"The Cure For Religious Confusion"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2008 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We're going to turn in our Bibles again to that second portion of Scripture that was read by Chris from Acts chapter 4, and I want to take as my text - though it's very much in the context of both chapters that were read, 3 and 4 of Acts - but I want to take verse 12 of chapter 4 as my text this evening. I want to preach under the title 'The Cure For Religious Confusion', for in verse 12 Peter says: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved".
Let us pray: Father, we thank You that we come to the One who has the name above all other names, the True and Living God. We come through the Lord Jesus Christ, though despised and rejected of men, humbled for a season, the One who has been given a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. That's why we preach His name tonight, our Father, that men and women and boys and girls should have another opportunity to bow the knee and confess Him as their Saviour and their Lord. So, Lord, we will preach none other than Christ, and Him crucified and risen again, and able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him, seeing He lives. So, Lord, may we know the presence and the power of the Living Redeemer tonight by His Spirit. May any who are confused in mind and heart over this matter of the Gospel, we pray that You will clear it all up tonight, and make their mind clear and their heart open to receive the word of God, and to repent of their sin, and embrace the Gospel as it is presented in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for everything that we've enjoyed already; but Lord, bless Your word we pray, help the preacher, help those in the meeting, and particularly those without Christ - Lord, save them this evening, and bring those who are cold in their faith back to Yourself. To the glory of the Lord Jesus we pray, Amen.
Several years ago - I'm sure you don't remember it - I preached on a similar text to Acts 4 verse 12, it was found in 1 Timothy 2 and verse 5. I'll not ask you can you quote it, but it simply goes like this: 'For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus'. The title I gave to that message that particular Sunday evening was: 'A Politically Incorrect Text'. I suppose I could entitle this evening's, 'Another Politically Incorrect Text' - that there is only one God, and only one Mediator between God and men; that neither is there salvation in any other, for there is one name given under heaven whereby we must be saved - that is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let there be no confusion. Enshrined within chapter 4 and verse 12 of Acts is the exclusive claim of Christianity: there is no other Saviour, no other way to God other than Christ. There is no other way of being saved than through Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone. Now that's enough - what I've said in the last couple of minutes - to start a holy war! Such a claim is immediately out of step with the perceptions in our modern world. Many, whether they have religion or not, do not like exclusive claims to truth. Because of the, perhaps, great religious diversity in the melting pot of faith across our world - increasingly so in our own nation - people just think that it's arrogant presumption to claim that our God is the only God, and our way of salvation is the only way to Him. Many conclude that to make such exclusive claims is presumption, it is an arrogant evil called 'fundamentalism'. In many facets of our society there is an avid determination to root it out, and drive out such exclusivity.
Now I think that's because they reason that, with so many diverse cultural expressions of God in our world and in our land, and so many types of faith, how can anyone know what is the true way to God? I think that reasoning has given rise to two reactions, and we might even have those two reactions represented here tonight in some folk. There is the camp that rejects all religion because it's too confusing, too many gods, too many ways, and 'I just don't like this religious stuff at all, it all can't be right, and I can't work out what is wrong in the midst of it, so I'm just going to reject the whole thing. Religion does nothing for me, so I'm not going to have a God, I'm not going to seek a way to heaven!'. The other extreme that is a reaction to the multicultural diversity in faith around us is to embrace every religion. One camp rejects it all, and the other embraces it all, and says 'Well, really there's one true divine reality in all of these religions, and as long as we are sincere and trying our best to live moral life, well, everybody is OK and we've got to see all religions as legitimate'.
I wonder do you subscribe to one of those? Maybe if you're not dogmatic on it, you have an inclination towards one of those: rejecting religion, or accepting all religions. Of course, the spiritual clarion cry of our society is: 'You've got to tolerate everybody. You must be tolerant!'. Yes, I agree, we should be tolerant as far as tolerance means what 'tolerance' means. If you look up your Oxford Concise English Dictionary, you will find that the definition of 'tolerance' is 'allowing others to express their faith as they see fit, and not interfere with it'. We thank God that we live in a land where there is, supposedly, free religious expression. You can worship the god that you choose in the way that you choose, as long as you keep to the laws. But that's not how people understand tolerance today, they understand tolerance to mean that you have to deny what you believe is truth - that is not tolerance! Whilst we can live with, and ought to seek to be neighbourly to those of other faiths, not interfering with how they worship God and follow their way of life; tolerance ought never to mean that we deny what we believe is the truth.
G.K. Chesterton, speaking of some wrong conceptions of tolerance, said that: 'For many people tolerance is the virtue of those who don't believe in anything any more' - people either who have rejected all religion, or embraced every religion, and so there is no belief at all. Because they stand for nothing, they fall for everything, and confusion is abroad! I wonder are you confused this evening? Let me say that Jesus says to you, to our society, to all of religious establishment this evening, as He did Pontius Pilate - the one who judged Him before His death - 'To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice'. Now many - even so-called Christians - ask, as Pilate answered Jesus on that day: 'But what is truth?'. That's what Pilate said. Jesus says: 'I'm here to give you the truth'. Pilate says, standing before the Christ who was about to go to the cross, 'But what is truth? Can you know it? Is it there? Can I find it?'.
Sadly even so-called Christians are confused about this. In 1971 the central committee of the World Council of Churches in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia heard messages urging new approaches of Christians to other religious faiths. This was their reasoning: 'Because Christians cannot claim to have monopoly of truth. We need to meet men of other faiths and ideologies as part of our trust in, and obedience to, the promise of Christ'. Even these 'Christians' are now starting to say: 'Well, Christ maybe doesn't have the whole truth'. Now here's the problem - whether it's for politically correct Christians or non-Christians, or those who have rejected Christianity and all other religions, or those who have embraced Christianity and every other religion - here's the problem: the apostle Peter, the twelve apostles, the evangelists of the New Testament and all the Bible, and the Christ of God have claimed the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way to God.
Now if you're confused about this matter this evening, I want you to listen to the liberating authority of God's word - which says: 'Neither is there salvation in any other: there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved'. The context of that verse is very instructive for us. In chapter 3 Tommy read to us that Peter and John went up to the Temple to pray, and they met a lame man. Peter and John, by the power of God, healed that lame man so that he could walk and leap and praise God. As we come into chapter 4 of Acts now Peter and the apostle are speaking to people, ordinary 5'8" people in the crowd, then they are speaking to religious priests, and even the Captain of the Temple is standing there listening to their words. If you like, it's a bit like a microcosm of our society today, a religious melting pot: sceptics in the crowd, religious people, very extreme Pharisees, Sadducees who were doubting sceptics, religious reasonists. There they are, all together, and as Peter is preaching the Sadducees, the religious liberals, get enraged because Peter starts to talk about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Sadducees don't believe in miracles, they don't believe in angels, they don't believe in the bodily resurrection - maybe that's you tonight. They decided that they were going to get Peter and John thrown into prison. So they were arrested, thrown into jail, even though 5,000 people believed in the name of Jesus, they were cast into prison.
Now the next day we read in chapter 4 that Peter and John were brought before the Jewish Council and asked by what power and by what name they healed that lame man. Peter, the Bible says, filled with the Holy Spirit, said in verse 10 of chapter 4: '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 whole'. Then he gave an answer to dispel all religious confusion men, now, and for evermore in verse 12: 'There is no other name under heaven, whereby we must be saved'.
So what Peter was saying is this: it is by the name of Jesus that this man was healed, but there's not only power in the name of Jesus to cure a man's legs, there is power and authority in the name of Jesus to cure all religious confusion forever. This is why, in three points: one, there is only one way to be saved. Are you confused tonight about religion and spirituality? Listen to God's word: there is only one way. Now many people, particularly those who embrace every religion, wish that the way was broad - so that every religion, and every faith, and every persuasion could fit on the road to heaven. But the Bible tells us that the opposite is true: Jesus, in His own words, tells us that every religion is not accommodated on the road to heaven. Jesus Himself said: 'Enter by the narrow gate: for the gate is wide, and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many; for the gate is narrow, and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few'. Jesus says the way to heaven is not a broad road, the broad road is the way that leads to hell, but the way to heaven is a narrow way!
Now broadmindedness is commendable in many areas of life, but not all. In the most important issues of life, I would encourage you to think, that most people would rather have narrowmindedness than broadmindedness. Maybe you don't believe me? Think about it for a moment: do we not like bankers to be narrowminded to the extent that 2 + 2 = 4 and not 3? We do, don't we? We hope that our chemists are narrowminded enough to follow exactly the doctor's prescription. When I had my appendix out some years ago, I didn't want the surgeon to be broadminded and just take anything out that he found on his way in - I wanted him to get to the offending organ, get it out, and leave the rest alone! We want, in the serious things of life, there to be a narrowmindedness.
Now let me say to you this evening that matters of wealth and health are minor compared to your soul's eternal salvation, to whether you will spend eternity in heaven or hell! You ought to be narrowminded about it yourself! You ought to be sure that you are secure, and that you're on the right way, the narrow way that few find! There is only one way, Jesus Himself dispels all uncertainty. He told His own disciples in the Upper Room before going to the cross, in John 14 and verse 6, that He was going to prepare a place for them. Thomas asked him: 'How do we know where You're going, and how do we know how to get there?', and Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me'. In John 3:3 He was talking to a religious man called Nicodemus, a leader of the Jewish people, and He said to him: 'Nicodemus, truly, truly, I say unto you, Except a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'. You can't get greater certainty than the words of Christ. He's either a liar, a lunatic, a legend, or He was Lord. We know He was Lord, and the word of God testifies to it, history has established it: that He lived, that He died, that He rose again. To say that there is only one way to God, it is not Christian arrogance - even though it might sound that at times - it is Christ's assurance! There is one way, and He is the way.
Secondly there was only one Saviour sent - that clears up all religious confusion. There was only one way, and there was only One sent. This is how we know there is only one way, because God has only sent Jesus Christ into the world to be the Saviour of men. God didn't send anybody else! John 3:16: 'For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son' - not an angel, not another prophet, not founder of religion, Jesus Christ - 'so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life'. He didn't send anyone else.
Now sure there are religious leaders and founders of cults, they have come and gone - but God didn't spend thousands of years prophesying their birth, their arrival, their life. God did not conceive, by the Holy Spirit, their life, without a human father, in the womb of a virgin. They didn't perform miracles like Jesus. They did not speak the words that Christ spoke. Heaven did not open and God declare about them that they were God's beloved son, or God's beloved daughter! When they died there was no earthquake, there was not darkness over the whole land, the veil of the temple was not torn in two from the top to the bottom. When they were buried they did not victoriously and triumphantly rise again from the dead the third day, they did not stay with their followers 40 days and then ascend back to God. They did not promise that they would return and judge the world, and save His people - no! Why did they not do it? Because there is only one Saviour, and that is the unique Jesus: 'Neither is there salvation in any other' - there is only one that God has sent.
Now Buddha can teach you, but he'll never save you. Mohammed can tell you to pray seven times a day, but he cannot bring you into the immediate presence of God in heaven. Islam has no Saviour. Even the Pope can't tell you how he's going to be saved in the end. Many Protestant and Catholic churchgoers in our land are just hoping that they are good enough for God to let them in! They are relying on themselves! They are self-saviours! Is that you? You hope you'll be good enough and religious enough: 'God would never damn me! God would never shut me out of paradise!'. Listen to God's word! One day in Jesus' life men came to Him and said: 'What must we do that we might do the works of God?'. People are climbing up mountains on their knees till they bleed; they're going to Mecca, and walking around until they expire and fall; there are people all over our world doing great feats to do - they think - the works of God, and here is what the Christ of God said to those men: 'This is the work of God: that you believe on the One who God has sent'. Jesus is the only One!
He is the only way, He is the only One sent, and thirdly and finally: there is only one hope for sinners. There is only one hope. Only one way, only One sent, only one hope. It's not found in religious sincerity or morality, those things are not enough! Let me reason with you: imagine you're going in for a heart operation, and the cardiothoracic surgeon is on holidays. The nurse decides: 'Well, I don't want to think that you'll miss your operation, I want you to have it, so I'll step in his shoes' - what would you say? I know what I would say, 'No thank you! I want someone qualified to do the job'. Do you get what I'm saying? Sincerity is important, immensely important, but sincerity is not enough! I want an accountant with more than sincerity, I want a doctor with more than sincerity, I want a dentist with more than sincerity, I want a pilot who is more than sincere! Sincerity won't add up the figures on the balance sheet, sincerity won't make a clear and sound diagnosis, sincerity won't pull my tooth, sincerity won't fly me the plane. I need one who is able to do the job!
There is only one hope for the sinner, for the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one qualified to do the job of saving men's souls, cleansing them from sin, making them fit on this earth to come into the presence of God and worship Him and live a holy life, and one day bring them into His immediate presence in heaven to spend it with Him for all eternity. He is the only one qualified - why? He is the only one who died for sinners. He is the only one who went to the cross, knowing that He would bear the sinner's shame and the curse. He did it for you, my friend - that's why He's qualified to save you from your sin, and from judgement, and from hell! That's why He is able to change you and take you to heaven, because He's the only one who died - the just for the unjust - that He might bring us to God.
Our verse implies that you must repent of your sin, that means that you must turn away from it and believe the Gospel. You must turn to the message of Christ, and if you do that you will be saved. It is your only hope. You must be saved His way, or you will not be saved at all. You cannot hold out any hope for any other way, you cannot be saved otherwise - without Him you are without hope, but with Him you are secure and saved for time and for ever.
Do you understand this? I can't make it any simpler. There is only one way, through Christ to God. There was only one God sent, the Man Christ Jesus. There is only one salvation that you can hope in, and that is that you must - look at the verse - you must be saved through Him and Him alone.
There was once a preacher on a plane travelling from California to Philadelphia in the States, and it was a very stormy night. It was late, and the man sitting beside the preacher heard about his faith and occupation, and immediately said: 'I believe going to heaven is like going to Philadelphia'. 'Oh', said the preacher, 'How do you mean?'. 'Well, you can get there by airplane, by train, by bus, by car - there are many ways to get to Philadelphia'. The preacher records that as the plane was descending the rain was beating down heavily, the sky was foggy, the wind was blowing - everyone looked around at each other nervous and tight. As the plane circled around the clouds, the preacher turned to the theological expert beside him, and said: 'I'm certainly glad the pilot doesn't agree with your theology!'. 'What do you mean?', he asked. This is what the preacher said: 'The people in the air traffic control are giving the instructions to the pilot, 'Come in, north by northwest, three degrees, you're on beam, you're on beam. Don't deviate from beam', and I'm glad the pilot's not saying, 'There are many ways into the airport, there are many approaches we can take', I'm glad he is saying, 'There is only one way we can land this plane, and I'm going to stay with it''.
My friend, there is only one way that you can be free from your sin. There is only one way that you can know God. There is only one way that you can spend eternity in heaven. For neither is there salvation in any other: for there is one name under heaven given among men, whereby you - you - must be saved.
Let's not rush the last moment of this meeting. Did you enter our meeting this evening confused about spiritual things? Even if it wasn't a confusion about spirituality, it might have been a confusion about your own personal life - it doesn't really matter - Christ is the answer to all your confusion. You've heard that tonight: He is the only way, He is the only One God has sent, He is the only One who can give you hope - and you need to embrace Him tonight. He is not obliged to keep speaking to you. He has spoken, He has cured - intellectually, in your understanding - your confusion: but you must respond. My friend, I cannot do that for you, no one can. You must repent of your sin and believe, embrace this message.
Father, we give God all the glory tonight - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - for the way of salvation, that all can come to the Father through Jesus the Son. Thank You, Lord, for opening the life gate for us. Lord, we know from the Gospels - though we don't know in real depth - what it cost to make that way open: the very blood of Jesus to sprinkle that way, to bring us to God. Lord, may that precious sacrifice have effect in the life of someone gathered here this evening. Hear our prayer, and may further glory and honour and praise be brought to the name of the Lord Jesus over a sinner or sinners repenting. Thank You for revealing that one name, and it's in that name - the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - we pray, and ask blessing upon us as we go. Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "The Cure For Religious Confusion" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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