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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1256

May 8, 2016 Acts 4:1-22

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“In the Name of Jesus”

 

 

  • What's in a name?

 

What's in a name? I would suspect that someone asked that question long before Shakespeare made it famous in Romeo and Juliete. The question raises the thought of how names can have deep meaning. For Shakespeare is was about the smell of a rose under any name. But our conversations normally revolve around the names of people. Names have meaning for us, not just in the fact that there is a meaning behind the name, but that names evoke emotions, feelings, or memories. Say a family name and people within that family will remember particular stories associated with that name. Say an entertainers name and we like it or not depending on our tastes. I think about one name artists, Adele, Cher, Elvis, Prince, or Bono and we all might have a particular feeling about one of them one way or another. Another way we use names is for influence. If someone tells us, “Tell them Joe sent you!” we hope that Joe's name carries weight.

 

Then there are biblical names. Abraham, Moses, Peter, James, Paul, Jesus, they all carry a significant meaning and weight, Jesus more than all. God has many names throughout the Bible: Adonai, El Shaddai, and many more, but the name given us in Exodus 3:14, I am who I am, Yahweh. This name is considered among some Jews to be the most holy name and should not even be spoken.

 

Names have power, names can be infamous, names can be a joke, names evoke love, pride, awe, and hope. Today we are, of course, speaking the name of Jesus. We know that his name has been used for good and bad. But we also know that his name is powerful. In the story we read this morning, the name annoys some and brings life to others. Let's take a look at Jesus' name in Acts 4 and in a few other Bible references.

 

 

  • Speaking the name

 

Peter and John get in trouble because they are simply speaking the name of Jesus. Sounds a lot like today! Acts 4:1-2 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. In the first two verses they are speaking to the people about Jesus and the Sadducees are annoyed because they were teaching and proclaiming Jesus. Right from the start we have three references to speaking the name of Jesus. The very name brings the religious leaders to, a the very least, annoyance. Peter and John are stirring the people up by invoking the name that those leaders had hoped died on the cross for good. But the name was also resurrected through the teaching of the disciples.

 

This story also ends with four references to speaking the name. Look at verses 17-20, 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” They are warned not to speak (17), twice in verse 18 – do not speak or teach, and then their response in verse 20, we cannot but speak”. In some ways this story and the story of the church revolves around the very name of Jesus. But the name is not just a name, because it includes the person and the character and the presence and power of God's only Son. Their is a particular authority and power in the name of Jesus. It is why it is resisted by others in authority. In Acts it is resisted by the religious authority. Today it is resisted by secular authority and other anti-Christian forces. The authority of the name of Jesus is a threat to all other authorities. It is why they ask Peter and John the question in verse 7,  “By what power or by what name did you do this?”  They ask because they also know there is power in the name. It is the same question asked of Jesus in Mark 11:27-33

 

27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him,28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

 

With authority comes power. This is the power that gave the disciples the authority to speak in his name and the courage to tell the authorities that they cannot help but speak. This is the name that also gives us the power to speak, teach, proclaim, preach, worship, pray, to do everything!

 

  • Reaction to the name

 

I wanted to say a word about the reactions to the name in this Acts story. Annoyance is the first reaction. I know that when I am annoyed I want to get rid of whatever is annoying me. It seems that the name has been annoying more people in our nation. We know that the decline in decency and moral character has been growing and that more forces seem to be coming against the biblical principles. Reaction to the name is annoyance, opposition, threat, and perhaps not too far from persecution.

 

The last reaction is particularly to the disciples themselves, that of astonishment. 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. When they made the connection to Jesus and the observation of common men, they were amazed at what they saw. The power of the name not only annoys but can astonish. We see it throughout the gospels how what Jesus did and said astounded those around him.

 

I think that if the church can stand firm in the scriptures, if we can follow Jesus and call on his name in faith, we might even be able to move people from annoyance to astonishment. We might even be able to bring our nation back to some measure of revival, because we know that Jesus is the only hope for our nation and for all people.

 

  • No other name

 

We know that because Peter shows us in Acts 4:12 that there is no other name that can save. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This is the hope for America, for the world, for us. This is why we trust in Jesus and in his name, for there is power to save. While some might try to argue that there are many ways to God, our testimony is built upon the truth of scripture, and like the disciple, we cannot but speak the name of Jesus as the only name by which we are saved.

 

 

  • Do everything in the name

 

When Paul wrote to the young churches, he often encouraged them to live in the name of Jesus. Let's turn to Ephesians 5, 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Eph. 5:17-21 In this passage we are called to give thanks in Jesus' name. We could look at this passage also to show that all these things are in Jesus' name: understand the will of the Lord, being filled with the Spirit, worshiping, the implication being that we do everything in Jesus' name. Paul more specifically says this in Colossians.

 

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col. 3:16-17 Whatever you do, every action, every word, every thing is in the name of Jesus. It is the

 

 

  • At the name

 

The last thing I want to mention is the last thing people will do. Philippians 2 says this:

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:9-11

 

The name above every name

At the name of Jesus every knee should bow

At the name of Jesus every tongue will confess

 

The name holds tremendous power and in the end of time that name will be exalted above all others. In the meantime the name will cause all kinds of suffering, but also great comfort. The name will annoy the powers that be, but will also protect and give hope to all who confess it. The name that identifies the person of Jesus is the only way to salvation. If for no other reason, this is the reason we profess the name of Jesus, to bring others to confess the name. Take the name of Jesus with you, for in that name there is power, there is hope, there is perspective, there is discernment, and there are so many more reasons for making our identity known through the name of Jesus. When we take the name we are not only taking his reputation, but we are taking the resurrected living Lord by the Holy Spirit. There is no other name by which we can do that! Amen.