Christians are always preaching about how people must believe in Jesus. That is central to our message, but increasingly in a pluralist, multicultural world the question is being asked, ‘Does it matter if I believe in Jesus?’ There are so many options for belief and unbelief – why should the Christian way be regarded as necessary? The answer is spelled out in Acts 4:12 No other name.
1. The need
Note the language Peter uses: ‘Salvation…saved…’ What is the significance of these terms? The Bible makes it clear that human beings, whatever their intellectual or cultural achievements, are in a sad spiritual condition. In our natural state we are ‘God’s enemies’ (Romans 5:10). We are at war with the Creator we should love and serve. In particular, the enmity is seen in our sin and disobedience – ‘all have sinned’ (Romans 3:23). The result is that we are under the holy wrath of God: ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men’ (Romans 1:18). That is why every person needs salvation.
2. The name
There is hope in this darkness, albeit one hope – ‘there is no other name’. But there is a name. It is one that has been ‘given to men’ – given by God. In his love and grace he has provided the solution we need. The ‘name’ of course refers to the Lord Jesus Christ – who he is and what he has done to save us. The name is not some kind of magic charm that just needs to be spoken to be effective. Jesus is the Son of God who now shares our human nature. As John 1:14 tells us, ‘the Word became flesh’. In that human nature he lived a life of perfect obedience that we have not lived and died the death that we deserve to die because of our sin. Thus we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21 ‘God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might be made the righteousness of God.’
3. The necessity
There is necessarily an exclusivity in this message: ‘no other name…must be saved’. There can be no salvation by other means and no other name is able to save us. One aspect of the gospel is the uniqueness of Jesus and his saving work. This is not one among several options for us to choose from in order for us to sort out our relationship with God. It is the only one. It therefore matters tremendously if you believe in Jesus or not: it is not merely a matter of life and death – it is a matter of eternal life and eternal death.