Who do you say I am?

Who do you say I amHave you ever wondered why Jesus asked his disciples who the people and who they believed the Son of Man was? (Matthew 16:16). He obviously did not ask this question expecting them to merely nod their heads in recognition and say: “Yes, Jesus You are really and truly the Son of Man.” To know who He IS now (yes, He has risen from the dead and lives forevermore) and who He WAS then (yes, He was born of a virgin and lived amongst us in the flesh) is not an academic requirement to pass your exams in seminary (where, as in the Pretoria University’s Faculty of Religion, you may believe that He was not raised from the dead and that his body was probably eaten up by dogs, and still earn a certificate to stand next to Satan on our church’s pulpits and preach to congregations throughout he country). To know who He IS now and WAS then determines your destination. Listen to Jesus’ own words:

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Who says you only need blind faith to be saved? Yes, faith alone in the finished work of Christ on the cross saves but it is a faith that is embedded in knowledge, for faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). To KNOW the Truth is to be set free, not only from all your sins, but also from lies, deceit, deception, a false knowledge and especially false doctrines, teachers and preachers, and in particular from false Christs. It sets you free, so profoundly free, that you shall be free indeed (John 8:32).

And so Peter, on behalf of all the other disciples, said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:16-17). Calvinists, like John MacArthur Jnr., believe this to be proof enough that salvation is not conjured up by consenting to the truth through an act of your own free-will (which you don’t have in any case, they say). Of course salvation can never be consummated by any act of your free-will, just as you cannot make it effectual through faith in your faith. Your faith must be centered in an absolute trust in Him and his goodness, mercy, loving-kindness and his truth. They say that God must personally and supernaturally reveal his Son to you so that you may believe Him to be the Son of the living God, and guess what?   . . . He only reveals his Son in this way to the elect, those who have been predestined unto salvation before the foundation of the earth. Yes! it is absolutely true the God the Father revealed Jesus Christ to Peter as being his Son, but it is also true that Jesus Christ’s own preaching of his Father’s Word to his disciples contributed to Peter’s confession. Did He not say: “You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3). No Christian will deny that it is God who reveals his Son to man, either through his Word or supernaturally as He had done with Peter, but does He do so for the elect only? In Romans 1 Paul says:

For God’s [holy] wrath and indignation are revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness repress and hinder the truth and make it inoperative. For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them. (Romans 1:16-19)

The word used here for “hold” denotes a willful suppression of the truth and knowledge of God which God Himself revealed to them. They know the truth, not through a revelation of flesh and blood, but through God the Father who is Spirit, for it is only Spirit that can penetrate the inner consciousness of man and reveal truth to him there. Like them, Peter and the other disciples could have suppressed the truth God had supernaturally revealed to them in their inner consciousness. Indeed, they could have chosen to repress the truth which had already penetrated their inner consciousness and hold it there in unrighteousness but in stead they chose to acknowledge it as God’s Truth and accordingly conform their lives to it. You either hold God’s truth in your inner consciousness in righteousness (according to his standard of truth) or you willfully suppress or repress his truth already entrenched in your consciousness in unrighteousness (in rebellion against his standard of truth). Whatever you do, the fact remains that you know the truth and no one will ever be able to say in the day of judgment: “I did not know” (Romans 1:20).

Similarly, Paul Washer contends that man does not have the ability to open his heart to God and his truth. His heart has to be opened in a supernatural way by God and to prove it he refers to Lydia in Acts 16.

A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple goods from the city of Thyatira, was listening to us. She was a worshiper of God, and the Lord opened her heart to listen carefully to what was being said by Paul. When she and her family were baptized, she urged us, “If you are convinced that I am a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she continued to insist that we do so. (Acts 16:14-15)

Like the Gentile, Cornelius, who had been a worshiper of God before his conversion (Acts 10), she too worshipped God without having been saved. Her worshiping of God never saved her. What she needed was a biblical understanding of redemption and it was to this end that God opened her heart so that she could understand and respond in faith to the Gospel and be saved. The opening of the heart simply means to enlighten the mind so that she could listen carefully to what was being said by Paul and to understand it. Her heart was not opened by God so that He could unilaterally enter it uninvited and save her electorally and predestinedly. While it was He who did the opening of her heart (mind), it was she who had to respond in faith to Paul’s preaching and receive the gift of salvation through her faith. Although the act of faith on the part of the sinner is not and can never be the actual consummation of salvation, it is the vehicle by and through which God works to effectuate his gift of redemption. That’s why Paul says in Hebrews 11: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Mynhardt van Pletzen

Mynhardt van Pletzen

Throughout the ages Jesus of Nazareth has been many things to many people . . . except the SON OF THE LIVING GOD. To some He is just another prophet, enjoying the company of other equally important prophets in other religions. Others regard Him to be the Sage from heaven who has no interest in making a distinction between holy and unholy, saved and unsaved, and who is in and who is out. Yet others see Him as an activist who came to earth to fight for the rights of the poor, the downcast, the marginalized in society, the downtrodden and those who have no voice or means to fight for themselves. Listen to what Mynhardt van Pletzen has to say about Jesus the activist.

One wrong way round value we often misinterpret, is the one that says we’ve got to stand up for our rights. Being a follower of Jesus identifies you with the Man who had no rights, and who gave up all his rights for the sake of others.

Our biggest consideration is not for ourselves, or even those in our tribes – its supposed to be for the outsider – the one who has no rights to begin with. . . .

We are called to fight on the behalf of those who can’t fight for themselves, and leave the being offended and being disrespected to those who have the time to waste their spiritual energies on burocratic silliness.

What, according to Mynhardt van Pletzen, is “burocratic” (“bureaucratic” is the word) silliness? Here it is in his own words:

Here’s some language that identifies us as imperialist religionistas, desperately fighting to keep our rights alive [myself included]:

  • We must stand up for what we believe.
  • We must defend God’s honour.
  • We must convince them of our convictions.
  • We are offended at their statements.
  • We will no longer tolerate disrespect towards our organisation/beliefs/rituals.

What you believe, believe it or not, determines your destination as Jesus Himself once said:

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18).

I’m not denying that they’re following “Jesus,” but the question is: Are they following the real Jesus, the Jesus whom the Father revealed to Peter and the other disciples as the Son of the Living God? I really doubt it because they call the Jesus whom they are following “the Man who had no rights.” Yes, according to Philippians 2 He made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant and humbled himself even to the death of the cross but He never gave up his rights. He never denied his right to be called the only Truth, Life and Way to the Father. He never denied his right to judge all people in righteousness. He never denied his right to command his disciples to be holy because He and his Father are holy. He never denied his right to command his disciples to deny themselves, take up there cross and follow Him if they really wanted to be his disciples. He never denied his right to be loved more than you love your husband, wife, children, father, mother and even your own life. If you don’t honor and obey his right to be loved more than that, you cannot be his disciple and you can never claim to be one of his followers. If you claim to be his follower and yet deny his right to command you to contend for the faith that was once delivered to us by the apostles, and label those who stand up for their belief as “imperialist ‘religionistas'” who are desperately fighting to keep their rights alive, are deceived and missing the point. If the most awesomely holy and merciful God has exalted his Word above all of his name (Psalm 138:2) how much more shouldn’t you and I exalt his truth as we find it in his Word?

Thank God, there were many true followers of Christ who defended the honor and the glory of God even unto death by refusing to bow the knee to false gods, false doctrines and false apostles who like Beelzebub’s irritating flies constantly try to coax his true followers into denying Christ and his rights. If you are offended at my statement, please remember that you have no rights and that you are duty bound to defend the rights of a Man who had no place to lay down his head while the foxes have their own holes and the birds their own nests. He is no longer here to defend himself and his doctrines. You and I are supposed to do that in his behalf.

In closing I would like to remind Mynhardt van Pletzen that you cannot avoid the offense of the cross whenever you venture to preach the unadulterated cross like Jesus, his apostles and Paul.

Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. (1 Peter 2:6-8)

Tom (Discerning the World)

Tom Lessing is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

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