Jesus- Who do you say he is? Only a Servant of God or Divine?
Jesus asked his disciples this question:
“…who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”-Matthew 16:15-16 ESV
Jesus continues today to ask all of us the same question. How one answers may determine where one spends all eternity.
Many believe that he was a ‘good teacher’–but on what basis? Many secularists and even Jewish folk call him such and yet reject what he taught. Some refer to him as a prophet, or a special servant of God, but reject any references to his divinity–picking and choosing what they wish to believe or accept.
Muslims call him a ‘prophet’, yet reject most of his teaching and definitely his ‘Jewish’ heritage and progenitors, and the very book that contains his teaching and testifies of him. Jehovah Witnesses look on him as ‘the greatest’ in all creation–‘a god’ compared to the rest of us, but somewhat less than ‘The God’. Mormons teach that he is ‘one’ of the three major Gods of this creation–part of ‘The Godhead’. The Gnostics believed that Jesus was Divine but rejected his humanity. Other folks question whether he even ever existed in history, or if he did, whether the Gospels are really a reliable record of what he did and said.
However, all major Christian denominations—Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant (including all main-line & Evangelical churches), and Orthodox churches (Greek, Russian, & etc.) believe in and teach the same doctrine about Jesus. It is one of the major doctrines that all Christians can agree on. It is also a teaching that separates all Christianity from other religions and from those church organizations who call themselves Christian but really aren’t. The question is–who do you say he is?
Look at the whole passage in Matt. 16:13-17:
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 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. . –ESV
Notice that Jesus commended Peter’s response and called it inspired. Notice also what Peter did not say. He did not say that Jesus was merely a ‘good’ teacher, or a prophet, or even the greatest servant of God who ever lived. Peter said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God“. A Divine designation.
Who do you say he is?
Was Jesus a servant of God? Yes he was, but he was also a lot more. Colossians 2:9 testifies:
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” –ESV
So Jesus was Divine according to this passage. However, in some passages Jesus seems to be more of a servant to God. How can this be understood? In Philippians 2:5-8, Jesus is portrayed as both God and servant, human and Divine:
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!
Notice that in verses 6 & 7 Jesus is said to have two natures–one Divine and one human nature that he took when he came into the world as a baby. This squares with the Christological teaching of all Christian churches:
1. Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man.
2. Jesus was one person with two natures–one human and one Divine.
When Jesus was conceived, the Holy Spirit implanted the Divine nature–a nature that Jesus shares with the Spirit and with God the Father, and he also received a human nature from his mother Mary.
Now, who do you say he is?
A good reference for further study on this subject: “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine”, by Wayne Grudem (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, 1264 pages) See: Chapter 26: The Person of Christ, pgs. 529-567. Very readable and accessible and a far better explanation than I could ever tender.