Peter’s Four Calls
“Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John [speak], and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.” (John 1:35-42)
In these few short verses we have the beginning of the New Testament church, the calling of the Savior’s first disciples. These first three disciples are Andrew and his brother Simon. The third disciple, that unnamed man who with Andrew left John the Baptist and “followed Jesus,” was probably the Apostle John, who always preferred to conceal his identity, never referring to himself by name. As we look at this passage of Scripture together, I will call your attention to five things set before us by the Spirit of God.
First, the Spirit of God here shows us an example of faithful preaching (vv. 35-37). The first time that John the Baptist cried, “Behold the Lamb of John God,” it appears that no one heard his message. No one began following Christ. None obeyed the preacher. None believed on the Son of God.
What did John do? Did he quit preaching? No. Did he decide that preaching was now out of date, that educated people required something more than preaching? No. John just kept on doing what he had been doing, what he was sent to do. The next day, he saw the Savior passing by. Again, he pointed to him and cried, “Behold the lamb of God!”
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, that Lamb portrayed in all the Scriptures, who has, by the sacrifice of himself, put away sin. He is the Lamb set forth in the paschal lamb and typified by that lamb of the morning and evening sacrifices offered every day in the temple at Jerusalem. He is that Lamb without blemish and without spot, who was foreordained as our sin-atoning Sacrifice and Substitute (1 Peter 1:19). • In his humiliation, he is the Lamb of sacrifice. • In his resurrection, he is the prevailing Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). • As the King of Zion, he is the Ruler of heaven and earth to whom every man must send a lamb (Isaiah 16:1).
God’s servants never adjust or alter their message for any reason. Whether men hear or refuse to hear, we will not change our message to suit them. John cried, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” It appears that no one responded in any way to his message. So the next day, he went out and preached the very same message. That day, two men heard him and believed. Those two men left John and “followed Jesus.”
I have no doubt these things are recorded in Holy Scripture to show us by example how God’s servants serve the souls of men. It is by the preaching of Christ that sinners are converted. It is by Gospel preaching that God calls out his elect. It is by the preaching of the cross that eternity bound sinners are snatched from the clutches of Satan as brands from the burning (1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:1-5; 9:16; Galatians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2). The preaching of the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Nothing else is!
It is by this means, the foolishness of preaching, that God has ordained the salvation of chosen sinners (Romans 10:17). Let the world laugh and mock. We will not lay aside this mighty weapon of warfare against the gates of hell. It is like the ram’s horns by which the walls of Jericho fell down. The preaching of the Gospel, the blowing of the jubilee trumpet, is mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. The story of the crucified Lamb of God has proved to be the power of God unto salvation in every age. Those who have done most for Christ’s cause in every part of the world have been men like John the Baptist. They have not cried, Behold me, or Behold the church, or Behold the ordinances, but “Behold the Lamb of God.” If souls are to be saved, men must be pointed directly to Christ, the Lamb of God!
Let every preacher of the gospel patiently continue in his labor, preaching Christ. Preach him again and again, as the “Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” The story of grace must be told repeatedly, line upon line and precept upon precept. God’s Word shall not return unto him void (Isaiah 55:11).
Second, we see in the conduct of these two disciples a picture of true Christianity. We are told that these two men “followed Jesus.” The Savior graciously received them and made himself known to them as they followed him. This was the most blessed day of their lives. From that day on, these two men were Christ’s men. They took up the cross, and followed him.
They continued with him in his temptations. They followed him wherever he went. They became chosen Apostles, master builders in the temple of grace. Christianity is following Christ, no more and no less than following Christ. Believers are people who “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” We seek in all things to follow the doctrine of Christ and the example of Christ (John 13:1-17; Ephesians 4:32-5:2), by the Spirit of Christ. True Christians are people who follow Christ; and they follow him to the end.
Third, we see these two disciples as they are received and taught by the Master (vv. 38-39).
“Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.”
The Master asked them what they were seeking, not because he needed to know, but because they needed to know. Take the Savior’s question personally. — “What seek ye?” What is it that you are seeking? Watch their answer. It may seem a strange response to some. To others it is the very response of their own hearts. — They said, this is the thing we must know, “Master, where dwellest thou?”
Is this the earnest quest of your soul? Do you cry like Job of old, “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat” (Job 23:3)? The Master says, “Come and see.” — Come, follow me, and you shall see! Let me show you where he dwells (Isaiah 57:15; Matthew 18:20; Revelation 3:20). — His dwelling place is his people
(Isaiah 57:15) “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
Has God, by his Spirit, caused you to hear the Savior’s voice and open to him? Has he broken you and made you contrite before him? I beg for such grace in my soul! May God the Holy Spirit make me what my Father would have me to be, that the triune God may ever dwell in me! The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain our God! the infinite Spirit! Yet, he promises to dwell with his people on the earth, the broken-hearted, the humble, and the contrite. Oh for grace and a sanctity of heart and mind to possess such mercies and be the dwelling place of God! If we are God’s, our bodies are the temple of God who dwells in us!
Still, there is more. The Lord’s dwelling place is our meeting place, the church of the living God, the assembly of his saints in holy worship (Matthew 18:20; Revelation 3:20; 1 Corinthians 3:16). There is only one place on earth where God our Savior has promised to meet with and manifest himself to his people, and that place is the assembly of his saints for public worship. Blessed are they who have the privilege of meeting with the saints of God in the house of God to hear the gospel of God to worship the living God. Wherever such gatherings are found, the Spirit of God is present, Christ our Savior is present, and our heavenly Father is present!
Fourth, as soon as Andrew found Christ he became the faithful witness of Christ. He went out and found his brother Simon and brought him to the Savior (vv. 40-42). Andrew said to his brother Simon, “We have found the Messiah, the Christ!” We have found him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote: — The Lamb of God — The Woman’s Seed — Abraham’s Seed — The One Manoah Saw — The True Nazarite — Jehovah’s Servant — The Firstborn — The One Isaiah Saw in His Glory, the Substitute — David’s Son, his Lord — God’s Salvation!
Like one who has unexpectedly heard good news, he ran to tell it to his brother, the one nearest and dearest to him. His heart was full of excitement. He had to tell what he knew. And by his testimony, Peter first received light. Peter was brought to the Savior by the testimony of his brother. He saw no mighty miracle wrought. He was not convinced by any powerful reasoning. He simply heard his brother tell him that he had found the Savior. The simple witness of a caring brother was the first link in the chain by which Peter was drawn out of the world and joined to Christ.
May God the Holy Spirit make Andrews of all his saints! Well it would be for immortal souls if all who have been converted themselves would speak to their friends and relatives and tell them they have found the Christ. How much good might be done? How many might be led to the Lord? The work of testifying the gospel of the grace of God ought not to be left to preachers alone. All who have received mercy ought to find a tongue and declare what God has done for their souls. All who have been delivered from the power of the devil ought to “go home and tell their friends what great things God has done for them” (Mark 5:19). Every believer ought to be a missionary to his family, children, neighbors, and friends.
“We have found the Christ.” Do not be afraid of such a statement. All who have found the Christ have been found of Christ, and know that they have been found of him. And all who seek him by faith shall find him (Jeremiah 29:10-14).
“I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Saviour true,
No, I was found of thee.”
Fifth, I want you to see that this man Peter experienced four gracious, distinct calls from the Lord. They were given and experienced in a certain order; and both the calls themselves and the order in which they were given are instructive.
1. Peter was called to become a follower of Christ, a disciple, by the testimony of his brother, Andrew.
That is what we have before us in John 1. — This is the beginning of grace in the soul. The Lord Jesus Christ begins by first teaching us who we are, showing us our sin, and causing us to know our need of him, and our own sin. Then he reveals himself to us as the Lamb of God, who has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
2. In the fourth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel Peter was called by the Lord Jesus, along with his brother Andrew, to abandon all earthly pursuits and devote himself entirely to the cause of Christ as a preacher of the gospel with him (Matthew 4:17-22).
Both Peter and Andrew were believers, true disciples, before they were called to be preachers. They were industrious, laboring men, serving the Lord as fishermen, when he called them to be fishers of men. Those men God puts in the work of the ministry are not lazy dolts, but responsible men who work.
3. The Lord Jesus called Peter to be an Apostle (Mark 3:13-16).
Some men God sets apart for very special purposes, for works for which he alone can equip them. Certainly, that was true regarding the Prophets and the Apostles of old. Such men, being called of God to very great work, stand in the forefront of the Master’s army. That means that they are sure to bear the full force of Satan’s assaults. Peter was just such a man; and he once failed and fell miserably. The Lord Jesus, you will remember, warned him of what he must endure, assuring him that he had prayed for him. Then he said to Peter, “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32; John 13:37-14:3).
4. In John 21 we read of Peter’s fourth call, the faithful Savior’s sweet, gracious call of restoration, a call every heaven born soul is sure to need, sooner or later (John 21:1-18).
Blessed Savior, what reason have we to lift our hearts with gratitude and praise to you, because you will never leave us to ourselves! As you restored Peter from his horrible fall, so you alone are the Restorer of our poor souls in our countless falls!
It is a great mercy of our God that we commonly fail to appreciate, a mercy for which none of us are sufficiently thankful that the Lord God graciously hedges us about with strong restraints of providence and omnipotent grace, keeping his people from those grave, outward sins that give Zion’s enemies occasion to blaspheme the name our God and mock his gospel. He plants his fear deep in the heart and causes a well of living water to flow through the soul, and keeps us (for the most part) from great acts of iniquity in our outward lives. How we ought to thank him for this great mercy every day, every hour, every moment!
Yes, it is true, sometimes that man who has found grace in the eyes of the Lord will be found in a drunken stupor, with his shame uncovered, in naked sin before the reprobate; and the reprobate will have a hey-day exposing the shame. Sometimes a man of great faith will choose to pitch his tent toward Sodom and choose to stay in the chosen place of wickedness. Sometimes the mighty Samson will lay his head in Delilah’s lap. It has happened that a man after God’s own heart has committed adultery and even murder. Sometimes even the wisest man upon the earth will bow to the will of a wicked wife and worship at the altar of an idol. Once in a while a great and truly faithful preacher of the gospel, like Peter, will deny the Lord Jesus. Sometimes the most soundly orthodox and most useful and most used of preachers will shave his head and take a Jewish vow.
Such sad falls do occur. They are plainly recorded in Holy Scripture for our learning and admonition; but they are not common occurrences. For the most part, God’s saints in this world are graciously kept from such outward displays of iniquity and sin by the restraints his grace and his providence.
Yet, though we are usually kept from grave and gross outward wickedness, the righteous do fall and all who are righteous know that they fall seven times in a day. — “A just man falleth seven times” (Proverbs 24:16). — “Seven times!” That is to say, — “In the totality of his being, in all that he is and does, the righteous man, the just one continually falls.” Still, Christ is our Keeper and the Restorer of our souls. — “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD [shall be] a light unto me” (Micah 7:8).
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