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PETER – CALLED, CONVICTED AND CONVERTED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 14, 2016

“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).


Ask the average preacher when Peter was converted. Go on! Do it! Nearly all of them will say Peter was converted when Christ called him to follow Him (Matthew 4:19). A few of them may say Peter was converted when he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus answered “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16, 17). But neither of those instances show Peter’s conversion. If Peter was converted by following Jesus, that would be salvation by works – so that cannot be Peter’s conversion. If Peter was converted when he confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, that would be conversion by doctrinal belief, by illumination. The demons knew what was revealed to Peter, for we read, “Devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God...for they knew that he was Christ” (Luke 4:41). So Peter’s understanding was no better than that of a demon! After careful study we are forced to say that Peter was not yet converted. He was stumbling around, trying to be a Christian, without being converted.

What a picture we have in Peter of so many evangelicals today! Like Peter, they are stumbling around – trying to follow Christ! They have some knowledge of who Christ is, but they are not any more converted than Peter was before Easter Sunday. Many preachers themselves are not converted! They try to follow Christ. They know that He is the Son of God. But they are blind to the reality of conversion. I think that is one of the main reasons there is so little preaching of the Gospel today. Most pastors waste their time trying to teach unconverted people how to live the Christian life! Ridiculous! How can a person who is “dead in sins” live a Christian life? (Ephesians 2:1, 5).

Many preachers are afraid to have someone else preach the Gospel to their people! I was scheduled to preach the Gospel in a church in the South. It was Mother’s Day. I thought I would preach a very soft sermon so I wouldn’t disturb anyone, since I was a guest at the church. I thought I would just give my own mother’s conversion testimony. I only spoke for about 12 to 15 minutes. I told the congregation how my sweet mother trusted Jesus and was saved. You would have thought I had preached for two hours on Hell from the reaction of the congregation! The pastor and his wife literally fled from the church without even shaking hands with me. The church people stood and looked at my wife and me like I had taught some strange new doctrine they had never heard! Finally one elderly woman came over and shook hands with us. She smiled and said, “That was a wonderful sermon. I haven’t heard a sermon like that for years!” It wasn’t a sermon at all! It was only a short 12 or 13 minute testimony of my sweet old mother’s conversion!

As my wife and I drove away I thought, “Is it really that bad? Here we are in the Deep South, in an independent fundamental Baptist church, and they were agitated and “blown away” by the simple story of my mother’s conversion!

In another fundamental Baptist church, I gave a short sermon on my own conversion. Afterwards an elderly woman asked my wife if she could get me to lead her aged husband to Christ. My wife suggested that she should ask her own pastor to lead the old man to Jesus. The woman said, “Oh, he won’t do it. I have asked him many times. I think he’s afraid of making my husband upset.”

Is it really that bad, Dr. Hymers? Oh, yes! It is truly horrible! Even the best pastors drone on and on, mouthing words, with no pathos, no emotion, no compassion – simply filling up a half-hour on Sunday morning, spooning out watery pablum to starving souls! The average evangelical pastor speaks like a half-dead Episcopal priest. Our Baptist pastors are no better. The people close their eyes and drift off to sleep during the so-called “expository” sermons. They offer no challenges to the young people and no hope to the lost. Pastors like that are nothing more than museum keepers! Nothing more than spiritual morticians! God help us! Our churches aren’t dying – they are dead! Who preaches the Blood-red Gospel now? Who thunders forth “You must be born again” now? Who dares to stand up for the message of the Cross and the conversion of sinners now? Some of the middle-aged ladies in the church might not like it! Oh, we mustn’t disturb those ladies! So our young people flee from the churches like rats swimming away from a sinking ship!

I am convinced that our churches will never make an impact on our nation without old-fashioned Gospel sermons! Our church is filled with college-age young people! I preach on sin – on Hell – and real conversion every Sunday! Young people from the world are mesmerized! They never heard anything like it! And we have many conversions among them. In the last couple of weeks we have had seven conversions – young people from non-Christian backgrounds.

One of the ways we can learn about real conversions is to study the conversions in the Bible. I am going to do that this morning. We are going to think about the conversion of Simon Peter. Peter was one of the greatest Christians of all time. But how was he converted? How did he become a Christian?

I. First, Peter was called.

The Gospel of Matthew says,

“Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20).

That was easy enough! Or so it seemed. Immediately they left their fishing nets, and followed Christ. Why was it so easy for Peter? The Bible says,

“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Psalm 110:3).

Those whom God has chosen to save are made willing to take the first step, as Peter did.

Just as I was writing this sentence my wife brought me a postcard from the garage. I recognized it right away. It had a photograph on it from my first church in Huntington Park. It was postmarked in the late 1950s, before I was converted. The card was from the Sunday School Superintendent, Mrs. Bocker. She wrote,

Dear Bob,

I do hope you are not ill, as so many of our people are. We miss you, so please come back, whatever your reason for staying away.

            Mrs. Bocker

That good woman was trying to get me to come back to church. I was just a teenager, fooling around. But I noticed the date on the card. Only a few months later you couldn’t have done anything to keep me out of church. What happened in those few months? I can only say that God called me with an effectual calling. I was made willing in the day of His power.

“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Psalm 110:3).

When God drew me, I didn’t need Mrs. Bocker or anyone else to try to get me back to church. When God’s power drew me, you couldn’t keep me out of church with a team of wild horses!

And that’s the way it was for Peter. He wasn’t saved yet. But neither was I when Mrs. Bocker sent me that card. God’s power made me willing – and so it was with Peter. He was still as lost as I was, but God made him willing to follow Jesus. And so Peter immediately left his fishing nets and followed Jesus. But it didn’t mean he was saved yet.

Did you ever wonder why some young people that we bring to church come in so quickly? It’s because God’s power drew them in. But it doesn’t mean they are saved yet. Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 20:16; 22:14). God calls many. He called you this morning. You gave us your name and phone number. That’s why we sent a car to pick you up. “Many are called” – just as you were called. “But few are chosen.” I don’t understand it all. But I do know by long experience, that if you are one of God’s elect, He will draw you back, and He will keep you here, and hold you here, until you are converted! If you are not one of God’s elect, sooner or later you will leave the church – for “many are called, but few are chosen”!

Saved by grace alone,
   This is all my plea.
Jesus died for all our sin,
   And Jesus died for me.
(“Grace! ‘Tis a Charming Sound” by Philip Doddridge, 1702-1751;
      chorus altered by Dr. Hymers).

II. Second, Peter was convicted.

I am skipping over the three years that Peter followed Jesus. Peter had many experiences during those three years. But the only thing that really had an impact on his life was his confession of who Jesus was. I mentioned it earlier, at the beginning of this sermon. Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” “Jesus answered and said unto him...flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16, 17).

This is called “illumination.” It can happen before conversion, during conversion, and after conversion! In Peter’s case God illuminated the truth of who Christ was before Peter was converted. That was what happened to me as well. For years I thought of Christ as a good man, who was killed as a martyr by His enemies. Only a few days before my conversion, God revealed to me that Jesus is God incarnate. It came to me while singing Charles Wesley’s hymn – “Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, should die for me?” That hymn illuminated my mind, though I was not converted yet. Neither was Peter!

Now turn to Luke 18:31-34 and you will see clearly that Peter and the other Disciples were not yet saved.

“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:31-34).

This is the third time Jesus explained the Gospel to Peter and the others. Christ would be scourged, and put to death, and the third day He would rise again from the dead. That is the Gospel – the basic message of Christianity, as proclaimed in I Corinthians 15:1-4. But Peter understood none of these things, and this saying was “hid from” him. Peter did not believe the Gospel! 

If you are still not saved – isn’t your case similar to Peter’s? You were “called” to this church. You were either brought here by your parents or someone else. You came to the birthday parties. You had lunch and dinner with us every Sunday. We even sent you out to evangelism. You heard me preach twice every Sunday. You heard me tell about Christ’s crucifixion, about His Blood, about how He rose from the dead. But your mind drifted off when I talked about the Blood of Christ and His resurrection. You heard it over and over but it didn’t “grab” you. It didn’t seem real or that important! Whatever you thought – it wasn’t clear why those things were so important. You are just like Peter was before he was convicted of sin!

“And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:33-34).

Now stand and turn in your Bible to Luke 22:31. It’s on page 1108 of the Scofield Study Bible.

“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).

You may be seated.

I have been reading a very interesting book titled, Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory (Baker Academic, 2012). It was written by Dr. Markus Bockmuehl. He is a professor of Biblical and Early Christian Studies at Oxford University in England. This famous scholar gets right to the point. He fearlessly shows us that Peter was still unconverted the night before Jesus was crucified. And he is exactly right! Other commentators hedge on this, or skip it. Not Dr. Bockmuehl! He explains it clearly! Listen to him.

“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).

Dr. Bockmuehl said,

“There is clearly a reference here to Peter’s [soon coming] struggle against Satan, in which he will be severely tested [and fail], hence the talk of ‘turning back.’ It is worth stressing here that ‘when you have turned again,’ though favored by many translators, has no support in the Greek” (Dr. Bockmuehl, ibid., pp. 156, 157).

Thus the NIV, NASV, ESV and other modern translations are wrong. “Talk of ‘turning back’ though favored by many translators, has no support in the Greek.” Dr. Bockmuehl goes on to say that the Greek word “epistrephō” must be translated as “converted” here. So, once again, I find that the KJV is correct and the modern translations are confusing! But Dr. Bockmuehl goes on,

“When, where, or how does Peter’s turning [conversion] occur? It is here that we come to the nub of the problem. Even on the last night of his ministry, Luke’s Jesus [still speaks of] Peter’s conversion as in the future” (ibid., p. 156).

“In Luke 22:32 the conversion of Peter appears to lie in the future” (ibid.).

When thou art converted [future]” (ibid., p. 156). “Jesus evidently looks forward to Peter’s conversion as something still in the future” (ibid., p. 158).

But Peter is confident that he doesn’t need to be converted. He says,

“Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33).

Jesus answers, “Peter, the cock [rooster] shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me” (Luke 22:34). Peter thinks he can stand against the Devil and live for Christ without being converted (epistrephō). How wrong he is! And how wrong you are!

They arrest Jesus and drag Him to the high priest’s house. “Peter followed afar off” (Luke 22:54). Peter sat down among the people outside. A young girl said, “This man was also with [Jesus]” (Luke 22:56). Peter said, “I know him not.” After a while a man said that Peter was one of Christ’s followers. Peter said, “Man, I am not.” After another hour a third person pointed at Peter and said, “This fellow was with him.” Peter said, “Man, I know not what thou sayest.” While Peter was still speaking the rooster crowed.

My wife and I have been to the place in Jerusalem where this happened. The guide showed us where Jesus stood and where Peter stood. And Jesus turned His head and looked at Peter. And Peter looked into the eyes of Jesus.

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

Now, at last Peter is under conviction of sin. There is no hope of you having a real conversion until you have an experience of conviction at least somewhat like Peter had.

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

III. Third, Peter was converted.

Please turn to Luke 24:34. It seems like an insignificant verse, but Dr. Bockmuehl says this is when Peter was converted. “Jesus turns and gazes at Peter to convict him of his guilt (Luke 22:61), and Peter’s Easter morning seeing of Jesus (Luke 24:34) turns him from darkness to light” (Bockmuehl, p. 163). The Apostle Paul also tells us about Peter’s Easter morning meeting with Jesus. Paul says, “And...he was seen of Cephas [Peter], then of the twelve” (I Corinthians 15:5).

Why does the Bible tell us so much about Peter’s call, his stumbling, his lack of faith, and his blindness concerning the Gospel and the suffering of Jesus? Why does it spend a whole chapter telling us about Peter denying Christ and weeping bitterly under conviction? And then, after all that, it gives us only one little verse to show Peter’s conversion, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon [Peter].” Why – because the stumbling and the conviction are the most important things in a real conversion. Until you are brought to the place where you have gone “out, and wept bitterly” for your sin, there is little hope for you. Until you feel as Peter did, the Gospel will mean nothing to you! You will almost certainly die in your sins. You have to feel your need for Jesus before you will trust Him and be cleansed from your sin by His Blood. Amen.

If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Luke 22:31-34.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Grace! ‘Tis a Charming Sound” (by Philip Doddridge, 1702-1751;
chorus altered by Dr. Hymers).


THE OUTLINE OF

PETER – CALLED, CONVICTED AND CONVERTED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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).

(Matthew 4:19; 16:16, 17; Luke 4:41; Ephesians 2:1, 5)

I.   First, Peter was called, Matthew 4:18-20; Psalm 110:3;
Matthew 20:16; 22:14.

II.  Second, Peter was convicted, Matthew 16:16, 17; Luke 18:31-34;
Luke 22:31-34; 54, 56, 62.

III. Third, Peter was converted, Luke 24:34; I Corinthians 15:5.