Dare we consider that the reason we have so much else wrong is because we have the Gospel wrong?
Matthew 16:16 Peter tells Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In response, Jesus named Peter rock (Petros) and said he would build his church on “this rock” (petra). Protestants believe “this rock” is Peter’s confession, while Roman Catholics believe the rock is Peter himself.
Either way, it was the confession that caused Jesus to name Peter “Rock.” We do not devote enough attention to Peter’s confession. Doing so could transform us and Christianity as we know it.
If we put enough emphasis on Peter’s confession, eventually we would get to two questions that would change the way we look at the Gospel, the Church, and the world.
- What exactly does “Christ” mean?
- How did Peter know to add “Son of the living God” to his confession?
First, let’s define the word “Christ,” and then let’s get the deeper answer to that first question.
“Christ” is from the Greek word christos, which means “anointed.” It is the same word as Messiah, which comes from the Hebrew meshiach, which also means “anointed.”
One of the clearest references to the Messiah is Psalm 2, and it is in Psalm 2 that we shall find the answer to both our questions.
The verses that answer our questions are these:
The kings of the earth take a stand, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed (meshiach), saying, “Let’s break their bonds apart and cast their cords from us.” … Then he will speak to them in his anger and terrify them in his wrath, “Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion.”
I will tell of the decree. The Lord said to me, “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron. You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
… Give sincere homage to the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the path. For his wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all those who take refuge in him.
This is how Peter knew to add “Son of the living God” to “Christ.” Psalm 2 told him the Messiah was both God’s Anointed King and his Son.
Peter is not the only one that knew to add “Son of God” to “Christ” or “Messiah.”
- Caiaphas the high priest: “I command you by the living God that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Matt. 26:63)
- Mark: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
- Demons: “And demons also came out of many, crying out, and saying, ‘You are Christ, the Son of God'” (Luke 4:41).
- Martha: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn. 11:27).
- John the apostle: “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).
Look at the authority of God’s Messiah Son. He receives the nations for his inheritance. He possesses the ends of the earth. He can shatter nations like a clay pot. Those who take refuge in him, however, are blessed.
One of the biggest mistakes we have made is in thinking that the Gospel is about us.
The Gospel is not about us. It is about the Messiah, the coming King, the Son of the Living God.
I know from 30 years of experience that when a Protestant, especially an evangelical or fundamentalist, teaches or is taught the Gospel, it is all about us. For example, Evangelism Explosion by Dr. D. James Kennedy, was a wildly popular evangelism program in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s outline went like this:
- Heaven is a free gift.
- Man is a sinner and cannot save himself.
- God wants to forgive sin, but he is just and must punish sin.
- Jesus, the God-man, died in our place.
- If we place our trust in him, we will be saved
Although I have strong scriptural, historical, and moral objections to #3, this outline is pretty much all true.
But these points are all about us! We are at the focus of every one of those statements. They are about our need and the rewards available through Jesus and his atonement.
That is not the approach the apostles took. Their Gospel had one central focus: “Jesus is the anointed King, the Son of the living God.”
The Apostles’ Gospel
An excellent example is Paul’s proclamation to the intellectuals on Mars Hill in Athens:
“The times of ignorance, therefore, God overlooked. But now he commands that all people everywhere should repent because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom he has ordained; of which he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
Or Peter on the day of Pentecost:
“Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him among you … him, being delivered up by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by the hand of lawless men, crucified and killed. Him God raised up, having freed him from the agony of death because it was not possible that he could be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24)
And why did Peter emphasize Jesus and not us? To get to this proclamation:
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (v. 36)
The confession that Jesus is the Anointed King, the Son of the living God prompted a remarkable reaction from Jesus. He declared that only the Father could have revealed this to Peter, and he named Peter “Rock,” and said he would build his church on him (or his confession).
That is a strong reaction from the only person whose reaction really matters.
I would argue that the only person whose reaction really matters still reacts strongly to the statement that Jesus is the Messiah King, the Son of the living God.
It is no wonder, then, that the apostles went around proclaiming this very thing. Their job was to be witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 1:22; 2:32; 4:33; 10:40-41; 13:30-31). The resurrection, they proclaimed, was proof that Jesus was the Anointed King, the Son of the living God (Rom. 1:4).
This is a blog, and have to keep it somewhat short. I highly recommend that you read through the Acts of the Apostles and pay attention to what the apostles preached to the lost as “Gospel.” Jesus did die for our sins, and the apostles taught that to the churches in their letters, but they did not preach the atonement to the lost. Instead they proclaimed the good news that God raised Jesus from the dead to prove that he is the Anointed King, the Son of the living God. (See my book, The Apostles’ Gospel).
How Does This Apply to Us?
Is it really hard to see the difference between someone who has become a Christian because of “fire insurance” and one who has believed that Jesus is God’s anointed, ruling King who should not be angered lest we perish in the way?
What if all our converts were people who came to Jesus because they believe he is King and Judge of all? What if they all had fled to Jesus because “God is commanding all men everywhere to repent because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by one Man, whom he raised from the dead”?
I think we would see drastic changes, not only because our converts would be disciples, not assenters, but also because God is much more likely to back with power the Gospel that he commissioned the apostles to preach than the one we have developed by tradition over the centuries.
We can see in Scripture how Jesus reacted when Peter embraced the Gospel of the King. He has not changed. His reaction to those who confess that he is the King, the Son of the living God, will not change.
The kingdom of God does not consist of words, but of power, and what better to bring that power than the Gospel of King Jesus?