Christianity is a thing of the Spirit. To us, the world of the Spirit though tangibly real, is invisible. But God has revealed the world of the invisible to us. He has explained how the invisible interacts with the visible, how the spiritual world touches the physical and vica verca. God has made it crystal clear and conceptually easy to understand as to our role in that clashing of worlds, and where one inter mingles with the other. This is Christianity at its purest. Following Jesus Christ is walking with revelations of the invisible.
I have a statement to make in these pages with which I do not want to be misunderstood. The church of Jesus Christ is built on revelation. “Nothing Radical!” you may say with raised eyebrows. But I mean revelation direct from heaven as opposed to book learning, and lecture noting. And do not think by that remark I am against book learning, or taking notes of lectures on the subject. I am in my 65th year as I write these words and was converted the day after my 19th birthday and one of the biggest regrets of my life, amongst others, is that I have not read more than I have, and didn’t keep all the notes of every sermon and lecture I have ever heard. So please don’t think I am against reading or study. God forbid.
What am I saying? I think I may be able to distinctly explain by ruminating through what happened with Jesus and the disciple in Matthew 16. This account that took place over a few moments in the life of Christ is a template for what I am saying we need more of. Follow me closely!
Christ retired for what seems like a recreational vacation for a short while with the twelve disciples. We have no idea how long this retreat lasted or what other subjects were discussed other than what the text here explains. They were in the area, or the suburbs of Caesarea Philippi, about 25 miles North of Capernaum. It was a good distance away from their normal stomping ground, so perhaps they could have time to themselves and a lecture time together. Times of reflection and meditation are clearly a vital ingredient of the Christian life and following Christ. One needs to inhale of the Spirit and chew over and digest what is received.
Christ asked the disciples questions while on this break from the pressures of the crowds. Jesus asked people quite a lot of questions that are recorded in scripture. But here in the midst of tuition, Jesus asks them about issues concerning Himself. This is quite a remarkable observation. Questions cause people to think. At this moment in time together with the twelve Jesus asks two important questions. Both these questions concerned the essence of the person of Himself. One was a question concerning the status quo out in the world and the religious views of the masses concerning him. The second question was extremely direct, asking for their own convictions concerning His identity. Question one was; “Who do men say that I, the son of man am?”(Matthew 16:13)
In order to give credible answers to Jesus, the Saviour must have expected the twelve to have had their ears to the ground when out in the world. These men had given up all to follow Him, so whatever the people around them in the world thought of Jesus would impact on them and their own relationships in their social and commercial world.
The answers offered from the disciples were varied. Apart from Peter’s response later in the dialogue, we are not told which disciple said what. We do not know whether one disciple gave all the answers, or several of them volunteered each individual answer. There were only four proffered responses. Perhaps this suggests that there were eight of them that simply had heard nothing, or perhaps they were afraid to say what they had heard. The first reply was simple. “Some say that you are John the Baptist,” (16:14). This was hardly a well studied response and was probably made by nominal Judaists who rarely attended the synagogue or mixed with spiritually minded people or those with religious interests. If anybody had got to grips with those that followed the Baptist they would have known that John was seen and known to have immersed Jesus of Nazareth into the waters of the Jordan River during his campaign of repentance preaching and baptising by total immersion in the River Jordan those that believed his message. Baptizo is Greek for “Immersion.”
So it does not take much mental agility or exercise to discern that there is no way that it was possible that Christ could be some reincarnation, or premature resurrection of John the Baptist. The dress sense and the message of the two preachers were also so opposite as to be unrealistic. On these grounds we declare this to be the opinion of the “unspiritual religious,” the non committed Jew, the wishy washy Hebrew who loved to claim membership of a Synagogue that he never attended. The outer fringes of Christian activists have many of a similar outlook and practice today. There are simply millions of people in the world who are, “in the church,” but quite definitely are not “in Christ.”
Some also said that Jesus was actually Elijah returned from heaven. Now even though this also was untrue, at least there was a little more thought and application of scripture behind it. Malachi 4:5 informs us “”Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.” Those days seemed to be grave and serious in Israel. With the fiery and giant influence of John the Baptist, and then with the powerful manifestation of that great light that Isaiah had prophesied about in Galilee, perhaps the great and terrible day of the Lord was imminent. Elijah performed miracles, so does this man Jesus. Elijah impacted the whole of the nation, so has Jesus of Nazareth. Elijah healed the sick and defended and healed the oppressed and Christ was doing the exact same thing. According to Malachi that day could not arrive until Elijah had been returned to Israel to rebuild family relationships with the Hebrew people. But the rough garb of both the Baptist and Elijah was totally unlike Jesus of Nazareth. The wild nature of Elijah whose family descent was utterly unknown was unlike the Nazarene whose mother and siblings were known as well as his geographic domicile. On top of all that, according to the man from Nazareth, He was preaching Good News (Evangelium) not the great and terrible day that Malachi’s statement suggests.
We declare this to be utterly wrong also, as if my readers did not know. I am not examining each claim because I think the readers of this page do not know the errors of what people were saying about Christ, but to attempt to illustrate how these erroneous conclusions about Christ had been arrived at, and how it came about that any of them seemed even vaguely credible to the genarel populace of the time.
Others said he was “Jeremiah.” How strange! Jewish paradigms, no matter how many Judaistic sects and movements there were amongst them would never have any truck with theories of “re-incarnation,” and there were some, like the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. But those who saw the power and supernatural grace and words of Jesus and did not have the revelation of their own scriptures to even think He could have been the Messiah, could only conclude, because of their Jewish heritage, that somebody had risen from the dead to do what Christ was doing.
This would have been the traditional fundamentalist perspective. They believed Christ was a prophet, yes!. But because of their disbelief that they could have been living in the day that would see the long awaited Messiah, they had to point to well loved and treasured characters from history to justify the presence of a miracle working prophet amongst them in their day. These were the “miracles are not for today,” people. These were the “cessationists” that believe that what God did, and what God said in the past is how we hear from God nowadays, and that it was not Kosher for anybody to speak with such authority and power in their generation. On top of that Jesus had not been to any of their colleges or sat at the feet of any of their revered Rabbis. So He was either a heretic or a resurrected prophet from ancient times. Perhaps they perceived that the passion with which Christ spoke reminded them of the scriptural word picture of Jeremiah. Certainly the mistreatment that Jeremiah suffered at the hands of his countrymen was similar to the mistreatment handed out to the son of Mary. But no! Christ was He of whom Jeremiah prophesied .
Then somebody else suggests that Jesus was “one of the prophets.” This suggests that after having named Jeremiah, the same remarks I have made about how that conclusion was arrived at was continued in the same vein contined with each of the other major and minor prophets. They would have selected some characteristic of each of the writing prophets of the Hebrew Bible, and then concluded that “This man Jesus is like that!” and so jumped to the faulty conclusion that, “Jesus was Isaiah come back from the dead!” “No the Nazarene is more like Daniel!” “You are both wrong, He is too much like Amos to be anybody else.” And so on.
There was more biblical intelligence about the “Jeremiah” and the “one of the prophets” rumours, but it has to be said that it was clearly the natural mind of the Hebrew people of the day flailing around in their dank religiosity spewing out these suppositions.
Jesus, having heard the discussion of the opinions of the general masses, then asks, “But whom do you say I am?” (16:15) The book does not say so, but I am convinced there was at least a moments silence as hearts and minds thought deeply as to the Saviour’s question.
Then out it came. “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” (16:16). It was, of course, famously, Peter that spoke the words. When Peter declared this to Jesus, the Master did not just say that it was a great bit of learning that Peter had been studying over, and by his answer had passed the test. Neither did the Lord suggest that it was a great piece of logical deduction. Christ’s response was emphatic. “Blessed are you Simon bar Jonah. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father which is in heaven. You are Simon (Reed) but you shall be called Peter (petra – a small piece of rock – a pebble if you will), and on this rock (Petros – an immovable stone), i.e. (i.e. Revelation received as well as the confession and declaration of that revelation) I shall build my church.”
There is the account from which I want to make several conclusions.
- Note that there was no vision, no angelic visitation, nor and thunder in the sky. It was one amongst twelve thinking seriously about a question asked by God Himself. The light that was switched on, the answer concluded and the statement given was revelation from heaven.
- There is nothing more intellectually stimulating, paradigm shifting or mind renewing than true and genuine revelation from heaven. It is more spiritually transforming than the best of book learning or sitting at the feet of the wisest of teachers.
- The church is built not on empirical stages of learning per se (that is learning in an academic setting with academic concepts of Christian belief), but on revelation from heaven that teaches understanding in the mysteries of the faith.
- “On this rock I will build my church.” What does this mean?
- I utterly reject and see as preposterous the suggestion that the rock on which Christ built the church was Peter. History tells us it was not true. Plain straightforward linguistics tells us it cannot be true. Anglicisation of the usage of the word is that Simon would be called Petra ( a small rock or piece of rock) and on this Petros (an immovable giant boulder of a rock) I will build my church.
- This means that the Petros (rock) upon which Christ would build His church was the profound conviction, confession and declaration of the deity of Christ, and/or
- It meant in a more general term that the church would be built on the outflow of revelation received from God and thereafter taught to the believers.
- Whether it is b. Above as is generally held by the greater number of evangelicals, or c. that is the general principal behind b. The vital importance and necessity of Revelation must be clearly noted.
- The vitality and power of heavenly revelation to the individual believer means that the church worldwide in its fundamental building dynamics it requires:
- By revelation received, questions asked of us by God Himself.
- Meditation around the person of Christ will breed a spirit of revelation within the believers’ heart.
- A sensitive ear to what Heavenly Father is saying. God speaks to the ears of our hearts, not the physical ears in our head. Hearing God is a norm presumed by many biblical characters. “The Lord said to…” in the Bible is so often glossed over as a perfunctory part of the text. It is the secret to revelation to hear what God is saying.
- Meditation! A meditative mind that thinks through the questions that God poses us, and questions on issues posed by scripture is as important as breathing.
- Revelation that has the potential to change paradigms and build Christ-like character.
- Revelation that points to a future destiny for the recipient of revelation. Peter was undoubtedly forever changed because of this revelation received from heaven.
- Revelation that gives people something to die for if necessary, and builds groups of believers into a solid church.
- Blessing! Over and above everything else Christ declared Peter to be blessed that he had a mind, an eye and an ear that heard what Heavenly Father was saying, saw what Heavenly Father was doing, and thinking things that Heavenly Father was thinking.
- Courage that comes with the revelation. One requires courage to declare such revelation that contradicts the convictions of most.
- Originality of thought. One needs to be able to think outside the box to receive such revelation and then to live in the light of it.
- Spiritual mindedness. What Peter heard from heaven and believed was not even seeded by sermons he had heard or “books” that he had read. There were no human sources at all in the communication of the revelation from heaven. Revelation is not learned from flesh and blood, but from God alone.
- A spiritual mind. Revelation is a thing of the Spirit. It is not mental, emotional, academic, or even, primarily intellectual. It comes from the realm of the spirit, spoken by God, and thereafter processed by the mind and its mental processes.
- Revelation may be initiated by thinking on the errors of men’s ideas first. Answering the answers of mankind that one instinctively knows is wrong can lead to arriving at raw truth.
- Godly motives. One cannot hear God clearly with carnal or sinful motivations. Motive is everything.
This is the very basic and simplistic reason why we need revelation.
- John the Baptist (biblicalpeople.wordpress.com)
- On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry Announces that the Lord is Nigh! – A Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent (adw.org)
- “The Fictions of Position…the righteous One!” 12/08/2013 Sermon (pastorcraig.org)
- The River Jordan Experience – Part 6 (mubiana.com)
- Day 145: Matthew 16:13,15,17 (josusblog.wordpress.com)