How do I get to heaven? Is there more than one road to heaven? Is there more than one way by which the soul of a man can be saved? Can you think of more important questions than those questions; and can you conceive of answers more important for you to know than the answers to those questions?
Almost all of us listening to this program, I am sure, would say that we expect to go to heaven. Very few would frankly admit that they believe that they are going to go to hell. Everyone entertains a hope that after death, if there is a life, and if there is a blissful life, he will enjoy it.
On what do you base that hope? What is the only way to heaven?
The Bible declares that there is only one way. Salvation is only in Jesus Christ, in the gift of being united to Him by a living faith so that you are a new creature, so that Christ lives in you and you in Him.
How does one get to heaven? The Bible gives this answer 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 he saved.” The only way to heaven is in the righteousness and life of Jesus Christ.
Do you know that in your heart, in your heart of hearts?
Many today, although they claim to praise the name of Jesus answer that question (how does one get to heaven?) in this way: There are many ways to heaven. Today there are attempts to build ways. Heaven is conceived as a place intersected by a host of six-lane freeways and thoroughfares. If you are decent and sincere, outwardly moral in your life; if you are a church-member and in your life you do the best you can and have good intentions– these things ought to secure your going to heaven.
Or, the idea is this: God will take just about anyone. The works you have done, the good that you have done to fellow man– any indication that you are willing to receive Him — will satisfy Him.
Finally, there are those who frankly admit: We do not believe in hell. We believe that all are saved in the end.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I denounce all of that as a delusion, as false, as another gospel, as sand under a person’s feet. There is only one way of salvation, only one way to heaven. And that way is not cheap. It is profound. It is built upon the love and the grace of God in Jesus Christ. It is to be found in Jesus alone!
The Word that we are going to consider today, Acts 4:12, is a word that answers the question: How do I get to heaven?
These words are very striking in themselves, especially when we consider when and by whom they were spoken. They were spoken before a persecuting Jewish council which had warned the apostles, Peter and John, not to speak in the name of Jesus. They were spoken before a group which was filled with blind rage against Jesus Christ crucified and risen. It was spoken by a poor and unlettered fisherman, the apostle Peter, a man who, at that point, stood friendless. It was a grand confession of Jesus Christ by Peter, who had forsaken Jesus and fled–by Peter, who had denied Jesus three times, the last time with cursing and with an oath. But another spirit is in Peter now. For Jesus had said in Luke 21:15, “1 will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist.” Boldly Peter tells them to their face that the only way of salvation is to be found in the name of Jesus, the very Jesus whom they despised and rejected.
Peter, as he stands before the Jewish council, is not defending himself. He is not simply arguing a religious or abstract point with the Jews. But Peter is preaching. He is declaring in God’s name, and under the unction of the Holy Spirit, the absolute truth. His sole concern was to glorify his Savior, Jesus. They have been questioning him: By what power, or by what name, had he healed a lame man who was at the temple? And Peter, in his answer to that question, has quoted from Psalm 118:22 which refers to the stone set at nought by the builders. Peter means to say to these Jewish leaders that they had been appointed to build the kingdom, but they had rejected Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. And that was a fatal error. Jesus is the Cornerstone upon which everything else rests. Still more, Peter clearly tells them that Jesus is the only way of salvation — not your works, not your race, not your color, not because of your parents, not anything under the face of heaven. Only in His Name, only by the power and by the authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, crucified and risen, only in Him is there salvation.
That is the answer to the question, How do I get to heaven?
I desire today to be a faithful witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I desire to be a signpost. A signpost is not a very interesting thing. You do not look for poetic language on a signpost. Some question whether signs along the roadway adorn the road or detract from it. But to those who are lost, and to those who are in a foggy night not knowing the way, a signpost is the most pleasant thing that they could ever meet. When the night is falling dark and you are in a mountain pass and lost, what you want to know is the way. So this Word of God in Acts 4:12 is a signpost. It is sure. And I wish to declare it to you plainly in order that I might be free of the blood of all who listen today.
Perhaps, deep down, you deny heaven and hell. You may believe that you are your own. Well, I will not argue with you. It is the lie of your own proud heart. God is. Hell is now reserved for the wicked. And heaven is. You cannot change the truth by denying it.
Perhaps you live as though these are not realities. You say, Yes, yes– but you push them far away and you live as if you are of this present world. Other things are more important to you than this salvation that is in Jesus Christ. If that is the case, may God awaken you out of the stupor of death and the deceits of sin.
Or perhaps today you groan and despair and you see how unworthy you are of the presence of the holy God. Then you must hear the gospel as Jesus speaks: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me.”
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.”
What does that mean? Peter speaks of salvation. The word “salvation” all too soon becomes simply a word instead of a wonder in our heart. Sadly, today the word “salvation” is drained of its priceless and precious meaning and significance. The word “salvation” is literally “to be delivered from the greatest evil and to be brought unto the highest good.” That is what it means to he saved –to be taken out of the greatest evil and to be given to enjoy the greatest or highest good.
What is the greatest evil? There are many answers to that question, especially today. For some the greatest evil is poverty or abuse, prejudice or taxes, sickness or death. Some would say that the greatest evil is other people who bother me. Still more, today, the greatest evil for many is God’s holy law, the Ten Commandments; for the Ten Commandments is viewed today as standing in the way of man’s pleasure, telling him that he is a sinner. So the greatest evil for many is simply those things that stand in their way of obtaining their own desires, the things that they do not like.
But when we come to the Bible and ask the question, What is the greatest evil? We get only one answer. That answer is: Sin. The plague of man’s heart, sin which is rebellion against God. Sin which means that deliberately we have missed the mark of aiming at the glory of God. Sin which is not simply a mistake in judgment but, according to the Bible, a corruption of our very human nature which is vile wickedness, which is evil. Sin which is placing of self upon the throne of your life rather than God. Sin which involves itself in the very nature that we have, for the Bible declares that we go astray from the womb and that of ourselves we are at enmity or hatred against God. And that sin, according to the Bible, brings guilt, the worthiness of punishment before a holy God. Still more, sin is a power to hold us in its clutches. That is the greatest evil: Sin!
But what is the greatest good? There are many answers to that question today. Some would say: money, pleasures, honor, praise, power among men, possessions, beauty, health. And above these things, perhaps, peace of the heart or benevolence towards men.
Again the Bible gives but one answer. What is the greatest good? God. God, in Himself. And knowing and having fellowship with the true God of the Bible is the greatest good. We read in Psalm 16, “At thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Jesus said to the rich young ruler, There is one good, and that is God — God in His being, God in His perfections, God in His fellowship. That is good. As we read in Psalm 73, having Thee there is nought, nothing, that I could yet desire.
Now let us put it together. What is salvation? Salvation is to be delivered from the greatest evil (which is sin, guilt, the penalty for my sins, and the power of that sin to hold me), and to be brought to the highest good (which is God, God’s fellowship, favor, and presence). That is salvation.
You see, salvation is not simply learning new habits. It is not simply improving personal relations. Salvation is not only that we would teach the society in which we live to observe the Ten Cornmandments, or that we learn to be nice. Salvation is not simply that you occupy space in a church pew. But salvation is to have the damning guilt and the penalty for your own sin lifted from you. It is to be forgiven a debt that has now reached to the highest heavens, of which you could never make a payment. It is to be spared the punishment that your sins deserve from the hand of a holy God. It is to be pardoned and made righteous, so that when you are saved God smiles upon you and sees that your sins are paid and punished in the death of Jesus Christ.
But salvation is more. It is to be transformed, created anew by the great Jehovah, so that now I stand in a radically different posture towards sin. It is to be delivered from the power of evil so that no longer am I its willing slave but I can now testify that I hate my sin and love the living God and have been brought under loving submission unto God.
To be saved is to be rescued from the wicked world and united to Jesus Christ. And that salvation is not simply something for the future, but it is something now, something that God now works in your heart. Still more: salvation is the hope that one day you will be perfected, you will be brought into the presence of God, and all your foes of sin and death, evil and the devil will be forever gone. That is salvation. It is to be rescued, taken out of the greatest evil of your own sins, and to be brought to the highest good, which is to know and love the living God in Jesus Christ, to behold His beauty and to serve Him night and day. That is salvation.
Now what is the way to salvation? How is it possible?
Hear this weighty statement spoken by the inspired apostle Peter, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must he saved” than the name Jesus Christ.
No one can be saved from sin. No one can be rescued from its guilt, power, and punishment except by Jesus Christ made known in the Bible. Peter means to say that no one can have peace with God, no one can obtain pardon, escape the wrath which is to come upon sin, except through the work and suffering and atonement of Jesus Christ upon the cross. In Jesus alone are all the rich provisions of salvation. Through His work and by His mercy alone salvation comes. Only in Christ’s blood can sins be cleansed, and must they be cleansed, for those for whom He died. It is in Christ’s work and in Christ’s righteousness freely bestowed by God upon His own chosen ones from eternity. That is the way to heaven. That is the only possibility for salvation. All of salvation is in Jesus Christ. It is all by Him. It is all of Him, so that the way to heaven is the way of the cross of Jesus Christ, powerfully given to you now, a dead sinner, by the conquering grace of almighty God.
So Peter adds, There is none other name given among men by which we must be saved. What does he mean, there is no other name? That is going back to the question that was asked, By whose name and authority have you healed this lame man in the temple? When Peter says there is no other name, he means there is no other authority than the authority of Jesus Christ to work salvation. Salvation is only by the power and authority of Jesus. In the name of Jesus is to be found salvation. The name that the Jewish council had forbidden the apostles even to speak, the name Jesus –in that name and in Him is the power and the authority of salvation. For so the angel spoke to the virgin Mary in Matthew 1:21, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” No one other than Jesus. No one else is commissioned, no one else is qualified, no one else is authorized by God to save. He holds the keys of life and death. It must all be found in Him. You must go to Him by faith.
There was only one place of safety when the Flood came in the days of Noah. That was the ark. There was no safety in the mountains or towers or trees or rafts of men. There was only one place that Israel could look when they had transgressed and were bitten by fiery serpents. They had to look upon the brazen serpent raised upon the pole by Moses. There is only one way to heaven: the work and merits of Jesus Christ graciously applied to the heart by the free mercy of God so that your heart is now opened and changed and renewed by Jesus Christ.
There is absolutely no salvation outside of Jesus. But there is full salvation to be found in Jesus. According to the Bible there is salvation to the uttermost. Hebrews 7:27, “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him.” There is salvation for the chief of sinners, for we read in II Timothy 1:16 that Christ Jesus is able to save the chief of sinners. That is God’s Word. John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father hut by me.” I Corinthians 3:11, “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” And I John 5:11-12, “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life.” The wrath of God abides upon him. Do you understand that?
Perhaps you are thinking, well this is old news. This is an ancient thing. Who does not know that? Of course, you say, salvation only in Jesus. Make very sure, then, that you know what it means. It means that all salvation rests in Jesus Christ alone. We are to cast away completely and entirely all other hopes and trusts whereby we think we might go to heaven. It is not partly Jesus Christ and partly all we can do. It is not partly Jesus Christ and partly our obedience to the law. Salvation is not through church membership. It is not through religious ceremonies. Yes, those are important things in the life of those who are saved. Those are necessary and crucial things in the life of those who are saved. But as far as salvation and the ground or reason for salvation is concerned, Christ is everything.
Peter declares that Jesus Christ alone saves. Jesus opens the door to heaven through His work for all for whom He died. He is able to save from hell and eternal ruin. Christ is the refuge. Christ is the answer for our sins. Christ alone is the power to be delivered from sin. All who are saved and go to heaven, go to heaven only one way: through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Do you believe these things?
Let us pray:
Our Father, we thank Thee for the gospel. We pray that Thou wilt work more that gift of faith that we may trust and depend upon the only name under heaven whereby we must be saved, the name Jesus Christ, Amen.