Juliet, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, calls Romeo to “deny thy father and refuse thy name” and then she goes on to say: “Tis but thy name that is my enemy … What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
True, irrespective of what it’s called, a rose is still a rose and yet, the significance of a name is all too apparent and at the very heart of the problem for these two ill-fated lovers!
Borrowing Juliet’s question, “What’s in a name?” and asking it with regard to the gospel we discover that there is indeed everything in a name. Particularly, the name of one unique person, Jesus. His name not only identifies Him, it represents all that He is as Lord and Saviour.
The two apostles, Peter and John, had spent the night in prison after being arrested by the religious authorities in Jerusalem the previous evening for preaching the gospel. Now they found themselves standing before the same Jewish leaders who had put Jesus on trial. The events that led to their arrest began when on their way into the temple at the hour of prayer, they met a lame beggar to whom Peter pronounced words of healing which had not only an immediate effect upon the man, but also caused a sensation among the people as they saw this beggar 'walking, leaping, and praising God' (Acts 3:8). In excited wonder the crowds gathered around Peter and John to hear how and why this miracle happened. Peter preached, John standing with him, but it seems that he never got to finish his sermon for the religious authorities intervened and had both men incarcerated to stand trial the next day. Assembled before these two Galilean fishermen were 'their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest' (Acts 4:5-6). The exchange went as follows: “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:7-12).
The Power of His Name A name identifies a person and has meaning or authority because of who a person is. Mention the name Winston Churchill and you think of the famous British Prime Minister and WWII leader, or mention the name George Washington and you think of the first President of the United States and the military general of America’s Revolutionary War. Their names identify them as men of position and power in history whose legacy lives on. Yet, they have no personal or present ability to affect things in the world today; they’re dead. When Peter and John went that day to the temple at the hour of prayer and encountered this man who was lame from his birth, Peter spoke these words: “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Peter then took him by the right hand and lifted him up and ‘immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God’ (Acts 3:7-8). People were amazed, but Peter soon made clear to these wondering Jews what this was all about:
“The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:13-16). Then when examined by leaders he declared again: “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:10).
Not only did Peter identify thesourceof this saving power, he also explained thereasonfor it. The Lord Jesus died upon the cross, rose bodily from death on the third day and was now exalted in heaven at God's right hand. Power was realized through the pronouncement of His name because He is a living Saviour; a dead man could save no one. When someone believes in Jesus as Lord and Saviour there is a real and transforming power communicated to them from Him. The Bible says 'Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them’ (Hebrews 7:25). The Uniqueness of His Name
The miracle performed upon this well known man, who was lame and begged daily at the gate of the temple called Beautiful, was proof that the same Jesus, who demonstrated His power while on earth through an abundance of miracles, was now the exalted lord in heaven still as powerful and as able to heal and save. Many of the people responded to Peter’s testimony and believed in the Lord Jesus adding to the daily and rapidly growing community of believers in Jerusalem. The number of men now stood at around 5000, and the Jewish leaders were not only alarmed, they also now had a problem; how could this miracle be explained? But true to form, they remained as arrogant and ignorant as ever in the face of indisputable evidence. They are proof that unbelief is irrational. All the plausible arguments put forward for not believing in God are neither intellectually or scientifically sound, rather they are the deliberate and wilful rejection of God and the denial of His authority.
That Jesus is alive and able to save was proven by this event, but something more was said by Peter in his answer to the religious court. That the Lord Jesus lives proves not only His power to save, it also verifies that He is the only Saviour. That is why Peter stated concerning Him: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12). The death, resurrection and power of the Lord Jesus confirm His uniqueness as Saviour.Who else in history ever died and rose again to prove their saving credentials?This is why Jesus does not have any rivals or competitors; He stands alone as the almighty and only Saviour of men. We can be certain that He really died for our sins, and defeated death because His resurrection proves it, and His saving power demonstrates it. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way we can, and must be saved: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). AJC