no other name under heaven

Christ the Good Shepherd“, Catacomb of Callistus, Third-fourth century, Rome, Italy

Acts 4:5-12
For Sunday, May 3, 2009

The centerpiece of this passage are these words: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” As Christians, our challenge is to understand this and proclaim this as joyously and bodly as Peter and John did to the powers of their own day.

I. Howard Marshall, in his commentary on Acts (Tyndale), makes an interesting observation. By quoting Psalm 118, “the stone you builders rejected, … has become the capstone,” Peter was referring to the very audience to whom they were speaking, the builders of their own day. The “rulers, elders, and teachers of the law” would be equivalent to our political, business, and cultural leaders in Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles. They were saying this: Just as Israel was rejected by the other nations, but became the captsone of God’s plan for the world, so now you yourselves are rejecting Jesus, who himself is a deeper foundation stone of this same plan of God. How interesting that Peter himself had been dubbed by Jesus, “The Rock”. This was a man who related on a deeply personal level to that of which he spoke.

What would it look like for each of us to identify our key spheres of influence, pray for guidance on how to bring the good news of Christ to them and then go and do it? I think of my colleagues at work. Yes, its considered verbotten to discuss religion in the workplace, and it is reasonable to work within contemporary sensibilities. But does this mean there is no way to proclaim the message? What about sending invitations to a luncheon? What about engaging co-workers in personal conversation about their values, hopes, dreams, and fears? What about posting things to web sites, blogs, and Facebook, and inviting them to engage and interact? If exercising free speech then leads to problems, it is not a reflection on us, but on the needs of the day.

The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote in his 1921 poem “The Second Coming” these words: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold… “. If we the church do not take up the calling bequeathed to us by our apostolic forbearers then Yeats will have been right. A relativistic, pluralistic, secular, narcicisstic culture is not sustainable. May God give us wisdom, joy, power, and boldness – as he will, for His center has been firmly planted and will not yield.

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