“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matt 16:15).
When Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am,” He was getting at the fundamental basis of faith. What do you believe about and how do you relate to Him? Jesus was asking His disciples, who were still somewhat confused about His true and oftentimes hidden identity, if they had come to know Him by faith through the power of the Spirit of God.
When Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus acknowledged that Peter was confessing his faith only through the insight given him by God in heaven (Matt 16:17). Peter’s confession should be taken as reflective of one who has been born again or born from above (John 3:3).
However, there is an interesting dispute in American Christianity about what constitutes a legitimate confession of faith. Some say that you must personalize the reality of who Jesus is to be saved, not just acknowledge the fact of who He is. So, a Catholic who is asked the eternal question may answer like Peter above, but a Protestant may answer by saying, “Jesus is my Lord and my Savior,” ala Thomas (John 20:28).
Sadly, I have, on several occasions, heard Protestants (mostly Evangelicals) say that if you don’t personalize your confession of faith, that is, if you don’t claim for yourself that Jesus is “your” Lord and Savior, then it really isn’t a salvific confession. Those who say this often point to the Scriptures which contend that even demons claim that Jesus was God, and, of course, the demons aren’t saved (Matt 8:29, Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34). This again is an unfortunate and divisive position to hold.
Whether one pronounces a Petrine confession or a Thomasine one, it should be understood that the person making that profession is more than simply acknowledging a truth or a set of facts about Jesus. Inherent in a personal claim that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, or the Son of God, or Lord and Savior, should be an explicitly acknowledged belief in Him. Both confessions, Petrine or Thomasine, according to Scripture, are valid personal professions of faith.
Maybe, instead of answering like Peter or Thomas, we should be able to answer the question Pilate posed: “What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Messiah?” What will we do with Jesus, the one we confess is Lord, King, Savior, etc. (Matt 27:22)? How are our lives reflective of such a knowledge of the One we confess.
The issue is not, again, simply acknowledging that you believe that facts about who Jesus Christ is, but also that you “know” Him intimately. Many Protestants and Evangelicals may have a “right” and personal confession, but still not know or really have Jesus as Lord and Savior. And many Catholics may attend Mass faithfully, earnestly recite the Nicene Creed, yet still do not know or have Jesus in them.
Here is the key: Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). There is in the “knowing” of Jesus far more than a simple confession, whether Petrine or Thomasine, no matter how earnest. Yet, how should we understand this?
In The Revelation to John, we hear Jesus saying these remarkable words, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Rev. 3:20, NIV). Jesus was saying these words to church folk– to seemingly faithful Christians. Why? Because many of them had the right confession, but they were not experiencing the deeper life of having Jesus in their “home.” So the question isn’t simply, “Who do you say that I am?” We must ask, “Has Jesus come into your home and taken up residence in your life? Is Christ in control of you, or are you still on the throne of your heart?”
Certainly, Jesus cannot remain just the “access point” to God, the God of professions and confessions. We must go through that door, or more literally, we need to open the door to really let Him in. To truly be a follower of Jesus, the personal reality of that relationship must extend to the most intimate expressions of your love for and need of Christ.
Is Jesus your portion? Is He all you want? Can you say like Jeremiah, “I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” (Lam 3:24). When Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, and her sister Martha complained, Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the good portion…” (Luke 10:42a, ESV). Mary was content just to be with Jesus. St. Paul said he understood that the Grace of Jesus was enough for him, and that Christ was his full portion (2 Cor. 12:9).
Is Jesus your friend; your best friend? He wants to be: “I no longer call you servants…. I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from the Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Are you lonesome tonight, as the old song goes? Well, Jesus wants to be your faithful and constant companion. “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of time” (Matt 28:20).
Is Jesus the most valuable relationship in your life? If He is, then He is your great prize: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matt 13:45-46). Have you given up all to possess Jesus?
I trust we can now see that “knowing” Jesus is far more important that simply believing a set of facts about Him. Anyone can confess or profess that they have accepted Jesus into their life, but the critical question after your confession must be, “Has Christ taken up residence in your heart and mind. Do you really know Jesus & what have you done with Him since you came to know Him?”
© Paul Dordal, 2012