Preparing Peter To Catch Fish
October 30th, 1977 @ 7:30 PM
PREPARING PETER TO CATCH FISH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-30-77 7:30 p.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and you are sharing the hour with the pastor. The message is entitled Preparing Peter to Catch Fish. And in our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come to chapter 10. And we are going to begin reading together, and we invite you who listen on radio to open your Bible with us in this great auditorium and to read it out loud with us. We shall read from verses 9 through 18; the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts; Acts chapter 10, verses 9 through 18. It is going to be a very much of a piece of a long story, but it will contain our message tonight. So let us read it out loud now, chapter 10 in the Book of Acts, beginning at verse 9 and concluding with verse 18, out loud together:
On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate.
And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
Then follows the story of the Gentile Pentecost, which will be the sermon next Sunday morning. But first God had to prepare His apostle whom He had chosen to bestow the Holy Spirit upon the world; first at Jerusalem, upon the Jew; then in Samaria, upon the half-Jew; and now, here in Caesarea, upon a full Gentile [Acts 1:8]. Peter is chosen. “I will give unto thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven: whatsoever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” [Matthew 16:19].
That is, when Simon Peter moved and acted according to the will of God, what he does is what has been elected and foreordained and predestinated in heaven. So, for Simon Peter to be used of God to use the key to open the door to the Gentiles, he must be prepared for that heavenly assignment. Now when you look through the life of Simon Peter, all through those years, the Lord was preparing him for His glorious mandate.
When He called him, Simon Peter was conscious of His unworthiness; and at the miracle of the casting of great draught of fish [Luke 5:4-7], he fell down before the knees of the Lord and said, Master, I am not worthy to be in Your presence. “Depart from me; I am a sinful man” [Luke 5:8]. And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon, I have chosen you to catch fish; only this to be a fisher of men” [Luke 5:10].
And Simon, with his partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, laid their nets aside and forsook their old business and followed Jesus [Luke 5:11]. Then in the days and the years that followed after, the Lord is preparing Simon Peter for the assignment. In the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of [Matthew], He calls him “Satan” [Matthew 16:23]. When the Lord made the announcement that He must die and the third day be raised again [Matthew 16:21], that He was to be delivered to the hands of sinners, Simon Peter said, “Lord, Lord, that should never happen unto Thee” [Matthew 16:22], seeking to dissuade and pull away the Lord from His redemptive mission. And the Lord said, “Get thee behind Me, Satan”; Satan entering the heart and the life and the mind of that man; “Get thee behind Me, for thou savorest not the things of God, but the things of men” [Matthew 16:23]; teaching Simon Peter in the way.
In the seventeenth chapter, the next chapter in the Book of Matthew, Simon Peter is there with James and John, and he sees the Lord transfigured [Matthew 17:1-3]. And he says, “Lord, let us stay here [Matthew 17:4]; not down there in that valley where there is sickness, and illness, and disaster, and dread, and drudgery, and dreariness, and darkness. Let us stay up here on the mountain top.” No, Simon must be taught. Not on the mountain top can we always remain, for there is work to do in the valley. And he is led by the Lord down into the valley, there to minister to that poor father with his demented son [Matthew 17:14-23].
And as the story continues, this Cephas, Simon Peter, is so much aware of his strength, and he must have been a tremendous man physically. In that twenty-first chapter in the Gospel of John, the six disciples are struggling with that great catch of fish [John 21:8], and John says Simon Peter went down there and pulled it up by himself [John 21:11]. You see another instance of the tremendous physical prowess of Simon Peter in the third chapter of Acts, when he takes that man who had never walked—born from his mother’s womb with ankle bones unable to sustain him [Acts 3:1-2]—and a leverage like that. Now to hold up a man like this with both arms and using your shoulders would be a big task for me at least. But Simon Peter, with his arms outstretched at a tremendous disadvantage and leverage, he takes that man by the right hand and physically lifts him up, raises him up [Acts 3:4-7]. Can you imagine the physical strength of a man that can reach down to a man on the street who has never walked, and reaching by his hand raises him up! Ah, he must have been a tremendous man, this man Simon Peter. He was a natural born leader. And whatever he did, the other disciples immediately followed after.
Well, when the Lord made the announcement, “All of you will deny Me this night and forsake Me,” then Simon says, “All these other disciples may do that, but not I. You may be denied by others, but not by me; Lord, I will follow You unto death.” That was when the Lord said, “Simon, Simon, before the cock crows twice—before the cock crows at the dawning of the morning—thrice will you deny that you even know Me” [Mark 14:27-30].
And then the sad story when the little maid asked him, “Are you not one of His disciples? You talk like Him. You talk like Him.” And he says, “You think I talk like Him, then listen to this!” And he swore and cursed a blue streak. And while he was swearing and cursing, denying that he even knew the Lord, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and he remembered the saying of the Master, “And he went out and wept bitterly” [Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:54-61].
And then follows his second calling; he announces to his friends, “I am going back to my old business and back to the old net; back to the sea; back to the old life; back to the old world; back to the fishing business.” The other disciples say, “Well, Simon, if you are giving up, we also will go back.” And while they are there, catching nothing, there is a dim figure in the gray mist and dawn of the morning, standing on the shore [John 21:1-4]. And whoever that is, lifts up His voice and says, “Have you caught anything?”
And they answered, “No.”
And He says, “Take the net and put it on the right side and you will catch.” And they just placed the net from there to there and caught a great draught of fish [Acts 21:6].
And John the beloved disciple said to Simon, “Simon, do you know who that is? That is the Lord.” That is the Lord.” And Simon Peter jumped into the sea and swam to the shore and stood before the blessed Jesus [John 21:7].
Then his second call, “Simon, lovest thou Me?”
“Lord, You know that I do.”
“Take care of My lambs. Feed My sheep. Shepherd My flock” [John 21:15-17]. And the Lord there made the prophecy how he should die with the outstretched hands; he should die by crucifixion [John 21:18-19].
Thus, the Lord is preparing Simon Peter for the great Pentecostal opening of the kingdom of God to the Jew, and then to the Samaritan, the half-Jew [Acts 1:8]; and now, in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, we come to the opening of the kingdom of heaven to the Gentile world—to you and to me [Acts 10:1-48].
But He had to prepare Simon Peter for the task. And that is the passage that you read. Could a Gentile be saved just by trusting Jesus? Unthinkable to a Jew; the sinners are the Gentiles; impossible for the Jew. These idolatrous worshipers of Juno, and Jove, and Neptune, and Venus, and Isis, and Adonis, and Osiris, and the thousands other of those multitudinous gods, could they be saved out of their idolatry and heathenism just by trusting Jesus? [Acts 10:11-13]. Besides, there was a deep everlastingly deep prejudice in the heart of any Jew about a Gentile.
So the Lord is preparing Simon Peter for his assignment to open the doors of the kingdom of God to the Gentile. And so this passage that you read, all of this he let down from heaven, filled with all kinds of animals and birds and creeping things, that were unclean and prohibited to the kosher Jew, and a voice from God saying, “Kill and eat” [Acts 10:11-13].
“Lord, Lord, I never ate anything unclean like this in my life!” Thrice was that: “What God hath cleansed, call not thou common or unclean” [Acts 10:14-15]. And while he thought on the meaning of the vision, there came these men from the Gentile centurion asking for him; him of whom the angel said [to Cornelius], “He will come and tell thee words whereby thou and thou house may be saved” [Acts 10:3-6]. Isn’t all of that glorious? Isn’t all of that just marvelous? And wouldn’t you think that Simon Peter, having gone through such a marvelous training on the part of the blessed Master, the Lord Jesus, and then the directions of the heavenly Lord in heaven; wouldn’t you have thought that he would have been in the hands of God the most marvelous instrument of this new freedom that you could imagine? But look at him!
The old nature is still there. And the old weakness of Simon Peter comes out again and again. You cannot help but identify with Simon Peter, for all of his human weaknesses are ours. And all of the problems that he had with himself, we have with ourselves. Now you look at Simon Peter, the old nature is still there. And all of those weaknesses that he knew heretofore are still there. Now you listen, Paul is writing in the second chapter of the Book of Galatians, and this is what he says, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” [Galatians 2:11].
For before that certain came from James—the Lord’s brother, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem—he did eat with the Gentiles—all of those unclean things, four-footed beasts, creeping things, dirty fowls of the air—”he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come from James”—this arch-Jewish preacher—”he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision” [Galatians 2:12]—these Jewish, Ebionitic Christians.
And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
And when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners like the Gentiles.
Isn’t that something? Simon Peter has gone back into his old weaknesses and his old habits. Great; “You can count on me,” he says to the Lord [Mark 14:27-28]. And then when the time comes, he is swearing he never knew Him [Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:54-61]. And the same thing is happening again over whether or not a man who is a Gentile could be saved just by faith and not first becoming a Jew [Galatians 2:11-16].
Now I want you to look at this word, what Paul calls him and what Paul calls those that are with him. You have it translated here in the King James Version out of which I preach “dissimulation,” dissimulation. That sounds like a fine word, doesn’t it? “And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him” [Galatians 2:13]. You know what, the Greek word of that is hypokrisis, hupokrisis. When you take a “u” out of Greek and put it in the English, it becomes a “y”—hypokrisis. Now let me read it just as Paul writes it. “And the other Jews played the hypocrite with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their hypocrisy,” translated here, “dissimulation” [Galatians 2:13].
I would suppose whoever translated that in 1611 was afraid to use the word that Paul used to describe Simon Peter. Paul describes him saying he played the hypocrite, and all of those other Jews played the hypocrite with him. And Barnabas himself was carried away into their hypocrisy. Well, what do you think about that with regard to this chiefest apostle of the blessed Jesus? Well, I want to preach to you. When you are converted and when you are saved, the chances are that old human nature that you have will still be with you. You will still drag it along after you.
When I was a boy, I heard one of my preachers describe it like this. He said, “You have got a pig’s heart and you want to wallow in the dirt and the mire. Then you are saved, and you have a lamb’s heart. But you don’t get rid of that pig’s heart. It’s still there. It’s just that God has given you a lamb’s heart and those two war together, the pig’s heart and the lamb’s heart.” Paul writes it like this, “The Spirit strives against the flesh, and the flesh strives against the Spirit” [Galatians 5:17]. Paul will write in the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans, “O wretched man that I am!” [Romans 7:24]. “I do the things I do not want to do, and I do not do the things that I want to do” [Romans 7:15]. “Wretched man . . . who shall deliver me from this death?” [Romans 7:24].
Now you are going to experience that in your life. The chances are, however you are made when you become a Christian and are saved, you will still have with you and in you that same old carnal nature, warring against the things of God and the Spirit of the Lord. For example, if you are a man who has a volatile spirit and a volatile temper, and you get angry easily and vociferously and you just burn up and seethe on the inside, when you get saved, chances are you will still have that old caustic spirit. You will be praying, “Dear God, deliver me from the seething I have on the inside,” still got it to fight all of the days of your life, if you’re made that way.
One of these milquetoasts went up to a Christian man who was just wild. And this little milquetoast said, “Don’t you know you are a Christian and you shouldn’t get angry like that?” And that fellow replied. He said, “You shrimp, I control more anger in a day than you do in a lifetime!” That’s just the way we are. Chances are that old drag, that old carnal nature, will be with you. We need God’s grace and God’s help. That’s Simon Peter. That’s why I say we can so identify with him. He’s like us. He had a certain turn to him on the inside of him. And down to the day of his death, he still had that turn; that weakness on the inside of his soul.
Now I must conclude. You see, God has a way of using us even though we are weak in the flesh. I want to illustrate that out of my own experience. People ask me, “How long is it that you prepare a sermon?”
And I say, “Fifty years.”
“What, fifty years?”
“Yes, sir, every sermon I prepare, I have been working on it fifty years. And this will be very typical. The sermons come out of my soul, out of my life, out of my relationship with God and with you.”
Now you look. When I was a youth, you see, I started this thing of being a preacher when I was a little boy in grammar school. And I was studying in those grades, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, I was studying to be a preacher. Then through high school and through college, all, as far back as I can remember, I was getting ready to be a preacher. So, in those days of my youth, I was so idealistic. Oh, dear, I looked upon the pastor as a very representative of God Himself. And I looked upon my teachers as being the epitome of God’s grace and glory. Idealistic; there never was a youth more idealistic in his life than I was; exalting all of these preachers and all of these teachers on a high, high pedestal.
Then, as time came along and I came to know the professor, and as I came to know the preacher, ah, what a disillusion! Ah, they all have got feet of dirty clay, every one of them, every one of them. They all have tremendous weaknesses in their lives. When I was in the seminary, those world-famous scholars in Greek and Hebrew and homiletics and all of the social sciences, I never saw men who were more filled with envy and jealously in my life than those men in the seminary. And as they attempted to get rid of some of that jealousy and envy, their wives saw to it that they stayed with it. You never saw such a bunch!
“Who”—I remember one of the touchstones—“Who gets to preach in the pulpit of George W. Truett in the First Baptist Church in Dallas?” And if one of those professors up there in the seminary was invited to come down here to preach for George W. Truett, brother, it was a feather in his cap! It was a star in his cap, and his wife would, “Oh, boy, look at my husband! He is preaching for George W. Truett in Dallas.” It went on and on and on like that. I never saw it in my life the jealousy and the littleness in the professors in the seminary where I went to school. They are all dead now. That is the reason I can talk about them.
Then, as time went on, I began to know these great preachers. I’m not talking about these that people say, “He is just a country hick. He is just a bootlick preacher; he is just a little old fellow.” I am talk being these so-called great preachers. I came to know these so-called great preachers. And they are just as common and as weak, and have the same kinds of tremendous weaknesses that everybody else has, every last one of them; all of them, all of them alike.
Well, back yonder in those days when I was an idealistic youth, you cannot imagine the disillusion that I experienced. You see, anybody that does the work of the Lord has to get over that. That’s the first thing you have to get beyond. When you see a weakness in a professor, or you see a weakness in a great preacher, or you see a weakness in a denominational executive, that’s the first thing you get over. You see, he’s not the Lord. And the Lord’s work doesn’t rise and fall in him. He’s got that old carnal nature just like all of the rest of us, and just like Simon Peter. They’re all alike, all alike. And you have to get over that.
Then I remember something Dr. J. B. Gambrell said, who was the architect of the great Baptist General Convention in Texas, and the mission work of our Southern Baptist Convention. He said this: “God can hit many a straight lick with a crooked stick.” God can hit many a straight lick with a crooked stick. God can use these people that are weak and human like all of the rest of us!
You know, thinking in the years gone by over that word of Dr. Gambrell, I began to think about these men in the Bible. Abraham: why, one of the great passages before us in the Book of Romans, “If Abraham were saved by works, he would have whereof to glory; but not before God” [Romans 4:2]. God knew him and all about him! For Abraham to boast before God about his works would have been unthinkable and a travesty! God knew him. All of that lying about his wife, all of that lying about her being his sister [Genesis 12:13, 20:2], and a thousand other things about Abraham; God knew him. He couldn’t boast about his works.
Or Jacob, his very name means “supplanter” [Genesis 27:36]. He was a crook, and was so from the beginning. Or David, what would you say about David, the man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22], or Judah, or any of them? But, we have come to the New Testament. Here are James and John in their volative spirit as the sons of Boanerges, “the sons of thunder” [Mark 3:17]. Because the Samaritans did not receive the Lord, they said, “Lord, shall we command fire to come down from heaven and burn them up?” [Luke 9:54]. The Lord said, “You do not know what spirit you are of. The Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” [Luke 9: 55- 56]; James and John. Well, we must hurry.
Let’s take this man Paul. Let’s take this man Paul. Paul is the most marvelous of all of the Christian leaders who ever lived. May I read to you out of the Book? Read to you out of the Book. After the first missionary journey which closes with chapter 14 of Acts [Acts 14:1-28], and after chapter 15, which is the great Jerusalem Conference on whether the Gentiles could be saved just by believing Jesus [Acts 15:1-35], now I read to you the close of the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts. You look at it:
And some days after, Paul said unto Barnabas—
he and Barnabas had gone together on that first missionary journey [Acts 13:2-4]—
Paul said to Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they fare.
And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark—
he was the author of the Second Gospel.
And Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them at Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from another: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
And Paul chose Silas, and departed.
Now brother, you look at this man Paul. “The contention was so sharp between them” [Acts 15:39]; you know what that word is translated “contention?” The Greek word is paroxusmos. And when you take the Greek word into English, it comes out “paroxysm.” It is the exact word spelled out in English, the paroxysm! The emotional volative confrontation was so sharp; paroxusmos; oxus means sharp, like a goad; and para is an intensive; the sharp piercing, like spear fighting, translated here as “contention,” was so desperate between them that they departed asunder, and Barnabas took Mark; and Paul took Silas and went on his way [Acts 15:39-40].
Did Paul regret that? He surely did. In these after years, Paul wrote saying, “Bring Mark to me; for he is profitable in the gospel” [2 Timothy 4:11]. You see, these are the men, and they all have weaknesses. Simon Peter has weaknesses, the old carnal nature. And John and James have weaknesses, the old carnal nature. And the apostle Paul, God’s greatest extoller of the faith, has weaknesses, the old carnal nature. And you have that. And I have that.
“Well then, pastor, what do you do?” This is what you do. My sweet people, I have gotten over that so long ago, I cannot remember when it ever troubled me. If a great preacher that I know exhibits some poor weakness, or if a great denominational leader false into some tremendous weakness, or if you do, you see, we must keep our eyes upon Jesus. He is all right. I am not looking to that great preacher for my salvation. God bless him in whatever gifts he can command and dedicate them to Jesus. And if he has weaknesses, may the Lord be merciful as He was to Simon Peter [John 20:15-19].
And if there are weaknesses in your life, I don’t hate you for it. You see, I have them in mine. And we’re all alike. Our weaknesses may not be the same, but we all have them. But we are not looking to the church, are we? And we are not looking to the deacon, are we? And we are not looking to the denominational leader, are we? And we are not even looking to the pastor, are we? We are looking for Jesus. And there is no fault in Him. As Pilate says, “I find in Him no fault at all” [John 18:38]. He is all right.
That’s why we have peace with God and with one another. And when we fall into error and into weakness, let’s pray for one another. Let’s bear each other. Let’s be the first to forgive. Let’s be the last to remember, to hold a grudge. And in that sympathy and brotherly encouragement, may we walk together, growing in grace, our eyes fixed upon Jesus. Bless you, sweet people, as we pray for and love one another.
Our time is much spent. We are going to sing our song of appeal, and while we sing this song, a family you, a couple you, and as the choir sings tonight, one, somebody you, coming to the Lord. “Pastor, I have put my faith in Jesus, and I’m coming.” “I want to be baptized as it says in the Book” [Matthew 28:19-20]. Or, “Pastor, I have trusted the Lord. I have been baptized. I want to come and join my life with the saints in this church.” And we’ll pilgrimage together in glory. Make the decision now in your heart, and upon the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now. Make it now. When you stand up, stand up walking down that aisle, walking down that stairway. “Here I am, pastor, I’m on the way.” God bless you. Angels attend you as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
PREPARING PETER TO CATCH FISH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
B. To be used of God, he must be preparedII. His training through the years
A. The call(Luke 5:8, Matthew 4:19)
B. “Get thee behind Me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23)
C. Staying on the mountain (Matthew 17)
D. Denial, second calling (John 20, 21, Mark 14:30, Matthew 26:75)
E. Racial bias (Acts 10:6, 15-16)III. His inherent weakness
A. Old nature is still there(Galatians 2:11-15)
B. We are like that – a Christian, but old human nature still there
1. Pig’s heart and a lamb’s heart(Romans 7:16, 24, Galatians 5:17)
2. Violent temperIV. God’s use of the man, weakness and all
A. My difficulty as a young, idealistic preacher
B. Dr. J. B. Gambrell – “straight lick with a crooked stick”
1. Old Testament examples(Romans 4:2)
2. New Testament examples(Luke 9:54-56)
a. Paul vs. Barnabas (Acts 15:36-40, 2 Timothy 4:11)
C. We must keep our eyes on Jesus(John 18:38)