Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 13 (1898)


Ms 109, 1898

Peter’s Fall and Restoration


September 8, 1898

Portions of this manuscript are published in TDG 260. +Note

When, as you labor for the salvation of souls, sinners are convicted of their sins, and you have evidence that Christ has had compassion on them, that new hope is springing up in their hearts, it is not correct to say, “We prayed for him, and he gave his heart to God and was saved.” This is misleading. It is their privilege to say, solemnly, seriously, gladly, “I believe that Jesus Christ has forgiven my sins.” Encourage every soul to have hope and faith, but never let your pen say of any man, “He is saved.” The Word of God declares, “Many shall be purified, made white and tried. But the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.” [Daniel 12:10.] 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 1

Many who are drawn by Christ and accept of Him will, in their first confidence, say, “I am saved.” Poor souls, they know not their weakness, and that they may fall again into the very depths of sin. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 2

Patient, pitying tenderness is to be exercised toward the erring, to bring back the wandering sheep. We have an example of this in Christ’s treatment of Peter, who denied his Lord with cursing and swearing. Peter thought himself strong. He said, “Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.” But Jesus answered him, “Verily, I say unto thee, That in this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.” But Peter “spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise.” [John 13:37; Mark 14:30, 31.] 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 3

It is not wise to boast. Peter fell because he did not know his own frailty. His humiliation after his denial of Christ was terrible, but he was far safer in his repentant state than when he boasted. Then he depended upon Christ for strength, and his restoration was complete. Peter was converted. A transformation of character took place in him. He was no longer boastful; but he knew not that he was restored to confidence until after the resurrection of Christ. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 4

The Lord had said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have thee, that he might sift thee 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.] 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 5

If Satan had been suffered to have his way, there would have been no hope for Peter. He would have made complete shipwreck of faith. Had Peter earnestly and in humility looked for divine help, had he been searching his own heart in secret, he would not have been sifted and tried. Satan cannot overcome the humble learner of Christ, he who walks prayerfully before the Lord. “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard” for him against the enemy. [Isaiah 59:19.] Christ interposes himself as a shelter, a retreat, and the wicked one cannot overcome him. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 6

Peter fell, but he was not forsaken. In his great trial the words of Christ were written upon his soul as with a pen of iron: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” [Luke 22:32.] This prayer of Christ in his behalf was Peter’s only hope. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 7

We mark the course pursued by Peter. His fall was not instantaneous, but gradual. Self-confidence led him to the belief that he was saved. Step after step was taken until the poor, sinful one reached the lowest grade, and denied his Lord with cursing and swearing. When the crowing of the cock reminded him of the words of Christ, surprised and shocked he turned and looked at his Master. At that moment Christ looked at Peter, and in that grieved look, in which compassion and love for him was blended, Peter understood himself. He went out from the company and wept bitterly. That look of Christ went directly home and broke his heart. Now Peter had come to the turning point, and bitterly did he lament his wrong. But that look of Christ spoke pardon. It brought a ray of hope to the erring disciple. In that look he read the words, “Peter, I am sorry for you. Because you are sorry and repent I forgive your transgression.” 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 8

The fruit of repentance is not a self-confidence that springs into life in a moment, saying, “I am saved, I am saved.” With Peter there was a genuine work of repentance. His sorrow was as intense as had been his denial. Thus it will be with every truly converted soul. All who have known and opposed the truth should be careful lest by their words and actions Satan gain an advantage over them, and lead them in their insecurity to boast, “I am saved.” There is to be no flippancy in the confession of sin. God desires truth in the inward parts. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 9

Peter did not forget his denial of Christ and think that after all it was not a very great sin. All was intensely, painfully real to the erring disciple. He never forgot the painful scene of his humiliation. When Peter was converted, the old assertions were not repeated in the old spirit and manner. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 10

After His resurrection Christ remembered Peter, and gave the angels the message: “Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him.” [Mark 16:7.] Peter was remembered by the sin-pardoning Saviour. The prayer of Christ offered for Peter, He offers in behalf of all who are humble and contrite in heart. He is our advocate through the Holy Spirit. Before the Father He pleads the power and efficacy of His Word. John declares, “If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” [1 John 2:1.] 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 11

Under the Holy Spirit’s influence, Peter on the Day of Pentecost stood before a congregation of thousands, and in holy boldness charged the wicked priests and rulers with the very sin of which he himself had been guilty. “Ye denied the Holy One and the Just,” he said, “and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead: whereof we are witnesses. ... And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before hath showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” [Acts 3:14, 15, 17, 18.] 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 12

There was now no moral insensibility upon Peter. As Christ’s witness, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, he gave evidence of his divine restoration. So no restoration can be complete without it reaches to the very depth of the soul by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 13

Three times Christ after His resurrection tested Peter. “Simon, son of Jonas,” He said, “lovest thou me more than these?” [John 21:15.] This heart searching question was necessary in the case of Peter, and it is necessary in our case. The work of restoration can never be thorough unless the roots which produce the evil are reached. The very depths of the hidden springs must be reached, the moral senses judged and judged again in the very light of the divine presence. Again and again the sprouts have been nipped, but the root of bitterness has been left to spring up and defile many. The practical daily life will testify whether or not the work is genuine. There is a great amount of shallowness in the practical life that bears testimony to the fact that the lamp may be in the hands without the oil of grace to feed it. The heart needs the moral restoration. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 14

When the third time Christ said to Peter, “Lovest thou me,” the probe reached the soul center, and self-confident Peter was not then grieved. Self-judged Peter falls upon the Rock, saying, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” [Verse 17.] 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 15

This is the work before every soul who has dishonored God and grieved the heart of Christ by a denial of truth and righteousness. If the tempted soul endures the trying process, and self under the test, does not awaken into life to feel hurt and abused, that probing knife reveals that the soul is indeed dead to self and alive unto God. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 16

Some assert that if a man stumbles and falls, he can never again regain his position, but the case before us contradicts this. After his fall, Peter was converted, accepted, and commissioned to feed not only the sheep but the lambs—a broader and more delicate work than had hitherto been appointed him. He was not only to hold forth the Word of life to others, but he was to be a shepherd of the sheep. And this work was given to the man who had denied his Lord with an oath. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 17

Before his denial, Christ said to Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” [Luke 22:32.] I will make thee a fisher of men. In committing to his stewardship the souls for whom He had given His life, Christ could not have given Peter greater evidence of His confidence in his restoration. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 18

“Verily, verily,” said Christ to Peter, “when thou wast young thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thine hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said unto him, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following. ... Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” [John 21:18-22.] 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 19

This commission is given to all. “Follow thou me.” [Verse 22.] You need not be curious to know what another will do. Your work is to follow Christ. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 20

Peter was now humble enough to understand the meaning of the words of Christ, and without further questioning, the restless, boastful, self-confident disciple became subdued and contrite. He followed his Lord indeed, the Lord he had denied. The thought that Christ had not denied and rejected him was to Peter a light and comfort and blessing. He felt he could be crucified from choice, but it must be with his head downward. And he who was so close a partaker of Christ’s sufferings will also be a partaker of His glory when He shall sit upon the throne of His glory. 13LtMs, Ms 109, 1898, par. 21