The gospel message is offensive to many. It offends because it declares I am not good. God says there is no one who does good, not even one. It offends because it declares there is only one way to the Father, and we didn’t get a say in the matter. Jesus is offensive because he said he was God. Can you imagine a carpenter neighbor from a small disreputable town telling you that?
In the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 4, a great deal is made of the name of Jesus. One of the verses I memorized as a child was Acts 4:12. That verse says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” What is most interesting is that this was something Peter said to the rulers and religious leaders. Peter was responding to their question about how the crippled man had been healed. Their question was “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Who was the person?
These leaders had arrested Peter and John for teaching that Jesus rose from the dead. Peter and John were a threat to their existence. They were teaching something that ran contrary to their own thinking and teaching. The leaders thought God was greatly pleased with their own religious goodness. When Peter said the only name that mattered was Jesus, they were greatly annoyed.
Peter and John were uneducated men and their boldness astonished them. But they wanted to stop the message the disciples were preaching and teaching, so they decided to use their political and religious power to silence them. The leaders concluded that they could stop the message by warning the disciples. “But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” Acts 4:17
What follows is important. Acts 4:18-21 records the fact that Jesus name was to be banned. The name Jesus was the Old Testament name Joshua, which means “God is salvation.” It was God who had saved his people from Egypt. It had always been God who had saved. No one in the Old Testament scriptures who believed God or had faith in God thought they could save themselves. Psalm 20:7 expresses it this way: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” In other words, it wasn’t their power, their troops or anything they had to offer that could offer salvation. But rather it was “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand.” Psa. 20:6
“So, they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’ And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.” Acts 4:18-21
What was the thing “we have seen and heard?” They had seen their Lord crucified and buried. But they saw him after that. He had given them a charge to be witnesses about His Name. They could not help but remember Jesus’s words recorded in John’s gospel: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6 (ESV)
The name is the person.
The person is “God is salvation.” God is salvation is Jesus. Before his crucifixion Jesus told them to look at the Scriptures they claimed to follow to find eternal life. It was focused on God’s name. And don’t be mistaken. Jesus told them clearly, “before Abraham was, I am.” They knew he claimed to be God. God was the “I am.”