November 30, 2023

Son of the Living God

Sinclair Ferguson
Son of the Living God

What does it mean that Jesus is the “Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16)? Today, Sinclair Ferguson considers the testimony borne throughout Scripture to the divine identity of Christ.


Who is Jesus, really? That’s the question we’ve been thinking about this week on Things Unseen. And we’ve narrowed our focus to get a handle on the answer by reflecting on Simon Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” Remember the first part of his answer was, “You are the Christ.” The second part of his answer was, “You are the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15–16).

That’s a striking description of God, isn’t it? The living God. It’s reminiscent of the divine name revealed to Moses, “I am who I am,” the One who is all life in Himself and of Himself (Exod. 3:14). And so, Peter makes this monumental confession. It’s staggering, really: “You are the Son of the living God.”

Yesterday, I suggested that when Peter said, “You are the Christ,” it may not have been a sudden thought, even if it was the first time he actually said it out loud. And the same may also be true of, “You are the Son of the living God,” because his brother, Andrew, may well have been at Jesus’ baptism and told them of the voice that spoke from heaven, “You are my beloved Son” (Mark 1:11). Maybe Peter had been thinking about that for months. But even if he had, he needed to think even more deeply about it, because soon, on the Mount of Transfiguration, he would hear for himself the very same voice saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt. 17:5).

It’s really a reminder to us that it takes time for it to sink in who our Lord Jesus Christ really is: He is the Son of God. That’s the testimony of the voice from heaven. It’s the testimony of Simon Peter. It’s the testimony of the Apostle Paul, who once denied and rejected it. It’s the testimony of the Gospels. It’s the testimony of the letter to the Hebrews. It’s the testimony of James and Jude, probably our Lord’s half-brothers. Although they don’t use that title, James calls Him the “Lord of glory,” and Jude refers to Him four times as “our Lord,” kyrios, the word the Greek version of the Old Testament always used to translate the great divine name, Yahweh.

Jesus is Lord because He is the Son of God. Did Peter fully understand what that meant? Well, the truth is that only our Lord Himself understands all that it means. But Peter must have understood this: the Old Testament taught there is only one personal living God, but it also gives us various indications that there was something wonderfully mysterious about the Lord. He was one Lord who led His people through the wilderness, and yet Peter’s Old Testament also told them that it was the messenger of God, the malakh Yahweh who did that. And then the prophet Isaiah also explains it was the Holy Spirit who did this. The Exodus was the work of the three who are one and the one who is three.

And Peter must also have known the way the second psalm promised that when the Messiah came, He would be the Son that God would set on His throne. And Isaiah had spoken of him as the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).

Now, Peter didn’t yet fully understand, but these kaleidoscopic pieces of the Old Testament revelation were now all coming together in a single pattern that was becoming clear, and that pattern told him that the Jesus he knew was God’s own Son. It was God’s own Son who had come to be the promised Prophet, and Priest, and King. And beginning to see that clearly doesn’t happen naturally—not to Simon Peter, not to Sinclair Ferguson, not to you—but only when the Father opens our eyes through the ministry of the Spirit. And then, when we say to Jesus, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God,” we’re not simply saying words; we’re embracing Him. We’re trusting Him as our God and as our Savior.

I want to say again today, I hope you’re able to say that and it’s true. But actually, there’s another title for Jesus mentioned in this story. It’s not one that Peter uses, but I hope you’ll join me tomorrow again, and we’ll talk about it then.