What was the greatest question ever asked in Scriptures? Several questions may come to mind; the man who asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” or perhaps Paul asking the question of “If God is for us, who can be against us?” While these and others are valid queries, there is another question that is central to the narrative of salvation that is perhaps the most important question posed in the Bible.
In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus and his disciples are in Caesarea Philippi and he challenges them by asking, “Who do people say the Son of man is?” They respond with a list of Biblical heroes: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or other prophets. Jesus continues to probe them and asks this central, powerful, and history-altering question, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter then makes the bold declaration in verse 16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Christ’s revelation of his identity and relationship to God is the moment in which the hope of the Hebrew people has finally been realized, the Savior has come to do his good work of redemption. In Jesus doing this good work, several components remain central to Christ’s message and process of atonement, they are the KEY to true faith.
(K) The first central element of salvation is the Kost of salvation. After Peter proclaims Christ’s identity as the Son of God, Jesus shares with his disciples the plan of redemption in which his role as a substitutionary sacrifice is crucial. In verse 21, Jesus explains that he will go to Jerusalem where he will suffer many things, be killed, and will be raised on the third day to atone for the sins of the world. Salvation does not come without a sacrifice and Jesus covers the Kost for our sins.
(E) When the disciples realize what Jesus is saying they insist that Christ’s suffering cannot be God’s true intention. Jesus responds sharply to this challenge saying to Peter in verse 23, “Get behind Me Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Peter was not thinking from an Eternal perspective, which is the second key in understanding salvation. There can be no salvation without the suffering and death that came by way of the cross, and to be able to rationalize that pain on Jesus’ behalf, we must maintain an Eternal perspective of the Gospel story.
(Y) At this point, Jesus has declared who he is, explained that he will be the sacrifice for all men, and challenged his followers to an eternal perspective; the third and final element of the message of faith is a charge to all believers who hear the message to Yield themselves to God. Jesus in verse 24 says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” This is issued as a directive for all followers and future Christians to seek after Christ rather than the things of this world. This requires that we take on the challenges of living up to the higher calling, in the hope of making Christ known. We Yield ourselves to God as an act of obedience to His message and worship to our King.
The lessons in the Gospels are plenty, but the KEY to our faith lies in the identity of Christ as the one who paid the Kost of our sins, his suffering which requires us to look on his sacrifice with an Eternal perspective, and the life he lived that encourages us to Yield ourselves to the Almighty God.
Keith Chancey is the president of the Kanakuk Institute and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary.