|NO OTHER NAME
Series: Armenian Evangelical Confession of Faith - Part Two
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
November 9, 1997
This morning we’re continuing our look at our beliefs and practices as an Armenian Evangelical Church - We’re looking at the Confession of Faith of the Armenian Evangelical Church - looking at our forefather’s beliefs and practice and the teaching of the Bible - and in comparison - thinking through what we believe and what it means for us today.
One of the foundational beliefs of the Armenian Evangelical Church - and the reformation in general - is that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation. The Armenian Evangelical Confession of Faith, article 7 states our belief this way: “We believe that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ alone, through faith, and not by fasting, alms, pennances, or other deeds of our own; and that while good works are inseparable from true faith, they can never be meritorious ground of salvation before God.”
No other religion - no church - no priest - can be the means of our salvation. No acts of spirituality - no sacraments - or any deeds that we might do - nothing can earn us salvation. Our only hope of salvation is to trust in Jesus as our Savior.
A friend of mine sent this to me:
A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, Saint Peter meets him at the pearly gates. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."
"Okay," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."
"That's wonderful," says Peter, "that's worth three points!"
"Three points?" says the man. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service."
"Terrific!" says Peter, "that's certainly worth a point."
"One point? Gee - How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."
"Fantastic, that's good for two more points," Peter says.
"TWO POINTS!!" the man cries, "At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by trust in the grace of God!"
Peter says, "That’s right - Come on in!"
Salvation is not by our work - it is only through the work of Jesus on the cross - and we are called to trust in Him as our Savior.
To put this into perspective - where we can apply it to our lives - I’d like you to turn with me to Acts 4:8-12 - and as you’re turning - let me give you the background leading up to these verses.
One day - shortly after Pentecost - Peter and John were going up to the Temple - in Jerusalem - to pray. As they reach the gate of the Temple - and are about to go in - a man - who has been crippled from birth - begins to beg them for money.
Have you ever seen these signs that beggar’s have, that say, “Need Help - God Bless You” - Somehow there’s a psychological message that if we’re really God loving people we will give them something - and God will bless us. And of course if we don’t give - we’re a horrible unChristian person.
The same motivation was true for this beggar. He has his spot staked out at the Temple gate - and every day He would go there and give the Temple goers an opportunity to be additionally blessed by God through their giving.
In response to the beggar’s request for money - Peter stops and looks at him. And the crippled beggar looks expectantly at Peter thinking he’s going to get money. Instead he hears something absolutely astonishing. Peter says to this crippled beggar, “I have no money, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk.”
And then Peter takes this forty year old beggar - who’s been crippled since birth - takes him by his right hand - and helps him up. At once the man’s feet and ankles become strong - he jumps up - stands on his feet - and goes into the Temple where he’s running around, jumping up and down and praising God. And all the people in the Temple - who have regularly passed this man at the gate - and probably on occasion given him money - are absolutely amazed at what has happened.
Peter - then explains to the crowd that the power of this miracle came from God - who also raised Jesus from the dead. Its a tremendous opportunity to share the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ.
During all this commotion - the Sadducees - this sect of religious leaders - arrive with Temple guards and arrest Peter and John. They’re angry because Peter and John are preaching about the resurrection of Jesus.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection - Jesus Christ’s or any one elses - that’s why the Sadduces are “Sad you see” - this resurrection business doesn’t fit into their religious framework of do’s and don’ts and legalities that they were holding the people accountable for. So they have Peter and John arrested - to keep them quiet.
The next day the Sadduces bring Peter and John in front of the High Priest Annas for a type of religious trial. Their main question is, “How did you do this? What kind of trick did you use to make this man walk?” Its an amazing and sad reality - how many people - when confronted with the reality of God’s love and grace - refuse to trust Him.
Here’s Peter’s answer to the Sadduces - Acts 4:8-12:
“Rulers of the people and elders, If we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner - in other words, you the spiritual leaders of our nation rejected Jesus - and yet - by His resurrection - God declares Him to be the means of our salvation - 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.”
There’s a Jewish tradition which says that during the building of the Temple, a large rock was quarried out and shaped by the stone masons, and sent up to the construction site. But the builders couldn’t find a place to put it. It didn’t seem to fit in any of the blueprints they were working from - so they left it on the side. It sat there for some time.
Then, as it seemed to be in the way - people kept stumbling over it - someone pushed it over the edge and it rolled down into the Kidron valley and was lost in the bushes. When the time came to put in the cornerstone - the large square rock that held everything else in place - they sent word for the cornerstone to be sent up.
The quarry men sent back word that it had already been sent up a long time ago. They looked around for it - no one could find it. Then somebody remembered the large rock that had been pushed over the edge. Down they went to the Kidron valley and found it in the bushes. With great effort they raised it again and brought it to the top and fitted it into place. It fit perfectly - the cornerstone of the Temple.
This is what Peter means. God had designed that Jesus of Narareth would be the cornerstone of His salvation. And, there is only one cornerstone - only one means of Salvation.
Today there are still people who stumble over the cornerstone. After being intimately involved in the Proposition F campaign - I can share from personal experience so many conversations I’ve had with people - just in the last few months - people who see the cross of Jesus Christ - not as a symbol of God’s love and salvation - but as a something offensive - an object of hate - a monument to division - a stone that they keep stumbling over.
This verse bothers a lot of people: “....there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Its pure arrogance they say. What about all the good people in the world? What about the various religions of the world and the set of moral truths they proclaim. They’re like Christians - they love their neighbors - they do works of goodness and compassion. There are a number of non-Christians - by the way they’ve lived their lives - they’ve put Christianity to shame.
The issue is not universal moral truth or goodness - the issue is salvation. And doing good works will not produce salvation. Man needs to be saved from the judgement of God because of his inherent rebellion against God. Man needs to be saved from his sin - his guilt - before God.
In the Greek - the word for salvation - “soteria” is closely related to the idea of healing. Peter says to the court, “The God who healed this man and made him well - or saved him - is the same God who is willing to save you. As He healed - as He saved this man - He’ll do the same for you - and the whole nation of Israel - if you will put your faith in the resurrected Jesus.”
When we as Armenian Evangelicals say “We believe that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ alone - we’re afirming this statement of Peter’s - only through Christ are we justified before God.
This is God’s grace - His undeserved favor towards us. We cannot earn - what He will freely give to us - if we will simply trust Him that He does.
Two points of application - what does this mean for us practically this morning.
1. BEING JUSTIFIED - GOD’S GRACE FREES US FROM GUILT
I read about an instant cake mix that was a disaster for the company that manufactured it. The instructions said all you had to do was add water and bake. The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell - until their research discovered that the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that required only water. Apparently people thought it was too easy.
So the company altered the formula and changed the directions to call for adding an egg to the mix in addition to the water. The idea worked and sales jumped dramatically.
This is so hard for us - to really believe that God has justified us through the blood of Jesus Christ.
If we could be saved by rolling a pea with our nose - down I5 to Los Angeles - the freeway would be clogged with people scraping their noses on the pavement.
Unlike the cake-mix manufacturer, God doesn’t change His “formula” to make salvation more marketable. The Gospel we believe in is free of works. And even though it may sound too easy - we really are justfied - set free - in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Too often I’ve heard people say, “I’m just not spiritual enough.” or “I just don’t feel like I measure up.” I hear people that have a spiritual inferiority thing going - guilt - and its hard for them to really believe that once they trust Jesus as their Savior - they’re really justified before God. We make things so hard on ourselves.
And too often we allow others to judge us and hold us to standards of perfection and righteousness and works and service and giving and on and on - that God never intended for us. Even coming to church - can become an experience of guilt and obligation and not joy. Ultimately - the only opinion that matters is God’s - God who freely justifies us.
This crippled man was really healed by God. And so many of us are like that man - crippled spiritually - needing healing - and to trust God for that healing - and to get up - and go on and praise Him and live in the joy of His salvation.
Secondly - what does this mean for us practically today?
2. JUSTIFICATION - GOD’S GRACE FREES US FROM PRIDE
Imagine a man before a judge - a man who has been given the choice of paying $100 or serving 90 days in jail. The man doesn’t have any money, but does have an invalid wife and 5 hungry children at home who are depending on him. He tells such a heartrending story that the courtroom spectators are moved with pity and take up a collection to help pay the man’s fine. Although its unlike him, even the judge chips in. Altogether they raise $99.95.
Even though they’re only five cents short, the judge declares that the entire $100 must be paid, and orders the bailif to take the man to jail. The man dejectedly walks out of the courtroom, thrusting his hands deep into his pockets... where he finds... a nickel. Elated, he rushes back into the courtroom and slaps it on the bar before the judge, declaring “I’m free, I’m free!”
In his mind, what saved him? The $99.95, or the five cents? If we did anything to merit our salvation, we would be forever boasting about it in heaven.
The Apostle Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)
Sometimes we take our salvation for granted. As if we earned it. And today we are reminded that our salvation has come at a tremendous cost - the blood of Jesus Christ. And we cannot be smug or complacent.
So many Armenians are proud that we’re a Christian nation. We think that somehow God has blessed us because we’re special - and that just being Armenian and doing Christian things is okay with God.
Too often Christians have this same attitude. This is hard to hear. But we are all guilty of this. Sometimes we think we’ve arrived someplace. Like we’re matured as Christians. We need to be reminded that we’re blessed because God in His undeserved grace has chosen to love us and save us. Grace doesn’t free us to pride - it should motivate us to poverty before God - humility and openness to His working in our lives.Our attitudes towards others should show that we understand God’s grace towards us. God’s grace means that we should never look down on those who are homeless - those who are less educated - those who stumble in sins that we don’t struggle with - even though we have our own hidden sins. Grace should free us from complacency to compassion - to reaching out to others in need and to those who need to know the grace of God for themselves.