Derek Leman was a Messianic rabbi, and I have been subscribing to his Daily D’var for years. Now it is called the “Daily Portion.”
In his August 27, 2016 Daily Portion, Derek addresses Acts 4:12. Acts 4:12 is a famous passage, in which Peter tells Jewish leaders after healing a lame man that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which one can be saved. A number of Christians interpret that to mean that people who believe in Jesus in this life will go to heaven after they die, while those who do not believe in Jesus in this life will go to hell.
Derek offers an alternative interpretation: that the salvation in Acts 4:12 concerns Israel’s national salvation rather than going to heaven or hell after death. For Derek, part of the issue is Israel avoiding a catastrophic collision with Rome. Derek believes that this interpretation is consistent with the content of Peter’s speech in Acts 3:17-24, and also the meaning of salvation in the Hebrew Bible.
Questions remain in my mind. For example, in the Book of Acts, there are places in which salvation applies to Gentiles, not just Jews (Acts 11:14; 15:1, 11; 16:30-31). When Paul exhorted the Philippian jailer to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he shall be saved, what did that have to do with national Israel repenting and avoiding collision with Rome?
Still, Derek raises important points that deserve consideration. Does salvation in the New Testament relate, in any way, to the Israel-focused salvation in the Hebrew Bible?
NOTES: Johnson says that Acts is developing the theme of Israel’s true leadership, the apostles as the leaders of the remnant within Israel that follows Messiah Yeshua. In keeping with this theme, the Sanhedrin is powerless against the apostles in this story. They cannot punish them because the people have all seen the signs they performed. Peter instead preaches to the council! They come up with a weak judgment, to order them to silence. Peter refuses the order of the council and still he and John are let go. In every sense, the apostles thwart the power of the Sanhedrin and have the favor of the people. This position of the apostles is, of course, temporary, but Luke shows us a foretaste of the coming age when Israel will be governed by Yeshua and the apostles will sit on thrones (Luke 22:30). The chapter contains a number of interesting sayings. Vs. 2 could be translated either in or through Yeshua, so that they were saying the resurrection of the dead is in Yeshua or through him. This could mean that the foretaste of the resurrection has happened in Yeshua, so that Peter can point to the event of Yeshua’s raising as a sign to help his generation believe. Or he may mean more: that the only way to know we are included in the coming resurrection is if we locate ourselves in Yeshua. In vs. 10 he says the lame beggar was healed “in the name of Yeshua,” indicating that power to see miracles happens because of Yeshua’s coming and his authority given to the apostles as his agents. Finally, in vs. 12 he says salvation can be found in no one else. What is meant here by “salvation”? Some Christian traditions assume the word always means inclusion in the blessed afterlife. This is rarely if ever the meaning in the Bible. In Peter’s time the nation of Israel needs to be saved from its present course in a collision with Rome in which the people are headed for major destruction. The nation needs to find its salvation in the resurrected, ascended Messiah. Calling upon him as a nation would bring rescue to Israel, what Peter has also called a “time of refreshing” (Acts 3:20). In other words, the Messianic era can come down to earth, bringing peace and plenty to everyone. Compare this reading of Peter’s words with the more common individualistic salvation message: “if you will personally believe in Yeshua God will not punish you in the afterlife.” The individualized afterlife message, with its notion that God is waiting for each person to pass a test, fails to explain the long history of the word salvation as national deliverance and does not match well the plural nature of the words Peter has been using (“This Yeshua is the stone that was zejected by you, the builders”). He is calling on the collective nation to welcome Yeshua, not just individuals.