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Lords Day 19, 2011

I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.

Hymn 51.   (s. m.)
Persevering grace. Jude, v. 24, 25.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748)



To God the only wise,

Our Saviour and our King,
Let all the saints below the skies

Their humble praises bring.

   Tis his almighty love,
   His counsel, and his care,
Preserves us safe from sin and death,
   And evry hurtful snare.

   He will present our souls,
   Unblemishd and complete,
Before the glory of his face,
   With joys divinely great.

   Then all the chosen seed
   Shall meet around the throne,
Shall bless the conduct of his grace,
   And make his wonders known.

   To our Redeemer, God,
   Wisdom and power belongs,
Immortal crowns of majesty,
   And everlasting songs.

from The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997).


John 21:1517

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these? He said to Him, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You. He said to him, Tend My lambs. 16 He said to him again a second time, Simon, son of John, do you love Me? He said to Him, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You. He said to him, Shepherd My sheep. 17 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 all things; You know that I love You. Jesus said to him, Tend My sheep.


   These verses describe a remarkable conversation between our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter. To the careful Bible reader, who remembers the Apostles thrice-repeated denial of Christ, the passage cannot fail to be a deeply interesting portion of Scripture. Well would it be for the Church, if all after-dinner conversations among Christians were as useful and edifying as this.

We should notice first, in these verses, Christs question to Peter: Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me?Three times we find the same inquiry made. It seems most probable that this three-fold repetition was meant to remind the Apostle of his own thrice-repeated denial. Once we find a remarkable addition to the inquiry: Lovest thou Me more than these? It is a reasonable supposition that those three words more than these, were meant to remind Peter of his over-confident assertion: Though all men deny Thee, yet will not I.It is just as if our Lord would say, Wilt thou now exalt thyself above others? Hast thou yet learned thine own weakness?

Lovest thou Me may seem at first sight a simple question. In one sense it is so. Even a child can understand love, and can say whether he loves another or not. Yet Lovest thou Me is, in reality, a very searching question. We may know much, and do much, and profess much, and talk much, and work much, and give much, and go through much, and make much show in our religion, and yet be dead before God, from lack of love, and at last go down to the pit. Do we love Christ? That is the great question. Without this there is no vitality about our Christianity. We are no better than painted wax figures, lifeless stuffed beasts in a museum, sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. There is no life where there is no love.

Let us take heed that there is some feeling in our religion. Knowledge, orthodoxy, correct views, regular use of forms, a respectable moral life,all these do not make up a true Christian. There must be some personal feeling towards Christ. Feeling alone, no doubt, is a poor useless thing, and may be here to-day and gone to-morrow. But the entire absence of feeling is a very bad symptom, and speaks ill for the state of a mans soul. The men and women to whom Paul wrote his Epistles had feelings, and were not ashamed of them. There was One in heaven whom they loved, and that One was Jesus the Son of God. Let us strive to be like them, and to have some real feeling in our Christianity, if we hope to share their reward.

We should notice, secondly, in these verses, Peters answer to Christs question. Three times we find the Apostle saying, Thou knowest that I love Thee. Once we are told that he said, Thou knowest all things. Once we have the touching remark made, that he was grieved to be asked the third time. We need not doubt that our Lord, like a skillful physician, stirred up this grief intentionally. He intended to pierce the Apostles conscience, and to teach him a solemn lesson. If it was grievous to the disciple to be questioned, how much more grievous must it have been to the Master to be denied!

The answer that the humbled Apostle gave, is the one account that the true servant of Christ in every age can give of his religion. Such an one may be weak, and fearful, and ignorant, and unstable, and failing in many things, but at any rate he is real and sincere. Ask him whether he is converted, whether he is a believer, whether he has grace, whether he is justified, whether he is sanctified, whether he is elect, whether he is a child of God,ask him any one of these questions and he may perhaps reply that he really does not know! But ask him whether he loves Christ, and he will reply, I do! He may add that he does not love Him as much as he ought to do; but he will not say that he does not love Him at all. The rule will be found true with very few exceptions. Wherever there is true grace, there will be a consciousness of love towards Christ.

What, after all, is the great secret of loving Christ? It is an inward sense of having received from Him pardon and forgiveness of sins. Those love much who feel much forgiven. He who has come to Christ with his sins, and tasted the blessedness of free and full absolution, he is the man whose heart will be full of love towards his Saviour. The more we realize that Christ has suffered for us, and paid our debt to God, and that we are washed and justified through His blood, the more we shall love Him for having loved us, and given Himself for us. Our knowledge of doctrines may be defective. Our ability to defend our views in argument may be small. But we cannot be prevented feeling. And our feeling will be like that of the Apostle Peter: Thou, Lord, who knowest all things, Thou knowest my heart; and Thou knowest that I love Thee.

We should notice, lastly, in these verses, Christs command to Peter. Three times we find Him saying, Feed my flock: once, Feed my lambs; and twice my sheep. Can we doubt for a moment that this thrice-repeated charge was full of deep meaning? It was meant to commission Peter once more to do the work of an Apostle, notwithstanding his recent fall. But this was only a small part of the meaning. It was meant to teach Peter and the whole Church the mighty lesson, that usefulness to others is the grand test of love, and working for Christ the great proof of really loving Christ. It is not loud talk and high profession; it is not even impetuous, spasmodic zeal, and readiness to draw the sword and fight,it is steady, patient, laborious effort to do good to Christs sheep scattered throughout this sinful world, which is the best evidence of being a true-hearted disciple. This is the real secret of Christian greatness. It is written in another place, Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. (Matt. xx. 2628.)

Forever let the parting charge of our blessed Master abide in our consciences, and come up in the practice of our daily lives. It is not for nothing we may be sure, that we find these things recorded for our learning, just before He left the world. Let us aim at a loving, doing, useful, hard-working, unselfish, kind, unpretentious religion. Let it be our daily desire to think of others, care for others, do good to others, and to lessen the sorrow, and increase the joy of this sinful world. This is to realize the great principle which our Lords command to Peter was intended to teach. So living, and so laboring to order our ways, we shall find it abundantly true, that it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts xx. 35.)

J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Baker Books, 2007) [Westminster (PB) | Amazon (HC)].

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation
if you can possibly help it.
But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these.

Posted 2011·05·08 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Expository Thoughts on the Gospels · Gospel of John · Isaac Watts · J C Ryle · Lord’s Day · Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts
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