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The Isolated Name

by A. T. Pierson

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts iv. 12

A. T. PiersonHistory is the illustration of truth, and especially the history that is recorded in the Word of God. We cannot separate this verse from the story of healing which precedes it without losing God's own illustration of the truth in these words. The whole narrative, from the beginning of the third chapter to this point, throws light upon the grand expression of the text. Peter and John went up to the temple about the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and at the Beautiful Gate of the temple there was a certain man which was daily laid there, that as the throngs moved to and fro he might receive from them their alms. And as Peter and John passed by he looked in a supplicating way to them that he might receive from them a gift of money. Peter, with his companion, John, fastening his eyes on him, said: "Look on us "—as much as to say, "Do we look as though we were able to bestow upon you worldly gifts. We ourselves are disciples of the hated Nazarene. Silver and gold have we none, but such as we have we give thee." Then came that blessed word of healing, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." And they took him by the hand and lifted him up; and as he stood on his feet God gave his feet and ankle bones strength; and he walked and even leaped, and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God. And the people to whom he was a very familiar sight, like any other chronic beggar, were marvelling; and they gathered round Peter and John; and the crowd drew the rulers of the synagogue, and the question was raised, "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" They could not dispute the miracle, for there stood the man healed; but they diverted attention from the miracle by asking the question, "How has this been done?" Then Peter explained that it was by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom they had crucified and slain. "Even by that name does this man stand here before you whole."

If you will read the third and fourth chapters, you will find that there is scarcely a verse in which some reference is not made to this act of healing, and the verse which we have before us is the conclusion of this great discourse in which all eyes were turned from the healed man to the healing Saviour.

Peter says: "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, but is become the head of the corner." There is a tradition that when the temple was building there was a stone brought from the quarry and laid on the temple platform, and marked for the corner-stone; and it is said that there was in the stone a red line which ran through it, and which, in the eyes of the builders, indicated a defect; and so they said, "This stone will not answer for the corner-stone," and they set it on one side. But when the master builder came, he said, "The stone which you have set at nought is God's chosen corner-stone." The tradition may be true, or may not be true, but it expresses a thought. They set at nought the very corner-stone that God had ordained to be the foundation of His Church. And now, says Peter, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." The word "must" expresses the necessity. There is no salvation in any other, and if you are going to be saved at all, it is absolutely necessary that you should be saved by that name.

Such is the natural introduction which the text has in the narrative, and I cannot conceal from myself—and I think that you will not be able to conceal from yourselves—the conviction that salvation here is intended to be illustrated by the blessing that came to this cripple. All along through this narrative we find references to this healing. For instance, in the 16th verse of the 3rd chapter we read, "And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong whom ye see and know. Yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." Then, in the 26th verse: "Unto you first, God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities." And then in the text and in the previous verses—for instance, the 9th verse of the 4th chapter—"If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole, be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."

I believe that in preaching from a text we should be faithful to the line of thought of which that text is a conclusion; and so I say that Peter here intends to hold up Jesus Christ as the all-sufficient Saviour for sinners, and to illustrate this all-sufficiency by what he did for the impotent man. Consider, this was no ordinary case of disease. This man had never walked. Now, walking is an art. It has to be learnt—learnt with many a stumble—learnt with many a false step and mis-step. How did this man, not only overcome the impotence of his life, but immediately learn the art of walking? What a magnificent illustration of what Jesus Christ can do for a sinner. From his very birth he has been impotent to walk with God. He has not the capacity of holiness, and he does not understand the art of a holy walk. When Jesus Christ, by the power of His name, and by faith in His name, saves a sinner, He gives to that sinner power to do that which he was powerless to do before, not only so, but the moment before. Instantly there comes into a saved soul a power to please God, a power to live unto God, a power to overcome sin, a power to walk in the ways of righteousness, a power to vanquish the devil, which he never knew before; and the instantaneousness of conversion, the immediateness with which we are even conscious that in our spiritual nature we have received the blessing for which we have been seeking from other sources all our lives long, and never have found—that remarkable experience that comes to hundreds and thousands of impotent sinners the moment they believe and trust in a crucified Lord—is an all-sufficient evidence that there is a power in Christ Jesus that is in no human physician, and that there is a merit in His blood that is in no works of our own.

The word "holiness"—what does it mean? Why, it means "whole-ness." It is but another form of the word "wholeness." To be holy is to be spiritually in health. To be holy is to be free from spiritual disease. To be holy is to be free from every spiritual impotence. The Saviour that made that man whole in his body through faith in His name, so that immediately he recovered from a lifelong disease and learnt the art of walking without even the tuition that comes to children when they first begin to use their feet—the same great Saviour that did that for that man's body can do for your soul, says Peter, what that disease and its recovery suggest by way of illustration.

You see the force of the word "salvation" here. Jesus Christ does two things for a believing soul. First, as Peter says in the 26th verse of the 3rd chapter, He turns you away from your iniquities; and, secondly, He enables you to stand before God and man whole. The first represents repentance, and the second represents regeneration. The first represents justification, and the second represents a full and complete salvation. A sinner must give up sin, and a sinner must have power to serve God. A sinner must renounce evil doing, and a sinner must be made capable of well doing. And Jesus Christ at the same instant does both those things for a penitent believer. The man that has been bound hand and foot by sin has his shackles burst. The man that has been lying, as it were, in impotence even at the gate of God's temple, unable to enter into the temple, has great power given him, and he walks and leaps, and praises God, and enters with God's people into His presence.

That is the story of healing, and that is the illustration of healing.

Now, I want to emphasise this one thought—that Jesus Christ is the all-sufficient Saviour. I do not care how long your malady has existed. I do not care how many physicians you have consulted, getting no better but worse. I care not how far you are in extremity and emergency. The Lord Jesus Christ, if you will touch the hem of His garment, will give you an immediate healing. If you will take hold of His outstretched hand and let Him lift you on your feet, you will find your feet and ankle bones get strength to walk in His service.

Take another figure suggested by the immediately previous words. "The stone that was set at nought of you builders is made the head of the corner." I am well aware that there is a great deal of difficulty attached to the various passages in the Word of God, in the Old and New Testaments, which refer to Christ as the cornerstone. Some of them seem to think of Him as the base-stone of the edifice—that which lies beneath the whole structure; and others seem to refer to Him as not the corner-stone only, but the copestone; or, as we call it, the capstone in the building, when the whole building reaches completeness. This is one of the passages which seem to indicate that the stone is both the corner-stone and the copestone. If you have ever noticed the peculiar form or structure of a pyramid, you will note that the copestone that caps the whole building is itself a little pyramid of precisely the same shape as the whole pyramid is, so that you may take that single stone that crowns the pyramid, and you may find in that the whole pattern of the pyramid.

It seems to me that the Word of God sometimes refers to this great structure of character in Christ, and even in the Church of God, as a great pyramid. Down beneath it, as a foundation, lie Jesus Christ and the apostles, Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone. And then on the top of the pyramid, as the last stone laid, itself the very pattern of the pyramid, Jesus Christ is lifted. There is only one stone that can cap the climax of the pyramid. There is only one stone that leaves no other stone to go beyond it or above it. There is only one stone which marks absolute completeness to which nothing can be added, and that is the copestone of the pyramid. And now the Lord Jesus Christ, who is represented in this narrative as able to give to sinners wholeness, holiness—who can turn them away from their iniquities, and then give them in their impotence ability and capacity to serve and please God, is represented as building up the soul by lying beneath it as the foundation of its hope, and by crowning it as the consummation of its hope.

Nothing can be said any more to show the all-sufficiency of Christ. Are you a sin-sick soul? He can heal you. Are you a sinner? He can forgive you. Are you bound in the chains of sinful habit? He can release you. Are you impotent to walk with God? He can give you strength and power. Do you not understand the art and science of heavenly walking? He can teach you in one instant more than philosophers can teach you in a thousand years. Do you want to build up a symmetrical and beautiful character that is like unto God? Take Him as the foundation on which you rest, and grow unto Him in all things who is the head-stone, the copestone, the climax of all holy living. That is the thought, and a marvellous thought it is.

Now the Apostle Peter says that in no other is there salvation. I think that you can find the whole substance of this beautiful text in two little phrases. I like to give people a convenient form in which to remember the lessons of Holy Scripture. If you will write over against this text, first, "In Him alone," you will have the first lesson. If you write over against it next, "In Him only," you have the second lesson. "In Him alone," because He alone can save you. I mean He can save you without anybody's help. That is the force of the word "alone." Take Jesus Christ alone. You need have no assistance from any source, for all-sufficiency is in Him. And, in Jesus only, for there is no one else that can save you but Jesus.

Now Peter says, "This is the only name under heaven given among men." I suppose that indicates that Jesus Christ is the gift of God. He is the only One that has come down from above the heavens to this world beneath the heavens. Heaven was emptied of its glory that earth might be filled with saving power. Heaven gave up the brightest of its ornaments that that ornament might be put as the crown on a believing soul. Heaven gave up the richest of its treasures that a poor and believing sinner might be made infinitely rich. Heaven gave up its great physician that every sin-sick soul might get healing. And so here is the divine gift of God, and when God gives anything it is absolutely a perfect gift. The adaptation of Jesus Christ to the sinner is as perfect as the wisdom of God can make that adaptation. And the history of all these thousands of years has shown that there is absolute fitness between the Saviour and the sinner; that His medicine always reaches the case; that His counsel always covers the disease; that His remedy is always adequate to the cure. And while you may stand aside and say that you do not see any virtue in this great Saviour—that you do not believe in the power of the balm of Gilead to overcome your wounds and heal them, there is never a sinner in all the ages of the world who has made a trial of the hem of His garment and who has not found the virtue going out, and felt conscious that he was healed of his plague.

Now let me sum up all I have to say in one word more. Jesus only, as well as Jesus alone. You remember that there were, centuries ago, about the time of the Lutheran Reformation, as it is called, two very prominent characters that appeared in history on the continent of Europe. I think that history has never presented a pair of men that suggested greater likenesses and greater contrasts. One was Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and the other was Luther, the leader of the great Reformation. They were both of them Roman Catholics. Both of them became greatly dissatisfied with their own condition. Both of them were convicted of sin, and both of them felt the necessity of something more than they had ever found in the rites and ceremonies of their religion, and in priestly confessional and absolution, to lead them into harmonious relations with God. But from this point up to which they had been brought by the Spirit of God and their own conscience, and where they stood, as it were, together in their experiences, they parted as men who come to a fork of the road, of whom one goes one way and the other goes another. Loyola determined that what he needed was favour with God, and he said, "I will get favour with God by purity. I will purge my body. I will subject it to fasting, and penance, and privation. I will do this and do that, beyond the measure of the absolute law of God and the demands of the Church, and through my purity I will get God's favour." Luther said. "I am in need of God's favour in order that I may get purity. I will seek the grace of God to be a pure man." And so he learnt that lesson from Habakkuk and Galatians, and Romans and Hebrews, that "the just shall live by his faith," that faith justifies the sinner and brings him into relations with a justifying God. And so while Loyola went forward in his line, seeking God's favour by trying to be in his own strength a pure man, Luther sought the favour of God in Christ that he might by that grace become a pure man.

There the two systems which those men represent divide, and they have gone down in opposite directions through the paths of these centuries. In the great world of to-day there are just two kinds of people, one kind trying to get God's favour by their own personal improvement, and the other trying to obtain personal improvement by the bestowment of the grace of God. Now the gospel message is surely this—you can never get to be a better man without the grace of God, and that you can never buy God's favour by your good works; that what you need is to give up all attempts to walk in your own strength and get hold of Christ's hand till He lifts you up, and sets you on your feet, and teaches you the holy art of walking. Men want to give up their fooling with themselves and their trifling with their disease, and their running to the world's physicians, and their spending all their money in the attempts to get better. And they want to just get hold of the hem of Christ's garment, and get the virtue out of Christ. Then they will be whole. They need to build on Him and build up to Him. They need to find in Him a corner-stone and copestone. They need to begin with Him and end with Him, and all through the building process look back to the foundation and forward to the consummation in Him.

So, in conclusion, I can say very little more than this. I thank God that there is the little word "only" as well as the little word "alone," so that while I find Jesus Christ in Himself having all-sufficiency, the Word of God shuts me up to Him, so that I need not spend my time in looking anywhere else, since there is no salvation in any other, and it is necessary to be saved by trusting in Him.

When that great man, Sir Joshua Reynolds, delivered, many years ago, in the city of London, a series of addresses or lectures on art, he took four statues that I saw in Florence in 1889, known as night, morning, noon, midnight, the four seasons of the day—the middle of the night, the middle of the day, the dawning of the morning and the sunset of the evening. Marvellous statues they are. He took those four statues for a whole course of lectures in London, and when he was through he closed in this manner. He said, "And now, gentlemen, I have lectured to you during this entire season, and I beg now, in the close of this lecture, to bring before you one name only, the name of Michael Angelo." If I should preach for 50 years in any pulpit, I might conclude the last of my sermons by saying, "Now I have but one name to present to you, the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth." How many of you believe that there is no other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved? I am awfully afraid for many of you that you are trying other methods of salvation, and trusting to devices of your own, and that you will never come to the sense that there is no salvation in any other until you strike on the awful rock of the soul's perdition.

No doubt there are many of you that have been to New South Wales, and been in that harbour of Port Jackson, which is the finest harbour in the world. You know that there is only one narrow entrance into that harbour. It is known as the Heads, where the tall cliffs that line the coast strangely open up, and afford a narrow passage for vessels into this capacious and calm haven. So obscure is the entrance to this haven that Captain Cook, in his voyages round the world, passed it and did not see it.

Years ago there was an English captain in charge of the clipper ship, "Duncan Dunbar," and it is said that he made a wager that he would enter the harbour of Port Jackson before midnight of a certain day, and a large amount of money hung upon his fulfilment of his pledge. The last day was at hand, and the vessel was approaching New South Wales. A mist overhung the sea and hid the cliff on the shore; but as he drew nearer to the shore he beheld through his powerful glass an opening in the cliffs, known as the "Dip," because just there these cliffs descend almost to the sea level; and he said to himself, "That is the entrance to the harbour," and he crowded on all sails that the wind filling the sails might plunge the vessel into the haven through the opening in these rocks. As they moved that way a sailor on the outlook cried out, "Breakers ahead! Breakers ahead." And before the vessel could be reversed she had plunged on the rock. In an hour she was a wreck, one solitary sailor escaping to the shore by what is now known as "Jacob's Ladder," that awkward, red stairway in the cliff. When the morning dawned there was nothing but the wreck of boats floating on the surge. And the news flashed to Sydney that this vessel with 600 souls had gone down.

I solemnly say to men and women out of Christ, that there is no other entrance into heaven's harbour but by Jesus Christ. The devil has his "dips" at points in the shore, but there is only one "head" through which you enter into the haven. If you try to get in any other way you enter into a controversy with the Holy Ghost, and destruction awaits every soul that ventures in any other way, by any other entrance, to get into heaven. "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me," and when you have struck those rocks it will be too late for you to take another course. Hear what Christ says to you to-day. "In Me alone is sufficient salvation. In Me only is any salvation." And I urge you, turn from all other refuge and find in the all-sufficiency of Christ, conversion from your sin, capacity for service of God, foundation for your building, copestone for your building, light and love, and life and salvation, the entrance to the harbour,

Where the wicked cease from troubling,
And the weary are at rest.

From Dr. Pierson and His Message... edited by J. Kennedy Maclean. London: Marshall Brothers, [1911?].

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