Theme: Self—Denial and Reward
In this week’s lesson we read about what an investment in Christianity entails.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
The sharpness of Jesus’ rebuke was due to Jesus’ recognition that this was exactly the temptation Satan had made in the wilderness at the start of his ministry. It was a temptation to achieve worldly success without the cross. “All this [the kingdoms of the world and their splendor] I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me,” Satan said (Matt. 4:9). Jesus’ response was the same then as when he rebuked Peter: “Away from me, Satan!” (Matt. 4:10). He told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23).
We must not miss what this is teaching. There are at least two great lessons in these verses.
1. Christianity without the cross is worthless. It is not genuine Christianity at all. Without the cross there is no salvation because there is no Savior. Christ’s mere example helps no one. English bishop J. C. Ryle wrote,
On matters of church government, and the form of worship, men may differ from us, and yet reach heaven in safety. On the matter of Christ’s atoning death, as the way of peace, truth is only one. If we are wrong here, we are ruined forever. Error on many points is only a skin disease; error about Christ’s death is a disease of the heart. Here let us take our stand. Let nothing move us from this ground. The sum of all our hopes must be, that ‘Christ has died for us’ (1 Thess. 5:10). Give up that doctrine, and we have no solid hope at all.1
Have you placed your hope in Jesus and his death for you on the cross?
2. It is easy for us to be exactly right one minute and terribly wrong the next. One minute Peter is a prophet, a true spokesman for God. The next minute he is advancing the agenda of the devil, not realizing that in trying to deflect Jesus from the cross he was actually asking for his own damnation since apart from that death neither he, nor any of us, could be saved.
But Peter learned, and we shouldn’t forget that either. The very man who said, “Never, Lord. This shall never happen to you,” became one of the greatest expounders of the necessity of Christ’s death in the New Testament. Once he got it right he never forgot it. It was Peter who told the Sanhedrin that Jesus Christ is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone” and “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12). He wrote in his first letter, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24; see Acts 2:23; 3:18).
If we are going to be right in spiritual things, it will only be to the extent we read and study the Bible and grow in understanding. And whatever we may not fully understand, this one thing at least will be clear: Jesus died to save us our sin, and there is no salvation apart from him.
Do you believe that? Are you trusting Jesus as your Savior?
1John Charles Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. Matthew (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1974) pp. 200-201.
Why did Jesus rebuke Peter so sharply?
Explain J. C. Ryle’s statement, “error about Christ’s death is a disease of the heart.”
How can you be right in your spiritual understanding?
How do you deal with friends who call themselves “Christians” Without acknowledging the cross? What do they need to hear?
Whatever we may not fully understand, this one thing at least will be clear: Jesus died to save us from our sin, and there is no salvation apart from him.
Pray that like Peter, you will learn from past mistakes and continue to search for truth— through prayer and Bible study.