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The Caesarea-Philippi Confession

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
July 8, 2022 12:01 am

The Caesarea-Philippi Confession

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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July 8, 2022 12:01 am

Everyone in Israel had expectations about who the Messiah would be, but many of these expectations were misguided. Today, R.C. Sproul examines a conversation between Christ and His disciples that illuminates Jesus' true identity and mission.

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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind, Who Did Jesus Claim to Be? We tend to think that Jesus calling Himself the Son of Man was an expression of humility, when in fact it was a claim to divine authority.

That's why I want you to notice this. When He heals on the Sabbath day and is rebuked by His enemies, He said, I did this that you may know that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. The Jews were waiting for a Messiah, someone who would free them from the tyranny and oppression of Rome, but Jesus distanced Himself from those expectations. His identity and mission were far greater than that.

Here's Dr. R.C. Sproul from his series, Dust to Glory. Clearly it's clear that the central figure of the entire New Testament is Jesus Himself. In fact, we could say He's the central figure of the entire Scriptures as the Old Testament prophets continually pointed forward to that time when He would enter into human history. Now when we think of Jesus, we think of His name being Jesus Christ. And yet when we stop to analyze it, we realize that that is not properly speaking His name, but rather it is the combination of His name and the supreme title that He bears in the New Testament, the name or the word Christ corresponds to the Old Testament word Messiah. And of all of the titles that are given to Jesus in the Scriptures, the one that ranks number one in terms of numerical frequency is the title Christ. And it is so often used in conjunction with His name that we've come to think that it is His name, Jesus Christ. But literally what is being said with this phrase is Jesus' Messiah. So that in that combination of the name and the title, we find really the earliest confession of faith of the New Testament community as the New Testament church embraces Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. But when we look at the teaching of Jesus during His public ministry, something very strange emerges.

What scholars of the last couple of hundred years have referred to as the Messianic secret, which is found particularly in the Gospel of Mark. And what that refers to is Jesus' own hesitancy or reluctance to identify Himself with that title Messiah. In fact, the preferred title that He uses for Himself is the title Son of Man. Now, even though the Son of Man as a title ranks third in terms of overall frequency of titles used in the New Testament for Jesus, it is far and away number one in numerical frequency in terms of Jesus' use of titles for Himself. And so He favored the title Son of Man and seemed to shun or step away from the title Messiah.

And there's been a lot of speculation as to why that was the case. And the usual solution to it was that the people in Jesus' own day were at a feverish pitch in terms of their expectation of the coming Messiah. But what they were looking for in the Messiah that they hoped for was one who would be a political revolutionary, a military leader who perhaps would join with the zealots of the day and drive the Roman occupiers from the land and liberate the people of Israel.

They were looking for a military leader who would come from God that they would crown as their King in this new regime of independence. And Jesus, knowing this widespread distorted view of the Messiah, was extremely careful about identifying Himself with that title because it was so widely misunderstood. And so there is this element of secret or of concealment that is attached to Jesus' teaching regarding Himself.

But then we get to the closing days of His public ministry where He had retreated from Judea and from the area round about Jerusalem where so much controversy had been engendered by His teaching. And it was, as it were, an occasion for Jesus to go away on retreat with His disciples, and they journeyed to Caesarea Philippi. And when He was there with His disciples at Caesarea Philippi, we have the record in Matthew's gospel of a very carefully directed conversation that Jesus had with His disciples. And let's look at that, if we will, in chapter 16 of Matthew beginning at verse 13. Now, this passage is called by various names.

Most popularly, it's called the record of the Great Confession, and sometimes it's simply referred to geographically as the Caesarea Philippi Confession. Let's look at the text in chapter 16, verse 13. When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? Now, Jesus is speaking now not to the multitudes or to the scribes and the Pharisees, but to His own disciples. And He's asking for a report of their reconnaissance. What's the grapevine saying?

What's the scuttlebutt here in the countryside? What are people saying about My identity? Who do men say that I am? Now, I just intentionally restated Jesus' question to His disciples in an abbreviated, shortened way, because that's the way I hear it quoted all the time. When people talk about the Great Confession, they'll say Jesus came to His disciples and said, Who do men say that I am?

But that's not exactly what He said. If you recall from my reading of the text, Jesus said, Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? So even here, when He's asking the question of public opinion, He identifies Himself with this title, Son of Man.

And so we look at the response that is given to the question. They said, Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Now, we recall that John the Baptist had created quite a national interest, and when he disappeared, not everyone in the country knew of his fate.

Certainly, Herod, after he had John the Baptist beheaded, did not put it in USA Today and broadcast it to the whole land that he had murdered this very popular prophet. But John disappeared, and rumors were being stirred up around the countryside. And when Jesus appeared in some of the far-out villages, people had heard about John the Baptist by his fame, and they knew something of his ministry and of his message. And here Jesus is coming saying the same thing, Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand, so that in the popular multitudes, some people jump to the conclusion that this must be this John the Baptist that they had heard so much about. Others still looking for the reappearance of Elijah, as was promised in the final prophecy of the Old Testament book of Malachi, identified Jesus with the advent of that prophet. Others say, well, he sounds like Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

So we notice that all of these designations have something in common, namely, they're all prophets. And so the public opinion that was beginning to gain in momentum was that this Jesus of Nazareth was a great prophet who had appeared. So then Jesus said to them, but who do you say that I am?

Now he passes from the scene of asking for a mere reporting of public opinion, and he asks them of the conclusions they had reached after being with him throughout his public ministry. And the one who responds to the question is Simon. And Simon Peter answered and said, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. What he's saying here is simply this, Jesus, you're the Messiah, the Son of God. So we notice that in this brief conversation that has ensued so far, we have three titles attributed to Jesus, Son of Man, Christ, Son of God. Just briefly in passing, let me ask you to pay particularly close attention when you read the gospels to the use of the phrase or the title Son of Man. It's one of the most important titles for Jesus in the New Testament, and yet at the same time one of the most frequently misunderstood. And part of the reason is we see the difference between the title Son of Man and Son of God. And given the church's confession historically of the dual nature of Jesus, that He had a divine nature and a human nature, the tendency for folks is to assume that when Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man, that He was speaking of His human nature. And when He's referred to as the Son of God, He was being referred to vis-à-vis His divine nature. It's not as simple as all of that because both of these titles have within them elements that refer to His deity and to His humanity.

But if anything, the emphasis on the two is just the opposite of what we would normally expect. The title Son of God is given in the first instance in Scripture to those who manifest obedience to the Father. Sonship is defined predominantly not in biological terms here, but in terms of being in one accord or submissive towards and so on. Remember Jesus Himself in His discussions with the Pharisees who claimed to be sons of Abraham. Jesus rebuked them and said, you are the children of Satan. You are the children of the one whom you obey. Now don't get me wrong, the Son of God also contains in certain references in the New Testament clear indications of Jesus' eternal sonship and His deity.

So we don't want to overstate the case. But this title Son of Man is the one I want you to really pay attention to when you're reading the gospels because it's used so often in the New Testament and all but three times that it occurs in the New Testament, it comes from the lips of Jesus. And it refers back to the Old Testament vision that was written down by the prophet Daniel, where Daniel had a vision into the interior of the heavenly court of God, where he saw the Ancient of Days enthroned and the judgment was set. And to the Ancient of Days comes one like unto the Son of Man, who then is given the authority to judge the world, so that in the first instance, the Son of Man is a heavenly person, a heavenly person who descends to this world, whose principal role in His visitation to this earth is that of the heavenly judge. And then He returns to the presence of God in His ascension. We remember that Jesus says, no one ascends to the Father except He who has first descended from Him. Again, we tend to think that Jesus' calling Himself the Son of Man was an expression of humility when in fact it was a claim to divine authority.

That's why I want you to notice this. When He heals on the Sabbath day and is rebuked by His enemies, He said, I did this that you may know that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. And when He forgives sins and creates an uproar from His contemporaries saying, only God has the authority to forgive sins, Jesus said, I did this that you might know that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins. And again and again and again, you will begin to see that this title, Son of Man, that Jesus uses for Himself is a highly exalted title. So when He asks the question, who do you say that I am, He had already referred to Himself as the Son of Man. And then comes the great confession of Simon when he says, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Now I think it's important for us to note Jesus' response to that. The first thing that He does in response to Peter's confession is to pronounce a prophetic oracle of wheel upon Simon.

He pronounces the divine benediction. Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah. Why did He declare Simon be in a state of blessedness? Well He answers that question, blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And that may stop us in our tracks and we say, well, why would the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah require some kind of special assistance from God that the Holy Spirit must illumine the mind of Simon for Him to recognize the true identity of Jesus? Well, again, it goes back to this concealment dimension that was so characteristic of Jesus during His earthly ministry. And we might say that people who were deeply immersed in the Old Testament Scriptures should have recognized Jesus immediately as the Messiah, but it wasn't as plain as it is to us looking at it from this side of the cross and the resurrection and the ascension and having been informed by the New Testament. For the contemporaries of Jesus, it wasn't all that clear.

We remember that John the Baptist had a crisis of faith when he was thrown into prison and sent his disciples to Jesus and said, are you the one who was to come or should we look for another? And we know that early on the disciples said, hey, we have found the Messiah, so that the idea of Jesus being the Messiah was not a novel thing to this inner crowd. But now, after watching Him, after being with Him, having all kinds of questions and confusion about what the role of the Messiah is, and Jesus asks the question, who do you say that I am?

Simon doesn't hesitate. You're the Messiah. You're the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus said, how blessed you are.

It's not a conclusion of the flesh, but My Father has given you the eyes to see that and to understand it. And then what follows is Jesus says, and I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. So at this point, Jesus gives Simon a new name.

You've made your confession, and so I'm going to name you Petros, the rock. And on this rock I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it, and He promises to give them what's called the power of the keys, the keys to the kingdom of God. This is the text that the Roman Catholic Church, of course, bases its belief in the papacy because they interpret the statement of Jesus to mean that Jesus was going to build His church on Peter, and that Peter and the office that He holds will be the foundational building block of the entire church. And it is said of the pope that he holds the keys to the kingdom.

That's why he can have the power to give indulgences and so on. The Protestant interpretation of this text characteristically is that what Jesus is saying is I'm naming you Peter because of the confession of faith that you've made. That's the rock upon which the church is established. The chief cornerstone of the church is Christ, and it is in the embracing of Jesus as the Messiah that the church is established, and that's the way historic Protestantism understands the basic thrust of this text. So then when we look at verse 20, we read at the end of this passage, then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.

Isn't that strange? Because the fundamental mission of the church is to declare to the world that Jesus is the Christ, but the immediate response of Jesus to this confession is, you're right, Simon. You're blessed, Simon, but don't tell anybody.

Keep it quiet. Now, what follows immediately after this is of crucial importance to understanding what's happening here. We read in verse 21, from that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised the third day. And then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.

Isn't that incredible? This disciple whom Jesus had just pronounced blessed, if He is the first pope, His first action is pope, is to rebuke the Son of God. And not only that, He gives a prophecy, which is a false prophecy, because He says to Jesus, far be it from you, Lord, this shall not happen to you. Don't tell us that you're going to Jerusalem to suffer and to die.

That can't happen. What kind of a Messiah would that be? I just declared that you're the Messiah, and now you're telling us you're going to go to Jerusalem and be killed. Now what does Jesus say? Doubly blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah.

No, no, no, no. Now He says to him, He turned and said to Peter, get behind Me, Satan. You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men. Do you remember when we looked at the temptation of Jesus and we saw at the end of that assault of Satan against Christ in the desolate wilderness, that when Satan lost that battle, we were told that he departed from Christ for a season, giving us a sense of foreboding that he would be back.

And here he is. And it's the same crisis, Jesus' closest disciples now become the mouthpiece of Satan, saying it is inappropriate for the Messiah to suffer. And so Jesus said, I know where that idea comes from. Get behind Me, Satan. But this event paves the way for the coming crisis of Jesus' final journey to Jerusalem, which we will begin to examine in our next segment.

Jesus recognized Peter's words as another attempt by Satan to discourage Jesus from going to the cross. In Scripture, Jesus is referred to as the Son of God and the Son of Man. And today Dr. R.C.

Sproul has explained the difference between those two titles. We're grateful that you've joined us today for Renewing Your Mind. Our study is from Dr. Sproul's sweeping overview of the Bible. It's called Dust to Glory. In 57 Messages, he explores the major themes, events, and people in the Bible, and this week we've concentrated on the life and ministry of Jesus.

Maybe you'd like to get a better handle on what the entire Bible teaches, including what it says about Jesus. Let me commend this series to you. We'll send you the special edition eight DVD set for your donation of any amount.

You can make your request online at, or if you prefer, you can call us at 800-435-4343. By the way, this is a special edition set. It includes a disc that has the study guide for the series plus all of the audio files for each session. I want to express our gratitude for your generosity to Ligonier Ministries. We are listener supported, and every donation enables us to make teaching resources like this one available to growing Christians around the world. Last year alone, thanks to your support, we reached more than 56 million people with hundreds of hours of conference and classroom instruction, thousands of pages of published material, and hundreds of thousands of minutes of broadcast and stream content. Our prayers that every person touched by this ministry will better understand who God is, who they are, and how God is calling them to live in this world. So thank you. Well, before a soldier is sent into battle, he is trained. Likewise, we as Christians must be well-grounded in the fundamental doctrines of the faith. That's why I hope you'll join us next week for Dr. Sproul's series, Basic Training, beginning Monday here on Renewing Your Mind. God bless.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-26 23:12:45 / 2023-03-26 23:21:05 / 8

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