Is salvation possible through any “savior” other than Jesus Christ? 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 become) 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 of 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 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 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 (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 the 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 – v. 36) of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”
What is God’s command for all human beings? “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy 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 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 any one.’ 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 possessor of and 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 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, and 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, 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 Savio, 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 the 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 death, 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 followers and His ministers to be able to use His name freely. Christ promised certain signs to those who rightly used His name (Mark 16:17-18).
When Jesus sent out the 70 disciples, He told them to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons. “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name” (Luke 10:17).
On another occasion seven Jewish brothers had to learn the hard way that one does not use the name of “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 (Acts 19:13-17).
Therefore, putting it altogether, at the time of baptism the repentant believer is asked if he has repented of his sins and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. If he indicates that he has and his works prove that he has, the person performing the baptism will say to the individual (giving his name), “As a result of the repentance of your sins and acceptance of Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, I do hereby baptize you into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in the name of, that is, by the authority of, Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins Amen.” Notice carefully that neither important part is omitted! He will then totally immerse the person in the water.
There is yet one more vitally important truth connected with God’s name which Jesus gave in John 17:11. Here in His final prayer He said, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” What did He mean in saying Christians should be kept in the “name” of the Father?
He obviously meant that through, or by means of, the power and authority of the Father, all His begotten children, His Church should be kept from Satan and from falling away. As the Father’s own children, they would naturally also be given His name and be called the Church of God. To be “one” – united and undivided true Christians must be in the Church that belongs to God.
What Jesus meant is made perfectly clear in the rest of the New Testament record. For the true name of the Church of God is just that: “the Church of God.”
So “what’s in a name? Very much indeed when that name happens to be the name of Jesus Christ and His heavenly Father! To be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38) means to be baptized by His authority vested in one of His true representatives! And to be baptized “into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19) symbolizes the coming under the government and ownership of God Himself – becoming begotten members of His Divine Family, as we are led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14).
Finally, to be kept in the Father’s name (John 17:11) means to be kept in His only true Church, the Church which belongs to and is ruled by God.
And of all the denominations bearing the name “Church of God,” only One could be the true Church of God, the one that obeys all the commandments of God and maintains the faith delivered once for all time.
Don’t be deceived! These cardinal Bible truths are essential to salvation! Jesus Christ said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned” or condemned (Mark 16:15-16). Be certain you understand the importance of the name of Christ and of God before you are baptized!