For years I enjoyed an unexceptional faith. The kind that believes in Jesus for Salvation as a form of fire insurance. Then there were the added benefits such as having a community of like-minded people, pleasant messages, worship music, and all of the wonderful promises in Scripture. I was happy to be in the sheepfold but I denied the Scripture FULL AUTHORITY in my life and made excuses for some attitudes I maintained. I remember being very disturbed about this scripture: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,‘ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV. How could this be? It was unsettling. The word lawlessness is iniquity (ἀνομία anomía). Hang on to that thought.
Iniquity is wickedness (breaking God’s law ignorantly or willfully) and originates from contempt. God’s law is to love God above all and others as yourself.
How can anyone truly have an assurance then? Assurance is so essential to be able to: (1) rest peacefully in Christ’s perfect work; (2) confidently understand God has so ordained the eternal sealing of a regenerated/born again heart (Ephesians 1:13-14); and (3) enjoyably and gratefully experience the grace needed to fulfill the predestined purpose of your life. Without understanding the assurance, the Holy Spirit’s seal is there but the enemy can rob you of the joy Christ offers (John 10:10). As I reflect on my prior life when I walked in darkness, I have come to understand that I have transgressed every single law of God in thought, word or deed – and- I am so eternally thankful for God’s resolution of my sin through Christ Jesus – removing my transgression from me as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:10-12, 18). I am redeemed! God’s grace is sufficient to see me home and I’m delighted with who He is making me to be!
Jesus never contradicts Himself. The Matthew 7:21-23 Scripture is precise. There will be those who applied much effort trying to earn salvation and some will have used the authority of the LORD – yet they had not entrusted their will and lives to the Jesus, the Son of God. I believe these people think they are good people. There are those who have desired the outcome of salvation without the relationship with Jesus as their LORD/Master. The journey to total surrender requires: (1) recognition of our individual depravity, and (2) total reliance on Him. I would rather stand before the LORD and say “I believed all of Your Word even where I did not understand” than stand before Him admitting I did not accept His Word. The consequences are eternal. Not accepting His Word is unbelief; it is gambling on another way.
The Apostle Peter who so mightily influenced the world by the LORD’s transformation of his mind and heart, started his journey no differently than you and I. You may believe that you have never denied the LORD but I’m pretty confident that at one time or another, we have all had a doubt, failure, or misaligned desire/goal that denied His Lordship. I believe God had purposed Peter’s temporary self-disillusionment for his and our good. Our LORD establishes the boundaries for His sheep. Some struggle with believing our good and gracious Father predestines difficulty or allows the tempter to test people. God’s goodness desires His glory and our good – and – He knows what it takes to achieve it. We choose how we will respond in a situation.
Scripture declares once a person has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, they are sealed with a guarantee of eternal life with God. 2Corinthians 1:21-22. If you have not confessed Jesus Christ as your personal LORD and Saviour, please visit https://desiringfruitfulness.ca and scroll down to the “THE WAY to Reconciliation with God” section for steps on how this is possible.
Background: Peter’s Personal Profile
We are first introduced to Peter in the Gospels. Jesus had been baptised by John the Baptist; driven by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil; John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod; and, then Jesus said, “follow Me” to Simon (Peter). Simon Peter and his brother Andrew were Jesus’ first disciples. (Matthew 4; Mark 1:1-18; Luke 5:2-11).
Simon Peter, a fisherman by trade, was a remarkable Jewish man who deeply desired to follow the Messiah and was passionate about learning from Jesus. It is clear that he was an upright, honourable man who hoped for his nation’s freedom and he did many good works in following Jesus. Jesus had called Peter. Was Peter saved at this point?
- born in Bethsaida, a town of Galilee, the son of Jonah (John 1:42) and was married (Matthew 8:14)
- the only disciple to walked on water (Matthew 14:28)
- the first disciple to know Jesus was “the Son of the living God”; foretold to help build Christ’s church (Matthew 16:16-20)
- rebuked firmly (with mention of Satan) for having an earthly perspective in defending the LORD when Jesus was revealing His purpose (Matthew 16:21-23)
- trusted with early revelation when Jesus permitted Peter to witness His transfiguration among Elijah and Moses (Matthew 17:1-12)
- counted responsible in preparing the final Passover meal (Luke 22:7) which is referred to in Christendom as the last supper (emblematic of the new covenant in His blood – Luke 22:14-20).
- numbered as loyal; requested to be watchful in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus was to be arrested (Matthew 26:36-46).
- was willing to fight the detachment of troops that were arresting Jesus; moved swiftly into action to resulting in the severing of Malcus’ (servant of the high priest) right ear (John 18:10).
Account: Peter’s Winnowing
Many people consider Peter’s denial of Christ as a failure that resulted from compounding inner pressure – and while it was that – I suggest that for Peter, it was a necessary testing to reveal his heart to him. We really should not judge Peter since all of the disciples fled and Jesus did not error in choosing Peter. Sometimes, we criticize those who “should be” – or – “seem to be” the strongest among us when they error (attaching our wounded); sometimes their point of failure is the weakness the LORD is strengthening through fire for a greater purpose (Malachi 3:1-3; Isaiah 1:25). This is why we ought to pray for our fellow believers which also purifies our thoughts. The LORD knew and permitted Simon Peter’s test and outcome. In fact, I suggest it was by design. Christ’s crucifixion was by God’s design from the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20). Jesus said… “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” – Luke 22:31-32 NKJV
Jesus and the disciples left the Passover meal and headed for the Garden of Gethsemane across the Kidron Valley on the Mount of Olives to pray. Before they arrived, Jesus forewarned them that they would all scatter. Peter believed he knew himself better than Jesus and did not really understand that Jesus (The Word) had already written about this through His prophets. Peter’s unrealized arrogance disguised as confident commitment enabled his defiance of the LORD’s will. We seldom recognize ignorance as out of line; instead, we make excuses for it because we are all guilty here. Peter had already seen miracles and confessed that Jesus was the Son of God, yet in this moment he believed his own will and strength would be sufficient. That he was right and Jesus was mistaken.
“All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.“ – Matthew 26:31 (which was prophesied in Zechariah 13:7).
“But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples. – Matthew 26:32-35 NKJV.
Later in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter used 1 of 2 swords to cut off Malcus’ right ear. Jesus even instigated the 2 swords to be taken to the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:38) and then taught the disciples not to fight with physical swords (Matthew 26:52). I believe Jesus never a lost teaching moment; instead, He set them up. Note to self – He doesn’t change. When we are faced with circumstances that seem confusing, we should ask the LORD to reveal the lesson and guide us through it.
Strong’s definitions for 3124 Μάλχος Málchos, mal’-khos is of Hebrew origin (H4429) and means king/kingdom. In the Bible there are no coincidences.
Peter did not scatter initially like the others. He sat outside in the courtyard unaware of the approaching test designed for him which was so subtle that it was undetectable to Peter:
Notice the growing intensity in the series of denials. Passion and zeal are powerful and must be directed intentionally. (Genesis 4:7; Galatians 5:22-23)
- A servant girl identified him as being with Jesus and he denied it.
- After he left that situation, he was approached by another girl who also pointed him out and for the 2nd time he denied Jesus but this time with an oath.
- A little later, some others approached him more accusingly at which point Peter began to curse and swear saying … “I do not know the Man!” – the 3rd denial.
Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly. – (Matthew 26: 69-75)
Climax: Convicting Confrontation Enables Change
After the crucifixion, on Sunday Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and another woman talked to an angel (Matthew 28:5, Luke 24:10) who told them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. …. “But go, tell His disciples–and Peter–that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” – Mark 16:6-7 NKJV. After the women had told the disciples, Peter ran to the tomb to validate it was empty (Luke 24:12). Afterwards, Jesus appeared to 7 of His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, Galilee where they were fishing (instigated by Peter). Jesus called to the disciples on their boats (John 21:1-14) and provided a breakfast when they came ashore.
He then said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” John 21:15a
- It is interesting that Jesus says “more than these“. These what? These people (other disciples, his family) – or – the fishing? I believe Peter knew exactly what Jesus was talking about, and I also believe when the Scripture does not specify something, it is intentional. We are to love Him above all else (first place/priority), so anything that is enjoyed or valued more than Him is another ‘god’. We prioritize what is important to us.
When Peter responded, Peter called Him LORD but he used the word Greek word ‘phileo’ in place of ‘agapao’.
- Notice Peter’s response “Yes, Lord; You know that I love(phileo) You.” (John 21:15b NKJV).
Jesus then tells Peter to, “Feed My lambs.” –John 21:15c NKJV.
- There is something very meaningful about Christ’s choice of the word “lamb” should you wish to examine this; there are other words for sheep as we will find later.
Jesus then repeats his question for the 2nd time omitting the “more than these”.
- Peter responds in the same manner.
Jesus tells Peter to, “Tend My sheep” in John 21:16
- The word Jesus used for love in the Greek based on Strong’s definitions G25 is ἀγαπάω agapáō, ag-ap-ah’-o which means to love much in a social or moral sense. – expanded more below.
- … love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. – Mark 12:30 NKJV
- Strong’s definitions G5368 φιλέω philéō, fil-eh’-o; from G5384; to be a friend to (fond of an individual or an object), i.e. have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while G25 is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety.
- Strong’s Number G721 matches the Greek ἀρνίον (arnion) which means “lamb” and occurs 30 times in 28 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV John 21:15, and Revelation 5:6, 8, 12-13; 6:1, 16; 7:9-10, 14, 17; 12:11; 13:8, 11; 14:1, 4, 10; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7, 9; 21:9, 14, 22-23, 27; 22:1, 3
- Strong’s Number G4263 matches the Greek πρόβατον (probaton), which occurs 41 times in 37 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV and means something that walks forward (a quadruped), i.e. (specially), a sheep (literally or figuratively):—sheep(-fold). Matthew 7:15; 9:36; 10:6, 16; 12:11-12; 15:24; 18:12; 25:32-33; 26:31; Mark 6:34; 14:27; Luke 15:4, 6; John 2:14-15; 10:1-4, 7-8, 11-13, 15-16, 26-27; 21:16-17; Acts 8:32; Romans 8:36; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; Revelation 18:13.
- In reviewing the two sets of scriptures for lambs and sheep, are there some interesting differences?
The 3rd and final time Jesus repeated his question, He replaced His use of ‘agapao’ with Peter’s choice word ‘phileo’ in John 21:17.
- Peter was sorrowful that Jesus asked him a 3rd time and he replied, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
- This was a very genuine and humbling moment when he recognized that Jesus Christ knew the heart of a person; that Christ was omniscient. There was no pretense or lip service.
Jesus then reinstated Peter as a disciple by first telling him the cost of his service to God and then repeating the call: “… This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” – John 21:18-19 NKJV
Outcome: Peter’s Purpose Realized
While Jesus groomed Peter for approximately 3 years, Peter was not saved until after the death and resurrection of our LORD. Once Jesus paid the redemption price, PROPITIATION was made, and reconciliation to God was complete. The sinner’s part is to accept the forgiveness by accepting Jesus as the new Master (which requires obedience). Peter, like every believer, had to believe in his heart (Romans 10:8-10) that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess Jesus as their LORD/Master which meant dying to the idol of self, and understand his own inability to save himself.
This predetermined interaction Jesus spoke of prior to His death provided Peter a personal Devine appointment to accept the personal redemption and confess Him with his mouth where others would know. And at the same time, Jesus was able to demonstrate to Peter that nothing he did was … able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord – Romans 8:38-39 NKJV.
Jesus completed His earthly ministry and started His Priestly ministry in making atonement unto salvation:
(The following were foreshadowed in the Jewish sacrificial system – a study for another time).
- Redemption (purchase back and deliverance from slavery on an individual basis) Romans 3:24; Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:7, 14; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:15 (Strong’s Definitions G629 ἀπολύτρωσις apolytrōsis)
- Propitiation (appeasement of the wrath of God against humanity’s sin). 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10 (Strong’s definitions G2435 hilastḗrion = mercy seat) Romans 3:25, Hebrews 9:5
- Atonement (reconciliation of the world to God) Romans 5:11; Romans 11:15; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (See Strong’s G2643 καταλλαγή katallagē; and H3722 כָּפַר kaphar) Genesis 6:14, Exodus 29:36-37
Jesus also said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 10:32-33 NKJV.
Previously Peter was confident in his ability to commit to Jesus for the cause of establishing Jesus’ earthly kingdom; he was willing to die for Him for that cause. Yet when he saw his beloved Messiah succumbing to the Romans, he lost his bravery and panicked. He applied his earthly agenda to Christ’s directive: “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give – Matthew 10:7-8 NKJV. He did not realize that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil primarily in the heart of man; to enable humanity to love God and love others without selfish motives which can only be accomplished through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:7-24). PRAISE GOD, HE IS RETURNING AGAIN TO PUT AN END TO EVIL.
Now – This should aid our understanding of Matthew 7:21-23. Please notice that Jesus had sent the disciples out before they had actually been saved. They were sent out with the Name of Jesus (the authority) that could heal, cast out demons, etc. The Name of Jesus would accomplish the work. The LORD will use both saved and lost to draw others to Him. When the Gospel is preached and the Word of God heard and read, souls will get saved. This is what He promised. His Word does not return unto Him void; it accomplishes what He pleases (Isaiah 55:11).
This explains how it will be possible for many to have done works in the Name of Jesus yet not have established a personal relationship with Jesus through faith. “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. … “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. “I and My Father are one.” – John 10:14, 27-30 NKJV
If believing God can be counted as righteousness; then unbelief is certainly counted as sin. Here are a few Scriptures that help us understand the lawlessness/iniquity the LORD mentioned in Matthew 7:21-23. The key words are rebellion, stubbornness, idolatry, and hypocrisy – 1 Samuel 15:23; Ezekiel 28:14-15, 17; Matthew 23:28; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 7 NKJV
“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. – Matthew 11:27 NKJV. “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. – John 5:21 NKJV. Jesus said …, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. – John 14:6 NKJV.
On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples, Jesus’ brothers (who cast away unbelief with the resurrection), Mary and other women were gathered together in one accord praying as Jesus had instructed just before He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:4-9, 12-14). They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages (Acts 2:1-4) and then Peter boldly delivers a sermon in front of a crowd overcoming fear of man.
- Peter’s Sermon quotes Joel 2:28–32, Psalm 16:8–11, and Psalm 110:1 as an explanation and then explains how the Holy Spirit indwells those who believe in the risen Saviour. Approximately 3000 souls repented by quoting Scripture (Acts 2:38-43 NKJV).
Conclusion – Assurance is Believing God – He Does It
Peter’s story demonstrates how God’s eternal plan unfolds for every believer (the call, the word taught/preached, realization of sin, regenerating – saving and sealing, and anointing for works. In reviewing Scripture, we learn that these things were authored by our Triune God before the creation of our world. Matthew 13:35; Matthew 25:34; Luke 11:50; John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20; Psalms 56:8; Psalms 139:16. Peter’s story reveals that Jesus planned and initiated the date of Peter’s salvation and commission. Scripture also never claims to predestine someone to be an unbeliever. Everyone is an unbeliever until the LORD intervenes. Romans 9:18-21 reminds us there should be a limit to our reasoning to avoid accusing God of being malevolent.
- For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. – Colossians 1:16-20 NKJV
In reading about Peter, we can see that everything in our lives have been designed to fulfill the works God had prepared for us to do for the Glory of the Father (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV). This includes refining through trials. He knew what we would do before accepting Christ. He knew the date and time you would accept Him. Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. – Psalm 119:67-68 ESV. He has also placed us in the lives of others for a reason. We don’t need to understand His reasoning, we need only to preach Christ crucified and risen. He will do the rest.
- God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance–an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:2-9 NLT
Living out his purpose, the Apostle Peter was so transformed by Christ’s love and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) that he later emphasises the purpose in our lives is to glorify God with the gifts He has given us and to love one each other.
He tells us (similar to Paul’s letter to the Colossians) that we’re to arm/equip/fix/resolve our minds. The following passages encourage us how to live in this present world until the everlasting kingdom is made manifest on earth.
- 1 Peter 4:1-3, 7-13, 19 NKJV
- Colossians 3:1-3 NKJV
- 2 Peter 1:2-11 NKJV
The everlasting kingdom is comprised of those who have accepted His call by receiving the redemption through His sacrifice that atoned for us. God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit so that we can do the will of the Father (outlined in His WORD and birthed in our hearts). The sealing of the Holy Spirit within us prevents us from turning to unbelief. While we have not been perfected yet, we are being sanctified. When a believer sins, conviction to repentance occurs; and if unrepentant, the LORD will chastise/discipline us until we willingly submit to righteousness. (Hebrews 12:5-6, 10; Psalms 23:4) I decided to take the short less painful route.
- Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. – 1Corinthians 15:20-28 NKJV.
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