The uniqueness of Jesus brings forth the distinguishing of spirits. It is solely in his name we have salvation. And for this statement I want to take a stand!
When names become destiny
Which word is your favorite to hear? If we trust in certain studies it is probably your very own name. You discern your name from among thousands of other words. Whenever it is spoken your heart is moved.
My wife Irene and I have 16 grandchildren by now. Time and again we have witnessed our children searching for names for their children. There are several criteria: The first name should correspond to the family name. It should be easy to write and pronounce. And it should sound beautifully. Nevertheless, in ancient Near East these were not the main criteria. Back then parents linked experiences, hopes, and desires to the name they picked for their child. The meaning of the name should give identity to the child from the very beginning. And often the name turned out to be the person’s destiny.
In the first sentences of the letter to the Hebrews a name is being praised that is above all names. This opening is very unusual for a letter in the New Testament: No salutation and neither writer nor recipients are mentioned. All names that could be mentioned do not seem to have any relevance. Instead, the writer gets straight to the point – namely to the main point: It is about the son. He is the one through whom God has spoken. He is the incarnated word of God. He is God’s face on earth. Through him the whole earth was made and everything is under his dominion.
“So he [the Son of God] became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.”
Hebrews 1:4 (NIV)
Even for the son of God his own name should become his destiny – we could even say it became his purpose and his assignment. Already before his birth an angel revealed he should be named Jesus (Luke 1:31). “Jesus” is the Latinized version of his name. In Hebrew he was called Jeshua. This name is derived from the verb jasha which means “to save”. From the very beginning the purpose of Jesus’ life was determined by his name: He was to be the savior of the world. Jesus summed up his assignment in very concise words when he said: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
The necessity of our salvation
On the first pages of the bible we learn that God creates man in his image (Genesis 1:27). God would like to live in perfect fellowship with him. He longs for a real love relationship based on freedom and responsibility. However, man damages this relationship and looses the privilege to live with God in the Garden of Eden. Thereby man gets into deep distress. This state of being lost brings about the necessity for man to be saved.
What is expressed in Adam’s and Eve’s example can be seen in the lives of all of us: Essentially we want to be independent of God and go our own way (Romans 3:23). Our ego is so large that no space remains for God. This exclusion of God from our lives has brought about calamity and perdition, because as a result we have eliminated ourselves from paradise.
From my childhood I have regularly attended church services and was part of a Christian family. However, this did by far not turn me into a disciple of Jesus. I continued to live according to my own ideas. Only when I built a relationship with God through Christ Jesus I came closer to him. I realized that I was lost and let Jesus save me. Since then he has shaped and molded by whole being, my thoughts and my actions.
In biblical language the state of being lost is called ‘sin’. Both the Hebrew and the Greek noun for ‘sin’ mean ‘missing of the mark’. When applied to the relationship between God and man this means that man has not reached the true goal of his destiny. He misses the mark like an archer the target. He is separated from God. He has left the faithfulness to the principles of the word of God. Only when we understand that our relationship with God is fundamentally impaired we will realize the necessity of our salvation.
The basis of our salvation
Against the backdrop of the Old Testament we can understand that forgiveness and cleansing from sin is only possible through the blood of a sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22). The principle of substitution reached its culmination in Christ Jesus: Through his death at the cross he became the perfect offering for the sin of the whole world. His self-surrender brought salvation once and for all (Hebrews 9:12). Therefore the cross rightfully symbolizes the center of the Christian faith. It does not only represent execution, but first and foremost salvation. In this regard I am fascinated by the fact that the bible is not interested in sin as such, but always in overcoming sin. It is not the problem that is central, but the solution of the problem.
Once I heard a story that runs somewhat like this: A man was walking on a trail when he suddenly fell into a hole. He could not get out again by himself. An empathic person passed and said: “Dear man, I feel for you.” Then an intellectual person came by and said: “It is only logical that one falls into this hole if one is not attentive.” An optimist walked by and said: “It could have been worse.” A pessimist passed and said: “It will be even worse.” A law-abiding person came by and said: “It seems you have deserved to be in this hole.” Finally Jesus walked by. He stretched out his hand to the man and pulled him out of the hole.
Pieces of advice that basically only describe the status quo of our dilemma are usually not helpful. However, Jesus frees us from the state we are in at present and transforms us into the state we should be in. That is his destiny. No human being could return to fellowship with God if Jesus had not died and had not been resurrected. He alone has defeated death, has ascended to heaven, was exalted to the right hand of the father, and received all power in heaven and on earth (Mark 16:9). In this way his humiliation did only turn out to be the basis for his exaltation, but also the basis for our salvation.
The effects of our salvation
I have read about an Italian shop owner in Rome who wanted to sell an old painting. He had received it 36 years ago as a gift from a customer and had kept it in his home. As it turned out it was an original painting by Picasso from 1912. It was worth an estimated 15 Million Euros.
When we receive salvation as an unparalleled precious treasure we should not push it into a corner and wait for it to gather dust. If salvation indeed means that man, who was lost, may return into fellowship with God, then one should aim at receiving the full joy of a relationship with God and shape one’s life out of this relationship. There is a saying: “If a country turns to God even the livestock feels it.” However, sometimes nobody notices our salvation because we separate faith from our everyday life. Often we believe that faith is exclusively taking place in our inner man or is limited to certain times, places or states of mind. Yet, the opposite is true. Faith and everyday life cannot be separated. Personal salvation aims at affecting our everyday life in concrete, tangible ways.
Whoever acts out of a genuine relationship with God will experience change: A change of mind, of habits, and of lifestyle (Romans 12:1+2). With Jesus in our lives we render harmless two basic tools of the enemy: condemnation and discouragement. It is not only so that we can have assurance of salvation and live in the blessings of divine redemption, but we also design our future with courage and confidence. We do not allow confusion because of inner accusations and incriminations to rise in us because our thoughts and actions are shaped by Jesus now.
Only Jesus saves
The revelation of God in his son surpasses everything. God cannot come closer to us than he has in Jesus. With a new era begins. Literally. In his dignity, sovereignty and majesty he is exalted over everything. He is the reason and the goal of all existence. Therefore he is the only one who could bring about salvation. There is no other way to God than trough him. This is the confession of the Christian faith.
“There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.”
Acts 4:12 (New Living Translation)