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PETER UNDER CONVICTION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, March 28, 2015

“And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).


The night before Jesus was crucified He took His Disciples to “a large upper room” (Luke 22:12) where they ate the Passover meal together. At the end of the meal Jesus took bread and a cup and instituted the Lord’s Supper. Jesus then told them that “one of you shall betray me” (Matthew 26:21). Then Judas “went immediately out: and it was night” (John 13:30). A few minutes later the Disciples once again quarreled over “which of them should be greatest” (cf. Luke 9:46). Dr. McGee said, “Can you imagine that? Right in the shadow of the cross these men were grasping for position” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 345; note on Luke 22:24).

They still did not understand that Jesus was going to the Cross, even though He had told them about it five times in the Gospel of Matthew (16:21; 17:12; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; 20:28). I agree with Dr. McGee that the Disciples were not born again (regenerated) until they encountered the resurrected Christ on Easter evening (note on John 20:21). (Click here to read my sermons – “The Fear of the Disciples,” “This Saying Was Hid From Them” and “The Conversion of Peter.”)

Peter was especially opposed to the Gospel. He had some illumination from the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus (Matthew 16:15-17) – yet he rebuked Jesus for saying He would be “be killed, and be raised again the third day.” Thus, Peter strongly rejected the Gospel! Matthew tells us,

“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:21-23).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee gave these comments on that passage,

For the first time the Lord Jesus announces to His disciples His death and resurrection. The time was approximately six months before He was actually crucified. Why did He wait so long to make such an important announcement? Obviously, His disciples were not prepared for it, even at this time, judging from their reaction. He repeated five times the fact that He was going to Jerusalem to die (Matthew [16:21]; 17:12; 17:22-23; 20:18-29; 20:28). In spite of this intensive instruction, the disciples failed to grasp the significance of it... until after His resurrection (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D. Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 93; note on Matthew 16:21).

Dr. McGee said, “In essence, Peter said, ‘You are the Messiah; you are the Son of God. You must not, you cannot go to the cross!’ The cross was not in [his] thinking...at all, as you can see” (ibid., note on Matthew 16:22). Peter expected the Messiah to set up His Kingdom right then. He did not expect the Messiah to first suffer and die on the Cross as predicted in so many Old Testament prophecies (cf. Isaiah 53; Psalm 22; Zechariah 12:10; 13:6; etc.). I agree with Dr. McGee, that Peter’s utter rejection of the Gospel shows that he was not born again (regenerated) until after Christ rose from the dead. No one can be born again and converted who rejects the Gospel!

Now then, as we approach our text, we see the Disciples arguing about who would be “accounted the greatest.” Then we find Jesus spoke to Simon Peter,

“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. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me” (Luke 22:31-34).

Jesus said, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” But Peter did not think he needed to be converted! I believe it’s a mistake to think that Christ wasn’t speaking about Peter's conversion. He was not converted until Christ appeared to him and the other Disciples, and breathed the Holy Spirit into them on the evening that He rose from the dead (cf. John 20:22). Concerning this event Dr. McGee said that was when “these men were regenerated” (Thru the Bible, volume IV, note on John 20:22). I think we need to read this with “new eyes” in this time of “decisionism.”

Peter was too confident when he said, “I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.” But Jesus knew he couldn’t do that in his unconverted state. Jesus said to him, “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.” The lesson is this: you are not going to be able to stand against Satan until you are regenerated and converted!

Then Jesus took the Disciples out of the upper room into the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane where, “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). When Jesus came back from this lonely prayer, He found the Disciples asleep. While He was speaking to them, the temple police, led by Judas the traitor, sprang into the Garden and arrested Jesus. They hauled Jesus away to the high priest’s house, “And Peter followed afar off” (Luke 22:54). A fire was kindled outside the high priest’s residence. Peter sat down by the fire with a group of people. Then a young girl said, “This man was also with [Jesus]” (Luke 22:56). Peter denied Jesus by saying, “Woman, I know him not” (Luke 22:57). A little later another person saw Peter and said, “Thou art also of them” – you are one of Jesus’ Disciples – “And Peter said, Man, I am not” (Luke 22:58). About an hour later another man said, “Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean” (Luke 22:59). And Peter said, “Man, I know not what thou sayest” (Luke 22:60). “Then began [Peter] to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man” (Matthew 26:74).

“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” (Luke 22:60-62).

Here is our text, “And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” Two lessons can be drawn from it – first, the cause of his conviction and, second, the cure for it.

I. First, the cause of Peter’s conviction.

Here we see Peter under conviction of sin. Dr. A. T. Robertson said, “He burst into tears. ‘Bitter’ is a common expression for tears in all languages and in all hearts” (A. T. Robertson, Litt.D., Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman Press, 1930, volume II, p. 276; note on Luke 22:62).

Dr. R. C. H. Lenski said, “Matthew and Luke [describe Peter’s] repentance with two words [eklause pikrōs], the verb denotes loud, audible weeping: ‘he sobbed bitterly.’ The adverb refers, not to the physical sobbing, but to the bitterness of the contrition that is back of it. Contrition includes the realization that we have sinned and the consequent genuine sorrow for our sin” (R. C. H. Lenski, Ph.D., The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 edition, p. 1091; note on Luke 22:62).

“And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).

That was godly sorrow,

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation”
       (II Corinthians 7:10).

This was conviction, sent to Peter by the Spirit of God,

“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin”
       (John 16:8).

Speaking on conviction of sin in general, Iain H. Murray said,

The Holy Ghost is come to convince of sin. It is absolutely necessary that man should be convinced of sin...[The Holy Spirit] comes on purpose to convince of sin, to make men feel that they are guilty, greatly guilty – so guilty that they are lost, ruined and undone. He comes to make sin appear sin, and to let us see [sin’s] fearful consequences. He comes to wound so that no human balm can heal; to kill so that no earthly power can make us live...There is a withering work of the Holy Spirit which we must experience, or we shall never know his quickening and restoring power. This withering is a most needful experience, and just now needs to be much insisted on. Today we have so many built up who were never pulled down; so many filled who were never emptied; so many exalted who were never humbled; that I the more earnestly remind you that the Holy Ghost must convince [you] of sin, or [you] cannot be saved. This work [of conviction] is most necessary, because without it there is no leading men to receive the Gospel of the grace of God...There is urgent need today for the recovery of the truth about conversion. A widespread controversy on this subject would be a healthy wind to blow away a thousand lesser things. A renewed fear of God would end much worldly thinking... (Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005 edition, pp. 66-67).

Click here to read my sermon, “The Withering Work of the Spirit.”

“And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).

Personally, I believe that this was when Peter came under old-evangelical conviction of sin. Yes, I know that much earlier Peter had said to Jesus, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). But it is one thing to think that you are sinful, and it is an entirely different thing to feel the terrible weight of your sin before the face of a holy God! I am convinced that Peter was not thoroughly convicted until this time.

“And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).

Not everyone weeps physical tears when he is converted. Yet Luther, and Bunyan, and Whitefield, and Wesley, and many thousands of people in times of revival have physically wept bitter tears. And I think one of the great things missing in today’s evangelism is the lack of any tears, and the lack of “godly sorrow [which] worketh repentance to salvation” (II Corinthians 7:10).

“And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).

One young man said, “Whenever I look at myself, I see myself as a sinner.” Ah, “seeing” that is one thing! But do you feel your sinfulness? Does it weigh you down and “wither” you, as Iain Murray said? Are you laboring and heavy laden under the burden of conviction of sin? Can you at least feel sadness in your heart when you think of your sin?

“And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).

The cause of Peter’s conviction was the Spirit of God.

II. Second, the cure for Peter’s conviction.

My time is gone. I can only touch this point briefly. Peter remained in a state of conviction for three days. He was in great turmoil of soul on Friday, Saturday and nearly all of Sunday (by Roman calculation). On Easter Sunday morning,

“Peter...ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass” (Luke 24:12).

Peter was still “wondering”; still he did not fully understand or believe the Gospel.

I believe it was when the risen Christ appeared to the eleven Disciples and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22), that Peter was finally born again and converted. Dr. McGee gave this comment on John 20:22,

It is true that Simon Peter [had] showed some discernment when he said that Jesus is the Christ, but it was just a few minutes later that he told Jesus not to go to the cross and die. I personally believe that at the moment our Lord breathed on them, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” these men were regenerated [born again]. Before this, they had not been indwelt by the Spirit of God (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., ibid., p. 498; note on John 20:22).

Like Dr. McGee, I believe that Peter was born again on Easter Sunday evening when Christ appeared to him and the others. It was then that Jesus Himself cured Peter’s conviction of sin.

Do you feel the weight of your sin? Has conviction of sin weighed you down and burdened you? Do you want to have your sin cleansed by the precious Blood of Christ?

The second stanza of Dr. John R. Rice’s gospel song, “Jesus, Only Jesus” could have been written by Peter!

My boasted goodness failed me, No cure for sin that ailed me,
   God’s Spirit then prevailed me To leave my sins on Jesus.
My sins are all forgiven, The chains of sin are riven,
   And all my heart is given, To Jesus, only Jesus.
(“Jesus, Only Jesus” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

If you feel sad and convicted of your sinful heart, and your sinful nature, the only cure is Jesus. As Dr. Rice said, “leave [your] sins on Jesus.” Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus, Only Jesus” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

PETER UNDER CONVICTION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).

(Luke 22:12; Matthew 26:21; John 13:30; Luke 9:46;
Matthew 16:21; 17:12; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; 20:28; 16:21-23;
Luke 22:31-34, 44, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60;
Matthew 26:74; Luke 22:60-62)

I.   First, the cause of Peter’s conviction, II Corinthians 7:10;
John 16:8; Luke 5:8.

II.  Second, the cure for Peter’s conviction, Luke 24:12;
John 20:22.