Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 4 Study # 2
October 18, 2009
18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
19 They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.
20 He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.
21 And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;
22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.
27 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
1901 ASV Translation:
18 And it came to pass, as he was praying apart, the disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Who do the multitudes say that I am?
19 And they answering said, John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets is risen again.
20 And he said unto them, But who say ye that I am? And Peter answering said, The Christ of God.
21 But he charged them, and commanded them to tell this to no man;
22 saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.
23 And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24 For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
25 For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own self?
26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in his own glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels.
27 But I tell you of a truth, There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
- I. Jesus' Crucial Question.
- A. Luke sets this record in the midst of Jesus "praying".
- B. Jesus asked a "preliminary" question.
- 1. At issue: the crowds' opinions regarding Jesus' identity.
- a. All of the stated opinions place Jesus in the category of "prophet". This creates its own problems for the crowds because, by it, they put themselves at great "liability" before God in that they "accept" Jesus as His spokesman, but they "do not the things which He said" (Luke 6:46). This is untenable. If "God" has spoken, how does man refuse Him?
- b. These stated opinions have their own set of "problems".
- 1) Jesus and John the Baptizer had simultaneous ministries for a period of time as John 4:1 makes clear. In Luke 3:15 we are told that the people "mused in their hearts" as to whether John was the "Christ" and now we are told that they were saying that the "Christ" is "John". Only one thing is really clear: the identity issue was really garbled.
- a) Even "John" himself appeared to be confused at one point (Luke 7:19) and Jesus only gave him a "demonstration" and a "cryptic caution".
- b) It is the "cryptic caution" that gives us the best insight into what is going on: there is a "scandal" (offense) involved that Jesus knows can be a "faith-killer" (In Romans 14:15-21, Paul said that such a thing could lead to the "destruction" of one for whom Christ died).
- c) This has to mean that there are some "issues" that, if they are tied to Jesus in the minds of those who are attracted to Him, will cause men to reject Him. In John's case, one of those "issues" was his own imprisonment by Herod. And in this context (Luke 9:21) Jesus Himself cautioned His disciples to not tell anyone that He is "the Christ of God" (9:20) because He was destined to be killed after being "officially rejected" by the leaders of Israel (9:22).
- i. This means something very profound: whatever it is that God does in the hearts of men to draw them to Christ is not impervious to temptation and can be subverted until the time that Christ is fully formed within (Galatians 4:19-20).
- ii. This seems to explain Jesus' declaration in the parable of the soils that some "believe for a while" and then "fall away" (Luke 8:13) as well as His statement to Peter that He had prayed for him that his "faith fail not" (Luke 22:32).
- iii. This also reveals that most, if not all, men have some "limits" to their "love for God" so that they are willing to walk in His light unless/until He asks for that which is beyond the "limits".
- iv. It is interesting that Peter, the one who claimed that Jesus was the Christ in our current study, wrote in his second letter that people need to "make their calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10) by pressing their "faith" to an unbounded "love" (2 Peter 1:5-7). For Peter there was no glib "once saved always saved" notion of security apart from "diligence in faith". To be sure, he never denied that Paul's doctrine that those whom God justifies, He also glorifies (Romans 8: 30), but he also never made it possible for those who are intentionally careless about the things of "faith" to have any sense that they were "surely" among the justified/glorified. This is, of course, a dangerous doctrine because it is the "insecurity of men" which pushes them into the doctrines associated with "salvation by works". The obvious question is this: what is designed by God to give men a legitimate sense of "security" so that they do not move into the heresy of "performance salvation"? Apparently only God Himself can give such a sense and He does so with those who draw near to Him so that His light shines upon them (James 4:8). But does this not "beg the question"? Is it, after all, actually man who "secures himself" by "drawing near to God"? Does the monkey ever depart from man's back? The answer is not simple. Man's "works", no matter how great or small, are never "compensatory". Good deeds never have any capacity to erase bad deeds, nor can bad deeds do anything to erase good ones. Christ died as a perfectly good Man so that the righteousness which He accomplished might be a sole foundation for any and all who would take their stand upon it. That is the objective Truth. The area of question is the subjective application of that Truth to any given individual human being. And the major "problem" in this subjectivity is this: when does, and by what means is it determined that, a man "believes" unto justification? The only answer the New Testament gives to this question is "doctrinal". The Galatians, about whom Paul entertained serious doubts as to their "salvation", brought on this doubt by "departure from Him Who called them by His grace" in the specific terms of a renunciation of His sufficiency in "work" on their behalf and a return to an embrace of the heresy that good works can counteract bad works. It was not "evil deeds" that created his doubts; it was false doctrine at the point of the total sufficiency of Christ's work for them and the point of the efficacy of their own "good" attempts to compensate for their "evil". And Peter, in the previous text to which I referred above, did not introduce a way of "making sure" by compensating works; rather, he made a way to "make sure" by "adding characteristics" to faith -- "virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love." If there is a "work" that man must do to acquire acceptance before God, it is the "work" of "humble confession of sinfulness" (Luke 5:8) and the "work" of "embracing the forgiveness of God as it has been demonstrated in the love that drove the death of the Christ". Of course, man will even fail here if it is left up to him. His pride will restrain him from humble confession and his fears will restrict his ability to believe that God has set his sins behind His back.
- 2) The notion that Jesus was "Elijah" made a bit more sense. Luke said that there was a general sense of "expectation" in the culture of Judaism (Luke 3:15). Mark 9:11 says that there was a general teaching by the scribes that "Elias must first come" in regard to the arrival of "the Christ". This is in general harmony with the declaration of Malachi 4:5 (though some might argue that the coming of the Christ and the coming of the "great and dreadful day of the Lord" were not necessarily the same). Elijah was the most notable of the Old Testament prophets in terms of the kinds of things Jesus was doing. The major difficulties with this opinion are two: unlike John (Luke 3:16), Jesus had no "doctrine" of one coming after Him, nor did His miracles have any of the severity that often characterized Elijah's exercise of the power of God (note Luke 9:54). The notion, taught by Jesus, that John was "Elijah" (see Mark 9:12-13) had its own "difficulty": John did not do "the works of Elijah" and, unlike Elijah, John was subject to "they have done unto him whatsoever they" wished (note 2 Kings 1:10). Thus, that the miracle worker from Nazareth might be the prophesied "Elijah" was a better "guess" than a second coming of John, but it still left the "guesser" without any "life" (no one can build a life of faith upon guesses).
- 3) The third option -- that Jesus was an ancient prophet who had returned -- is the most ambiguous of all. The only thing it has to recommend itself is that it retains the idea that Jesus actually had come from God.