Wednesday, October 05, 2005

By What Name?

As I explained yesterday, the miraculous healing of the crippled man elicited much astonishment among the people. But among the religious leaders the astonishment was mixed with dismay and anger. They summoned the apostles and demanded: “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7). Their answer: “Be it known to you all, 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” (v. 10). Ouch! Just as they feared! The One whom they had envied and despised—and thought they had gotten rid of for good—now He is working miracles from beyond the grave!

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, uttered the classic saying, one of those that declares the absolute uniqueness of the Christian revelation: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (v. 12).

By what name do you live? It is important that we are clear on this; it’s not just an exercise in biblical interpretation or meditation. The name signifies the person, and in God’s case actually mediates his presence. In the Old Testament, God spoke of the temple, saying: “My Name shall dwell there,” meaning that He Himself would dwell there. Sometimes the Jews call God “Hashem God,” which means “the name of God.” The apostles, after the authorities had given them a beating for preaching Jesus, "left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name" (5:41). We, though perhaps not called to endure physical beatings for the Name, should still deem it a blessing to be found worthy to make whatever sacrifice for his name's sake. We also invoke the name of Jesus when we pray the Jesus Prayer, so that He can look upon our souls and say: “My Name shall dwell there.”

It is the great “innovation” of Christianity that once Jesus arose from the dead and was clearly recognized as the pre-existent Son of God, all the attributes given to the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were now given also to Christ. He is the Lord, by his name we are saved. To call on the name of Jesus is to call on the name of God. To be saved by Jesus is to be saved by God.

So it’s important by what name we live, for there are other names, that is, false gods, seductive spirits, who would like our attention and allegiance and even obedience. But the apostles, when threatened by the powers-that-were, clearly stated that there was no way that they could “in the sight of God listen to you rather than to God… for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (4:19-20). Truth demanded their allegiance, and they would not give it to the petty powers of this world. I’m sure you’re already aware that the world, the flesh, and the devil want us to listen to them rather than to God. But we have to be as clear and firm as the Spirit-filled apostles: we listen to God rather than to you!

For there is no other name besides that of Jesus by which we can be saved. Invoke his name; let his name dwell within you; do everything in the name of Jesus the Lord. “O God, save me by your name!” (Psalm 53/54).