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By Lucien LeSage

With Input from Grace Bible Baptist Church Sunday School Class

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32).

Notice the Lord did not say “if thou art converted” but “when thou art converted.” His faith and conversion that the Lord spoke of was of God and not of man. The Lord also called him by his former name before the Lord had called him. The Lord spoke this to Peter right before his agony in the garden and the betrayal by Judas. Jesus had told his disciples, “all ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad” (Matthew 26:31). So it was in this context that Peter responded, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33). It is recorded in Matthew's gospel that he said, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matthew 26:33). And what was Jesus' response to Peter? “Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matthew 26:34).

Peter was quick to respond and aren't we all at times? I believe Peter said this in the energy of the flesh. He thought it true in his mind, but the truth is that we are what we are by the grace of God (1 Cor 15:10). If we are not offended then it will be by God's grace. The truth is that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is an offense to many and foolishness to others. So the Lord is telling Peter that without His grace that relying on the flesh will profit nothing. As he had said before “the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63).

It is interesting that Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times before the cock crow. Why three times? I may be wrong but it seems to deny the Son is to deny the Father and the Holy Spirit, all three. If you read the passages you will see that Peter never denied that Jesus was the Son of God or the Christ but only that he was his disciple and it escalated to the point that he swore and cursed. In the end Peter wept bitterly and was a better Christian as a result. The whole event had converted him and he became a great preacher. But we are no better than Peter and so I would like to look at a few things that happened here so that we as God's people can watch and pray that we not fall into the same sort of temptation.

Peter's first mistake was to say the word “I”. He said, “yet will I never be offended.” That's quite a statement and a whole lot of confidence in himself. It would have been better if he had said, “Oh please Lord give me grace that I would never be offended of you.” I am reminded of what Paul said, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Even after Jesus had told Peter that he would deny him three times yet he still insisted that he would not and said unto Jesus, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” And likewise also said all the disciples. How could they doubt the Son of God's words? And yet their confidence in themselves led them to question their master's prophecy. When they came to take Jesus we see that Peter was so bold for a bit and cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant. But in his bravery he was actually fighting the plan of God. “Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). And Matthew records Jesus as saying, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” Peter has it all out of harmony with God's purpose here, but Peter “when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

Then we see that while Jesus was being taken to Caiaphas the high priest's palace to be judged of the Sanhedrin that Peter followed from “afar off ” (Matt 26:58). God help us by his grace not to follow our Lord Jesus from “afar off.” Next we see Peter sits down with the servants to see the end of the matter. He is not sitting with the servants of God but with the servants of him who wanted Jesus dead. Luke says that he “sat down among them” as if he was with them and one of them. Psalm 26:5 says, “I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked.” Thus the title of this article, “When Peter sat down with the wicked.” This was an assembly in the true sense and one of religious evil doers. Even Pilate knew that they had delivered Jesus out of envy (Matt 27:18).

May the Lord help us in our daily walk not to sit with the assembly of evil doers. We see that Peter even warmed himself by a fire that they had made (Mark 14:54). He was getting comfortable in the midst of the evil doers. God help us not to get comfortable in the midst of them that hate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Concerning Jesus, even as “they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” Peter sat down in the midst of them. He must have been close enough to observe all of this for when he had denied him the third time the Lord turned and looked upon him.  Peter never denied anything about the person of Jesus; that he was the Christ or that he was the Son of God. But he denied that he knew what they were talking about when they accused him of being a disciple of Jesus and he denied that he even knew “the man” as he put it. It went from a simple denial to a denial with an oath (Matt 26:72) and then finally with a curse and an oath (Matt 26:74). It is truly amazing that as soon as he denied the Lord for the third time that “immediately the cock crew.” How things happen suddenly. There was no delay. When Nebuchadnezzar bragged on himself and the kingdom that he had built for the glory of his own majesty we read “While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.” (Daniel 4:31). As soon has Peter denied the third time with cursing and swearing “the cock crew.”

“And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

Well we see that when the cock did crow that Peter remembered the words of his Lord and “he went out, and wept bitterly.” Luke adds that when the cock did crow “the Lord turned,and looked upon Peter.” That look from his Lord and Master must have pierced his heart. I can only imagine what Peter felt. If the thought brings tears to our eyes how much more to Peter's. And so we read that he went out and wept bitterly. But, Peter's sorrow was not as the sorrow of Judas or Esau or Cain. Peter's sorrow was a godly sorrow. Paul says, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” Repentance is not just a one time event when the Lord saves us but is ongoing till our sanctification is complete when we are glorified and with our Lord. Judas' sorrow worked death. He went out and hung himself and the Bible says that he went “to his own place” (Acts 1:25). The Bible says of Esau that “he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Heb 12:17). Peter's sorrow brought about a change in him for the good.

Peter's Great Sermon

On the day of Pentecost we read that Peter “lifted up his voice,” and said these words, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:” (Acts 2:22-23). He is not offended of or ashamed of his Lord now and preaches the truth to the ones that had him crucified and his preaching was with boldness but it was not of the flesh but by God's grace. Notice, “ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” He also now recognized what Jesus had said concerning His crucifixion, that “thus it must be.” Notice again, “Him delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” But he also tells them that they did it “by wicked hands.” He preached to them the resurrection of Jesus and went on to say to them with a lifted up voice, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” What a message to those Jews that had put the Lord Jesus to death. And the Lord took that message and pricked their hearts. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:36-40).

In Conclusion:

If we who are saved are in the world and act like we are of the world then we will have no power to witness to the world of Jesus. If we look like the world and dress like the world then how can we witness to the world? If we fashion ourselves to this world then how can we reason with the world about judgment to come? Paul told the saints at Rome, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

Let us not sit with the wicked but preach to them of a savior and leave the rest in the hands of a Sovereign God. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Eph 5:11). Let us reason with them “of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,” as Paul did with Felix (Acts 24:25). May God give us grace and may He have mercy on sinners is our prayer.

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