The History of Simon Peter: 1. I Am a Sinful Man

Luke 5  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Simon Peter's history is deeply instructive, and portrays, in the main, that of every Christian, from the first step in acquaintance with Christ to the state- alas so rarely attained or maintained-in which the Holy Ghost can without hindrance show forth His power. During this interval the full energy of grace is unfolded, bringing the soul into the knowledge of Christ and of Christian privileges. We see also the breaking down of soul necessary to enable the believer, after having lost confidence in self, to realize his privileges and follow the Lord in the path marked out by Him.
(* Translated from the French)
Peter's history in the word of God divides itself naturally into two parts, one of which we find in the gospels, and the other in the Acts of the Apostles. The first part corresponds with the truths mentioned above; the second-at which, God willing, we shall look later on-is filled (though not without failure on the part of the instrument) with the activity of the Holy Ghost in the ministry of Peter, and with that divine power which sustains him as a witness for Christ amidst obstacles and conflict.
I Am a Sinful Man, Luke 5
The way in which Peter comes in contact with the Lord in Luke's gospel is worthy of note.* Simon's wife's mother (4. 38, 39) was taken with a great fever which rendered her helpless. Jesus heals her and fits her to serve Him. It is often thus that the soul meets Christ for the first time. It comes in contact with Him by means of the blessings bestowed by Him on others. When the moment comes for Him to reveal Himself to our own hearts, we find that He is not altogether a stranger. The Lord uses this preparatory knowledge to shorten the work by which our consciences are awakened to a sense of sin, and our hearts to a sense of grace. In this gospel Simon Peter knew Jesus from having seen Him at work in his house.
(* I purposely omit noting what is of interest in Peter's first interview with the Lord in the other gospels. In John's gospel (ch. 1:42, 43), for instance, Peter knows Him through the instrumentality of his brother Andrew, who had already found in Him the Christ.)
The son of Jonas was a fisherman by trade; he possessed what was requisite for catching fish-a boat and nets. He had used them to obtain what he wanted, and had worked all night for this purpose, but without any result. Thus the natural man employs his faculties, and the means placed at his disposal, to obtain something which will fill and satisfy his heart; but it is in vain, the net remains empty. His labor yields nothing which can answer to the deep need of his soul. The night passes, and the day is about to dawn when even as a fisherman he will no longer be able to labor in pursuit of happiness. Simon and his companions, having taken nothing, quit their boats and wash their nets. They set about washing them, for they had taken up nothing but the mud from the bottom of the sea, and when this is done they will recommence fishing. Is it not thus with a man of the world? His labors to attain a desired end are renewed every day without success.
But when man's powerlessness has been made evident Jesus appears, seemingly otherwise occupied than with Peter. He teaches the multitudes, but in the midst of His ministry His heart is with Simon, and He does not lose sight of him Entering into one of the ships which was Simon's, He prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. He separates Peter with Himself from the crowd, and thus he hears all the Lord says. Jesus had been no stranger to him previous to this; now he listens to His word, and his position of isolation with Him only contributes to render him the more attentive. Still, from verse 5 we may infer that the conviction of the authority of the Word was all that he retained.
After this we find the Lord more specially occupied with Peter. "Launch out into the deep," said He, "and let down your nets for a draft." Peter had done that all night; but up to this it was by the will of man, now it is at the word of the Lord. Peter believes this word, and submits to it. The first result of God's word is to produce faith, and faith accepts its authority and obeys. The Lord has spoken; that is enough for faith. But Jesus addresses Peter in a yet more powerful way, and shows him in whose presence he is, thus reaching his conscience. He, the Creator who disposes of everything, collects the fishes in broad daylight, when there had been none at night, and fills Peter's nets with them. He fills the human vessels with blessings such as they are unable to contain without breaking, and which surpass the needs of the disciple. His companions arrive with a second ship, which sinks likewise, so abundant are the riches given by the Lord of glory.
Peter sees (v. 8) all this blessing; but it places him for the first time, as he is, in the presence of Him who is its Source and Administrator. Thus it is not only the word of Jesus which strikes him, but Jesus Himself, and the glory of His person. A revolution takes place in his soul. The blessing, instead of producing joy, causes conviction of sin and fear, because it brings him into the presence of the Lord of glory, On the other hand, the sense of his condition, whilst giving him the terrible certainty that Jehovah ought to repulse him, yet casts him at the feet of Jesus as his only resource. Similarly in Psa. 130:1-41<<A Song of degrees.>> Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. 2Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 3If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. (Psalm 130:1‑4) we see the soul calling for succor from the One whom it has offended. If He marks iniquities it is all over with it; it is lost if the question of sins is not settled. But the God who has been sinned against pardons. God is known in His love.
It is blessed for the sinner to know his real condition, the judgment which is his due, and the holiness of the Lord. "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man." Peter judges himself to be a sinner, and unfit for the presence of God. He trembles before His holiness and righteousness. As yet he only knows half instinctively what grace is, and is ignorant how God can be just in justifying him that believeth in Jesus; but he is at His feet, and he does not flee away, because if there is any hope it is there. As long as he was occupied in washing his nets he knew neither God nor himself; but now he knows both, and- it is a remarkable thing that he does not judge what he has done, but what he is. Many souls acknowledge that they have to repent of their guilty acts and judge them, but they have not been brought to see the source of these acts. Underneath the sins there is " a sinful man." The sense of God's presence opens our eyes, shows us what we are, and makes us see that our only refuge is with the One who could condemn us.
Fear had laid hold of Peter, but the Lord never allows fear to exist in His presence. He speaks and banishes the fear, because He is the Lord of grace. He allows everything else to remain-weakening in no wise the effects of the work in the soul -but He removes the fear. "Depart from me." No, the Lord will never depart. He says, "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men" -if I had not met thee to save thee I could not save others by thy instrumentality. He does more than make Simon Peter happy; He bestows a fresh blessing on him, promising him service; so that, instead of remaining a sinner, Peter becomes a servant, able to leave all and follow Jesus.