Reformation Series – #2

November 12, 2017

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church

Sioux Falls, SD

Rev. Norman F. Seeger

 

Acts 4:1-12

      The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 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. 11 Jesus is

“ ‘the stone you builders rejected,

which has become the cornerstone.’

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

 

Acts 4:1-12

“Salvation is … in Christ Alone”

1) Our Cornerstone, Our Solid Ground

2) Scorned by Ones He Came to Save

3) Here … (in the Power of Christ) … I Stand

 

Dear Disciples of Jesus Christ,

‘I have no options,’ Martin Luther essentially says when ordered, under the threat of death, to recant, to deny or ‘take back’ everything he has written, everything he rediscovered —  Jesus’ innocent death fully paid sin’s penalty for us while Jesus’ perfect life counts as our righteousness.  If no soul can show where his writings contradict what God writes in his inspired Word, Luther knows no options.  ‘My conscience is bound to the Scriptures,’ he boldly declares.  ‘Here I stand.  I can do nothing else.’

No options!  Like Luther, we are offered no options when Jesus turns our eyes to a home he promises he will prepare for us as he ascends into heaven after he first dies sin’s death Good Friday & triumphantly rises to life Easter Sunday, guaranteeing us God’s forgiveness.  Answering a disciple who asks, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?’ Jesus clearly declares, ‘I am the way, the truth; the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’[JN 14]  No options are offered.  If we will go to heaven when our time on earth ends, we must go through Jesus.

While we ordinarily love to have choices, love to do things ‘our way,’ I pray we just rejoice as we realize God has given our world one way to be saved.  Graciously God sent his Son, Jesus, into our world to open one more door into heaven than we could ever open on our own.  Eliminating any other option – ‘salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved’ – Peter reveals this fortunate fact:  ‘Salvation is found; there is salvation  in Jesus Christ of Nazareth.’  Using phrases a hymnwriter just led us to sing, we can consider three truths we learn while Peter & John are questioned by Jewish leaders after miraculously making a man who was lame from birth stand up & walk.  Salvation (forgiveness for our sins, spiritual life – eternal life; a home waiting for us in heaven) – we want to be absolutely clear – salvation is a gift God gives to us … ‘In Christ Alone!’

First verse.  Phrases focus on what God has done to assure our salvation.  ‘In Christ alone my hope is found.  He is my Light, my Strength, my Song.’  Powered by the Holy Spirit God pours upon them immeasureably at Pentecost, apostles keep ‘teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.’  Souls are led to trust Jesus as our Savior who brings us eternal life in heaven rather than unending death in hell.  ‘Three thousand people believing & being baptized on Pentecost’ quickly increases to ‘about five thousand men’ confessing Jesus is the ‘Lord’ of my life.  What do we see at work in our world?  God’s grace, only God’s undeserved love, produces faith — total trust not in my own efforts but trust in Jesus’ life & death as my Substitute — faith only flowing from the Scriptures God is speaking & will be writing through his apostles leads souls to be saved in ever greater numbers.  Jesus, the ‘Light of the world,’ leads us out of the darkness of death to live in his  ‘light of eternal life.’[JN 8]

Notice Peter’s willingness to confess the crucified but risen Jesus Christ.  Eternally alive – forgiven for fearfully denying, three times shamefully cursing & swearing he has no connection to Jesus when Peter waits among soldiers & servants around a courtyard fire while Jesus is led from Gethsemane into a high priest’s court for his first trial – forgiven by a life-giving Lord Jesus, Peter is no longer afraid to profess his faith in front of the same Jewish judges who put his Lord Jesus to death.  Singing ‘Christ the cornerstone…the solid ground’ recalls Peter quoting a psalmist who would identify Jesus as ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone’ – highlighting a prophet through whom a world-ruling Lord promised, ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.’[IS 28]

Only the Lord, looking into our hearts, knows who belongs to him, who truly believes in Jesus.  Only God can count the true number of ‘living stones he is building into a spiritual house offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,’[1 PT 2] as Peter will write, urging us to trust Jesus as the sure, unshakeable foundation for our salvation.  While only the Lord could list the three thousand quickly becoming five thousand faithful souls, around our world today, if not in our own neighborhood, more men & women (younger & older) are outwardly confessing Jesus is the Christ, our promised Savior – most importantly, Jesus is ‘my’ Savior.

Not that our Savior’s influence is ever allowed to increase unopposed!  Verse two.  ‘In Christ alone — who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless Babe.  This gift of love & righteousness, scorned by the ones he came to save.’  Souls Jesus lived & died to redeem from sin, death & the devil try to silence any word about his work, as evil opponents still try to eliminate any mention of our Savior in our world.  Pulling the apostles into custody, offering no accusation of a crime for what they will later label an ‘outstanding miracle,’ leaders threaten death in an effort to stop Peter & John from telling anybody about Jesus.  Peter pulls no punches; powerfully convicts these Jewish leaders, ‘Jesus, whom you crucified…the stone you builders rejected.’

Notice, please, as Peter preaches the law – as Peter exposes their sins – the apostle at the same time proclaims God’s gospel truth, points out what God did to produce forgiveness for all sins; for their sin.  ‘Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead…the stone you builders rejected has become the cornerstone.’  While condemning these souls for rejecting Jesus, Peter calls for repentance, Peter offers God’s gracious gift of forgiveness through faith in Jesus as he asserts, ‘Salvation is found in no one else – no one other than Jesus — for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’   Like Peter, our hymnwriter wonderfully wraps God’s gospel truth around our world’s opposition to Jesus,  ‘scorned by the ones he came to save… on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied for every sin on him was laid.  Here, in the death of Christ, I live.’

In Christ, I live.  Now on earth, I live in Christ.  Later, forever in heaven, I will live…in Christ alone!  Peter so clearly declares, ‘Salvation is found in no one else.’  Paul similarly offers only one answer when the jailor in Philippi asks, ‘What must I do to be saved?’  Paul knows there are no options, but proclaims one absolute response, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus.  You will be saved.’[ACTS 16]  While God offers no options, our wicked world opposes Jesus by intimating (at times directly telling us) every religion will ultimately lead us into heaven, as if different preachers just lead us down different paths; lead everyone into heaven through different doors.

Please, you who have heard Jesus’ saving truth, do not ever let yourself be fooled by false prophets.  This morning you could have come in through any one of ten different doors to ultimately end up here in our sanctuary praising our Savior.  Heaven, however — where we will joyfully, endlessly praise our Savior – heaven has only one entrance.  Faith in Jesus the Christ – relying upon Jesus’ perfect life as our righteousness; trusting Jesus’ innocent death washes away our guilt – believing in our Lord Jesus is the only way to be saved.  Faith following any other individual, real or imaginary – every form of idolatry, even relying on my ability to believe or to do something, do anything to please God — drops us into hell the day we die.  Death apart from Christ is an irreversible disaster!

Fortunately, for you & for me, earthly death is a future we need not fear.  Earthly death is a day we can anticipate with complete confidence because Jesus destroyed the power of death.  ‘Jesus, whom these leaders trying to silence the apostles crucified, God raised from the dead.’  God, of course, concurred with Jesus’ death.  Giving his innocent Son our iniquities, God punished every sin on Christ’s cross.  Emphasizing God’s gracious plan, Paul rejoices, ‘Delivered over to death for our sins, Jesus was raised to life for our justification.’[ROM 4]  Easter Sunday, raising our Savior/Substitute from his grave, God justifies us – God declares us ‘forgiven.’  Overpowering death & the devil, a risen, ascended, now ruling Jesus gives us life, eternal life in Christ…only in Christ!

Looking into our future in this world & in the endless world to come, our hymnwriter expresses confidence faithful Christian souls can enjoy.  Final verse.  ‘No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me.  From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.’  How can Peter & John so fearlessly face earthly authorities?  How can we?  Knowing our Savior – the one & only Savior for our world – has completely won for us a home in heaven, we too can sing, ‘No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from his hand.  Till he returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.’

Amen.