Paths to Faith Matthew 16:13-19
Thoughts about Paths to Faith Matthew 16:13-19
We have been discussing reason as a path to faith. The existence of God is the most reasonable explanation of the universe. This reasonableness includes the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. However, our faith in Jesus depends on something more than reason.
About halfway through His ministry on earth, Jesus questioned His disciples about His identity. It was sometime after the death of John the Baptist. Jesus was on the coasts of Philippi teaching His disciples when He talked with them about their faith. In school terms, we might say that this was His mid-term examination of His disciples.
The main point at issue was whether or not the disciples themselves believed that Jesus was the Son of God. Many different opinions were being proclaimed by those who did not have faith in Jesus. So Jesus brought the faith of the disciples into focus by asking them about His identity. The disciples passed the exam. When the examination was over, Jesus proclaimed that revelation was the basis of their faith.
In our next “thoughts” we will discuss the questions that Jesus asked his disciples. The first question was “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Verse 13). The second question was, “But who do you say that I am?” (Verse 15). In my next “thoughts” we will discuss these questions and how the disciples answered.
More Thoughts about Paths to Faith-Revelation Matthew 16:13-19
Midway through His ministry on earth, Jesus asked his disciples two key questions concerning His identity. In school terms, we might call this His mid-term examination of His disciples.
The first question Jesus asked was, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Verse 13). Although the title “Son of Man” can be used interchangeably with “Son of God, at times it especially emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. Up to this point, the only time Jesus had identified Himself as the Messiah was when he was talking with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:25-26). However, according to Robertson, Son of Man, as used here, was a concealed Messianic title.
Jesus, in this first question, asked His disciples about the opinions of the public at large. The disciples answered, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (Verse 14). These ideas were not critical of Jesus. All these men and the prophets were highly regarded, but these answers do not say that Jesus is the Messiah.
Today, even though the Word says that Jesus is the Messiah, multitudes of people will not agree. They may be willing to say that Jesus was a great prophet, the greatest teacher, the highest example of ethical behavior, and otherwise honor Him. However, in many cases, they will stop short of saying that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah.
With this as background, Jesus asked His second question, “But who do you say that I am?” (Verse 15). We will discuss this question in my next “thoughts.” Also, we will consider how revelation leads to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah.
More Thoughts about Paths to Faith-Revelation
Jesus was giving His disciples His “mid-term exam.” His first question was “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (verse 13). The disciples responded by identifying what people were saying. Then Jesus asked His second question: “But who do you say that I am?” (verse 15). Our discussion today focuses on this question.
With this question, Jesus was not asking them to just recite what others said. Some of his followers had identified Jesus as the Son of God. John the Baptist declared, “I have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:36). When Nathanael encountered Jesus, he said “Rabbi, You are the Son of God” (John 1:49). The disciples knew this, but Jesus wanted to know what they believed.
In response to Jesus’ question, Simon Peter said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (verse 16). In the Greek language “you” is singular. Also, the Greek uses four definite articles which we can translate as follows: “the” Christ, “the” Son, “of the” God, and “of the” living. The emphasis of Peter’s answer is on the uniqueness of Christ. He alone is the Messiah, the divine and human Son of the living God.
Jesus always encounters everyone personally. He asks us to commit our lives to Him, to fully believe in Him, and to follow Him without reservation. I will long remember the night when I spoke from this passage in a well-known church in Calcutta, India. The auditorium was filled with young men who were not followers of Christ. When I finished preaching, I gave the invitation and it seemed that the whole audience stood to accept Christ.
While I was speaking, the Holy Spirit was doing His persuasive work. He made Christ known as the Son of God to my audience. In my next “thoughts” we will discuss how revelation leads to faith in Christ.
More Thoughts about Paths to Faith-Revelation
It was mid-way in the earthly ministry of Jesus. He administered His “mid-term” exam to the disciples. When Jesus asked the disciples “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Peter correctly answered Jesus’ question. Then, Jesus told Peter his “grade” and explained to him how he knew the answer. Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (verse 17). It took a miracle of revelation for “Peter” to know the answer.
The miracle was not one of simply knowing the basic information. It was a miracle that involved Peter’s entire personality. Intellectually, Peter knew in a new way that Jesus was the Son of God. Peter intellectually accepted this knowledge and its implications. Emotionally, Peter internalized this truth. It was not just a proposition to be considered, evaluated, and accepted or rejected. Volitionally, Peter committed himself to do the will of the Son God.
When we hear about Jesus as the Son of God, we have the opportunity to accept Him as our Savior and Lord. As we respond to the message, the Spirit of God reveals to us intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally that Jesus is God’s Son and that He has provided redemption for us. This truth is entirely reasonable, but revelation enables us to personally appropriate what it says.
More Thoughts about Paths to Faith—Revelation
Our subject for several days has been “paths to faith” in Christ. We have discussed reason as one of the paths that we take. It is reasonable to hold that God exists, that Jesus is God’s Son, and that the Holy Spirit leads and guides us. However, reason alone is insufficient to lead us fully to faith.
We adhere to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God because God has revealed it to us. When Jesus administered His mid-ministry exam to the disciples, he asked His disciples about His identity as the Son of God. When Peter answered correctly, Jesus taught the disciples that he knew the answer because God had revealed it to him. Our knowledge of the identity of Jesus depends on God’s revelation.
The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, both at the beginning of our walk with Christ and in an ongoing way. Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth for He will not speak on His initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak, and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and He leads us into all truth.
Moreover, our walk with God is ultimately a work of God. The apostle Paul said, “So, then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good please” (Philippians 2:12-13).
On one’s journey to faith in Christ reason is important, but reason alone is insufficient. It was not “flesh and blood” that revealed the identity of Jesus as the Son of God to Peter and the other disciples; it was God Himself who gave them this revelation. In the same way, God reveals Jesus to us today.
George M. Flattery, Ed.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.