The opposite of courage, part 4 - Peter

Tenth in the COURAGE series

In our final example of "the opposite of courage," let's look at Peter's denial of Christ.

Jesus said, Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Mat 10:32-33)

In the Greek, the meaning of "confess" is: to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent; not to deny; to profess, declare openly, profess one's self the worshipper of one; to praise, celebrate.

Confessing Christ is a key to salvation. Paul explains: …if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Rom 10:9)

The Pharisees understood the power and efficacy of confessing Christ and threatened any who did (John 12:42-43); that is why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night.

Peter understood the awful sin he had committed. He had been on the mountain and had seen Christ transfigured. (Mat 17:2) He was first among the apostles to proclaim, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. (Mat 26:35) And he had been first to confess: (Mat 16:16) Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God. How could he have denied his Master and Savior? How?

He had help.

Satan demanded to sift him. "Sift" is used in the Old Testament (Isaiah30:28; Amos9:9) and New (Luke 22:31). It means: to move to and fro, wave, shake, shake in a sieve. In Strong's concordance a figurative meaning is noted, by inward agitation to try one's faith to the verge of overthrow.

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. (Luke 22:31-34)

This brings up a number of questions.

  1. Who is Satan?
  2. Why does God listen to any of his demands, much less permit them?
  3. How did Jesus know Peter would deny him three times?
  4. Do you and I have any control over our own courage?

First question answered: Satan is the adversary. In Vine's Expository Dictionary, we find he is "the prince of evil spirits, the inveterate adversary of God and Christ; he incites apostasy from God and to sin; circumventing men by his wiles; the worshippers of idols are said to be under his control; by his demons he is able to take possession of men and inflict them with diseases; by God's assistance he is overcome" …

Satan is mentioned once in the Westminster Confession, in Chapter 5, section 6, regarding the Providence of God; however it is section 5 that is pertinent, answering question two, and referencing Peter's denial:

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption, and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

The Confession can also give us a good answer to the third question, in Chapter 5, Sections 1 and 4:

I. God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.
IV. The Almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not be a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

Finally, regarding question four, Do you and I have any control over our own courage?— read Chapter 9 of the Westminster Confession.

The only way we can increase in our capacity for courage is to grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of the Lord.

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