Tuesday, June 24, 2014

No Other Name Under Heaven

“On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 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.” (Act 4:5-12)
“No other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Peter and John are standing in the same place where the fate of Jesus was sealed just a few months before. When Peter says, “you crucified him” he means it literally. This isn’t a theological statement about the reality of our sins being the ones that placed him there. He is confronting them head on about the specific sin of them abusing power to hang an innocent man. The warning has to hit home. For once again they are trying innocent men. They cannot try them for any crime. They have healed a man, and proclaimed the resurrection in Jesus. It may annoy this council, but it was a good deed Peter and John did. And the resurrection was something many pious Jews believed in, and the council was hard pressed to deny the resurrection, where was the body of Jesus.

Peter says they have done this good deed that it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. That is quite a name. The moniker itself is a confession of who Peter thinks Jesus is. He is specific about which Jesus. Jesus was a popular name at the time. Basically it is the same name as Joshua, just a Greek pronunciation of it. So naming your kid Joshua, you are naming your kid Jesus. Of Nazareth was the way to specify which Jesus. This was the normal way to do things at that time when sir names weren’t very common. It was either that or go through a list of parents etc. The Christ is not part of his name. That is a title. The anointed one, the messiah is what it meant. Peter is confessing here that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, is the messiah they had all been waiting for. But actually the name is something more than this long moniker and confession. The council had asked by what power, and Peter says the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  The tendency today is to think of this name as perhaps some sort of magical incantation. It was perhaps thought of that way even during this time. The seven sons of Sceva would find out differently. The name of Jesus is the name that he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It is the divine essence of God, it is the being of God, the “of once substance” that we confess in the Nicene Creed. It is this name, that makes Jesus of Nazareth the Christ. It is therefore this name, this one God that makes the name of Jesus the only name given under heaven amongst men by which we must be saved. It is the same name as the God of the Old Testament, the name who dwelt in the temple dedicated by Solomon by which men were saved if they were to be saved at all. And because Jesus possesses this name, he the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. A New Temple is being built upon this cornerstone with every new believer baptized into the name of Christ. 

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