150419 Acts 4:8-12

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 April 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Acts 4:8-12
Theme: There Is Only One Truth!

The title of the MSNBC online article caught my attention: "39 Powerful Quotes That Will Change The Way You Live And Think." I was curious, so I clicked my way through all thirty nine of them. Some I found interesting, like this one: "A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for." Several were thought provoking, like this observation made by Stephen Covey: "We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions." And a few quotes taught important life lessons, like this one from Mark Twain: "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."

I like quotes and quotations, and I appreciated most of the quotes that made the list, except for one. It wasn't attributed to anyone, but in twenty first century America it could be attributed to almost anyone. The anonymous quote reads: "You never know the truth. You know 'a' truth." That way of thinking is not only popular today. It is pervasive, and it has a name, relativism. According to relativism, there are no objective standards. There are no moral absolutes. There is no clear distinction between right and wrong. Everything, including everything we perceive to be true, is relative.

"You never know the truth. You know 'a' truth." Those words are powerful, but in this case powerful is not necessarily beneficial. Our culture's shift toward relativism is not a sign of progress or intellectual enlightenment. For Christians it is dangerous because it undercuts the foundations of our faith. It challenges the one who called God's Word truth (John 17:17) and referred to himself as the Truth (John 14:6). It threatens to rob us of our confidence in God's Word and our hope for eternal life.

According to relativism, the only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth. But we know that's not true, and so did the apostle Peter. He wasn't afraid to stand up for the truth. He wasn't afraid to testify to the truth. His inspired confession inspires us, and it reminds us that when it comes to spiritual things, when it comes to matters of the soul, when it comes to salvation...


I. The name of Jesus heals
II. Only the name of Jesus saves

Last weekend Pastor Schmidt began our Easter sermon series, "AD: Our Easter Celebration Continues," with a sermon based on Acts 3. Peter had just healed a man who had been crippled from birth, and then he preached a powerful sermon to the crowds that had come together to see what had happened.

Today's sermon text takes us to the next day. For performing this act of kindness Peter and John were rewarded with a night in a Jewish jail cell. Actually the people who put them in prison weren't overly concerned about what they did. They were much more concerned about what the disciples said, specifically the fact that they were proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead (4:2).

If incarceration wasn't enough to intimidate the disciples, the next morning Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and the high priest's family, powerful men, the same men who had sentenced Jesus to death. And their interrogation began with a question: "By what power or what name did you do this" (7)?

It wasn't like Peter and John needed a permit to perform a miracle. They weren't on trial because they healed a crippled man. They were on trial because this miracle connected them to the man who had performed similar miracles. And if the religious leaders could get a confession out of them, if they could use the disciples' own words to connect them to Jesus, then they could sentence them to the same fate as Jesus.

Peter was the one who answered, but the words that came out of his mouth didn't originate with him. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit the Lord promised to give his disciples in the Upper Room, the same Spirit who enabled Peter and others to speak in other languages on the day of Pentecost. Filled with the Spirit, Peter declared:

"Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account 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" (8-10).

The religious leaders were witnessing a miracle, and I'm not talking about the fact that they could see the crippled man standing in front of them. What a miraculous transformation it had been for Peter! Only a few weeks earlier he had been asked a similar question. He was asked if he was one of Jesus' disciples, and he felt the pressure. He buckled under the pressure and denied his Lord when those questions were coming from...a servant girl.

You could argue that this time Peter had more legitimate reasons to be afraid. He knew what the religious leaders were capable of. He had seen with his own eyes what they had done to Jesus. And he could have come up with lots of good reasons to avoid their questions, to mute his confession, to hide his faith under a bushel.

But this time there was no denial. This time there was no fear. This time there was not a hint of hesitation. Peter loudly and clearly and boldly confessed that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was responsible for this miracle, and that the name of Jesus heals.

When you compare the two situations and the two very different reactions, it almost seems like there were two totally different Peters. So which Peter looks more like you? The bold confessor or the cowardly denier? The follower of Jesus who was ready to follow Jesus to his death, or the so-called disciple who was ready to run at the first sign of danger?

If you don't like your answers to those questions, if you would rather not answer those questions, if you are feeling guilty because you can remember times when you didn't stand up for the truth, when you hid your faith, maybe even denied your faith, you should feel guilty because you are guilty. We are all guilty.

But instead of treating us as our sins deserve, instead of treating us the way we so often treat him, Jesus forgives. Jesus forgave Peter, and he gave him another chance. What a comfort, what a blessing it is for us to know that our God is a God of second chances, a God of mercy, a God of grace, a God who loves us and forgives us and gives us new opportunities to show our love for him for every day.

When the religious leaders demanded answers from Peter, he didn't back down. He didn't lie. He spoke the truth. He declared that the name of Jesus healed the crippled man, but he didn't stop there. As Peter continued he addressed another important question, the world's most important question: How can a person be saved?

Even though Peter had been unjustly imprisoned, even though the religious leaders were making some not-so-veiled threats against him, Peter reached out to them by appealing to something they knew well, by quoting from an Old Testament psalm they held dear, by referring to Jesus as "the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone" (11).

So how did Peter know that this ancient poetry was actually a Messianic prophecy? Where did Peter get the idea that these words would ultimately be fulfilled by Jesus? From Jesus. Jesus quoted the same passage to make the same point only a few days before his crucifixion (Matthew 21:42).

Even though his own people rejected him, even though on Good Friday it looked like everything he worked for had been a lost cause, it was worth it. When Jesus was despised and rejected by men, it was a fulfillment of prophecy. When Jesus rose from the dead, it was proof of his victory. It was proof of his power over death. It was proof that our debt of sin has been forgiven. And Peter's closing statement proves something else. It proves that Jesus is the one and only way to heaven: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (12).

I was visiting a member at St. Luke's Hospital in Milwaukee, and as I walked down the hallway something on the bulletin board caught my attention. It was the biography of a new chaplain, and I will never forget the words he chose to describe his personal philosophy. He referred to himself as having Christian roots and Buddhist branches.

Christian roots and Buddhist branches? What does that even mean? It means that there are many different religions in the world, and they all have something to offer. It means that no one faith, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, etc. has the corner on spiritual truth. It means that people are free to pick and choose what they like from all the different religions in the world like it is some kind of spiritual smorgasbord.

What is sad is that this chaplain wasn't way out in left field. He was simply expressing what many people in our country and probably some people in your own family are thinking. And so it will probably make you unpopular when you insist that all roads do not lead to heaven. You might be called arrogant or a bigot or maybe even worse when you confess that Jesus is the one and only way to heaven.

But when you stand your ground, you don't stand alone. You stand next to Peter. We stand with each other. We stand up for the truth because billions of souls are hanging in the balance. And we have the one thing every person needs. We know the one thing that can save people from eternal death. God's Word gives us the answer to life's most important question, "How can I be saved?" Salvation can be found in Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Only Jesus.

None of the "39 Powerful Quotes That Will Change The Way You Live And Think" were taken from the Bible, and I suppose that's understandable. How could we possibly limit ourselves to thirty nine? Every verse of the Bible is powerful. Every word in the Bible is inspired by God, and God's Word changes us. Here are just a few examples...

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10). Those inspired words change the way we think about God. He isn't an angry judge or a cruel task master. He is full of love. God is love. And God loved us so much that he gave up his most precious possession, his one and only Son, to save us.

"He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). Those inspired words change the way we think about the Christian faith. What some people try to label as exclusive is in reality the most inclusive message in the world. Jesus died for the sins of the world. Jesus died to save all people. Your skin color doesn't matter. The language you speak doesn't matter. The way you dress doesn't matter. You can walk up to anyone anywhere in the world and declare with confidence: "Jesus died for you."

"He (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Corinthians 5:15). Those inspired words change the way we think about the Christian life. Those words are so powerful they change the way Christians live. We don't live to serve self. We don't live to accumulate stuff. We have been saved to serve, to live our lives for the One who died for us and lives again. And every day we live on this earth brings us one day closer to the day when we live with our Savior in heaven.

Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit has led us to believe and confess his saving truth. Not just "a" truth. "The" truth. Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


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