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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

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

“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”
(Luke 22:32).

The NIV, and most other modern translations, put it differently. They say, “When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (NIV). This morning I told you that a renowned New Testament scholar disagrees with them. I told you that Dr. Markus Bockmuehl said, “‘When you have turned again [or turned back],’ though favored by many translators, has no support in the Greek” (Markus Bockmuehl, Ph.D., Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory, Baker Academic, 2012, p. 156). He went on to show that the Greek word “epistrephō” means “converted” in the Gospel of Luke (ibid.). Dr. Bockmuehl is a professor of Biblical and Early Christian Studies at the University of Oxford. He points out that Peter was converted when he went through conviction of sin and encountered the risen Christ. That has always been my view, but I was glad to see it backed up by an Oxford scholar! Once again, the KJV is right and the modern translations are wrong.

Why are the modern translators wrong? It is because they do not understand “conversion.” They think of it in terms of a “decision.” But the old KJV translators knew about real conversions – so they translated “epistrephō” correctly – as “converted.”

“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).

This is a great text, and I am going to draw out two points from it. 

I. First, Christ spoke of the real conversion that Peter would have.

The first part of conversion is the convicting work of God’s Spirit.

“When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).

The Puritan author William Guthrie (1620-1665) said,

“Ordinarily the Lord prepareth His own way in the soul by a work of humiliation, and discovereth a man’s sin and misery to him, and exerciseth him so therewith, that he longs for the physician Christ Jesus” (William Guthrie, The Christian’s Great Interest, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1969 reprint, page 193).

That is what happened to Peter the night before Christ’s crucifixion. The words “when thou art converted...” show that Peter was not yet converted, even though he had followed Christ for about three years. On that night, which some call “Good Friday,” Peter was at last made to see that he was a proud and self-righteous sinner. He pretended to love Jesus with all his heart. But he denied the Lord when he was tested. A young girl said he was a follower of Christ. Peter denied Christ. Another young girl said, “This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth” (Matthew 26:71). Peter cursed and swore, “I do not know the man” (26:72). In effect Peter said, “If I am lying, may I be cursed” (Thomas Hale).

Jesus told Peter he would deny Him three times before a rooster crowed. Just then a rooster did crow! “And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). The Greek word for “wept” means “to wail aloud, to sob” (Strong). The Greek word for “bitterly” is “pikrōs.” It means “violently” (Strong). I do not say that everyone who experiences evangelical conviction wails and sobs violently. But we usually see tears in the eyes of those under conviction. And in real classical revivals there is often wailing and violent weeping by those under conviction. I have watched videos of the great revival going on in China where dozens of people at a time are seen weeping bitterly, under conviction of sin. In the Cornish revival of 1823 in England, William Carvosso spoke of lost people “falling down on their knees in distress of souls, agonizing with God for their soul’s salvation” (Paul E. Cook, Fire From Heaven, p. 87). This happens often today in China and other Third World countries, when God sends down revival. Even here, in our Godless and materialistic country of America, I saw hundreds of young people weeping under deep conviction of sin in a revival in the late 1960s. And even now, in our own church, tears come to the eyes of those who enter our inquiry room under conviction of sin. The most unlikely people, quiet introverts, are often the ones who weep the most when the Spirit of God causes them to see their sins in deep bitterness. Mark - they are not sorry for themselves. If you are sorry for yourself you will not be converted. It must be sorrow for your sin

This is nothing new. Peter was not the only one who went through conviction before he was converted. The Apostle Paul also went through this. Paul was so convicted he could say,

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

Conviction of sin even happened to three thousand people on the day of Pentecost.

“They were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

The old-time commentator Matthew Henry said, “Sinners, when their eyes are opened, cannot but be pricked to the heart for sin...Those who are truly sorry for their sins, and ashamed of them, are afraid of the consequences of them, are pricked to the heart... ‘All my good opinions of myself and confidence in myself failed me’” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible; note on Acts 2:37). People wept when they were under God-given conviction. A sinful woman stood behind Jesus weeping. “And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).

Converts in olden times were expected to come to Jesus with strong conviction of sin. Not only Peter and Paul, but most others as well. Read the conversion of Augustine. Read the conversion of Luther. Read the conversion of John Bunyan, of George Whitefield, John Wesley, Howell Harris, Spurgeon, the young people on the Isle of Lewis in 1949-52. All alike begin with a deep conviction of sin. I heard one girl say, “I was so disgusted with myself” before she trusted Jesus.

Listen now to Peter Boehler’s letter to Count Zinzendorf regarding the conversion of John Wesley.

He arose and said, “Let us sing hymn number 456, ‘My Soul Before Thee Prostrate Lies.’” During the singing he frequently wiped tears from his eyes, and immediately after called me into his bedroom and confessed that he was now convinced of the truth of what I had told him about [saving] faith and he would no longer dispute it, but that he had not attained this grace. How was he to secure such faith? He had not sinned as grossly as others. I replied that not to believe in the Saviour was sin enough, and exhorted him to seek Christ, until he had found him. I was strongly moved to pray for him and called on the Redeemer to have mercy on this sinner. After the prayer Wesley said that when the gift of saving faith was his, he would preach on no other subject... I earnestly begged him not to think of the Saviour’s grace as far off and in the future, but to believe that it was present, near to him, that the heart of Jesus was open and his love for him very great. He wept bitterly and asked me to pray with him. I can truly say that John Wesley is a poor, heart-broken sinner, hungering after a better righteousness, than that which he has thus far had, even the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In the evening he preached on I Corinthians 1:23, 24, “we preach Christ crucified...” He had more than four thousand hearers and spoke in such a way that all were amazed...His first words were, “I sincerely confess myself unworthy to preach to you of the crucified Jesus.” Many were awakened by this sermon (quoted in John Greenfield, When the Spirit Came: The Moravian Revival, Strategic Press, no date, p. 28).

There stands John Wesley, with tears streaming down his cheeks, preaching salvation by Christ – before he himself was converted! More than fifty years later, as he lay dying, they heard him whisper again and again,

I the chief of sinners am,
But Jesus died for me.

That was the experience Peter had the night Jesus was arrested. Dr. Thomas Hale gave this anecdote,

It was said by an ancient writer that for the rest of his life, whenever Peter heard a rooster crow, he wept, because he remembered the night he denied his Lord (Thomas Hale, M.D., The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1997, p. 286; note on Mark 14:72).

II. Second, Christ spoke of what Peter would do after his conversion.

“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “Peter was later able to strengthen his brethren. The man who is tested is the man who is really able to help others” (Thru the Bible; note on Luke 22:32). The man who has been through conviction of sin is the man who can help others who are convicted of sin. The man who has been saved by Jesus is the man who can help others be saved by Jesus. The man who knows how weak he is can help others who are weak.

I have always loved John Wesley. One of the reasons I love him is because, like me, he thought he could be saved by living a strict life. That was exactly what I thought. He told a Moravian missionary, Peter Boehler, that he did not have saving faith. Boehler said Wesley thought, “How was he to secure such faith? He had not sinned as grossly as others.” That was Wesley’s stumblingblock, and it was mine. Boehler told him that not trusting Jesus was sin enough. “He wept bitterly and asked me to pray for him.” After he was saved by Jesus, John Wesley spent the rest of his life helping lost sinners and strengthening the brethren. He traveled on horseback for 4,500 miles every year, and preached two or more sermons every day, for the rest of his life! The hymn Mr. Griffith sang a moment ago could well have been written by Wesley.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
   Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
   Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
   Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

Sing the chorus with me!

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
   Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
(“Rescue the Perishing” by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).

“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).

How can we tell when someone is truly converted? How can you tell if they are really saved? “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” When you are converted Christ changes your desires. What you loved before you will love less than you love the brethren. You will love the church with all your heart. You will love true Christians with all your soul. You will want to do all you can to strengthen them and help them. You will pray for them and help them and love them with a heart like that of Christ. The Apostle John made that very clear. He said,

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (I John 3:14).

That is one way to tell if you are converted. It is that you truly love the brothers and sisters in the church, and do all you can to help them. Look how Lara and Karen and other new girls help Mrs. Hymers! We cannot help but know they are converted!

But there is another way to tell if you are converted. Turn back in your Bible to Luke 14. It’s on page 1096 of the Scofield Study Bible. This is the parable of the Great Supper. The “man” who made the great supper is Christ. The servant that He sent out to invite people is the true Christian. Now look at what Jesus says to the true Christian. It is in verse 23. Stand and read it out loud.

“And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

You may be seated. Take a pencil or pen and underline the words “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). That’s what we do every Thursday night, every Saturday night, and every Sunday afternoon. We send everyone out to win souls.

But I find that there are some who stand around and talk, or do something else to fill up the time. So they never bring in a name for us to follow up on, or they bring in very few names. What is the matter with people who don’t bring in names? One of two things: either they are lost, or they are backslidden. The good Christians go after lost people. The unsaved and the backslidden fool around and fill in the time. If you are that backslidden, watch out! You will lose the joy of your salvation if you don’t repent. Jesus says to you, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works” (Revelation 2:5). “Do the first works.” Go back to soul winning. Bring in names. Do the first works the way you used to do.

But there are some of you that have never done that. You never wanted to do it, and you don’t do it now. Your eyes glaze over and your face gets hard. And you think, “He’s never going to get me to do that!” Why not? Well, it’s plain to see that you are not converted. You are waiting for us to “teach” you how to be converted while you have no intention of obeying Christ. Christ says, “Compel them to come in” – but you say, “No! I will not obey Christ!” Poor fellow! Poor girl! You will never find peace and joy in Jesus that way!

There are hundreds of lost and lonely young people in this great city. They are waiting for someone to be kind to them, to take an interest in them, to show them a better way. But you cannot help them if you yourself are lost. For their sake, I plead with you to repent and trust Jesus. Come to Jesus by faith. Entrust your life to His care. He will save you. He will wash you clean from sin with His Blood. And He will send you out to bring in the lost and to help the brethren!

“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).

Please stand and sing hymn number six on your song sheet.

Hark! ’tis the Shepherd’s voice I hear,
   Out in the desert dark and drear,
Calling the sheep who’ve gone astray
   Far from the Shepherd’s fold away.
Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.

Who’ll go and help this Shepherd kind,
   Help Him the wandering ones to find?
Who’ll bring the lost ones to the fold,
   Where they’ll be sheltered from the cold?
Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.

Out in the desert hear their cry,
   Out on the mountains wild and high;
Hark! ’tis the Master speaks to thee,
    “Go find My sheep where’er they be.”
Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.

Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer. Amen.

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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:
“Rescue the Perishing” (by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”
(Luke 22:32).

I.   First, Christ spoke of the real conversion that Peter would
have, John 16:8; Matthew 26:71, 72; Luke 22:62;
Romans 7:24; Acts 2:37; Luke 7:48; I Corinthians 1:23-24.

II.  Second, Christ spoke of what Peter would do after his
conversion, I John 3:14; Luke 14:23; Revelation 2:5.