Have You Rejected Him
Challenging my belief in Baha'u'llah, or perhaps just hinting at why she couldn't, a young Christian lady inserted into an email the verse from Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." In response, I immediately wrote the following essay.
When I opened the book of Matthew to the fifth chapter and began reading, I imagined myself in the crowd walking up the hillside, carrying a loaf of bread. I imagined myself not ten feet from the Master as we all settled down and listened to Him begin His most famous sermon, casting His blessings upon us. Those verses, all the way through the seventh chapter, seemed to come alive for me when I put myself in His presence as He delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
Later, after they nailed Him to a cross and tortured His human form until He gave up the ghost, after He walked among the disciples for 40 days and then ascended into heaven, while reading the third and fourth chapter of the book of Acts, I imagined myself in the crowd of 5,000 new believers who had marveled at a healing miracle performed by Peter just before he and John walked into the temple. They made such a commotion that the authorities detained them overnight.
In the next few verses, I have to imagine myself as one of the kindred of the high priest the next morning because the scripture doesn’t say they allowed believers into the interrogation that followed the night’s imprisonment of Peter and John. I witness the questioning of the two apostles through the printed word on the pages of my Bible. The high priest asks by what power or name do they perform the miracle. Peter responds that it was done by the name of Jesus, whom the apostle accuses his interrogators of having participated in crucifying. Then he says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Peter, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, and was the rock upon whom Christ had promised to build His church, proclaimed boldly that the power of Jesus performed the healing miracle, that the name of Jesus alone was given to men for salvation. Peter surely remembered with a feeling of guilt that he himself had denied Christ three times on the morning of the Crucifixion. How bold the Holy Spirit must have made him for this hearing!
I knew, standing with the other kindred of the high priest, that the apostle was aware that if Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Christ, then He had many names, not just one. He was also to be called Wonderful, Counseller, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, according to the ancient scripture of Isaiah. I also knew that the apostle had to know that the prophet clearly said the Virgin Mary would name her Son Emmanuel. So either Jesus was not the Messiah, or Peter was referring to the power of God through Jesus by whatever name He used. After all, the high priest had first questioned the apostles about power, and Peter knew that no one else had that kind of power. I could tell that he also wanted to emphasize a more important point than performing a healing miracle, the very reason for Jesus’ ministry, our salvation.
Now, I imagine myself, about 60 or 70 years later, huddled in the bare corner of a dank prison cell on a small Greek island called Patmos. In the neighboring cell, there’s an old man whose countenance shines and whose long white hair and beard shake as he trembles. He seems to be listening to an angel’s voice, scribbling frantically as he repeats aloud every word he hears and writes. Even though I can hear nothing but his excited voice, I listen to the dictation of seven letters to seven churches. I hear strange prophecies about beasts and harlots and the Lord returning.
I’m reading the book of the Revelation of John as I imagine this, and I pause when I hear, not once but twice, the words of Jesus announcing that He would have a new name at His next coming. The second and third chapters of Revelation have caught my attention. Why, I wonder, would He consider having a NEW NAME if it's already decided that only the name "Jesus" would save us? Then, much later in that book, after many triumphs and tribulations, I hear this prisoner John recite two more new names as he writes the nineteenth chapter. It seems there would be at least three names after the name Jesus to be added to the half dozen or so that came before it, all names of our Lord. It seemed illogical that only one of those names would bring salvation.
At the time that Peter made his defense, asserting that there was given no other name but Jesus Christ of Nazareth for our salvation, his message was true, of course. It was true because that name referred directly to Jesus whom Peter’s accusers had helped to crucify less than two months before, the name by which everyone in Jerusalem at that time knew Him. It was true because Peter was not thinking of all the names that Isaiah had prophesied that Jesus would be called, nor would it have been appropriate to mention them under the circumstances. It was true because it would be least six decades before Jesus promised through an angel that He would be known by several new names upon His Return and afterward. Peter didn’t know what Jesus would tell John, the Revelator, at least three generations later. No new names had yet been given, so Peter spoke the truth.
Finally, I backed up in time, in my imagination, to the hillside where the Lord was nearing the end of His most famous sermon. Reading the seventh chapter of the book of Matthew, I imagined myself sitting spellbound as the Master spoke with authority. I heard Him describing events of the future: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Not once, not twice, but three times in one verse, Jesus refers to His name, or perhaps what many would believe His name to still be, and He called many of the people using it “ye that work iniquity.”
Jesus said elsewhere that those who believe in Him are saved, yet He turns away many who "believe," who prophesy in His name, who cast out devils in His name, who work wonders in His name. He challenges the faith of future generations by giving us New Names. He asks whether we heard His teachings and obeyed them.
Why would He do that? And why reject "many," not "all" who adhere to the name "Jesus"? Could it be that He considers those who hear His New Name, but refuse to accept it, are not really believers? I only wonder; I don't know. But I think it's worthy of prayer.
In any case, according to Jesus, being saved, even by believing in Him, is not the final goal of faith. One enters the Kingdom of Heaven by doing the Will of God; believing in Jesus by any Name is only the first step.
If you're not already a Baha'i,