Question: "What does it mean that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)?"
Answer: In Acts 4:12, the apostle Peter announced that salvation is found in no one else than the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, “for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” To better understand what Peter meant here, some background setting and context are necessary.
One day following Pentecost, the Jewish rulers, elders, and teachers of the law witnessed Peter and John healing a lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the temple (Acts 3:1–11). As the apostles entered the courtyard, the disabled man asked them for money. Peter answered, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). At Peter’s command, the man instantly rose to his feet and began walking, leaping, and praising God in the temple courts (Acts 3:7–8).
Taking advantage of the moment and the crowd’s astonishment, Peter began to preach a deeply convicting message. He explained that Jesus Christ, the man they had crucified, was indeed the Author of Life (Acts 3:12–15). “Through faith in the name of Jesus, this man was healed—and you know how crippled he was before. Faith in Jesus’ name has healed him before your very eyes” (Acts 3:16, NLT).
Peter preached that Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel. He called the people to repent and believe in Him (Acts 3:19–21). Many who heard the message that day were saved (Acts 4:4). But the Jewish leaders were greatly disturbed by these events and angered by the apostles’ teaching, so they arrested Peter and John (Acts 4:2–3).
The next day, the religious rulers demanded to know how the disabled beggar had been healed. They asked, “By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7). Once again, seizing the opportunity, Peter answered, “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed” (Acts 4:9–10).
Peter packed a lot into his words. He wanted everyone to know that it was only by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, crucified by them yet risen from the dead, that he and John had the power to heal and preach. Furthermore, salvation was found only in Him because “God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NLT).
It’s vital to understand that a person’s name held much greater significance in biblical times than it does today. Names were not simply random titles to distinguish someone’s identity. A name represented one’s essential character and personhood. Like a power of attorney, one’s name carried the same weight and authority as the person to whom it was given.
The name of Jesus and the person of Jesus Christ are inseparably linked. Jesus’ name and His power, authority, and personhood are one and the same. The name of Jesus embodies who He is.
The English name Jesus comes from the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua, which literally means “Yahweh is salvation” or “The Lord Saves.” When the earliest Christians spoke the name of Jesus, they expressed their awareness that He was the Christ, the anointed Messiah, who embodied God’s promised salvation.
When the angel appeared to Joseph, he told him to name his son “Jesus” because “he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Only the name of Jesus can offer salvation because it is the only name that has received “power of attorney” from God to give salvation to humans.
In Acts 4:11, Peter referred to Psalm 118:22 to help the religious leaders understand that their rejection of Jesus through the crucifixion and His subsequent resurrection were all part of the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. These leaders knew from Scripture that the God of Israel is the only Savior (Isaiah 43:11; Hosea 13:4). Now Peter asserted that God Himself had assigned the role of salvation to Jesus. He did this by sending His Son to become flesh and live among us (John 1:1–3, 14), to pay the penalty for our sins through His own death on the cross (Romans 3:25; 5:9; 8:32; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 4:10) so that we who believe in Him might be saved to eternal life (John 3:15; 1 John 5:11). The name of Jesus—the power, authority, and person of Jesus—was given to humans by God so they could be saved.
What does it mean that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved? Simply, there is no other person who can save us. Only Jesus saves. John 3:16–17 tells us the good news: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”