The verses we are studying here are of great importance to the church, for they express the true doctrine of the Person of Christ. Failure to acknowledge who Jesus really is has led many down the road that leads to damnation. When someone is wrong about Christ, then he is wrong about everything and his opinions do not count.
“And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets” (Mark 8:27-28).
It is true that everyone is entitled to have an opinion about Christ, but that does not mean they are correct, unless their opinion lines up with the Scriptures. The Jews had their opinions too, but none of them understood who Jesus was. This is why so many cults have sprung up over the last few centuries; for once the word of God is tampered with false teachers feel free to express their blasphemous views about Jesus Christ. Almost all the new religions reject the doctrine of His divinity. The devil uses these ungodly opinions to confuse the sinner, who usually only has vague notions about the Lord anyway.
“And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ” (Mark 8:29).
Jesus’ first question was intended to set His disciples thinking, for He was preparing them for a fuller revelation of Himself. He could have simply told them who He was, but instead He wanted them to confess the truth from their own lips. “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:8-11). According to Matthew’s Gospel Peter’s confession reads, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). The title “Christ” emphasizes His Messiahship, while “Son of God” stresses His deity. These two facts about Christ ought never to be separated, for He is both Messiah and God. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
Peter recognised that despite Jesus’ humble circumstances He was the long-awaited Messiah, but more than that, He was God. This revelation was not the result of human logic but divine inspiration. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).
Peter’s bold confession has never been matched by anyone throughout the centuries. It is both simple and deep at the same time. The church’s several creeds have been built around Peter’s confession of faith, and we do well to follow his example in declaring who Christ truly is. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). Those who boldly confess their faith in Christ will be honoured by Him, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
“And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:30-31).
Jesus explains to His disciples the reason He came into the world. He was going to suffer before He entered into His glory. He was going to be rejected before He would come to reign. The Lord would have spoken to them of Isaiah’s prophecy about the ‘Suffering Servant’ and the ‘Lamb of God’ (see Isaiah 53). This would not have made much sense to Peter (as we shall see), but later he would understand, “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11).
Notice the word “must” in the Lord’s statement. This means that there was no way He could avoid the foretold outcome. This does not imply that He must die by compulsion of a stronger power than His own, but rather that there was no other way possible to atone for man’s sin. “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Without His sacrificial death on the cross there could be no satisfaction of God’s righteous law. It is only Jesus’ propitiatory blood that can make a sinner right with God. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
All those who deny that Christ’s death on the cross is the only foundation for eternal life do so because they do not understand who He is. In rejecting this vital doctrine they make themselves unfit for Heaven, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). It is this truth that ought to be proclaimed in our churches today, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) … “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23).
“And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men” (Mark 8:32-33).
Peter, though he expressed faith in Christ, could not understand why Jesus needed to die. While his confession was good, he did not as yet discern the true meaning of the Lord’s first coming. Though Jesus commended him for declaring the truth, He had to rebuke Peter for his false views. Peter did not know that he was being used by Satan to hinder Jesus’ work. This shows us that the devil is behind every false doctrine, and can put a false word on the lips of a man who usually preaches the truth. “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). No wonder we must apply the word of God to our lives. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Peter received one of the sharpest rebukes found anywhere in Scripture, for He spoke to Peter as though He was speaking to Satan. One moment he was elated in hearing the Lord’s commendation of his faith, the next he is deflated by His criticism of his false words. Did Peter think he knew it all because he received the praise of Christ? Certainly “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Peter thought that he could teach the Lord Jesus a more excellent way to the Kingdom than by death. He may have had good intentions and zeal, but there is never an excuse for error. He was sincere, but sincerely wrong. How easy it is for us to operate outside of the leading of the Holy Spirit by applying fleshly reasoning to spiritual matters.
We need to show both wisdom and mercy when dealing with someone who is caught up in false doctrine, for as we have seen, it is possible for Satan to deceive even the most dedicated of disciples. Also, we ought not to forget that we are not immune from going astray ourselves. Nevertheless, we must point out error whenever and wherever it arises. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1) … “Open rebuke is better than secret love” (Proverbs 27:5).