The Savior Who Was Denied

Steve Viars March 10, 2007 John 18:12-27

 

- Church history is filled with examples of people who were encouraged to deny their Lord or some element of their belief in Scripture...

- some even had to decide...would they deny Christ or would they stand for Him if it meant they would lose their life?...

- the first recorded example in Scripture was a man named Stephen...

- he was one of the first seven deacons elected by the church family in Acts 6...

- and Scripture tells us that he was “full and grace and power” and he faithfully told others about the possibility of being reconciled to God through trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross...

- and that message infuriated some people for a variety of reasons...and they did everything they could to convince Stephen to deny Christ...Scripture says they even began “gnashing their teeth at him”...and I’m not even sure what that means but it doesn’t sound very pleasant...

- but he would not deny Christ...and so they began stoning him...and the Bible says... Acts 7:59-60 - They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”  Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

- He would rather die than deny Christ...

- by the way, the next verse in the book of Acts provides this detail...Acts 8:1 - Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death...

- you know who that was, don’t you?...the man who would later become the apostle Paul...

- the point is, throughout church history, there are many, many examples of men and women who were tempted to deny Christ, or pressured to deny Christ...but they chose to be faithful to Him at all costs...and they had an impact on others, and an impact on the church as a result...

- one of those is William Tyndale...

- Tyndale was a priest in England in the early 1500’s...

- the problem was that the more he studied the Scriptures, the more convinced he was that what the church was teaching the people was different than what the Bible said..

- he heard in the church that people were reconciled to God by their good works, and acts of penance when they sinned...

- they he opened the Bible and saw that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone...

- and so his burning desire became simply to translate the Bible into English and distribute it to the people so they could read it for themselves...

- in a dispute with one prominent religious leader who was outraged by that notion, Tyndale said... "If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you do."

- King Henry VIII along with the English clergy were firmly set against Tyndale’s desire, so he fled to Germany where he traveled from city to city working on his translation of the Bible, living in exile, and poverty, and constant danger...

- but he finally finished the English translation of the NT in 1525 and 18,000 of them were printed and smuggled into England...

- later he produced a revised version and then began working on the OT...that work provided an important working text for what became known as the Authorized Version...which became the basis for the KJV of the Bible which was a blessing to English speaking people around the world for centuries...

‑ However, Tyndale was eventually caught...

- in the fall on 1536, Tyndale was tried for heresy...and was sentenced to be burned at the stake by the English court...

- in the early morning of October 6th, he was taken outside town and historians tell us...

A circle of stakes enclosed the place of execution, and in the center was a large pillar of wood in the form of a cross and as tall as a man. A strong chain hung from the top, and a noose of hemp was threaded through a hole in the upright. The attorney and the great doctors arrived first, and seated themselves nearby. The prisoner was brought in and a final appeal was made that he should recant for his practices in translating the Scriptures and for the following doctrinal positions:

First, that faith alone justifies man before God.

Second, that to believe in the forgiveness of sins, and to embrace the mercy offered in the gospel of Jesus Christ, was enough for salvation.

Third, that human traditions cannot bind the conscience, except where their neglect might occasion scandal.

- all he had to do was deny the gospel of Christ as outlined in Scripture and he would live...

- History records this... Tyndale stood immovable, his keen eyes gazing toward the common people. A silence fell over the crowd as they watched the prisoner’s lean form and thin, tired face; his lips moved with a final impassioned prayer that echoed around the place of execution, "Lord, open the king of England’s eyes."

His feet were bound to the stake, the iron chain fastened around his neck, and the hemp noose was placed at his throat. Piles of brushwood and logs were heaped around him. The executioner came up behind the stake and with all his force pulled on the rope noose. Within seconds Tyndale was strangled... The gathered witnesses marveled "at the patient sufferance of Master Tyndale at the time of his execution."

-  so throughout church history, there are many, many examples of men and women who were tempted to deny Christ, or pressured to deny Christ...but they chose to be faithful to Him at all costs.

- However, set against that...is the record we have in Scripture of the possibility of the exact opposite response...even by one of Jesus’ finest followers...

- and the question for each of us this morning will be...who are you most like?...

- with that in mind, will you please open your Bible to John 18?...[page 88 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you]

- our theme this year is Reaching New Heights...

- we’re trying to do everything we can as a church to be best prepared to serve the Lord as we launch our community center, and church based seminary, and residential treatment center for at risk girls...

- in January, we studied Matthew 6 and worked on Reaching New Heights in our Faithfulness to Pray

- then in February we looked at Psalm 119 and focused on Reaching New Heights in our Commitment to Scripture

- between now and Easter Sunday on April 8th, we want to study John 18-21 thinking about Reaching New Heights in our Love for the Savior...

- last Sunday we studied Judas, and talked about The Savior Who Was Betrayed...

- the next verses in John 18 speak of Peter, telling us about The Savior Who Was Denied.

- read John 18:12-27

- we’re talking about The Savior who was Denied, and in the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 lessons from Peter’s denial.

- the first one is this...

I. Denying Christ is a Process that Can Be Halted.

- you probably noticed as we were reading that there was a progression in Peter's sin.

- it started out badly…and because he did not curb it, or come to his senses, it got worse...it started when...

A.  Peter lied.

- now, we should probably stop there for just a minute because I realize that many here today are new to studying the Bible and we should point out that there was actually a series of trials by both the religious and the secular leaders...

- all of this was terribly illegal so nobody really wanted to make the call...so we find Christ being shuttled back and forth between various leaders and mock courts...but that is not really our focus this morning...

- what we’re trying get after is the reaction of Peter...

- verse 17 says that a little slave girl looks at Peter and says – “You’re not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?”...

- now, please notice, she doesn’t even actually accuse him...she says...you’re not one of them...

- and also remember, Peter has just taken on a full grown soldier…and provided constructive ear surgery…

- now it’s simply a servant girl [and that’s not a male, female comment---I'm just saying, she wouldn't have been armed and part of a whole group of soldiers…]

- and Peter just flat out lies…he says in verse 17...”I am not”...

- at that same time Jesus is being questioned by the high priest and the problem at this point in the trial is...there were no witnesses...

- so Annas hopes Jesus will incriminate Himself but of course the Lord was an expert in the Jewish law...He answered the way He did because what He was being asked was illegal, and everybody knew it...and that so infuriated one of the officers that he actually struck Christ...which was also illegal...

- so the Lord is sent to Caiaphas, the high priest...

- then the Bible tells us that then Peter drifts off into the courtyard….so he can still get a glimpse of what is happening to Jesus, but not get in trouble himself…

- and then another servant girl starts up…

- and the gospel of Matthew explains that part of the story...

Matthew 26:71-72 - When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

- so it went from the question...were you with Him?...to the accusation, you were

- and so this time...

B.  Peter lied with an oath.

- when a Jewish man made an oath, the whole point was that he was doing so in the presence of God.

- in other words, he was calling on God as his witness to substantiate what he was saying.

- the progression here is frightening….

- he had denied his Savior…

- and because his first denial did not jar him into reality…now he is saying in effect, as God is my judge, as God is my witness…I deny that I know this man….

- this is probably when the beating and mocking of Christ begins intensifying…

- and Luke tells us that about an hour transpires, and guess who shows up?

- we read about it in our verses in John...

- John 18:26 - One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, "Did I not see you in the garden with Him?"

- remember Malchus, the guy whose ear Peter cut off…

- who shows up but one of the guy's relatives...

- and he says, didn't I see you in the garden with Him?

- and the bystanders start in, surely you too are one of them, because the way you talk gives you away…

- andMatthew 26:74 tells us...Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed.

- the word that is used here is extremely strong - katanathematizo - "pronouncing death upon oneself at the hand of God if one were lying".

- it is about the worst example of taking the Lord's name in vain you can possibly imagine…May God kill me and damn me if I am not speaking the truth"

- so now...

C.  Peter cursed, swore, and lied.

- and I realize that you might say...well, PV, this is all terrible...but do you think the average person from FBC behaved this way this week, or has ever behaved this way?

- of course not.

- but often the Bible records some of the more blatant forms of sinfulness to help us deal with any degree of behavior that might be in the same vein.

- When a person has an opportunity to share his testimony and doesn't take it…he's denying Christ.

- When a student compromises her integrity by cheating in order to get a good grade…she's denying Christ.

- When a boyfriend encourages his date to have premarital sex…he's denying Christ.

- When a husband fails to love his wife like Christ loved the church…he's denying Christ.

- When a citizen is unwilling to speak out on a public issue because of the fear of man…he's denying Christ.

- When a wife is unwilling to follow her husband's leadership…she's denying Christ.

- When a worker performs one way when the boss is around and another when he's not instead of always working heartily for the Lord and not for men, he's denying Christ.

- When a parent makes grades, or popularity, or athletic performance the primary goals in the home…she's denying Christ.

- When a young person is rebellious to his parents or other authority…he's denying Christ.

- When a senior citizen worries and frets instead of praying and trusting…he's denying Christ.

- When a friend has no concern for the spiritual destiny of his companions, he's denying Christ.

- When people have others in their lives they've known for years but have never shared the gospel…they're denying Christ.

- When an individual has heard about the need to believe in Jesus Christ as one's Savior and Lord but refuses to make the decision…she's denying Christ.

- When a person is confronted about an area of lack of Christlikeness and refuses to repent and change…he's denying Christ.

- When a discussion in the breakroom provides an obvious opportunity to share biblical truth but the person remains silent…she's denying Christ.

- and part of what we need to see in this passage is that often this is a process...and because Peter didn’t deal with it quickly...soon he was saying things and doing things that he would have never believed possible...

- and if it could happen to him...????...it could happen to us...

- now, I think we need to be careful not to be too hard on Peter...

- at least he was there...it is likely that the other disciple he was with was John...but where were the others?...they had all forsaken Christ...

- at least Peter was close enough that he was in a position to be accused of being one of Christ’s followers...

­- I think we also need to say this---the reason Peter was there was because of his love for Christ...there is no evidence that this was just “enquiring minds want to know...”

- I believe Peter wanted to know what was going to happen to the Lord He loved...

‑ and also this---by any accounts, this was one of Christ’s finest disciples...

- if this had been Nicodemus, who came to Christ by night, we might have predicted these denials...

- or the rich young ruler, who didn’t want to part with His material goods because they were his true gods...we would understand this...

- but we’re talking about Peter---if this could happen to him, it could happen to us...

- in fact, let’s just say it...it does happen to us...nobody here could say that we’ve taken every  opportunity we could to speak for Christ...just like there was a little bit of Judas in every one of this...there’s also a little bit of Peter [some of us would say...a lot of Peter]...

- now you might say, but PV, I would not be guilty of this either by commission or by omission in any way that is particularly blatant at this point...

- that is one of the lessons we need to see from this passage...it’s a process...

- it started with just a simple denial in a relatively simple test...a small servant girl asking a question...and because he didn’t turn it around when it was small...pretty soon his denials were much more significant...

- now, what else can we learn here?...

II. Denying Christ is a Product of a Careless Heart.

- none of this happened in a vacuum...

- as with all of our words, they revealed the condition of his heart...in what ways?

A.  A refusal to heed confrontation.

- what is especially scandalous about all of this is that the Lord had just warned Peter about this very thing...

- Mark 14:30 records it this way...Mark 14:30 - And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.”

- do you remember Peter’s response?...Mark 14:31 - But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing also.

- some people will not heed the confrontation of their friends, the confrontation of their family members, the confrontation of their pastors, the confrontation of the Word, the confrontation of the Holy Spirit...

- that is a recipe for scandal and spiritual disaster...

B. Pride

- in the previous verses, Peter said...Mark 14:29 - But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.”

- in writing about this passage, John MacArthur said - In speaking those words Peter not only revealed unfounded confidence in himself but directly contradicted His Lord’s prediction that all the disciples would fall away that very night (v. 31).  Based on his feelings of self-confidence and devotion to Jesus, Peter considered himself incapable of disloyalty.  He could imagine nothing that would cause him to waver, and not even the Lord’s explicit prediction could convince him otherwise.  He was certain he had come to the place of spiritual maturity, with his priorities straight, his convictions steadfast, and his faithfulness invulnerable.

- 1 Corinthians 10:12 - Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

C. Failure to see the need of prayer.

- do you remember last week when Jesus told Peter to pray in the Garden that he would not enter into temptation...and what did Peter do instead?...

- he went to sleep...

- friends, I wonder if that describes the prayer lives of some of us?

- we're so self-confident that prayer is not much of a priority…

- so we leave our homes without having our spiritual armor on…not prepared for the battles and temptations we'll face…and we end up denying Christ in some way.

D. Poor theology.

- perhaps one of the biggest reasons Peter was so vulnerable right now was because none of this was going according to plan...

- he was never able to reconcile the notion that Jesus had to die...

- do you remember back in Matthew 16 [develop the story of the building of the church, along with an explanation of his pending death – “not so Lord”]...

- often we end up denying Christ because we fail to see God’s plan in the midst of the unpleasant circumstances...often times that is the best opportunity to speak for Him...

- now, you read all of this and say...it’s hopeless...if somebody like Peter denied Christ...where does that leave somebody like me?....

- well, thankfully this isn’t the end of the story...

- the Bible tells us that after Peter came to His senses, and after he was restored to the Lord in a tender passage that we’ll study in a few weeks...and especially after the resurrection...Peter became a man who stood for Christ no matter what...

- the lesson is...

III. Denying Christ Can be Replaced with a Faithful and Powerful Witness.

- Peter became the confident and courageous leader of the apostles...

- so by time we get to Acts 4...Peter and John are imprisoned for proclaiming Christ...and the religious leaders have them thrown in jail for healing a lame man in the name of Jesus...and that doesn’t intimidate them at all...

- and the next day Peter stands before them and says...

Acts 4:8-12 - Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. “He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

- and the conclusion that those who heard those who heard those words drew was fascinating... Acts 4:13 - Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

- that is exactly what Peter had been accused of before and he denied it...but not any more...

- in the next chapter they even get beaten for proclaiming Christ...and they’re told to never speak in His name again...and the next verses say...

- Acts 5:41-42 - So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.  And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

- you know, Peter later explained one of the best ways to avoid denying Christ – consistent spiritual growth.... - the possibility of change - cf. II Peter 3:17-18 - You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness,  but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

- deal with the relationship between not denying Christ and heading in a positive direction spiritually...- one possible response to all of this – it’s OK PV, nobody ever brings up the fact that I might be someone who is a Christian...that’s no necessarily a good sign...

- Peter explained that to, in the book we know as I Peter...

- context of being a godly employee, a godly citizen, a godly wife, a godly husband...

- 1 Peter 3:15 - but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

- Acts 4:13 - Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video