The question for our time: Who do YOU say that I am?
It seems that every epoch of Christian church history has a timely question from the lips of our Lord. Those of the first generational church were faced with the question, “Will you lay down your life for my sake?” And many of them went to their martyr’s death with that question in their minds. Then came the Nicene fathers and another question emerged. “What do you think of the Christ, whose son is He?” It was this question that brought them to Nicea in 325 A.D. As the church entered its dark period held in the clutches of the Roman popes, the Reformers broke through into the dawn of a new day when they were confronted with the question — “Did I not say if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” The great missionary movement advanced with this question on their hearts and minds — “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” And so Carey and Taylor and Livingstone left the confines and comforts of their homes for places like India and China and Africa. Then came the 20th century and prosperity filled the western church. Liberalism with its twin children of pluralism and inclusivism infiltrated the church and from the lips of our Lord came another question — “Will you also go away?” And, unfortunately many denominations and churches that once had evangelism and missions at their forefront left the doctrinal truth of their forefathers.
And now, we find ourselves ministering in the 21st century with the question of our time — “Who do you say that I am?” The issue of the exclusivity of the gospel is the single most important issue which Southern Baptists will face in the next decade.
I. A question of public consensus (Matthew 16:13)
Here is a classic case of public consensus. The disciples were asked the question — “Who do men say that I am?” They were aware that public consensus was divided into four different opinions. They said, “Some say” you are John the Baptist. “Some say” you are Elijah. “Some say” you are Jeremiah. “Some say” you are one of the prophets.
The question of public consensus speaks of pluralistic compromise — pluralism. It also speaks of political correctness — inclusivism. Pluralism affects our doctrine as believers. That is, what we believe, our message. Inclusivism affects our duty as believers. That is, how we behave, our mission. Doctrine always affects our duty.
II. A question of personal conviction (Matthew 16:15)
There is an alternative to pluralism and its belief that God reveals Himself in all religious traditions and that many paths lead to the same place. There is an alternative to inclusivism and its belief that salvation is through Jesus Christ but it is not necessary to have explicit knowledge or even faith in Him to obtain it. The alternative is exclusivism which says the central claims of our faith are absolute truth and truth claims to the contrary are to be rejected as false. What is really important to the Lord Jesus is this question — “Who do YOU say that I am?”
It is important to note that the “you” is emphatic. It is also important to note the definite article in front of “Christ.” Simon Peter answered that evening at Caesarea Philippi, “You and You alone are the one and only Messiah — Anointed One — Saviour — Christ!”
This is the question for Southern Baptists — “Who do you say that I am?” If He is “the Christ,” then we need to take the cross off our steeples and put it back in our Sunday School; we need to take the cross off the communion table and put it back in the middle of the sermon; we need to take the cross off our necklaces and put it in the middle of our social ministries; we need to take the cross off our lapel pins and put it back in our music.
If it is true that Christ is the only Saviour and the only way to heaven, then all other alternatives are false. Universalism is false. Pluralism is false. Inclusivism is false. Non-Christian religions are false. If this is all true, then we must join the songwriter of old in singing, I must need go home by the way of the cross, there’s no other way but this; I shall ne’re get sight of the gates of light, if the way of the cross I miss. The way of the cross leads home, it is sweet to know as I onward go, the way of the cross leads home. This is the question for our time. It is not a question of public consensus, but it is a question of personal conviction — “Who do you say that I am?”