July 11th, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
Death, Forgiveness, Mercy, Peter, Repentance, Salvation, Soteriology, Great Doctrines of the Bible: Soteriology (early svc), 1982, Luke
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Luke 22:54 – 63
7-11-82 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on KCBI. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled True Repentance. It is one in the series on soteriology: the doctrine of salvation. And our passage is Luke chapter 22, beginning at verse 54, Luke 22, beginning at verse 54:
And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with Him. And Peter denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with Him: for he is a Galilean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
This man Simon Peter was a bold and self-confident and presumptuous individual. He was very vocal and declamatory. For example, in Matthew [16:21-23], when the Lord said that He was to be crucified, He was to die, why, Peter said God does not know what He is doing: "That be far from Thee; that shall not be unto Thee." He knows more what ought to be done than God knows; and Jesus called him Satan. Jesus said to Peter, "Get thee behind Me, Satan: for you do not know the things of God, but just those of men" [Matthew 16:23]. That is Simon Peter.
When the Lord made the announcement in Matthew 26 that all of those disciples would forsake Him that night, Peter answered and said unto Him, "Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, I will never be offended." And Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto you, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice." And Peter says in his self-confident presumption, "Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee" [Matthew 26:31-35]. That is Simon Peter.
Can you imagine, therefore, the shattering, crushing, despairing, defeating realization that came over him when, with cursing and swearing, he three times denied that he even knew the Lord? [Luke 22:54-60]. And going out, weeping bitterly over his denial [Luke 22:62]: I can’t describe what must have crushed that big bold fisherman. The Lord had been so good to him. When he was sinking, He lifted him up [Matthew 14:25-31]. A cursing, vile, bold sinner, the Lord had forgiven him and sent him out [Mark 6:7]; He had placed hope in his heart [John 6:68], and now, he has denied the very Lord who saved him and set his feet on a rock [Matthew 16:18].
It was crushing. And I can well imagine all that night and the next day, when the Lord was crucified, all day Friday, and the Sabbath day that followed, all day Saturday, the depths of grief and despair of that bold, big fisherman. It seems as I read the Bible that God’s saints all experience something like that, the depths of despair when they look at the depravity inside their souls.
For example, Job, whom God said was the best man in the whole world [Job 1:8; 2:3], in the forty-second chapter of Job, he says, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee: Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" [Job 42:5-6]. In the fifty-first chapter of the Book of Psalms, "I acknowledge," says David, "my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me [Psalm 51:3, 5], a sinner from the day I was conceived." Listen to Isaiah when he saw the glory of the Lord. "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am unclean; I am a man of unclean lips" [Isaiah 6:5]. He uses those words in Leviticus 13:45 that describe the leper. Wherever the leper appeared, he was to put his hand over his lips and cry, "Unclean! Unclean!" Isaiah uses that to describe himself before the holiness and the glory of God [Isaiah 6:5].
In Daniel, the righteous statesman prophet, "I set my face unto the Lord God, by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed, O my God. . .we have sinned" [Daniel 9:3-5]. And when I turn to Romans, this great apostle Paul, "For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. When I would do good, evil is present with me. O, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" [Romans 7:19-24].
And what I read in the Bible, I read also in the lives of the saints. The more saintly the man becomes, the more conscious he is of the depths of depravity in his soul. Martin Luther cried, "Oh, my sin! My sin!" Yet in the confessional, he had nothing to confess. Jonathan Edwards said, "I can hardly bear to look at the infinitude of wickedness, and pride, and deceit, and hypocrisy, in my heart!" And the sainted Dr. A. J. Garden, when time came for him to die, asked to be left alone, and the people overheard him confessing his sin in such extravagant terms as to persuade them that he was delirious.
Whether it is in the Bible, reading of the great men of God in the Word of the Holy Scriptures, or whether we read in the lives of God’s great saints, it is the same testimony: in the presence of the Lord, they find themselves in the depths of the confession of sin.
Now, in my text in my story, while the great apostle, the rock, Simon, petros [John 1:42, Matthew 16:18], while he was swearing and cursing and denying the Lord, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And he went out and wept bitterly [Luke 22:61-62]. The love in the eyes of the Savior, and the loving, tender, forgiving spirit evidenced in that look, broke his heart. It crushed him. It shattered him. Then he went out and wept bitterly.
The abiding, sustaining, forgiving love of our Savior will break any man down, if he will consider it. How is the spirit of our Lord toward those who are sinners? "Go your way," says this angel at the tomb of our resurrected Lord, "Go your way, tell His disciplesand Peter" [Mark 16:7]. Isn’t that remarkable? "Tell the disciples – and Peter – that I am raised from among the dead. And I go before you, and I will see you in Galilee" [Mark 16:7]. Can you think through that scene that followed? When those women who had seen our raised, and resurrected, and immortalized, and glorified Lord God, when they had seen Him standing before the tomb [John 20:4-6], and they run and tell Simon Peter "The Lord is risen indeed. And He said for us to make the announcement to the disciples – and to Peter." And Peter says, "To me? To me?" And the women say, "Yes. You! You! You! Simon Peter" [Mark 16:7].
In the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke [verse 34], Doctor Luke says that Jesus arranged for a personal interview, a personal appearance, with Simon Peter [Luke 24:34]. And in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul says that, that the Lord personally, privately, appeared to Simon Peter [1 Corinthians 15:5]. I guess it would be impossible for us to enter into that scene, when this cursing, swearing fisherman had his personal conference with the Lord. There are some scenes that are omitted in the Bible, they are not described.
I remember one that is. In the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of John, that entire chapter is an addendum: John writing in tribute to his old friend, Simon Peter, when the Lord talks to him by that breakfast in the early hour in the morning and, turning to Simon Peter says, "Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou Me?" And that big, cursing fisherman, who had denied the Lord, answered, "Lord, You know that I love You." Three times He asks it. Three times Peter avows it [John 21:15-17]. Isn’t that a glorious thing? A wonderful thing? Too precious and too wonderful for words: the loving, caring, forgiving spirit of God for us sinners.
And the Bible simply places under tribute the whole Word of God and all the imagery that hyperbole can command to describe what God does with our sins. In Psalm 103:12: "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us." How far is that? As far as the east goes east and the west goes west – just so far has God removed our transgressions from us.
Look again as the Lord shall say in Isaiah 38: "For Thou has cast all my sins behind Thy back" [Isaiah 38:17]. Far, far, far away. Look again as the Lord will say, "He hath blotted out thy transgressions" [Isaiah 43:25]. Look again as the Lord says in Isaiah, "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins" [Isaiah 44:22]. Look again as the Lord shall say in Jeremiah 31, "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" [Jeremiah 31:34]. How do you believe that? A thousand times a thousand times, in my pastoral work do people recount to me their sin.
And I say to them, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" [1 John 1:9]. And God says, "I will remember them no more" [Hebrews 8:12]. And you’ve been confessing this sin before God for thirty, forty, or fifty years. And God says, "I do not even know what you are talking about. I do not even remember it." That is, He says that. God says that. "I will remember your sin no more" [Hebrews 8:12].
Again, in Micah 7:19, "I will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." And the whole New Testament is the announcement: we are to call His name lesous, Joshua, Jesus, Savior: for He shall save His people from their sins [Matthew 1:21]. That’s one of the hardest things to believe: that Jesus forgives sins. He washes them away [1 John 1;7, Revelation 1:5]. He remembers them no more [Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:12]. He has removed them as far as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12].
This last week a pastor came to see me, and seated there in my study here in the church, he said, "I want to talk to you about something that burdens my heart, and I don’t know where to turn. And I don’t know what to do." He said to me, "Before I was saved, before I became a Christian, and before my wife was saved, before she became a Christian, we lived together. And in that living together, she conceived and gave birth to a baby boy. Then," he said, "I was saved and became a Christian, and my wife was saved and she became a Christian, and God called me into the ministry, and I am now a pastor."
He said, "That baby boy now is thirteen years of age. And," he said, "every time I see that boy, every time I look in his face, I think in my heart he was conceived in sin. And I don’t know where to turn, and I don’t know what to do, and the burden becomes intolerable." Like a Christian visitor, every day, coming to see a dying man and asked every day, "is there anything I can do?" And the man would reply, "No. Nothing at all." And that was repeated every day, the Christian saying "is there anything that I can do?" And the man replying, "There is nothing." And just before he died, when the Christian visitor asked, saying, "is there anything that I can do?" He said, "No, there’s nothing that you can do. But tell me, tell me, is there anything you can undo?"
Is not that the experience of all of us human mortals? Is there anything you can undo? And that God-blessed pastor; I just shared with him what God says. That is the reason Jesus came into the world: to save sinners, of whom I am chief [1 Timothy 1:15]. That’s the gospel. That’s the preaching. That’s the Book. That’s the whole sum and substance of the message.
In this last few minutes may I point out the reaction that different people have toward the face of sin, and death, and the judgment? Whether they place it in theological language or in preacher talk, or in pulpit words, or not, it is universal: sinners flee, all of us flee before the face of the judgement of death. All of us.
I was in the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City and saw a picture there that, ah, it made an impression on me! It was a picture of a race track, and there were two horses running; a man on the front horse, and death, a skeleton with his scythe on the second horse, and the man on the first horse looking over his shoulder at the approaching victor in the race. All of us are like that, and our reaction to it – we flee. We cannot but dread the judgment of death upon our sin.
Death, God says, is an enemy [1 Corinthians 15:26]. It’s a judgment. And how do we face it? All humanity, how? Here are several ways. Some face it with the abandon; "I don’t have very long to live, I’m going to get the most out of life that I can. Gonna squeeze every drop out of it because it’s so brief." So, they drink, and they seek entertainment, and they live in promiscuity. They do anything to drown the reality. That is one way. There’s an eternity of difference in how you face that inevitable judgment of death.
Some face it seeking to buy off, with cheap pawns of outward good works, the judgement inevitable. Like thieves giving penance, giving a part of their ill-gotten gains to charity; or like the race tracks running the seventh race for charity; or like those two bank robbers who, killing the president of the bank in the robbery, rushing away, stopped at a joint on the roadside to eat. And while they were eating, one of the robbers said to the other, "This is Friday," and he pushes the meat away.
I watched, in a log sawmill in Louisiana, I watched a very, very crooked log, and as they ran the thing through the mill, they slabbed off four sides – cut off a slab that side, cut off a slab this side, this side, this side – and the log was square and straight. But I looked at it, and the heart of it was as crooked as it ever was.
Some face that inevitable judgment with procrastination, delay. "Just before I die, I’ll repent. I’ll ask the forgiveness of God, I’ll seek His face." I wonder what those one hundred fifty-one people on Pan-American flight number 579 Friday, going to Las Vegas, I wonder what they think. God says, "You do not know what any tomorrow may ever bring" [James 4:14].
Satan persuades us that "If I give my heart to Christ, I’m going to miss the good things in life, so I’m going to enjoy life to the fullest. Then, just before I die, I will repent and ask God to save me"; he deceives us. For, God says, the good life, the full life, the abundant life is the Christian life [John 10:10], not the life of the world.
There was a man at a testimony meeting listening to those who had testified before him, as they said how much they had given up for Jesus. And this man stood up, and he said, "I also have given up for Jesus." He said, "I was a drunkard and spent my money on a liquor bill and lived with dark brown hangovers and hallucinations; I gave that up for Jesus!" He said, "I lived in a wrecked and wretched home and would come and see my wife crying; I gave that up for Jesus!" He said, "My children would cringe in fear when I would enter the door; I gave that up for Jesus!" And he said, "My little ones I was leading to hell, and I gave that up for Jesus!" He said, "I had a filthy mind and a filthy mouth, and I gave that up for Jesus!" And he said, "I lost my paycheck to the gamblers and I lived in debt; I gave that up for Jesus!" He said, "I had chains of slavery to sin, and I gave them up for Jesus!" He said, "I’m now a free man. I’ve been liberated. I’ve been saved. Jesus saves."
Sin damns! Satan damns! Death damns! The grave damns! The flesh damns! The world damns! But Jesus saves.
We have heard the joyful sound:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free;
Highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
["Jesus saves," Priscilla J. Owens]
And to the man who will turn, like Simon Peter, God has for him the gift of eternal life: now, tomorrow, forever, into the world to come [John 10:27-30].
May we stand together?
What a glorious gospel! What a marvellous announcement! What a wondrous reality! Jesus saves! [Acts 16:31]. God is our friend. He is on our side. He delivers us from the judgment of sin, and death, and the grave. Jesus saves [1 Corinthians 15:54-57]. While our people stand in the presence of the Lord, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you: "This day, I open my heart toward Him." When we sing our song in this moment, in the balcony, down one of those stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor; "I’m coming this morning, pastor."
God bless them, they’re already coming. Thank Thee, Lord, for this sweet harvest, in Thy precious name, amen.
While we sing, welcome. Welcome. Welcome.