Is salvation possible through any "savior" other than Christ Jesus? What does the Word of God say? "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). But how does one receive salvation through the name of Jesus Christ? First, it is necessary to understand the importance which God attaches to, a name — and to the meaning of a name. God originated the practice of naming things. When God created the first man, He named him "Adam" (Hebrew, "man"). God let Adam name his wife: "And Adam called his wife's name Eve [Hebrew, 'life' or 'living']; because she was [to be come] the mother of all living" (Gen. 3:20). God also named the angels, and assigned a name to every star (Ps. 147:4).
But what is the most important name ever borne by any human or angel? The one name which stands out supremely eminent above every other is Jesus Christ of Nazareth! "... God also hath highly exalted him [Christ], and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Phil. 2:9-11). Does Christ have a better name than the mighty, glorious angels of God? "God... in these last days [has] spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds... Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they" (Heb. 1:1-4). How does the Father look upon the name of His Son Jesus Christ? The Father not only raised Jesus from the dead, but He also "set him at his own right hand [symbolizing Christ's preeminent position — right next to the Father in authority over the entire universe] in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world [Greek, 'age'], but also in that which is to come" (Eph. 1:20, 21). Down through the ages many men have been named "Jesus," but there has only been one "Jesus Christ." The book of Acts mentions "a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus [meaning 'son of Jesus']" (Acts 13:6). And in Colossians 4:11 Paul stated that one of his fellow workers was named "Jesus, which is called Justus." But what does the name "Jesus" mean? This is explained in Matthew 1:20-21 by an angel of God which suddenly appeared to Joseph (before Jesus' birth) and said: "... Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:20, 21). This miraculously conceived child was to be called "Jesus" because that name signifies "savior." He was to become the Savior of all mankind. This child was to be the Son of God and also the Son of man — both human and divine — having a human mother, but God as His father. Next, let's consider what the word "Christ" means. The Greek word Christos (Christ) means the same as the Hebrew word Messiah. Both mean "anointed" and refer to "the Anointed One." But why was Jesus also to be called "Christ" or "the Anointed One"? Though Jesus was "conceived of the Holy Spirit" from the moment of His conception, His real anointing of the Spirit of God did not occur until after His baptism (see Matt. 3:16, 17). Shortly after His baptism with water, and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him, He went to Nazareth and preached in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He said: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel... " (Luke 4:18). The apostles recognized that the "rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ [Greek, 'anointed']. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed... the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together" (Acts 4:26, 27). Later, in Acts 10:38, the Apostle Peter told Cornelius and all those gathered at his house that "God anointed Jesus [Christ — verse 36] of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost [Spirit] and with power."
What is God's command for all human beings? "Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]" (Acts 2:38). But just before Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, He commanded His apostles: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in [Greek, eis] the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]" (Matt. 28:19). Then is there a contradiction between Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38 (which only mentions being baptized "in [Greek, en] the name of Jesus Christ")? Scholars have long debated the differences in wording between these two scriptures. Some have pointed out that the two prepositions (eis and en) are often used interchangeably in Hellenistic Greek, even though kept separate in classical Greek. However, the key does not lie in the use of two different prepositions — since prepositions are notorious for their wide range of meanings and uses. The key lies rather in the two different phrases. The expression eis to onoma (the phrase in Matthew 28:19) in the contemporary language was used in reference to paying into an account: "The phrase eis (to) onoma tinos is frequent in the papyri with reference to payments made 'to the account of anyone'.... The usage is of interest in connection with Matthew 28:19, where the meaning would seem to be 'baptized into the possession of the Father, etc.'" (Moulton-Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, p. 451). The authoritative Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by Arndt, Gingrich and Bauer further states: "Through baptism eis (to) on[oma] t[inos] the one who is baptized becomes the possession of and comes under the protection of the one whose name he bears" (see article, "Onoma"). By contrast, to do something en to onomati means to do it by the authority of the one named. It would be similar to a public official in England doing something "in the name of the Queen." One could even compare the old cliché, "Stop in the name of the law." To do something in the name of the Queen or in the name of the law is to do it with the authority of that individual or institution. When God's ministers baptize in the name of Jesus Christ, the baptismal candidate is not baptized into any humanly devised denomination, but into the very God family, into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
How does one become a member of the God family? Few professing Christians comprehend that one must first be begotten, then born into the family of God. In fact, we are now God's children — though only begotten, still subject to the possibility of a spiritual miscarriage. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God... we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2). In the case of a physical birth, there is first a begettal, then a development period of about nine months, and finally birth. So it is with the spiritual birth. There is first a spiritual begettal; then, nurtured by the Spirit of God, a period of spiritual growth and development in the "womb" of the Church; and, finally, the wondrous result of immortal, glorified, spirit-composed sons and daughters of God at Christ's second coming. When we repent of our sins, accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and are baptized, our sins are totally forgiven. Then we receive the Holy Spirit by the "laying on of hands." Once. we receive God's Spirit we are God's children — members of His divine family! The Apostle Paul spoke of this great divine family: "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Eph. 3:14, 15). Just before His crucifixion, Jesus Christ prayed: "... Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are" (John 17:11). And the apostles of Christ did just that. They kept the believers together in God's name — the "Church of God"! This is why we read of the "church [singular] of God" in eight places in the New Testament (see Acts 20:28; I Cor. 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; II Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:13; I Tim. 3:5.) And the "churches [plural] of God" are mentioned in three places (I Cor. 11:16; I Thess. 2:14; II Thess. 1:4). The New Testament congregations are referred to as the "churches of Christ" once (Rom. 16:16).
What does the Bible mean when it commands us to be baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ"? It simply means the minister is to perform the baptism in the name or by the authority of Jesus Christ. We are commanded: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain..." (Ex. 20:7). Our attitude toward God's name should be that of reverence — "Hallowed be thy name" (Matt. 6:9). But there are those who take, use, or appropriate the name of Jesus Christ — yet are not authorized to do so. "For many shall come in my name, saying [or admitting that], I am Christ; and shall deceive many," said Jesus (Matt. 24:5). It is true that Jesus Christ intended His true disciples and His ministers to be able to use His name freely. Christ promised certain signs to those who rightly used His name: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils [demons]; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark 16:17, 18). When Jesus sent out the seventy disciples, He told them to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out devils (demons). "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name" (Luke 10:17).
Once, during his ministry, Paul was followed and harrassed by a demon-possessed woman: "... But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour" (Acts 16:18). On another occasion seven Jewish brothers had to learn the hard way that one does not use the name "Jesus Christ" lightly, carelessly, or as though repeating certain "magical words." They had seen Paul cast out demons in Christ's name. But these seven brothers failed to realize that Christ had not authorized them to use His name. "Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.... And the evil spirit [which possessed that particular man] answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified" (Acts 19:13-17). The demons knew they had to obey Paul when he gave them a command in Jesus Christ's name. And they also knew that they did not have to obey the seven exorcists — since Christ hadn't authorized them to use His name in expelling demons. On one occasion that I know of, a minister of Jesus Christ commanded a demon to come out of a possessed young man. The demon defiantly said: "I will not come out!" The minister sternly charged it: "You will come out. In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out!" The demon, using the young man's voice, then meekly responded: "All right, we will come out. We will come out." The demons did obey, and the young man has been perfectly sound-minded ever since. There is tremendous power in the name of Jesus Christ — when that name is rightly used by one properly authorized. Even during the ministry of Jesus, one man was using Christ's name to cast out demons. The disciples supposed he was unauthorized to do so, but the context implies otherwise. "And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils [demons] in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us in on our part" (Mark 9:38-40).
But the greatest miracle which occurs in the name of Christ is the miracle of having one's sins forgiven by and through faith in that name. Jesus Christ's propitiatory death was for all humankind. But how could one's sins be forgiven through the death of a man? Christ was not just a mere man. He was both man and God! Since the Father "created all things by Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:9), His life was — and is — of more value than all human lives put together. Therefore, His substitutionary, or vicarious, death on the cross is sufficient to pay the penalty for all the sins of all human beings throughout all ages! The Gentile Samaritans recognized the necessity of being "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:16). And Cornelius and all those in his house heard Peter preaching about this remarkable person called Christ: "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). "And he [Peter] commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord..." (verse 48). The apostles realized the power that believers have when using the precious "name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth" (Acts 3:6, 16; 4:7, 10, 12, 18, 30; 5:28, 40; 19:13). They went out everywhere teaching, preaching and baptizing in that name. And they got results. Thousands were converted (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 16:5); their lives were changed; and they started on the way of life that leads to an eternal crown in the Kingdom of God. They were baptized "into" the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit — thereby becoming sons and daughters in the very family of God — the true destiny of all human beings. God wants you also to repent of your sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and receive His Holy Spirit. Then you, too, will be progressing toward a permanent place in God's perfect, happy, wise, powerful, universe-ruling family — for all eternity!