than the name of Jesus.
Being clear about that name makes all the difference for an eternity!
Mike Ross is a retired PCA pastor who served as the 40th Moderator of the General Assembly and is currently a member of our Standing Judicial Commission.