“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’” (Mat 16:16-17)
When Jesus asked the apostles who people said that He was, they spoke of the Old Testament prophets. When He ask them who they thought He was, Simon Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
What is happening here is a prophetic portrayal on how salvation would be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Actually Peter did not arrive at this revelation on his own. Jesus said the Father had given Peter the revelation, and that upon this revelation He would build His church.
Thus Jesus said, “Upon this Rock [the revelation of His divine Sonship] I will build My church.”
Actually there really is a play on words here. Peter’s original name is Simon. After Peter receives the revelation from the Father, the Lord calls him, ‘Little Stone.’ (The term for ‘Peter’ [Pétros] in Greek always means a stone and never a rock.) But when the Lord said, ‘Upon this Rock I will build My church,’ he was not talking about Peter. The word He used for ‘Rock’ relates to a mass of rock or a cliff. It is never used for a stone.
The church would be built upon a revelation given from heaven that Jesus Christ is the true Son of God.
The Struggle Over the Son
Someone wrote me about their confusion of their being a Father and a Son in the godhead. Perhaps it is a mystery to be understood with the heart. However, the idea of God having a Son was not lost with the Hebrew people. It can be found in their ancient writings.
The Hebrew people were taught that in God was a mystery sometimes called, ‘the Son,’ and often time called ‘the Word’. They believed that God’s Son ‘the Word’ had made appearances in the earth throughout the generations of man.
You find these early beliefs not only in the Bible but also in the writings of Philo, in the Targums, and in a number of other extra-Biblical writings.
The Targums were the Hebrew Scriptures loosely translated into Aramaic. Aramaic was the common language of the Jews both before and after Christ. Hebrew was the temple language. It is from the Aramaic Targums that we hear what the people were being taught. Here are examples:
Genesis 1:1: “From the beginning with wisdom the Memra of the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth.”
The Neofiti Targum actually has it this way; “From the beginning with wisdom the son of the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth.”
The term ‘Memra’ is the Aramaic word that translates into Greek as ‘Logos.’ It means ‘Word.’
More from the Targums
Keep in view that while the Greeks used the term ‘Logos‘, the Hebrews used the term ‘Memra‘. They meant the same thing. Memra was the Jewish way of relating to the unseen God, in saying that the Most High God did all His personal communication and revelation through the one called ‘the Memra.’
Here are a few more samples from the Targums. Every time you see the term Memra, simply think Logos, or the Word, or think, ‘Jesus’ Himself.
Gen1:27 – “And the Memra of the Lord [Word of God] created the man in his own likeness; in a likeness from before the Lord he created him; male and his partner he created them.”
Gen2:8 – “And the Lord God had planted a garden in Eden from the beginning and he placed there the first Adam.” (Recall how Paul spoke of the first and the last Adam.)
Gen3:8 – “And they heard the sound of the Memra of the Lord God walking within the garden in the breeze of the day…”
Gen12:7 – “And the Memra of the Lord was revealed to Abram and said to him: ‘To your sons I will give this land.’ …”
Gen15:6 – “And Abram believed in the name of the Memra of the Lord and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
A Clear Testimony from Philo
Now let’s consider the writings of Philo. Philo took what the Hebrews believed and translated it into the primary lingua of the time, which was Greek. Philo was contemporary with the origins of Christianity. Anyone who reads Philo will hear the same language being used by John and Paul.
As Philo was presenting the Judaism of His day into Greek, notice very carefully some of the terms he used with regard to the Words of God. (Some are Targum terms.)
The Logos, the King, Shepherd, High Priest, Covenant, Rider on the Divine Chariot, Archangel, Firstborn Son, the Beginning, the Name, He who sees, the Form, the Glory, the Shekinah, and the Messenger of Great Counsel.
There are other terms, but this gives an idea of just how very Hebraic the New Testament really is. We find some of these terms used by the apostolic writers.
But there was a statement by Philo that has caused much consternation among rabbinic Judaism. Philo wrote,
“For nothing mortal can be made in the likeness of the Most High God and Father of the Universe but only in that of the second God, who is His Logos.”
Philo was not using the expression ‘second God’ with a view to many gods, but rather in the sense of God who can and has been seen, with God who cannot be seen.
There was the belief in a noted distinction between what was called Yahweh Most High, and the lesser Yahweh, or, the Memra. This distinction had to do with God coming forth from God, which brings us back to all the many terms used to describe God who has and can be seen.
Hear it from Jesus:
“You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” (Joh 14:28)
Testimony of Early Church Writers
You find much of these early Jewish concepts not only in the New Testament writings, but also in other writings of the early church believers. Here are sampling from the Ante-Nicene writings:
[Epistle to Diognetus a.d. 130] “…God Himself, who is almighty, the Creator of all things, and invisible, has sent from heaven, and placed among men, Him who is the truth, and the holy and incomprehensible Word…”
And,“As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him…”
[Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 30-107 a.d.] “…there is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, who is His eternal Word…”
[Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians] “…there is but one unbegotten Being, God, even the Father; and one only-begotten Son, God, the Word and man…”
[Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp] “Look for Christ, the Son of God; who was before time, yet appeared in time …”
I realize this may seem weighty but it helps us relate to much of what is written in the New Testament.
To believe and accept that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God is the crucial element of salvation. To believe in Him is to receive Him as your Lord and Savior.
The Hidden Mystery
Yes, the ancients knew there was a mystery in God that was hard to grasp. Paul often spoke of this mystery. It also gives us pause to listen to Jesus when He said,
“Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5)
“What if you should see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before.” (John 6:62)
The early Jewish believers took what was commonly taught in Judaism of the day, and brought Jesus into the picture. This allows us to see how much of the ancient theology of the Jews was on course with the truth of Jesus Christ.
There is no question that the early Jewish Christians saw Jesus as the answer to what had been long believed among them. This was the ancient faith realized. And this was the mystery Paul said that contained all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
And so the Christian faith in its simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus Christ is the true religion of heaven. Does this not cause us to appreciate John 3:16, which says,
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
The bottom line is not how you wish to depict your beliefs of the godhead. Christians know there can only be one true God. We have been monotheistic from the beginning. The issue at hand is whether you have confessed and received Jesus Christ as the Son of God, your Lord and Savior.
Do You Have the Revelation
Peter made the confession when he said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
How important is this revelation? Does God really have a Son? You must decide this for yourself. The religion of Islam has already decided. On the temple mount you will find these words written inside the golden dome; ‘God has no son.’ [Did you know that Islam can be identified with the antichrist religion?]
This is what the apostles wrote:
2Pe_1:17 “For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”—
1Jn_1:3 “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
1Jn_2:22 “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.”
1Jn_2:24 “As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.”
1Jn_4:14 “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”
2Jn_1:3 “Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”
2Jn_1:9 “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.”
While you think on these things, please take time for this song…
What do you believe?