Is Jesus the Only Way to God? Acts 4:1-12 James C. Denison, Ph.D.

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1 Date: Title: Is Jesus the Only Way to God? Scripture: Acts 4:1-12 Topic: Salvation Series: Tough Questions from the Book of Acts Venue: Green Acres Baptist Church, Tyler, TX Is Jesus the Only Way to God? Acts 4:1-12 James C. Denison, Ph.D. I am directionally challenged. Janet tells me that when I come to an intersection I should decide which way to turn, then go the other way. The navigation system in my car is a little more expensive, but costs less than marriage counseling. I never choose the wrong road intentionally. I sincerely believe every time that I am going the right way. I would like the world to work in such a way that any road I chose would take me where I think it should. But does it? According to recent surveys, 92% of Americans say they are their own sole determiner of moral truth. Less than one in four believes that absolute truth even exists. But this is not a problem for the church, right? Actually, only 44% of born-again adults and 9% of born-again teenagers believe that absolute moral truth exists. We should not be surprised that our nation leads the industrialized world in teenage pregnancy, or that 90% of our youth have viewed pornography online, or that pornography made more money last year in America than Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo, ebay, Amazon, and Netflix combined. How did our culture get to this place? What does the issue have to do with your soul, family, and future today? Explore the text Our text picks up the story we explored last week. Peter and John have come to the temple for prayer and were used beside the Beautiful Gate to heal a man who was lame from birth. A giant crowd gathered around the healed man, and Peter preached the gospel of the risen Christ to them. As this was going on, "the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people" (v. 1) and put them in jail until the next day (v. 3). However, the persecution of the highest officials in Jerusalem could not stop the spread of the Kingdom: "many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand" (v. 4). Including women and children, the church has grown from 120 or so to more than 20,000 in just a few days. All rights reserved. For more information, see Page 1

2 So the authorities must do something. The next day, the Sanhedrin met. This was the Supreme Court of Judaism, composed of "the rulers, elders and teachers of the law" (v. 5). They were the same men who had condemned Jesus to death just a few weeks earlier. They made Peter and John testify before them asking, "By what power or what name did you do this?" (v. 7). In other words, by whose authority did you take this action? At risk is not only their lives, but the future of their movement. The same fisherman who earlier swore to servants that he did not know Christ now responds to the highest authorities of the land: "Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: 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" (vs. 9-10). "Healed" translates a Greek word that indicates spiritual as well as physical healing. Remember that when the man was healed, "he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God" (Acts 3:8). Now God redeems his suffering even further, as Peter announces that the risen Christ is the "name," the authority and power, behind this miracle. He then quotes Psalm 118:22, claiming that Christ fulfilled its description of "the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone." The "capstone" was the cornerstone, the foundation stone upon which a building was built. Peter is claiming that Jesus is the cornerstone of the new temple of God, being built by the Holy Spirit. And he concludes: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (v. 12). This text is not in Scripture for their sake they would never forget this encounter. It is here for us. What are its lessons today? Expect opposition First, we should expect opposition to our faith. Jesus warned us, "in this world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33). Especially if you claim that "there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved," if you believe that Jesus is the only way to God, you will be branded intolerant, narrow-minded, and bigoted. Why is this? One reason is "relativism," the belief that there are no absolutes. As we have seen, the vast majority of our country is convinced that truth is personal, individual, and subjective. How did we get here? At this point I must impose three minutes of philosophy on you. In the 17 th century, a philosophy known as "rationalism" became popular. It claimed that all truth is known by the mind, apart from the senses. It spawned a reaction called "empiricism" all truth is known by the senses, so that "seeing is believing." All rights reserved. For more information, see Page 2

3 An unknown German philosopher named Immanuel Kant resolved the conflict and changed western history forever. He claimed that our minds process our senses, resulting in knowledge. You say, "Of course everyone knows that," but they didn't before Immanuel Kant. Here's the down side: if truth is the result of your mind interpreting your senses, then there is no such thing as absolute truth there's just your truth and mine. Your mind may interpret data differently from mine; your senses may experience the world differently from mine. Truth is personal, individual and subjective. If this is true, the Bible is just a diary of religious experiences. There's your way to God and mine. This idea swept the European continent and has been conventional wisdom there for centuries. That's why 2% of people in England go to church on Sunday; less than 1% in France, Sweden, and so forth. After World War II, this idea gained traction in American universities and is now conventional wisdom here as well. Of course, to say there is no absolute truth is to make an absolute truth claim. We can know God because his Holy Spirit and his authoritative word reveal him to us. But "relativists" disagree. A second problem is "universalism," the idea that everyone goes to heaven. Only 2% of Americans are afraid they might go to hell. People today believe that hell, if it exists, is reserved for the Hitlers and Saddam Husseins of the world, not for us. A third problem is "inclusivism," the idea popular among some Christian scholars that Jesus' death makes it possible for everyone to go to heaven, whether they have heard of him or not. To all these false options, Jesus' words stand clearly: "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God s one and only Son" (John 3:18). He claimed, "I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). There is a hell, and it is very real. In fact, Jesus mentioned hell more than he spoke of heaven. Revelation 20:15 warns us, "if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Peter's word to the Sanhedrin is consistent with all of God's revelation: there is no way to the Father except through the Son. Isn't this narrow-minded and judgmental? It would be, except that this one way works for everyone who will trust it. I only need one key if it opens every door. We were not frustrated that we didn't have five medical options for treating Ryan's tumor we are grateful for the one option that removed it. Every person who asks Jesus for forgiveness and salvation receives it. This is the only way we have, because it is the only way we need. All rights reserved. For more information, see Page 3

4 Give this truth to the world So, how do we give this truth to the world? First, be "filled with the Spirit." The text specifically states, "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them..." (v. 8). Ephesians 5:18 commands us to "be filled with the Spirit." "Filled" translates a Greek word that means to be "controlled" and "empowered." This is a daily decision we must make begin your day by submitting it to the Spirit of God. Ask him to bring to mind anything that displeases the Father, and confess all that comes to your thoughts. Turn your day over to him and stay submitted to his leading and authority. Then, when you face an opportunity or obstacle such as Peter confronted, you will his words and power. You will be "filled with the Holy Spirit" and you will be able to speak with his truth. Then you can show people evidence from the resurrection: "whom God raised from the dead" (v. 10). This didn't happen to Muhammad, or Buddha, or Confucius. Only Jesus Christ has been raised from the grave. You can proclaim evidence from biblical prophecy: Jesus fulfilled Psalm 118, along with 47 other major messianic prophecies. What were the odds? A mathematician picked the eight most significant, and determined that the odds of one man fulfilling them were one in 10 to the 17 th power the number one followed by 17 zeroes. To illustrate: fill the state of Texas two feet deep with silver dollars, mark one, blindfold me, and lead me around all day. At the end of the day I'll bend down and pick up one silver dollar. The odds that I'll find the one you marked are the odds of Jesus' fulfilling just eight of the 48 prophecies he fulfilled. And you can proclaim the evidence of changed lives: "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus" (v. 13). Your most powerful witness is your own transformed life. Conclusion Now let's make this personal. I would guess that you agree with Peter that "there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." But does your life match your theology? Are you sharing your faith with the lost people you know? Walter Brueggemann, one of the leading biblical scholars of our generation, warns that "muteness is practical atheism." Do you truly believe that every person you know who does not know Jesus would be in hell tonight if they died today? Are you praying for them by name? Are you asking God to use you in bringing them to himself? When was the last time you helped someone take a step toward Jesus? Are you trusting in Jesus first for your problems and needs? The man whose miracle started this event was "healed" (v. 11) physically as well as spiritually. Do you go to Christ first with every problem? I often warn that self-sufficiency is spiritual suicide All rights reserved. For more information, see Page 4

5 that's because I've proven that statement personally. Ryan's surgery could remove his cancer only because Ryan submitted to him. If he had chosen to treat himself, he would eventually have died. Where do you need a surgeon today? Jesus is looking for people who will be "all in," completely his, fully trusting in him alone. People who turn to him first with every problem and challenge, and who will pay any price to share him with their world. Has he found such followers here today? William Borden was heir to the Borden dairy estate. At Yale, he helped start Bible study groups and prayer meetings. He ministered to those on the street and founded Yale Hope Mission. He renounced his family fortune and committed his life to missions, writing on the flyleaf of his Bible two words: "No Reserves." When he graduated from Yale, Borden sensed God's call to work with Muslims in China. Refusing numerous job offers, including the chance to take over the family business, he added two words to the flyleaf of his Bible: "No Retreat." Borden sailed for China on December 17, Stopping in Egypt to study Arabic, he contracted spinal meningitis and died on April 9, He was 25 years old. His death was widely reported; many thought he had wasted his life. But not William Borden. One of his college friends received his Bible after his death. When he opened it he found the words Borden had written on its flyleaf. Just before his death he added two more, "No Regrets." As a result of his story, hundreds of students at Yale University and Princeton Divinity School became missionaries. People from all over the world wrote to his family, telling them how William Borden's commitment to Christ had changed their lives. He never made it to China, but his story has touched your life and mine today. "No reserve, no retreat, no regrets." Is this your commitment to Christ today? All rights reserved. For more information, see Page 5

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