Matthew 16:13–17 ESV

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.

Why would you throw your life away for Jesus?
Last week, I mentioned that this passage was one that I wanted to divide into three sermons, one on Peter’s revelation, one on the establishment of the Church, and one more on the commission of the Church. But I felt that it was also important to cover the whole passage together for the sake of both clarity and receiving every part of this exhortation from Jesus without losing any of its emphases.
We did that last week, but I came away thinking that it might also do us good to dig a little deeper into the passage and do the three-part sermons. With some encouragement from some of the brothers, but also because of some events in this past week which God used to show me that the important message of this passage was worth the time we would take on it, this is me taking us back to the same text as we looked at last week.
Therefore, today I want to focus on Peter’s revelation and subsequent confession that is at the centre of this discourse.

Why do certain men appear to fall away from the faith?

I cannot exaggerate just how important verses such as these are to a minister like me. In my short 7 years ministering at RedHill, I’ve come across many kinds of people, and it surprises me just how many of them, in the name of Christ, cleave so tightly to ungodliness and sin.

Acts 20:29–31 ESV
29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

  • Paul understood wolves to be a reality in church life. Unlike the dogs that aid the shepherd in guarding and directing the sheep, wolves come to destroy.
    Paul warned against those who would come and do voluntary harm.
  • But then, he also speaks of those who would arise from among them, speaking twisted things to draw the disciples away.
    In other words, there will be supposed sheep among you with wolfish traits.
    Matthew 7:15 ESV
    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
    2 Corinthians 11:14 ESV
    14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
  • They twist the word of God.
    Acts 13:8–10 ESV
    8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?
    Twisted speech is the mark of the enemy who was the first to twist God’s word in the garden.
  • Why do they do this? To draw the disciples away. There is no neutral ground. You are either with Christ or against him.
    Matthew 12:30 ESV
    30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
  • Therefore, the instruction to the elders of the church is to “Be alert!”. Be watchful, attentive, be careful.
    Pick up on wolfish behaviour!
  • After my departure – But then there is one more interesting thing that Paul mentions here. He says that wolves like this will arise after his departure. In other words, there is something about Paul being there that prevented wolves from arising, or at least the other elders of Ephesus did not have to deal with such wolves.
    What did Paul do?
  • He did not cease to admonish them night or day. Paul would scold them night and day. There was no wiggle room under Paul’s leadership for sin.
    And he did not admonish them by force, but with tears.
  • The duty of the minister (the elders).
    Acts 20:35 ESV
    35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

You will recognize them by their fruits.

Matthew 7:15–20 ESV
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

  • Time will always reveal the fruits of an individual’s faith. Just as fruit-bearing is the natural function of the tree, so is spiritual fruit-bearing for the Christian. Only dead trees bear no fruit. Both good and bad trees will bear fruit and their fruit will be a testament to where they stand, with or without God.

So, when Christians who outwardly have the appearance of faithfulness are eventually revealed to have only an air of sincerity that did not go deep. A willingness to follow Jesus without a willingness to kill their sin, hate their sin or even fight against it well.

2 Corinthians 11:3 ESV
3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Acts 5:3 ESV
3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?

1 Peter 5:8–9 ESV
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

As John Piper put it, Satan wants to eat your faith for breakfast.

Can Christians fall away?

2 Timothy 4:10 ESV
10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.

Demas abandoned Paul because he was unwilling to abandon this present world. He was willing to receive Jesus but unwilling to let go of this world. His love was divided and the appearance of faithfulness he had was not the faithfulness the Bible required, it was not the faithfulness wrought in true conversion.

Matthew 10:37–38 ESV
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Luke 9:62 ESV
62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

True spiritual conversion is a work that the Spirit begins in us and will carry it toward completion.

Philippians 1:6 ESV
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Such a conversion severs the cords of worldly attachment, and given a choice between Christ and the world, the Christian cannot imagine a life without Christ.
Continuing in Christ is the evidence of a genuine Christian.

John 8:31–32 ESV
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 6:39 ESV
39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Here, let me give you two more verses that show you that no true Christian can ever fall away.

Romans 8:34 ESV
34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Hebrews 7:25 ESV
25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Picture this. Jesus, the Son of the Living God, the Ancient of Days, the King of Glory, the Prince of Peace himself, the Worthy one capable of handling The Book of Life, the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, the way, the truth & the Life through whom alone one might come to God, the resurrected One; He always lives to make intercession for you!

Luke 22:31–32 ESV
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

  • He knows trouble before they arrive. Satan has no power apart from permission.
  • He has already prayed for the trouble that is yet to arrive.
  • ‘When’ and not ‘if’ you have turned. His intercession never fails for there is no prayer he can pray that his Father will not grant.
    Oh, how wretched the Marian doctrine of the catholic church and others that look to Mary and the venerated saints and the departed souls of their lost ones.
  • Give strength to others.

A Christian never falls away from the faith because he is not kept by his strength, he is kept by God.
Therefore, those of you who stand on the precipice between love for God and love for this present world stands in a very dangerous place.

What must you do? Answer this question of Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?

“Who do you say that I am?”

The people had many things to say about Jesus.

Matthew 16:14 ESV
14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Brothers and sisters, nothing short of the Lord over your life will do. Nothing short of complete surrender to his Lordship will do. Nothing short of laying down all that you have will do.

Philippians 3:8 ESV
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Oh, I wonder how many sermons can be preached on this verse before our flesh cease trying to find a way around it?
Is Christ worth so much to you?

  • Is he more than job security? Is he more than a career? – Some of you have come and asked me the question from time to time if it was ok to desire to remain in this city just so that they can continue to be a part of this church. That would mean they would only receive the prospects of a career here in this city.
    It is not wrong to follow Christ in his leading to another job outside this city. But we allow our entire lives to be decided around that rather than around a godly church. Are you certain that Jesus is more than your career?
  • Is he more than your plans?
  • Is he more than your future?
  • Is he more than money?
  • Is he more than your family?
  • Is he more than your friends?
  • Is he more than your gadgets?
  • Is he more than your earthly treasures?

Have you seen the surpassing value of knowing Christ? Is that an abject reality in your Christianity?
Jesus did not save you so that you can be Lord over your own life. Jesus did not save you so that he can give you whatever your earthly heart desires. He saved you to behold his glory, that he might make much of that glory by being Lord over your life.

1 Corinthians 6:19–20 ESV
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

You are not your own!
If you cleave to this world then you will make less of Christ. He will become the supreme anything in your life, anything apart from total Lord over your life. And that will have only an appearance of Christianity and lack the true substance of it.
Why do men who appear to want to follow Jesus, end up resisting the work of the Holy Spirit? Because they don’t realise that it is either all Christ or no Christ.

The true confession

Matthew 16:16 ESV
16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

  • I am all in! You are Lord! Such a declaration is the abandonment of all things for the sole possession of Christ, the Son of the living God.
    Give me all of Christ for all of life.
    1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
    31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
    2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
    17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
    Hebrews 12:14 ESV
    14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
    Psalm 46:10 ESV
    10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
  • There is no stillness without knowing that God is God and you are not God over your own life. There is stillness only in knowing God for who he is.

The true conversion

Matthew 16:17 ESV
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.

  • We touched on this subject briefly last week, discussing why the genuine confession of a truly converted person is not owed to the work of the person but to God.
    Ephesians 2:8–10 ESV
    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    • Salvation is through faith, and faith is trust in God. We are saved through our trust in God. But this trusting in God is by grace and not by works. I can put my trust in God intentionally through my effort and it wouldn’t be faith that saves. I have to put my trust in God intentionally by his grace instead (it has to be God-given) and that would be the faith that saves.
      Do you see how it outwardly could look the same but inwardly are entirely different? One is with Christ and one is without. Human recognition of the Christian faith does not save anyone even though he is a church-going, tithe-giving, generous, kind, and mission-minded individual. He is not saved unless he is touched by the grace of God.
      Faith is the gift of God and not the fruit of our effort. Our efforts are the fruit of the faith that God gives us.
  • When Peter here makes this confession, his rational prowess or knowledge of the Torah is not what yields this confession. Grace has touched him from heaven.
    • Why was Abel faithful and Cain unfaithful?
    • Why was Jacob loved and Esau hated by God?
      Romans 9:10–15 ESV
      10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”


Knowing God, and seeing and savouring Christ as Lord is paramount in the Christian life.