“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” This statement is about as bluntly exclusivist as it could be. It’s sure to draw our silent quibbles.
This claim may seem hard to square with the idea that God is love. How can God be love and blaze only this one trail? Is God miserly? Exacting? Is Love? A close accountant of costs and returns? Hardly. For us, God’s character as love is revealed precisely in Jesus’ self-sacrifice: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us.” What does real love look like? It looks like him. “I am the good shepherd,” Jesus tells us, “because I lay down my life for the sheep.”
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.” The shepherd is kindly and gracious. He provides richly for his flock: “He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.” He provides everything I need and more: “my cup is running over.” And he guards the flock and defends it: “I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” As a keeper and protector, the shepherd is tirelessly solicitous. He leaves the 99 safe where they are and goes after lost stragglers, even one (Matt. 18:12).
The good shepherd is one of our oldest images of Christ. A beardless youth bearing a lamb, he figures in much ancient Christian art. For me he presents a sort of ideal picture of rugged, fearless youth (1 Sam. 16:12). How does Jesus answer the question of his parable about the lost sheep (Luke 15:4)? Not like I might but like David did, when Goliath threatened Israel. Brave and bold like a boy, like David, Jesus rescues the sheep from the very jaws of the lion.
“I am the good shepherd.” Others may run from the lion or the wolf. Jesus does not: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus saves them though it costs his own life. Other keepers may die but Jesus alone is the good shepherd because Jesus alone can lay down his life and take it up again. “No one takes it up from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” Through his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered the devouring lion and set us free from the jaws of death. Real love looks like him “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).
Outside this name there is no salvation; his is “the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). We do not possess his name as some kind of secret. He has “other sheep that do not belong to this fold,” and he will bring them. Only Jesus’ name saves because Jesus is the only one who can save us, the only one who can rescue us from the lion’s mouth. He alone is the good shepherd: Jesus, the unflinching lover of mankind, the hope of all who are lost.
Look It Up
Read 1 Sam. 17:34-36.
Think About It
What lions in your life would you like Jesus to conquer?