Beyond the popular culture and its definition of Jesus and Christianity, a true definition of Jesus provides opportunity to be a true Christian, moving from knowing about Jesus to knowing, obeying, and following Him personally. How we answer Jesus’ question, the central question of life, “Who do you say that I am? defines our lives, churches, nations, now and forever. The Bible says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the death, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). There is a core principle that set Christianity apart from every other religion. It is the belief that God Almighty took on human flesh, Jesus Christ, who lived among us and died that we might be forgiven our sin and be saved in preparation for His Second Coming. This is the sacrifice and promise no prophet or teacher can do or offer, hence, Jesus remains the ONLY Saviour of the world. Our understanding of this core principle of Christianity in relation to the definition and identity of Jesus determines our growth and decline.
The solution to the problems and decline facing the church today is the revelation and understanding of the true definition and identity of Jesus. The question Jesus asked his disciples and most especially Peter is the question for the church and its leadership today to answer. Our answer will determine our level of authority and power for growth, leadership, mission and evangelism.
Jesus poses the question in three accounts. Jesus first asks, “Who do people say I am?” (Matt 16:13-16, Mk 8:27), and “Who do the crowds say I am?” (Lk 9:18). The answer of what other says reminds us of the popular culture speculations and its definition of Jesus and Christianity today: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets (Matt 16:14, Mk 8:28, Lk 9:19). The popular answer by the people (the crowds) points to the sense-ruled definition based on the assumptions and theoretical positions of the people about Jesus and Christianity. Sense-ruled definition from the ‘flesh and blood’ may sound good philosophically and psychologically, but they are not from God and that is why it is very difficult for those who operate in the realm of ‘flesh and blood’ to come to realm of the Spirit. The phrase, ‘flesh and blood’ in this context points to ‘the idea of the natural man, with his natural endowments and faculties’ (Gal 1:16, Eph 6:12). St Augustine’s conversion from his ‘flesh and blood’ sense-ruled religion revealed how God set him face to face with himself, that he might see how ugly he was, ‘and how crooked and sordid, and bespotted and ulcerous.’ Augustine’s sense-rule and ‘esteem of himself leads him to the sin he knows he must repent from and turn from in order to become a Christian.’
Jesus’ redirection of the question to the disciple, “Who do you say I am?” is a warning to the church today that the definition of Jesus or Christianity by world popular culture does not matter, the mentality of the crowd theology is irrelevant (Matt 16:15, Mk 8:29, Lk 9:20). Just as it was a time for the disciples to remain faithful and claim Jesus’ true identity for themselves, it is time today for the true church shaped by Spirit-ruled definition of Jesus Christ and Christianity to remain faithful. The answer by Peter is a Spirit-ruled answer and definition, “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16). The immediate response by Jesus saying, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (v. 17), shows the vanity of flesh and blood sense-ruled definition. Based on Jesus’s response to Peter, flesh and blood sense-ruled definitions are shaped by carnal minds which are enmity against God, ‘for it is not subject to the law of God.’ Unregenerated mortal leadership or church cannot please God.
Peter’s Spirit-ruled definition of Jesus inspired by the Holy Spirit, revelations that come from the Father is not without a measure of power and blessing. Peter’s Spirit-ruled definition earned him the keys of the kingdom, authority or power to effectively transmit and interpret the Gospels. A sense-ruled definition of Jesus is devoid of power of authority to transmit and interpret the Gospels because to be carnally minded is death.
In conclusion, the question, “Who do you say I am?” reminds us of Jesus’ usages of the multiple “I Am,” statements which emphasised Jesus’ true definition as: I Am the Bread of Life (Jn 6:35). I Am the Light of the World (Jn 8:12). I Am the Door of the Sheep (Jn 10:7). I Am the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11). I Am the Resurrection and the Life (Jn 11:25). I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6). I Am the True Vine (Jn 15:1). The true definition of Jesus reveals His identity as divine, hence a call to give to Jesus the unequal and uncompromising recognition in our lives and churches. Jesus said. “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Rev 1:8). True definition of Jesus calls us to remain faithful, constantly claiming and following Jesus identity, holiness, and righteousness.