March 18, 1941
We are going to look tonight at the “Three Calls of Peter.” The first call is the Sovereignty of God; the second call is to Service, and the last, and third, is the call of Separation to Christ. Let us read John 1:40: “One of the two which heard John speak … was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” This beloved man Andrew, who brought his brother to Christ, was a very quiet man. He and his brother were very unlike in that respect. Peter, we know, was a very blessed and impetuous man. He may have made mistakes, and he did, but he had a warm heart for Christ, and it characterized all his actions. He was different from his brother Andrew, but Andrew was converted first. He was converted by John the Baptist’s ministry and, as we might say, belonged to the Baptist Assembly, at that time. He saw the Lord walking along one day, and he heard John the Baptist say, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” and the next day, a little later on, he heard him say “Behold the Lamb of God.” One of the two disciples which heard John the Baptist speak was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He broke with John the Baptist because he had found a new centre. He asked the Lord, “Master, where dwellest Thou?” The Lord Jesus replied, “Come and see.” Andrew and the other disciple came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day.
You see beloved, Andrew had found a new center. He obeyed the divine invitation when he said to the Lord, “Master, where dwellest Thou?” and Jesus replied, “Come and see,” and from that moment this blessed man, Andrew, deserted his own master, John, and followed Jesus, and stayed with Him that day. He had found a new base. What I mean by a new base is the place from which you start, a place from which you work, and a place whence you go and to which you return. He saw, Where He dwelt and abode with Him that day. This was a wonderful thing. Christ took him in entirely.
That day, Andrew found his brother Simon. He had so enjoyed the company of the Lord in the day that he spent with Him, he said to himself, “I must not keep this to myself; I must go and find my brother Simon. I must get him to enjoy it too.” He went to find him. He wasn’t a man who spoke to crowds. He was a man who was made for individuals. That was characteristic of him. He brought his brother along. John’s Gospel says, “Jesus beheld him.” Christ says to him, “I know you, the man you are. I know your character, I know you are zealous, I know your impetuosity, and I know your heart.” Jesus beheld him and said, “Thou art Simon, son of Jona. Thou shalt be called Cephas, (thou art, and thou shalt be called), which is by interpretation, a stone.” There we have what he was and what he would be. “Thou art Simon, son of Jona,” said Christ, That was his natural name. “I am going to make a new man of you,” Christ continued, “I am going to give you that wonderful thing, the New Birth. Thou shalt be called Cephas. Now you are Simon. That is your natural name. That is your name after the flesh. I am going to make you a man after the Spirit. I am going to take you out of your Adamic standing and give you an entirely new one. ‘Thou art Simon, but thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a stone’.”
Just here, beloved, I would like to ask you, Do you know the meaning of these two things—“thou art” and “thou shalt be”? You are born of the flesh, under the judgment of God, and you are under condemnation for your sins, but “thou shalt be.” I have got a future for you. I have got another name for you. “Thou art Simon; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.” This is really another way of saying, “Ye must be born again.” You must take up, in measure first, that you are a guilty sinner, under the judgment of God, and making your way to perdition. He revolutionizes you and takes you out of the quarry, and you are put into a building. “‘Thou art Simon, thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.’ I am going to have a building, Peter, and I am going to make you a stone in that wonderful structure.” I trust everybody here, tonight, has gone through that divine curriculum, the new birth. Thou art a child of Adam, under divine judgment for your sins, but there is something to take place in you before you take your place as a living stone in my habitation.
“Thou shalt be called Cephas. Has everybody, here, passed through that wonderful transition, from “thou art” to “thou shalt be”? Present and future tense! Everybody has got what Simon had, that is, a proper natural name, but when the Holy Ghost works in us, we get a new name. Cephas! And this name Cephas implies the Lord Jesus Christ is to have a building. You remember later on, in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 16, the Lord Jesus said to Peter, the same Peter, “Whom do people say that I am?” He told the Lord what they said of Him, and the Lord asked, “Whom do you say I am, Peter?” Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” and the Lord said, “Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Assembly.” “I am going to have an Assembly, a big one, a Church, and I am going to make you a living stone in that wonderful structure.” You see, we get mention made of it the very first time the Lord met Peter, for He called him Cephas, a stone. “On this rock, I will build My Assembly, My Church, and I am going to make you a living stone in it.”
Look now at the Sixth Chapter of 1 Kings. Here, we see how a wonderful building was put up by Solomon. Note verses 7, 18 and 21. When Solomon was building the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, over 150,000 men were at work. That was no small job. There were 3,600 overseers and about 150,000 workmen. These stones had to be blasted, hewn out of the rock and chiselled. All kinds of things had to be done to those stones before they were ready to be put in the building, and made into a structure in which God might dwell. (This is one of the most important things in the Bible—that God is to have a dwelling-place.) You will remember in the Tabernacle in the wilderness He had a temporary one, but now Solomon is building a House. The very first time the Lord Jesus meets Simon, He said, “You are going to be made a part of that building.” “Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.”
What a lot of things must take place before Peter becames a stone in that building. There is the blasting, and moving amongst the rock to bring those stones out, and then they are chiselled, and, at last, they find their way to the house, and yet, there is no stone seen.
When you are brought to God, dear hearer, by the wonderful work of the Holy Ghost, there is a great deal of blasting—something to get you out of your surroundings, a regular shaking-up, a bringing-out. And—do you know?—that is the very process that people do not like, and again it says there is no sound. There is neither sound of hammer, nor axe, tool of iron or chisel, heard in the building. It is that quiet work of the Holy Ghost. It is right, of course, to speak loud enough for people to hear you, but, remember, there is the living, quiet work within. No sound of axe is heard. It is the deep, real work of the Spirit of God. The blasting is the divine working and the moving of it out of its surroundings. In that particular aspect, there is no sound heard. It is the unhindered work of the Spirit of God, creating that New Birth.
“Thou art Simon, and thou shalt be called Cephas, a stone,” and God, the Holy Ghost has been chiseling you, blasting you, and bringing you out from your surroundings, and then you shall be put in the building, there, and there is no stone seen. There is cedarwood on top of the stone, and there is gold on top of that. I am put into Christ, and you do not see me at all. Covered with Him, there is no stone seen. You do not see me. Cedarwood speaks of His humanity and gold speaks of His Deity. I am here, like a stone, and you are here, like a stone, covered with Christ’s perfections. No stone seen, and no sound of the hammer heard, and wonderful is the work of the Holy Ghost within! I do not think much of your conversion, if there was no blasting, chiselling or divine moving from your surroundings. I have no faith where there is nothing but a mere human audience. “No sound of hammer heard.” “The wind bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth.” This is how Cephas was brought forth. “Thou shalt be called Cephas, and now you are a stone in that wonderful building.” Thank God, we are not seen. God does not see us through Christ; He sees us in Christ, and that is a very different thing, covered with Christ; no stone seen. He does not see us at all. We are in Him. His beauty is put upon us. There is no stone seen; that is we are covered with cedarwood, His humanity, and with gold, His divine glory. Are you in Christ?
You say, “Where is that rough stone? Where are its rough edges? Where are those little ups and downs in it? These stones must have had a great many ups and downs in their makeup.” Now there is no stone seen. Take heart, Christian, for God sees you in His Son, covered with His Divine perfections. The man you were, He does not see. He does not see you, but Him. God has taken us from the quarry of sin, and the darkness of sin, and wrought in us, by the Holy Ghost, and put us into Christ; and there is no stone seen. Our dark surroundings, all that we were in the flesh has been judged at His cross. Now we are complete in Him. “Thou art Simon, a man of the flesh, but I am going to make a new man of you. ‘Thou shalt be called Cephas’.” Has He changed your name? You know all along God changed peoples’ names, as He changed the man. He called Abram—Abraham, He called Jacob—Israel, He called Saul of Tarsus—Paul the Apostle. “Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a stone.” Get hold of this divine idea, that God is to have a dwelling-place, not merely of individuals, for “we are built together for a habitation of God.” And now the very first intimation of it, is when He says, as He sees Peter coming to Him, “I know you, I know your character exactly, and I know you are ready to run, ready to make haste, ready to speak, ready to do this, that and the other thing.” Thank God that all that we were was judged at the Cross, and removed from the sight of God. “Thou art Simon.” We were removed from the sight of God, and now we are in Him, that Blessed one, covered with His perfections, no stone seen.
What is seen? The cedarwood and the gold, the f humanity and Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ! Made complete in Him! We are builded together. Here we have a little picture of it in the very opening of this very first chapter of John. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation,” and when the Lord Jesus Christ said to Simon, “Thou art” and “thou shalt be,” “old things passed away.” That does not mean they are passed away in you but that everything is new in Christ. Have you no love of money, love of popularity, etc.? You say, “I have given up this, I have given up that,” but there are some things you have not given up. All things have passed away in Him, but not in you. You say, “I have given away the pipe,” etc. Everything is not new in you, but in Christ. “Old things have passed away, all things have become new, and all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.” I have found, beloved friends, how very much more might be said about “Thou art” and “thou shalt be,” but now I am in that Blessed One, before God, covered with His perfections, no stone seen. What is seen is that we are in Him, before God, in His perfections, in His nearness, a living stone in this wonderful building. That is the Call of Divine Sovereignty. You know, dear friends, the new birth is divine sovereignty. “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God!” It is God’s own act. You know the stone is dead. But you say, “I am alive.” Yes you are alive in Romans, but you are dead in Ephesians, “dead in trespasses and sins,” but in Romans you are very much alive. There is a need of looking at all Scripture. The man who goes in for what is called “election” is too much this way, and the man who goes in for “free will” is too much the other way. They are both there. There is your own responsibility in conversion, and divine sovereignty in it as well. There the stone is in the building and covered with gold. Who put it there? Who brought it there? That stone did not bring itself out of the quarry, and throw itself into the building and cover itself with the gold and cedarwood. Who brought it there and put it there in the building? God’s own will brought it there. “Of His own will begat He us,” “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” We are passed from death into life, and put in Him. But do not throw the other out, when we have entered this, but keep them both open. We come to it now in the case of the Apostle Peter. First of all the Call of Divine Sovereignty, God acting, Himself, toward us, as they acted towards those stones in the quarries, blasting them, and bringing them out, and making the whole building. Beloved friends, that is one side of the truth, and a very right side, but not all.
Shall we turn now to Luke 5:3 for the sake of brevity. In John’s first chapter you read, at the beginning, how Peter got a call out of the quarry, out of the pit, out of the darkness, to be a blessed stone in that Heavenly building, and how he goes off, and he is fishing again, and the Lord comes again and sees him the second time. He says, “Let down your nets for a draught.” Peter replies, “We have toiled all night, and have taken nothing, but at Thy word, I will let down the net.” Down the net goes, and up come the fish from every quarter.
You know, beloved friends, the sea is His, and He made it, and every fish in it. Here they come in their thousands. The net broke, and the ships began to sink. Peter now is completely smashed to pieces. This is not divine sovereignty. This is Peter judging himself now. This is not an act on the part of God, but it is an act of his own volition. When Peter saw the sinking ships, when he saw that breaking net, he cried, “This must be God.” He fell down, shaking like an aspen leaf, down at Jesus’ feet and exclaimed, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” That is a very queer way of departing—falling down at His feet. That is what the light of God does. It penetrates, overwhelms, shakes to pieces, discovers. There was Peter shaking like an aspen leaf, but he got to Jesus’ blessed feet and he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” I know what I am in myself now. You found me the other day. You came to me in the darkness of the pit, but now, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Beloved friends, we never really grow till we learn that lesson. The man who does not judge himself never grows spiritually. It is an absolute necessity. If I am to be anything for God, I must take Peter’s language, “I am a sinful man!” What is a sinful man? A man full of sin! Now Peter discovers himself in the light of God. There is nothing about that in the first chapter of John. It is all God’s side. “I will make a new man of you,” but now when He meets him the second time, and the light of God penetrates him, uncovers him, lays him out, when he sees those sinking ships and the breaking net, he says, “This must be God.” He shrivels up in His very presence, and says, “Depart from me, for I am, I am, I am——” I am is a great deal worse than anything I ever did. What you are in yourself is worse than everything you ever did. You must learn that lesson, beloved, if you are to grow—the judgment of yourself, what you are in your own eyes, not only what God sees. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Then came those wonderful words, “Fear not; from henceforth you shall catch men.” That is the second call, the Call to Service. But when is he called to service? In the best day he ever had in his life! In other words, Peter gives up a commercial life, on the very best day he ever had in it, loaded ships, nets full of fish, overflowing business, and at that moment the Lord Jesus said to him, “Fear not; from henceforth you are the man to catch men, because you tremble yourself.” The man who does not tremble will never make others tremble. If you can get up on the platform and get over the subject, without trembling you will catch nothing. If you think you can do it, you are the man who cannot do it. What are the qualifications for catching men? Shaking all over! And when I hear, sometimes, a dear young fellow say, “I cannot speak. I shake all over,” I say “you are the one for it.” You will never make other people shake, if you do not shake yourself. If you can trot up the stairs to the pulpit, light-heartedly, without trembling all over, you are not the one to do it. A young man, I remember, trotted up the stairs, light-heartedly, letting the people know that he could do it, thinking that he would give them a regular volume of magnificent oratory, and, when he arrived at the top, he could not say anything. He felt so ashamed of himself, he turned round and came down, shamefacedly. An old Christian said to him, “If you had gone up as you came down, you would have come down as you went up.” Are you in our Lord’s blessed service? You say, “I cannot do it.” No; but He can do it.
Here, Peter finds himself in the light of the glory of the Christ of God, who could bring the fishes, and whose fishes were so many that the net was broken, and the ships began to sink. He says, “This must be God.” He folds all up in the glory of Christ. And the Lord Jesus says, “From henceforth you are the man to catch men.” The man who trembles, the man who knows his own incompetency, the man who knows how inadequate he is for it, is the man who can do it. Think of Paul, the Apostle, perhaps the greatest man who ever lived, who said to the Corinthians, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” Beloved, those of you who engage in something of the Lord’s blessed service, keep up that spirit of your non-sufficiency. I am an insufficient, sinful man, but the Lord says, “Fear not, from henceforth you shall catch men.” That is your qualification, your own nothingness, your own trembling.
I remember, as a youth, standing among the beloved old brethren, trying to frame something to say in the meeting. How I trembled and shook! Never mind; your shaking is better than your self-confidence. Here, Peter gets his qualifications from the pierced Hands. He says, “From this time you will catch men.” Wouldn’t you like to catch men? Are we getting men? Are we getting after them? Are we seeking after them? You say, “Tell me the qualifications.” Trembling, your own nothingness, knowing your own insufficiency! Say to the Lord, “I know my own rottenness, ‘I am a sinful man, O Lord’.” Possibly the greatest man who ever lived, the Apostle Paul, could say, “Unto me, who am less, than the least of all saints—less than the least of all saints—is this grace given. I should preach among the Gentiles the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” I hope you are trying to win somebody for Christ. You say, “I cannot do it.” But that is the one qualification you need, that you may do it. Your shaking limbs, your trembling heart, feeling how incompetent you are—those are your qualifications.
Once, a man who was very nervous stood on the battlefield. Suddenly he heard, “Hist! hist!” and a cannon-ball whizzed by. His knees began to shake. He said to his legs, “I see you are shaking, but if you knew where I am going to take you, you would shake a great deal more, but we will go.” That man was no coward. That man was nervous. A nervous man shakes before the thing comes off, in anticipation, but a coward runs away. But that man said, “My legs are shaking, I am going all to pieces; but we will go.” “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Take your second call, your call to service. Are you in it? In what? In His blessed service! To every man his work! I do not know what yours is, but I do know we are all called to it in some way. “From henceforth you shall catch men.” That is a great business. The blessed Lord is sufficient.
A little boy in Scotland had been fishing. He had not tackle worth anything, but he had lots of fish. His fishing-rod was not worth much. He had no lovely basket to put the fish in, when he caught them, but he caught them just the same. He met a gentleman returning from fishing, who had a wonderful outfit, rod, tackle, bait, everything but fish. He said, “My lad, what is it all about? I have got everything. I have got a grand outfit and all it takes, but no fish. Look at you, with a bit of a stick, a bit of string, and things that are not worth anything, but lots of fish.” Then the little lad answered, “Sir, the fish will not bite if you do not keep yourself out of sight.” How am I to hide myself? God has given me His own Son, covered me with His beauty, but, practically, we know very little about it in our pathway here. How can I get out of sight? You may retire, to leave room for Him. “They saw no man, save Jesus only.”
Beloved, I urge you to join the “From henceforth thou shalt catch men.” You are not a fluent speaker. Think of the men, who were not fluent speakers, who have brought people to Christ. I honor them. They were not silver-tongued orators, but they got someone for Christ. Have you entered the ranks? Henceforth, from the time that you shake, you have taken your own value of what you are, a sinful man in yourself, no good in you. That will make you lean on Him. Keep yourself out of sight. You know, when a dentist takes out your tooth he does not dangle his forceps in front of you. He somehow gets them up his sleeve, and he says, “Is that the one?” Then it is out. Let it burn its way into your heart, beloved brother and sister. I hope you wish to join the ranks. What ranks? Serving Christ! When are you going to start? “The very thought of it makes me shake all over,” you say. You know that wonderful man, Spurgeon. I have heard him speak. When I call him a wonderful man, that does not mean I take everything he says, but I take him in the aggregate. He used to bring up half-a-pint of blood sometimes, before he spoke. What he passed through before he faced those six thousand people he used to address every Lord’s Day! It cost him something. This was Peter’s day, when the Lord started him in His service, shaking as he was all over. “Fear not; from henceforth You have learned yourself. You see your own nothingness. You are shaking all over.” “From henceforth, thou shalt catch men.” Have you ever got anyone for Christ? Don’t you desire to do it? Would you like to do it? Cast yourself on Him, let down the net for a draught.
Shall we turn, now, to Matthew 14:25. I think, beloved friends, in all the history of that dear man Peter, what we read here eclipses all. On the day of Pentecost he was used in the conversion of three thousand people, but morally speaking he was a greater man, here, in the fourteenth of Matthew, than he was in the second of Acts. He got a great haul, that day, on the day of Pentecost. He was the speaker that day, and God used that beloved man to win three thousand souls. But now we find him, and the other disciples, on the tempestuous sea. A storm is raging, and they were brought to their very wits’ end, and then the blessed Lord came along, walking on the sea. Do you believe that He walked on the sea? Some people do not believe it. Professing Christians! Why! they are rank unbelievers. They are not believers. What is the Law of Gravitation to Him? Who made the Law of Gravitation? Who put gravitation in this universe? Why, He did! He is walking on His own estate. The sea is His. The earth is man’s. The heavens are the devils’—the prince of the power of the air; that is the devil’s sphere. “The earth has He given to the children of men.” He made it, of course, but He gives it to them. But the air belongs to the prince of the power of the air. The hosts of darkness are in the heavenlies! That is their habitation; that is their seat. But the sea is His. He is walking on His own estate, that Blessed One, on that awful night, during that storm. They see Him, and they are afraid, but He said, “Do not fear; it is I. I that called the waters into being and rolled them out. I that put the stars in their orbits. It is I; be not afraid.” Then Peter said such a lovely thing. Do not tell me he denied the Lord. I know it. We all do. But did we ever get three thousand souls. Peter said, “If it be Thou, bid me come to Thee on the water. If it be Thou. I want to get nearer to you. I want to be at your side. I want to be in your company. “If it be Thou, bid me come to Thee”; That is a wonderful sight. Peter is getting out of the boat on that tempestuous sea. It is all very well to criticize him. What would you have done? You would have said, “I cannot walk on the water. I cannot possibly go.” The devil will do everything he possibly can to keep us away from Christ. If you cannot see the difference, I think I can. When he got out of the boat, he made for Christ. “He walked on the water to go to Jesus.” Are we hearing Him say, tonight, “Come.” He said only one word. Peter said: “If it be Thou.” If there is one man here, who does not want to get near to Him, I trust you will change and want to get near to His blessed side tonight.
“If it be Thou, bid me come to Thee on the water.” That is not the sinner’s “Come,” but this is another “Come”—“Come to Me to find in Me all your heart’s satisfaction! I know you want to be near Me.” I watch that blessed man put his foot on liquid. You say, “He began to sink.” He did not sink, he began to sink. We never shall sink, if we make for the Lord. Is He our heart’s object? Do we want to get nearer to Him? There is one word He has for you, and that is ‘Come.” Come nearer to Him. Peter put his foot down on the water. As long as he kept his eyes on the Lord, he did not sink. It was when he saw the wind boisterous, he began to sink. The devil is the wind in figure. He will keep you from getting nearer to Christ in the heavens. He is the “prince of the power of the air.” Every beloved brother and sister here tonight says, “I would like to be nearer Him. I would like to know His company better, the reality of it better.” He says, “Come.” “He walked on the water to go to the Lord Jesus Christ, but when he saw the wind boisterous, he began to sink.” Oh, be sure of this, if your heart is set on Christ, there will be some wind. It is a curious thing to see the effects of the wind, while their cause is unseen. You see it make boisterous waves. Behind those waves is the wind—opposition to Christ—hostility to Him. But Peter landed there all right. He began to sink, but’ the Lord put out His hand and lifted him to His mighty bosom. I would like to be Peter, rather than those other brethren. It is the easiest thing in the world to look on—not participators but spectators. Get out of the crowds, who are spectators, lookers on. That is what the sons of the prophets were. They were all viewing. I do not want to be always viewing. I want to be near Him. Peter landed there. As he was sinking, the Lord put out His hand, and put him right on His mighty bosom.
That is his third call. What call? The call to Separation to Christ. Come. Come to Him. Come to Him, not as a sinner coming to a Saviour, but a saint coming to be satisfied, to that blessed Lord. Lord, bring us nearer to Thyself.
There we have Peter’s three calls. He had the Call of Divine sovereignty. He received the Call to Service, and that call doesn’t come when you cannot get anything else to do. It is one of the best businesses you ever could have. What fish Peter got that day! What a lot of fish he got! What a quantity of fish he had to sell! He left it all. Christ is saying to us everyone here, tonight, “Enjoy Me, be associated with Me; know My boundless, measureless, changeless love.”