He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” From the Gospel of St. Luke.
Jesus was a controversial person in Jerusalem. He had done things no other prophet had done since Elijah. He healed the centurion’s servant. He raised the widow’s son from the dead. When he was invited to the house of Simon the Pharisee, he allowed a woman, a notorious sinner to bathe his feet with her tears, to dry them with her hair, to kiss his feet and anoint them. He was a prophet like none they had ever seen. So when Jesus asked the disciples who the people said he was, he knew they would be as confused as Simon.
For us who know and serve the Lord Jesus, there is no confusion. As Peter said, he is the Christ of God, the Messiah, the son of God. To others he is an enigma. He is billed as the King of he Jews, so why did they want him crucified? To many he is simply a prophet, and maybe God’s son, but not God himself.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormons, founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830, believe that God has a physical, flesh and bones, eternal, perfect body. Men have the potential to become gods as well. Jesus is God’s literal son, a separate being from God the Farther and the “elder brother” of men. The Holy Spirit is also a separate being from God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit is regarded as an impersonal power or spirit being. These three separate beings are “one” only in their purpose, and they make up the Godhead.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, founded by Charles Taze Russell in 1879 believe that God is one person, Jehovah. Jesus was Jehovah’s first creation. Jesus is not God, nor part of the Godhead. He is higher than the angels, but inferior to God. Jehovah used Jesus to create the rest of the universe. Before Jesus came to earth he was known as the archangel Michael. The Holy Spirit is an impersonal force from Jehovah, but not God.
The Christian Scientists, founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, believe the trinity is life, truth and love. As an impersonal principle, God is the only thing that truly exists. Everything else is an illusion. Jesus, though not God, is the Son of God. He was the promised Messiah but was not a deity.
Those you have heard about, but how about the Christadelphians? They were founded by Dr. John Thomas in 1864, and believe God is one indivisible unity, not three distinct persons existing in one God. They deny the divinity of Jesus, believing he is fully human and separate from God. They do not believe the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity, but simply a force—the “unseen power” from God. Sounds like Star Wars Theology to me.
You may notice that these four cults were founded in the 1800’s. That time in the United States was a period of change for many. The United States was still in its infancy, and the nation was hardly united. The Transcontinental Railroad joining the East and the West in Utah was completed in 1869, and Brigham Young, the mormon prophet played a big part in the naming of Utah as its meeting place. The American Civil War was finally ended in 1865, and many theologians of the time were unsatisfied with the state of religion in America. There was a Second Great Awakening, so called because it was a period of new denominations being formed, the advance of social justice issues, and an overabundance of hell fire and damnation sort of preaching.
Some of the denominations being formed were suspicious of the Creeds that had guided the church since the second century. It was Protestantism taken to a whole new level. In the midst of this was a Restoration Movement which sought to unify several Christian Churches, and to restore the character of the church to that of the first century. In my humble opinion, they threw the baby out with the bath water. While it was a great ecumenical movement, it was since divided into many new denominations. Most of these do believe in the divinity of Jesus, and the Trinity of Persons, and the Unity of Being.
St. Peter got it right. He knew then that Jesus was not only the messiah, the promised savior sent from the Father, but that he was and indeed is God the Son. We call this the Confession of St. Peter, because that word means ‘acknowledgment.’ It might be confused with the Confession of one’s sins, but just focus on the first word, confession. That means to acknowledge, to admin, to speak. As such we are a Confessional Church, because we as the Body of Christ confess the faith of Christ. When someone asks you who Jesus is, you should know what to say. He is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world. By his actions we and all who believe in him should not perish, but will have everlasting life in heaven with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. What better hope is there in this world? I would say, none.