But Who Do YOU Say I Am?
Talk about a loaded question!
The scene played out as follows:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)
At this point in time, Jesus and His disciples had been together for a lengthy period, and Jesus was coming ever nearer to His once-for-all sacrifice for a sinful humanity. Because the significance of what Jesus would entrust to believers after His death and resurrection was so critical, He had to know from His most trusted associates their belief as to who He was; note that Jesus did not stop at, and was not contented with, what people in general believed about Him, because He pushed the issue to an entirely new level by asking the disciples point-blank who they thought He was.
Simon Peter answered Jesus with startling clarity; note that there is absolutely no equivocation:
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
Jesus affirmed what Peter declared:
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:17-18)
In building His church upon Himself (note that in verse 18, ‘Peter’ is a masculine form (Petros) while ‘this rock’ is a feminine form (Petra); there has been misrepresentation of the meaning of this verse over the ages), Jesus established Himself as the unshakable foundation upon which Christianity, and therefore our hope of salvation and eternal life, must rest; the Apostle Paul would echo the primacy and supremacy of Jesus in his epistles:
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
In announcing that the church would be built, Jesus said something that I consider to be earth-shaking:
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
Please take a moment to ponder whether or not, based on Matthew 16:19, we as believers even remotely understand what power we have been given.
The keys of the kingdom of heaven are symbolic of authority, and represent knowledge (doctrine) and discipline.
The key of knowledge enables believers to:
1) explain to a lost and dying world the will of God (the good news of Jesus Christ) as rightly divided from the Holy Scriptures.
2) announce to all who respond to the good news of Jesus Christ that their sins are forgiven.
3) explain what is good, what is allowed or discretionary (“loosed”), what is forbidden (“bound”):
For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. (Acts 20:27)
4) to take the Gospel from some and give it to others:
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ” ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” (Acts 13:46-47)
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:5-6)
The key of discipline enables believers to:
1) if they are of Godly character and actions, to accept people who demonstrate a pattern of faith and Godly virtues in their lives into the body of believers and expel people who demonstrate a pattern of no faith and immoral actions in their lives from the body of believers:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)
2) refuse to unbelievers the application of Gospel promises and the seal that is associated with them:
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14)
If we confess Jesus Christ as the One that God has sent… becoming true believers…
we are given the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Think of the enormity of the responsibility and privilege that we as true believers are given: we must know the Word of God that we can rightly divide it, and we are given the highest honor thereby: to proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world, announcing to all who have ears to hear that in Jesus Christ the filth and stain of our soul-killing sins is removed, and we are made justified before a holy and righteous God, so much so that we are graciously granted eternal life in the presence of the Godhead. What could be a better purpose for our lives than to be able to open the door of God’s grace and forgiveness to people who otherwise would be condemned to an eternity of hellfire? We certainly have not by our own efforts paid the penalty of death for people’s sins (Jesus Christ did that on Calvary’s cross), and we just as certainly do not convict the hearts of unbelievers (the Holy Ghost of God does that), but we have been given the privilege to take the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and work in the fields of the harvest of souls until the last person to accept God’s offer of the free pardon of sin and eternal life has been counted.
Yes… it is a loaded question as to who you think that Jesus Christ is, but it is a question that we must answer. No one can “sit on the fence”. If you do not decide for Jesus Christ, confessing Him as LORD and believing in your heart that God the Father raised Him from the dead, then you have decided against Jesus Christ.
The way to Jesus is simple:
“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)
Decide for Jesus. Take the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Exercise your privilege.