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Jesus the Only Saviour

by James Begg

This sermon is based on Peter's words in Acts 4:12: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Appearing in "The Free Church Pulpit " (vol.II, 1846) it is complete apart from the brief introduction in which Begg notes the remarkable change in the disciple who once denied his Master and that this address was delivered in the hearing of those who judged and put Jesus to death.

Published in thePresbyterian Standard, Issue No. 10, April-June 1998.

L ET us now consider the truth itself, viz., that there is only one way to heaven, and that Jesus is that way. In illustrating this subject, let us first remove an objection which naturally arises in the minds of some men when such a truth is announced.Second, let us farther explain the truth itself as here stated.Third, let us establish and apply it as one of the most momentous truths of Scripture.

I. A difficulty arises in the minds of some men when such a doctrine is announced, as if it savoured of intolerance.

They think it becomes them merely to rest satisfied with the general idea that Christianity is true and important, but do not habitually feel that it is the only Divine religion on earth, and that all other superstitions are the delusions of the god of this world. They do not live under the conviction that unless they are savingly united to Christ, they shall be bound together with the tares and cast into the eternal fire, and that there is no other mode of escape. And they call their own loose and careless views on this subject by the name of charity, and imagine them to be more consistent with the goodness of God than those which he himself has revealed.

Now, whether they believe it or not, their views are not only false and unscriptural, they are precisely those of the ancient heathens. The idolaters would have allowed an image to be erected for Jesus in their temples as one amongst many idols. What they found fault with was the universal demand of the first Christians that every idol should be destroyed, and that Jesus alone should be regarded as the object of worship and the author of salvation. But this is evidently the very spirit of Christianity. No blood can cleanse away sin but that which was shed on Calvary; no spirit can sanctify the depraved heart but the third person of the eternal Trinity; no power can open the gate of heaven but that of him who "hath the key of David, opening so that no man can shut, and shutting so that no man can open;" no power can overcome the "strong man armed," who by nature has possession of our souls, "the spirit that now worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience," but the power of him who binds Satan in chains and bruiseth him under the feet of his people.

In a word, it can only be from superficial views of the plan of redemption, and of what is implied in bringing men out of darkness into light, and from the power of Satan to God, that any man can imagine that there are more ways of salvation than one. If men would only meditate on the solemn truth, that most wonderful in the records of time as it shall be in the records of eternity, that "God spared not his only-begotten Son" – that Jehovah, in human form, walked this earth, spake with a human voice, and suffered and "died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God," they would see that it implies not merely infidelity, but something approaching to blasphemy, to imagine that the salvation of man can be secured in any other way. For if so,God would have spared his only-begotten Son.

And hence you will find that the views to which I have been referring are only entertained by men who have no wellgrounded conviction of the truths of the Word of God, and who wish to make a broad way and a wide gate into heaven, only that there may be the better prospect of their own admission, although they are resolved to continue in sin whilst grace abounds.

Nor, my friends, is there any ground for imagining that the doctrine of the text is at all inconsistent with just views of the benevolence of God. Such an idea proceeds from the most superficial views, and is the very reverse of just. Suppose a body of men cast ashore on a desert island suppose them smitten with disease, and famishing for lack of bread suppose nothing before them but the prospect of certain death, and that in such cicumstances one solitary ship was descried making towards the island, and that on its arrival it was not only loaded with bread but carried an infallible physician, who offered not only to supply the wants and heal the diseases of the people but to carry them to a land where they should hunger no more, neither thirst any more, where none should say I am sick, and where there should be no more death – what would you think of the perishing men if they objected to take the bread and the medicine, and refused to go with this gracious benefactor, but preferred to starve and die on the barren island, because there was only one ship by which to escape, only one physician, only one supply of bread, – because vessels had not been sent to all sides of the island, and bread of various kinds, and physicians of various qualities? Would you not think them insane and deeply ungrateful?

Now this is the very case before us, only not nearly so strong. The whole race of Adam have been cast away on this distant world to perish and die. They have no spiritual food, and they are smitten with a disease which is rapidly hurrying them away to the second death. But lo! one vessel of hope comes from the bright shores of the eternal world; it bears a divine physician, the bread of life, and the balm of Gilead – an offer is made to every soul, not merely of a full supply of all their spiritual wants, a perfect cure of all their diseases, but of a safe passage to that land where "the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne leads and feeds his people by living fountains of waters, and God the Lord wipes away all tears from their eyes."

And what are we to think of such as object to this, solely on the ground that God has not sent many deliverers instead of one; and instead of hailing the glorious offer, and labouring to prevail upon every man to do the same, stand by callous and indifferent, and imagine that somehow or other they will escape, although death and famine are raging around, although the cold grasp of the destroyer is on them already, and although they neither enter the ship of safety that is lying in the harbour nor see another sail over the whole sweep of the horizon, nay, although they are assured by the Divine Saviour himself that this is the only opportunity they ever shall have of deliverance? Yet these are the very proceedings and reasonings of such as are not alive to the doctrine of the text.

But, again, to make this point more clear, let us suppose that men were already where all sinners who flee not will soon be, in the place of punishment, let us suppose that the gates of perdition were finally shut upon them, and that in looking round upon that region of outer darkness not one ray of light could be seen, – let us suppose that, like the rich man in the gospel, they looked across the hopeless gulf which shall for ever separate the spirits of light from the heirs of condemnation, and saw no way of escape, and that, in answer to their cry of agony, one door of hope was opened, by which they might make an eternal escape one messenger of peace was sent to intimate that for very short period they might still flee, by this one door of escape, from that tormenting flame, – do you think it would occur to them to object to this arrangement, on the ground that there were not more ways of escape than one opened up? Do you not see that they would be overpowered with joy that there was any way of escape at all?

And yet the case is nearly as strong with a world lying under condemnation. The men are under sentence of a broken law; for there is none righteous, no not one; and cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them. They are as completely surrounded here with Jehovah's power, and as unable to escape, as they shall be in the place of woe; and if they repent not, and flee to Jesus, they are as sure to be cast into outer darkness as if they were already there. And if they were not blinded by Satan, they would see that, so far is it from being a mark of want of benevolence on the part of God that there are not many ways of salvation, it is a special mark of his wondrous love that there is one one way of escape, one Redeemer, able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by him, and who hath declared, that whosoever cometh he will in no wise cast out. This one way of escape is of such a kind as at once to teach us the difficulty of our deliverance, the impossibility of more plans of salvation than one, and the matchless and adorable love which condescended to regard us at all in our low and lost estate, whilst the angels that sinned were cast down to hell, and confined to chains under darkness to the judgment of the great day.

II. Having thus cleared away a natural objection of practical infidelity, let us now explain the precise import of the language of the text.

The language is peculiar, although the general idea conveyed at once strikes the mind of every reader. We are said to be saved by the "name " of Christ, a word obviously used to signify Christ himself. This is a mode of expression sometimes used in Scripture; as, for example, "the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run thereto and are safe," where by the name of the Lord is meant God himself. This mode of expression has been transferred to our own language. We speak of the "greatest names" of antiquity, and of men filling the world with the "terror of their names," when in both cases we mean not the names but thepersons. And so we are saved by Christ himself, although in Scripture we are said to trust in his name. "In hisname shall the Gentiles trust," i.e. in his merits, in his perfect righteousness, in his finished work and exalted intercession. "His name shall be called Jehovah our righteousness."

The form of expression also, in the first part of the verse, is peculiar. "Neither is there salvationin any other." The apostle does not represent Christ as giving salvation as a thing without himself, a thing disconnected from himself, but as a thing existing IN him, as a great treasure-house of spiritual blessings in him as the head of his mystical body – in Christ, from whom all the members united to him by faith derive strength, nourishment, and salvation. There is here, therefore, not only a general but a special doctrine taught.

Thegeneral doctrine is, that Christ is the only Redeemer as he was the only Creator; and that he, and he only, is able to create us again, in glory and perfection, as he was to make us at first. The special doctrine is, that this fulness of mediatorial power is laid up in Christ as in the head of his church, and that it descends from him upon all his members, like the holy anointing oil from the head of Aaron, which flowed down to the skirts of his garments.

Thegeneral truth is, that Christ alone hath removed the curse of the law and silenced the accuser of the brethren. He hath died, the just for the unjust, that he may bring us to God, and is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. The special truth is that it hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell, and that we become branches of the true vine, living stones in the spiritual building of which Christ is the chief corner-stone.

In a word, this statement embodies not only the general truths of the Gospel, but a declaration of the special method by which the blessings of the Gospel are applied.

The blessings of the Gospel are laid up "in Christ" as the infallible Head of the Church. The blessings of the first covenant were laid up in Adam, but he sinned, fell, and squandered the inheritance of all his children. The second Adam can never fall, neither shall any pluck us or our hopes of salvation out of his hand. The inheritances of many children are entrusted to their parents who abuse the trust, lose the patrimony, and leave their children to beg; but in Christ our inheritance is safe, and therefore "he is able to save unto the uttermost."

We know not the blessings of which we stand in need, and in so far as we do know we are not in earnest to procure them. We are not only miserable but blind; but Christ knows our wants, and in him there is provision for them all. He is the great storehouse of spiritual blessings, and all the promises of God are in him, yea and amen; so that if any man lack blessings, temporal or spiritual, let him ask of him who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not.

And these blessings are in no other. "Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering." The merits of saints only exist in the imaginations of blinded idolaters; for every saint is by nature a child of wrath, even as others; and if the saints reach heaven themselves, it is only because they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. If we desire blessings we must go to the Master of the house direct, for none of the servants can supply our wants. We must become members of his family, nay of his body, and then all things shall become ours, whether things present or things to come, or life or death, all shall be ours, for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's.

III. Let us now, in thethird place, show the concurrence of Scripture in the truth of this text.

The whole stream of revelation from the beginning points to Jesus and his finished work. Thelaw which was given by Moses pointed to that grace and truth which were to come by Jesus Christ. Theprophets prophesied beforehand the coming and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the glory that should follow; and to him bore all the prophets witness, that whosoever believeth on him should receive the remission of sin.

The first dawn of prophetic light in Eden, amidst the wreck of a fallen world, pointed to Jesus. "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel." Christ was the seed of the woman. On the cross Satan bruised his heel, and at that very time he bruised Satan's head spoiled principalities and powers – making a show of them openly triumphing over them in it.

He is the seed of the patriarchs in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed. I say of thepatriarchs ; for you will find that the promise which was first made to Abraham was repeated afterwards in nearly the same words to Isaac and Jacob, "In thy seed shall all the families of earth be blessed," a statement explained by Paul when he says, "He saith not seeds, as of many, but seed, as of one," and that one Christ, who endured the curse of the law and wrought out an everlasting righteousness. Even already it has been fulfilled in the experience of myriads, "an exceeding great multitude which no man can number;" but it shall receive a more glorious and literal fulfilment when the Jews shall be brought in with the fulness of the Gentiles, when nations shall be born at once, and from the rising of the sun to where he goeth down the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.

He is the "Shiloh" foretold to Jacob, who was to come before the sceptre departed from Judah, and unto whom the gathering of the people was to be.

He is the Messiah introduced by David when sacrifice and offering, and burnt-offering were declared to be unavailing, saying, Lo! I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will I delight, O God; yea, thy law is within my heart.

He is the "Redeemer" of whom Job speaks, who should stand at the latter day upon the earth, and whom the patriarch was confident he would see with his eyes although worms destroyed his body.

He is the "day's man" of whom the same patriarch speaks, who should lay his hand on us both, i.e. the offending and the offended party, and so make peace.

He is the "mighty one," raised up from amongst the people – the "man of God's right hand" – the Son of Man whom he made strong for himself.

He is the "stone" which the builders rejected, but which was to become the head of the corner.

He is the Saviour of Solomon, "set up from everlasting, from the beginning, ere even the earth was."

He is the "child" of Isaiah, whose name was to be called "wonderful, counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."

He is the "root of the stem of Jesse," who shall stand for an ensign to the nations, whom the Gentiles were to seek, and whose rest was to be glorious.

He is the "king who was to reign in righteousness," the "man who was to be a hiding-place from the tempest, and a covert from the storm; rivers of water in a dry place, and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."

He is the servant of God who was to be given for a covenant to the people, and a light to the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, and to bring the prisoners and them that sit in darkness from the prison-house.

He is the messenger of God, anointed to preach glad tidings to the meek, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound; and therefore when he was on earth, and entered a Jewish synagogue, and read as the usual lesson of the day this beautiful passage, we are told that he gave the book back to the minister, and said, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears."

"And who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this that is glorious is his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?" The Messiah himself will answer the question. "I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." "Why art thou red in thine apparel and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?" The Messiah will answer again. "I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with me."

He is the "righteous branch" of Jeremiah that was to be raised up to David, in whose days Judah was to be saved and Israel to dwell safely, and whose name was to be called "Jehovah our righteousness."

He was the "Messiah" of Daniel, who was to be cut off, but not for himself, "the ruler of Israel," to be born in Bethlehem Ephratah, the least among the princes of Judah.

He is the "desire of all nations" spoken of by Haggai, who should suddenly come to the temple of God – "I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come."

He is the man whose name is "the branch" spoken of by Zechariah, who should build the temple of God and bear all the glory – the king who was to come lowly, and having salvation, riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.

The angels of heaven filled the air with melody at his birth, and announced that the great deliverer had at length arrived.

The star of the east pointed the wise men to the manger of Bethlehem where the infant Saviour lay.

The Spirit of God descended like a dove, and rested on his head, and a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him."

John, who baptized him, pointed him out to his disciples, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world."

Old Simeon, when he took Jesus in his arms, said, "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."

Philip said to Nathaniel, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write."

Peter, James, and John saw the Messiah on Mount Tabor, arrayed in robes of light, and "heard a voice from the excellent glory saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him." And hence Peter in one of his epistles says, "We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the coming and sufferings of Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty when there came such a voice from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And this voice we heard when we were with him in the holy mount."

The woman of Samaria said, "I know that Messias cometh; when he is come he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I who speak unto thee am he."

Jesus said to the man born blind, whom he had cured, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him? Jesus saith, thou hast both seen him, and it is he who talketh with thee."

The evil spirits that he expelled, the deaf and dumb and blind that he cured, the dead whom he raised, the angels that ministered to him, the sun that was darkened at his death, the rocks that rent and the graves that were opened, all the prophets that spake before the Saviour came, and all the eye-witnesses that record the facts of his history, unite in assuring us that he is the only, the omnipotent, the all-sufficient Saviour.

And what was the uniform doctrine of the apostles? Other foundation can no man lay that that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to sinners their trespasses. In him alone we are chosen from before the foundation of the world; called in time, justified, adopted, sanctified, saved. It pleased the Father that only in him should all fulness dwell. Even as there is but one God, so there is only "one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." And there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversary.

Hence the song of heaven is full of Christ's atonement. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood, be glory and dominion for ever.

Hence the most wonderful and glorious object in heaven is the adorable Redeemer in the midst of the throne, "as a Lamb that had been slain."

Hence the "white robes" in which all the ransomed of the Lord, of every age, and nation, and kindred, and tongue, are arrayed, are robes which have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Who are these that stand in white robes, and whence came they? These are they who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "And I beheld and heard around the throne a great company, and their numbers were ten thousand times ten thousand, even thousands of thousands, and they fell before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; thou art worthy to receive glory, and honour, and dominion, and power, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood."

If a ladder were let down from heaven, and if an angel were sent to say, "Come up hither and I will shew thee the wonders of the sanctuary above;" when you gazed round that region of glory, the greatest wonder you would behold would be Jesus, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, the Lamb of God, the great centre of worship and influence.

If you were permitted to speak to the glorified inhabitants of that blessed place, and to ask them in what way they reached the realms of glory, they would all give the same answer. Adam, if in glory, went there through the second Adam, the Lord from heaven; Abel by faith in the coming sacrifice of the Messiah; Noah by means of the true ark of God; Abraham because he saw the day of Christ afar off and was glad; all the patriarchs because "they died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off they were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth;" all the apostles, because they "determined not to know anything but Jesus Christ, and him crucified;" and all the martyrs, because "they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Where are the self-righteous multitudes who despised the perfect righteousness of Christ and went about to establish a righteousness of their own – the crowds of worldly formalists, whom false churches impiously professed to send to heaven? They are not there. No one is there who will not rejoice to cast his crown at the Redeemer's feet, and to join in the blessed anthem of eternity which will for ever fill the arches of heaven, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ; and whosoever falleth on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall it will grind him to powder.

If, therefore, there be any truth more clearly revealed in the Word of God than another, it is that of the text, "Neither is there salvation in any other."

1. From this subject, therefore, we may infer the hopeless state of such as continue far from Christ, or trust for salvation out of him. "They that are far from him shall perish;" and one of the objects for which he shall come again is to punish such as "know not God and obey not the gospel." Mark, the awful result is the very same whatever state you are in if you are not in Christ, for there is salvation in no other. He that abideth not in me is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, and men gather them and cast them into the fire.

Do you speak of the mercy of God? What greater proof could he give of his mercy than in not sparing his only-begotten Son; but it is the very mercy of God you are despising; and if you trample on the offers of his love, if you are determined to be saved in your own way, and not in the way of God, you are not to wonder if you find yourselves barred out of heaven, and left to perish in your own devices.

Christ is the way to heaven, Christ is the door, Christ the shepherd, Christ the mediator, Christ the king, Christ the intercessor, out of him you have no promises – nay out of him God is a consuming fire but in him "God seeth no iniquity in Jacob nor perverseness in Israel."

2. If these truths have been brought home with power to your souls, happy are ye. "Who is like unto thee, O Israel! a people saved of the Lord." Be assured that he that hath begun a good work will carry it on until the day of Christ. The smoking flax shall be kindled into the light of the perfect day. The feeble shall become as David, and David as the angel of the Lord. Trust in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. But,

3. Press forward to higher attainments. You must hunger and thirst after righteousness; you must grow in grace and in knowledge; you must ask, knock, use every effort, and, above all, call down by prayer that grace without which ye can do nothing, but with which ye can do all things. Watch over yourselves with a godly jealousy, and let it be your desire that ye may be like Christ here that ye may be with Christ hereafter.

What miserable self-deception abounds in this world. Luther tells us that in his unconverted state he knew some who fasted and prayed, and did penance, and yet open infidels behaved better, and murderers died more peacefully than they. So, alas! is it now. Many come to the house of God, but in works they deny him – they do not to others as they would wish others to do to them – they are liars, drunkards, swearers, covetous, tyrannical. "Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his." Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of isobedience.

But if men are not saved it is not because Christ is not a sufficient and a willing Saviour; it is because they love darkness rather than light, their deeds being evil – because Satan hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of the peace of God shall shine into them.

All fulness dwells in Christ. Mark the expression. It has been in him for ages. It is an unchangeable, inexhaustible supply of grace. The well of salvation is full, although many have drunk of it. The water of life is pure as ever though myriads have washed in it and become whiter than the snow. The riches of Christ are undiminished, although they have already enriched an exceeding great multitude which no man can number.

Come in, therefore, O sinner! why standest thou without? It is for you the Master calleth. Flee to the stronghold thou prisoner of hope; even to-day, saith the Lord, will I render double unto you. Amen.