Jason Van Bemmel
Part of the "Walking with Jesus in the Gospels and the Psalms" series
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep." - John 21:17, ESV
Why did Jesus choose to restore Peter the way He did? What does the way Jesus handled Peter's great sin reveal to us about how God rules over the sins of His people? Many people are uncomfortable with the idea that God's sovereign rule over all things extends even over our sin. They think that somehow this makes God the author of sin, somehow guilty of wanting us to sin. To safeguard God's integrity, they limit His sovereignty.
But think about it this way: If God's absolute governing of all things does not extend to our sin, then how can we have confidence that He's in control of anything? Once you start excluding the whole realm of human sin from God's rule, how do you handle the fact that almost everything that happens in the world is in some way touched, affected or shaped by sin?
The Bible gives us some clear pictures to show us how God rules over human sin without being the author of sin:
1. Joseph told his brothers that, even though their intentions were evil when they sold him into slavery, God had ordained their actions for the good of His people, for the saving of many lives. (Gen. 50:20)
2. The emperor Cyrus did much sinful harm to the world in his rise to power, but God foretold his rise and the spread of his power as ordained by Him for the good of His people. (see Isaiah 44-45)
3. Jesus' crucifixion was the worst miscarriage of justice in the history of the world, yet it was ordained by God for the salvation of His people. (Acts 2:23)
4. Here, in the story of Peter's sin, we have one of the most detailed accounts of how God rules over the sin of His people. Consider:
- Jesus foretold Peter's denials.
- Peter denied vehemently that he would deny Jesus, but Jesus remained clear in His foreknowledge of Peter's denials.
- Jesus even foretold Peter's restoration.
- Even though Jesus foreknew Peter's denials and indicated that Satan's activity was behind it, He never denied that it would be Peter's active decision to actually deny Jesus.
- Jesus orchestrated all of the details of Peter's restoration: the lack of success fishing and the miraculous catch at the word of Jesus, the three questions about Peter's love for Jesus and the three commands for Peter to shepherd and feed the flock of Jesus.
For me, as I have studied the Bible's teaching about God's sovereignty over human sin, it has brought great comfort. I may be shocked by my own sin, but God never is. God foreknew all of my sin before Jesus went to the cross and paid for it all with His precious blood. My sin cannot derail God's good purposes for my salvation, though I may face painful consequences for my actions. God not only foreknows my sin but foreordains my restoration as well.
None of this makes me complacent about or content with my sin. The loving knowledge and sovereign rule of God over my sin makes me thankful and humble, filling me with love for the Lord and a desire to honor Him with my life. When I see Peter being so lovingly and carefully restored after such a failure, I am humbled by the depth and strength of God's love.
Prayer Based on Psalm 103:
Psalm 103 is one of the best texts in the Bible for preaching the gospel to ourselves. It is a glorious reminder of gospel truth and one we should ponder and sing and tell to ourselves again and again!
O Lord, let my soul ever bless You!
and all that is within me,
bless Your holy name!
Let me not forget all Your benefits,
You forgive all my iniquity,
You heal all my diseases, in this life and in eternity
You redeems my life from the pit,
and You crown me with steadfast love and mercy,
You satisfy me with good
so that my youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Oh Lord, let me believe and rejoice and glorify You for Your amazing love and benefits to me!
Psalm 103 by Sovereign Grace:
You, O Lord, work righteousness
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty by Fernando Ortega:
and justice for all who are oppressed.
You made known Your ways to Moses,
Your acts to the people of Israel.
You, O Lord, are merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
You will not always chide,
nor will You keep Your anger forever.
You does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is Your steadfast love toward those who fear You;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far do You remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so You, O Lord, show compassion to those who fear You.
For You know our frame;
You remember that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But Your steadfast love, O Lord, is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear You,
and Your righteousness to children's children,
to those who keep Your covenant
and remember to do Your commandments.
O Lord, give us the grace to keep trusting in Jesus,
who is the substance and fulfillment of Your covenant.
You, O Lord, have established Your throne in the heavens,
and Your kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman:
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty by Fernando Ortega: