Did the Gates of Hell Prevail Against Peter?

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By John Thiel

Where does our assurance come from? Are we sure of ourselves like the Apostles were before the crucifixion or does our assurance come from Christ? Before Gethsemane and the crucifixion, Jesus tried to warn the disciples of their character defects and of the terrible circumstance that was to come upon them.

Matthew 26:31 Then saith Jesus unto them, 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.

But when Jesus said this how did the disciples respond?

The disciples listened in sorrow and amazement. They remembered how in the synagogue at Capernaum, when Christ spoke of Himself as the bread of life, many had been offended, and had turned away from Him. But the twelve had not shown themselves unfaithful. Peter, speaking for his brethren, had then declared his loyalty to Christ. {DA 673.1}

The disciples couldn’t believe the warning coming from Jesus. How could they possibly be offended at Him? Hadn’t they been faithful all along? They had been with Jesus all throughout his 3 and a half year ministry. At Capernaum, Jesus spoke of himself as the bread of life and many of the other disciples got offended, but not the twelve. But now Jesus says to the twelve YOU will be offended because of me.

John 6:59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. 60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?

John 6:66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? (Will you be offended to? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. Here Peter speaks on behalf of his brethren and declares his loyalty to Christ. So the twelve disciples were loyal to Jesus even when many other disciples had left Him. The other disciples left because they took offense at the words of Jesus. 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. 70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

Many of the disciples became offended at Jesus, the word of God. Jesus had said I am the bread of life and they didn’t want to partake of Jesus so they walked no more with Him. Look at the contrast, Jesus says to the twelve who had not been offended before, that they too would become offended that very night. How could it be Peter declared, no way will I ever take offence at Jesus

Matthew 26:33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.

What a statement to make – and how does Jesus respond. He warns Peter

Matthew 26:34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Jesus says Oh yes you will be offended so much so that you will deny me three times tonight. 35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. Peter is making a positive assertion – even if I die I Lord, I will not deny you.

Mark 13:40 And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. 31 But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.

Notice here how sure Peter was of himself and how he protested. And yet we know that all the disciples were offended because of Jesus that very night. Even when they had protested so strongly that they would not be offended – they did become offended. Why were the disciples like this? Why couldn’t Jesus tell them anything? Why were they so stubborn in their opinion about themselves? In Desire of Ages it says that Peter was already offended at Jesus. He was offended that Jesus would question his loyalty and that Jesus would say “you are going to deny me Peter” and he was offended that Jesus would say “all of you will be offended because of me tonight.” Have you ever said to someone “you get too easily offended” and then they become
even more offended. They take offence at the offence. How could Jesus deal with such men? He couldn’t tell them anything when he spoke.

They are easily offended by reproof, and ready to say with the disciples who left Jesus, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” “And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time; afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” {2SP 239.2}

Those who are easily offended by reproof and are ready to say like the disciples – this is a hard saying who can hear it, though Peter didn’t leave Jesus, he did contradict Jesus and the words that Jesus said to him say there are sayings that get too hard – they are stony ground hearers.

Matthew 13:20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

We know the disciples came into tribulation and that they became offended and we know the stony ground hearers in Capernaum were offended at the word of God and left Jesus. Why should we become offended at the word? It speaks the truth doesn’t it? And if Jesus, the Word of God, says it is so – doesn’t that make it so? Why should we be offended? When Jesus said to his disciples – You have a problem, you are all going to be offended at me this very night, he was speaking the truth because it was so. When Jesus tried to warn the disciples and they became offended – was the problem with Him? No, it was with the disciples. And it is with US if we get offended, not the Word. Why couldn’t Jesus tell them these things?

In their self-confidence they denied the repeated statement of Him who knew. They were unprepared for the test; when temptation should overtake them, they would understand their own weakness. {DA 673.2}

Jesus kept saying to them “you will be offended because of me. Peter you are going to deny me.” Yet the repeated word of God had no effect because in their self-confidence the disciples denied the Word of God. Self-confidence prevented them from receiving it. They thought they knew better than Jesus. And Peter became offended when Jesus tried to tell him otherwise.

Now Peter’s voice is heard vehemently protesting, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” In the upper chamber he had declared, “I will lay down my life for Thy sake.” {DA 673.2}

Do you think the disciples were really sincere? When Peter said he would follow his Lord to prison and to death, he meant it, every word of it; (We can make bold assertions and may people do. We don’t doubt their sincerity but our sincerity and our assertions – what are they?

…but he did not know himself. Hidden in his heart were elements of evil that circumstances would fan into life. Unless he was made conscious of his danger, these would prove his eternal ruin. {DA 673.2}

If Peter had not been made conscious of these elements in his own heart it would have been eternal ruin. And that’s how serious the problem was with Peter in his heart and his character. That is how serious it can be for anyone of us. It meant life or death. We are talking about eternal consequences with the character fault.

The Saviour saw in him a self-love and assurance that would overbear even his love for Christ. {DA 673.2}

Peter thought I am really somebody and people need to recognise me. Peter was sure of himself that he was right and on the right track. He was self-assured.

Much of infirmity, of unmortified sin, carelessness of spirit, unsanctified temper, heedlessness in entering into temptation, had been revealed in his experience. Christ’s solemn warning was a call to heart searching. Peter needed to distrust himself, and to have a deeper faith in Christ. Had he in humility received the warning, he would have appealed to the Shepherd of the flock to keep His sheep. When on the Sea of Galilee he was about to sink, he cried, “Lord, save me.” Matt. 14:30. Then the hand of Christ was outstretched to grasp his hand. So now if he had cried to Jesus, Save me from myself, he would have been kept. But Peter felt that he was distrusted, and he thought it cruel. He was already
offended, and he became more persistent in his self-confidence. {DA 673.3}

As we stated at the beginning of this sermon, my assurance is not of myself but of Christ.

His compassionate Saviour saw in him a self-love, self-assurance that would overbear even his love for Christ; and unless he could be brought to see this, he would be lost. {GW92 365.6}

Eternal consequences – Peter needed to see his self-love and assurance for himself.

Carelessness of spirit, unsanctified temper, heedlessness in entering into temptation, had been revealed in his experience. Christ’s solemn warning was a call to heart searching. Peter needed to distrust himself, and to have a deeper faith in Christ. {DA 673.3}

Our assurance must be in Christ and not of ourselves. If Peter had distrusted himself and searched his own heart, what would have happened? Would he have fallen?

Had he in humility received the warning, he would have appealed to the Shepherd of the flock to keep His sheep. When on the Sea of Galilee he was about to sink, he cried, “Lord, save me.” Matt. 14:30. Then the hand of Christ was outstretched to grasp his hand. So now if he had cried to Jesus, Save me from myself, he would have been kept. But Peter felt that he was distrusted, and he thought it cruel. He was already offended, and he became more persistent in his self-confidence. {DA 673.3}

Had he humbly received the warning he would have never deceived his Lord. Peter wouldn’t take the Word of God. Isn’t this a lesson for us and for me? As I listen to the Word of God from the pulpit from the various people who speak In Matthew what took place with the downfall of Peter? Peter professes his loyalty to Christ even to the death and now what does he do? He proves himself disloyal.

Matthew 26:69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

Matthew 16:15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Some people think that this means Peter was the first pope and that this is the rock upon which the first church was built. But did the gates of hell prevail against Peter? They surely did, he cursed and swore.

The church was built upon one (that is Christ) upon whom the gates of hell could not prevail.
{DA 412.4}

Peter’s denial of his Lord had been in shameful contrast to his former professions of loyalty. He had dishonored Christ, and had incurred the distrust of his brethren. They thought he would not be allowed to take his former position among them, and he himself felt that he had forfeited his trust. Before being called to take up again his apostolic work, he must before them all give evidence of his repentance. Without this, his sin, though repented of, might have destroyed his influence as a minister of Christ. The Saviour gave him opportunity to regain the confidence of his brethren, and, so far as possible, to remove the reproach he had brought upon the gospel. {DA 811.1}

The gates of hell did prevail against Peter and rather than make him a pope, the other disciples actually thought that Peter would lose his discipleship altogether. And they wondered if they could trust him. But the saviour gave him opportunity to repent to remove the reproach on the gospel. Although Jesus forgave his sin, he didn’t leave it there.

Here is given a lesson for all Christ’s followers. The gospel makes no compromise with evil. It cannot excuse sin. Secret sins are to be confessed in secret to God; but, for open sin, open confession is required. The reproach of the disciple’s sin is cast upon Christ. {DA 811.2}

It wasn’t a small thing – Peter’s act in giving proof of repentance was necessary to remove his reproach. Let us read how it was done in

John 21:14 This is now the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. 15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. (Peter do you love me more than these?) 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

How did this show to the other disciples that Peter was a different man, that he was converted? Peter once said everyone else will be offended but not me. Now here is the change.

There is no vehement assurance that his love is greater than that of his brethren. He does not express his own opinion of his devotion.
To Him who can read all the motives of the heart he appeals to judge as to his sincerity,–“Thou knowest that I love Thee.” And Jesus bids him, “Feed My lambs.” {DA 811.3}

Peter was not so sure of himself anymore. He was no longer lifting himself up to push his brethren down. Peter does not express his own opinion about his devotion. He has nothing to say about himself. Peter demonstrated a different attitude. In John 21:16 Jesus he poses the question a second time “Does thou love me?” The second response was free from extravagant assurance.

John 21:17 He sayeth unto him a third time – lovest thou me. Peter was grieved.

Peter responds in grief – this is different from offence? Peter said unto him – Lord thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee and Jesus replied feed my sheep. Peter was grieved because he felt Jesus was questioning his loyalty. Do we remember how before the crucifixion Peter’s loyalty had been questioned? Remember how he became offended and how sure he was that he would remain loyal even unto the death? Now Jesus questions him three times – Do you love me? Are you loyal? Does Peter get offended and is he sure of himself now? He says “you know I love thee.”

Three times Peter had openly denied his Lord, and three times Jesus drew from him the assurance of his love and loyalty,
pressing home that pointed question, like a barbed arrow to his wounded heart. Before the assembled disciples Jesus revealed the depth of Peter’s repentance, and showed how thoroughly humbled was the once boasting disciple. {DA 812.2}

Peter’s response was different from what it had been before The close testing questions of the lord had not called forth one self-sufficient reply and because of his humiliation and repentance, Peter was better prepared than ever before to act as a shepherd of the flock.

11 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;

In Matthew 16 we read that Peter was so sure of himself that he was ready to correct Jesus. Are we that sure of ourselves that we are ready to correct Jesus? No, we can’t be so sure of ourselves.

Before his fall, Peter was always speaking unadvisedly, from the impulse of the moment. He was always ready to correct others, and to express his mind, before he had a clear comprehension of himself or of what he had to say. But the converted Peter was very different. He retained his former fervor, but the grace of Christ regulated his zeal. He was no longer impetuous, self-confident, and self-exalted, but calm, self-possessed, and teachable. He could then feed the lambs as well as the sheep of Christ’s flock. {DA 812.5}

Peter was a converted, transformed man. He was of a very different spirit.

In the answers that Peter gave to the Lord’s thrice-repeated question, a different spirit is manifested from what we find in the boastful assurances before the crucifixion of Christ. Peter was a converted man, and showed in his life that transforming grace had taken possession of his heart. As firm as a rock, he ever after stood boldly up to witness for Christ. Jesus had said to Peter, “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.” Peter had severe trials to pass through, but although he was called to go to prison and to death for Christ’s sake, never again did he waver from his allegiance. {RH, April 7, 1891 par. 11}

Romans 12:2 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.

In this process of experience we will make fools of ourselves sometimes. We will make great assertions and then fall on our face. But we need to learn form our mistakes. Did Peter learn from his experience? Yes he learned because he didn’t leave Jesus

2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

The whole character of the human structure is to be rebuilt. And this is the lesson that Peter understood from his own extreme experience.

The work of transformation from unholiness to holiness is a continuous work. Day by day God labors for man’s sanctification, and man is to co-operate with him by putting forth persevering efforts in the cultivation of right habits. The way in which we are to work out our own salvation is plainly specified in the first chapter of Second Peter. Constantly we are to add grace to grace, and as we do this, God will work for us upon the plan of multiplication. He is always ready to hear and answer the prayer of the contrite heart, and grace and peace are multiplied to his faithful ones. Gladly he grants them the blessings that they need in their struggle against the evils that beset them. Those who listen to the counsels of his Word shall not want any good thing. {RH, March 15, 1906 par. 11}

God will multiply what we do through his Holy Spirit. Later on Peter even took reproof from the Apostle Paul. He was not so sure of himself then, he was more humble and his sufficiency was more of Jesus than of himself. May our assurance also be of Christ is my prayer?

Amen.

Posted on April 29, 2011, in Divine Service Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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