Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CHRIST’S WRESTLING”

Luke 22.32

This morning we learned a few things that may have startled a number of you, perhaps even puncturing an imagined safety you might have thought you had, an immunity from Satan’s violent and destructive attacks because you have not yet experienced them. We have learned that is not the case. You are not safe from his attacks and you have no immunity. If God allowed Satan to viciously and brutally attack Job, to provoke King David to commit terrible sin that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, and even allowed Satan to so savagely sift Simon Peter and the other apostles that Peter denied the Savior three times and the others ran away in fear of their lives, then I promise you that God will also allow Satan to sift you.

Consider your sifting at the hands of Satan, our archenemy. What will such sifting reveal about your relationship with God? What will such sifting reveal about your personal piety? What will violent and hope-destroying sifting reveal about your faith? Will it show you to be a believer, or will it show you to be a pretender? Will it hurry you into the arms of your heavenly Father for sweet comfort when all others fail you, or will it embitter you and alienate you from your pious pretense of Christianity? Have you convinced yourself that no sifting will ever occur to you, that you will never be violently tossed to and fro in an effort to destroy your faith, for the purpose of discouraging you to the point that you give up on going to church, quit all your praying, and allow dust to gather on your Bible? Aren’t you in for a surprise? The siftings that Satan brings upon people are unexpected and savage. They are designed to tempt, to entice, and to destroy. Satan’s siftings do not spare anyone’s feelings, crying (and you will cry, I promise you) will not help you, and if comfort is sought it will only be found in the God of all comfort.[1]

May I rehearse what I imagine to be Satan’s siftings in people’s lives, the violent bouncing up and down, followed by the vicious tossing back and forth of people, be it physically or emotionally, to reduce you to a state of confusion and tears, to disorient you to the place where you are without direction or consolation? Remember when Joseph’s half brothers tied him up and threw him in a pit, and he ended up a slave in Egypt at the age of 17? That was sifting. How would you like to suddenly lose your father and brothers? Then he was betrayed by his new master’s wife while doing right and ended up in prison. He thought he had a new home to replace his old home, and a benefactor to boot. However, Potiphar’s wife betrayed him and he ended up in prison for doing nothing wrong. He was trusting God, and yet look what happened. That, too, was sifting. Estranged from his beloved father and everything that was home, he found himself a foreigner among strange people, and he could rely only on God. Joseph’s sifting revealed that despite the loneliness and heartbreak, he really was godly. How will you stand up to the loss of your entire family? How about young Daniel? Taken to Babylon in the captivity when his nation was utterly demolished by foreign invaders, Daniel was in the company of eunuchs according to Daniel 1.3-10, which almost certainly meant that the Babylonians made Daniel and his other young Jewish friends eunuchs. How is that for sifting? To lose everything, your home and family, your nation and all that you are familiar with. Then you are brutally mutilated. How did Daniel hold up? He was ever faithful to God through the worst of it, was he not? Even when cast into the lion’s den when he was an old man, yet another sifting, his faith did not fail. Ever consider Ruth and Naomi? With them, sifting was the loss of their husbands, forcing Naomi (who had already lost her two sons) to return to the land of her people, taking her daughter-in-law Ruth with her. It was extremely difficult, very discouraging for two helpless women (one of them a despised foreigner). Yet they held fast. Naomi’s God was Ruth’s God, and He blessed their faithfulness through it all.[2] Richard Wurmbrand and his wife were severely sifted by Satan. His life began as an orphan. After he came to Christ he suffered under the Nazis in World War 2, and after their brutalities was tortured and isolated by the communists.[3] For years, while the communists imprisoned her, she was told that her husband was dead. Eventually, the Romanian regime was bribed to release them both to Sweden, and eventually they made their way to the United States. Think that is not sifting?

With you, it might be the loss of spouse or a child, the loss of your health, the loss of a job stemming from a betrayal by a fellow worker or a boss, or a bad turn by one of your children succumbing to Satan’s many temptations. Your sifting could be all of those things combined and more. Satan is a fiend of such brilliance and experience, his cunning and hatefulness is so far beyond your understanding, that there is no way you can predict how he will sift you; only that he will sift you. What will the sifting do to you? Will it drive you to Christ or will it drive you to despair and away from church and the gospel?

Mind you, my own opinion is that Satan does not sift everyone, does not demand or plead with God to sift every man. Asaph speaks in Psalm 73 of the prosperity of the wicked. He noted that the wicked are sometimes not in trouble as other men. Neither do they seem to be plagued like other men. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly. They speak openly and without fear against God, and nothing ever seems to happen to them. Ever known wicked men and women who seem to enjoy nothing but success in their sins? You might ask yourself how this can be. Is there no justice in the world? No, there is no justice in the world. Satan does not sift all men, but only the elect for sure. It was only when Asaph went to the sanctuary of God that he understood the end of such men as are not sifted, but who prosper in their wickedness.[4] Though such men might not be sifted by Satan in this life, justice will be meted out to them in the next life. Therefore, you see, it is not always good when for you it is always good.

In Luke 22.31, the Savior told Simon that Satan desired him and the other apostles, that he might sift them as wheat. In our text for this evening, Luke 22.32, we see for a certainty that God will allow Satan to sift them. Turn to that verse and stand for the reading of God’s Word when you find it: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

Four phrases to comfort the souls of God’s elect:

 First, THE SAVIOR’S PRAYERS FOR YOU

 If you were here this morning, you will remember that I pointed out to you that what Satan requested of God, demanded of God, and urged upon God, God granted. Satan had desired Simon to sift him as wheat, as well as the other remaining apostles. If the rest of God’s Word is any indication, Satan’s desire is to sift all of the elect. It is a plea to God, a prayer if you will, that God grants. That Jesus informed His remaining apostles of Satan’s desire, and His assurance in our text, “But I have prayed for thee,” convinces the reasonable person that, yes, God will allow the sifting as wheat, but that Jesus will pray for them.

In Luke 22.31, Jesus told Simon in the presence of the others, “Satan hath desired to have you,” with Greek word translated you being plural. Jesus spoke to Simon Peter, in the hearing of them all, about them all. However, here in verse 32, the words thee, thy, thou and thy all translate the singular pronoun for you. In other words, Jesus tells Simon, “I have prayed for you, Simon.” This does not imply Jesus will not also pray for the other apostles in the room. Neither does it suggest Jesus will not also pray for all of His sheep. Turn to John chapter 17, Christ’s high priestly intercessory prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and read some excerpts from Christ’s prayer.

 John 17.6: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.”

John 17.9: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”

John 17.15: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”

John 17.20: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.”

 Oh, what a Savior! He prayed for Simon Peter. He prayed for the remaining apostles. He prays for all those the Father has given Him. He prays for me. Does He pray for you? If you are a believer, you know He does, but if you are not a believer, He may not pray for you. He does not pray for those not elect. However, if He prays for you . . . . What could be better than to be the beneficiary of the prayers of the eternal Son of the living God, Who would soon die on the cross and shed His precious blood for the sins of men?

 Next, THE SAVIOR’S PRESERVATION OF YOU

 It is very clear in Luke 22.31-32 that the Lord Jesus Christ does not pray for His own to be spared Satan’s sifting. The Savior would never pray contrary to God’s will, and it is clearly God’s will for His own to be sifted by Satan. Make sure you understand what Jesus is doing.

In his comments on this verse in Word Pictures In The New Testament, the notable Greek scholar A. T. Robertson makes what is in my estimation a major blunder by writing, “Evidently Jesus could not keep Satan from attacking Peter.”[5] My friends, there is no “could not” with Jesus Christ. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Therefore, if His heavenly Father permits Satan to sift you, while the Lord Jesus Christ promises to pray for you, you are the beneficiary of a tremendous advantage from our “advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”[6]

The advocacy of Jesus Christ for Simon, for the other apostles, and for every one of Christ’s sheep is His prayer “that thy faith fail not.” “This does not mean that Peter will never fail, but that whatever failure he has will be temporary. It is clear that failure here means ultimate, total failure, that is, a total renunciation of Jesus.”[7] Thus, when Jesus prays for you, your faith cannot ultimately fail.

Let me point out here that there are good men on both sides of the question of whether Peter and the other apostles are converted in the sense that they are truly justified by faith at this point in their lives, though the question of Peter’s and others faith not utterly or finally failing as a result of Jesus’ prayers does not settle that question. After all, the fact of Abraham’s possession of genuine faith from Ur of the Chaldees all the way to Genesis 15.5 prior to his justification clearly shows the presence of faith prior to justification.[8] His justification is recorded in Genesis 15.6, showing Abraham possessed real faith for years prior to being justified.[9]

If Simon and the others are converted at this point, the prayers of Jesus are for their perseverance in the faith, not finally or fully falling away, but the germ of faith however small being preserved. However, if Simon and the others are not converted at this point, the prayers of Jesus are for God’s electing purpose to be fulfilled in their lives, for Christ’s prayers to be answered by their conversion despite being sifted by Satan. In either case, when Jesus prays for your faith to not ultimately fail, your faith will not ultimately fail. The Father answers His Son’s prayers.

 Third, THE SAVIOR’S PREDICTION ABOUT YOU

 The Savior says to Peter, “and when thou art converted.” Is Peter saved at this point? If he is not he will be. That seeking faith that he has exhibited over the last few years of following Jesus, will come to full fruition in the salvation of his eternal and undying soul. Will it be a difficult journey? To be sure. Will there by pain and disappointment along the way? He can count on it. However, Jesus said, in John 10.27-28:

27     My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

28     And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

What if Peter is saved at this point? If Peter has already actually trusted Jesus to the saving of his eternal and undying soul, this statement by our Lord carries the full assurance that having turned away from the Savior to betray Him three times, Simon will nevertheless turn back to his Lord. The only ones who need to be terribly concerned with respect to this statement are those of you who are blown away by some difficulty in life, sifted if you will, and are never converted. You attend church and seem to consider the claims of Jesus Christ without actually coming to Christ. Then, along the way, I profoundly disappoint you or you are deeply embittered by someone in our church and you forever turn your back on the Savior. Guess what? That was not my fault. Neither was it the fault of the other person in our church who offended you. You were already lost. The reality is that you are not elect, not truly one of Christ’s sheep. That is why you did not hear His voice above all others and follow Him. You were sifted in some way and the sifting only succeeded in providing the means by which you felt justified in refusing the Savior.

Some day we should catalog the setbacks each of us experienced when exposed to the gospel before our conversions, and then what we have experienced since our conversions. That is, the siftings of Satan before and the siftings of Satan after our conversion. When reviewing those experiences, you would notice that we all frequently fell, sometimes very hard. However, it was not permanent. Why not? Because Jesus is a wonderful Savior, and He prays powerful and effective prayers for His own, that our faith will not utterly fail.

So, how does the Savior’s intention to pray for us become a prediction about us? Think about it, my friend. God the Son praying to His beloved Father, Who is well pleased with Him. Any chance of Christ’s prayer not being answered? Thus, if you are not eventually converted, coming to Christ as a lost person, or coming back to Christ as a believer who has seriously stumbled, it is not because the Savior’s prayers were not answered. It is because the Savior did not pray for you.

 Finally, THE SAVIOR’S PROPOSAL TO YOU

 Let us leave off, for now, any consideration of those for whom Jesus did not pray, those who are not His sheep and who do not hear His voice and follow Him. For now, we consider only you who will be given, or who have been given, eternal life. You will never perish, neither will any man pluck you out of the Lord’s hands.

In answer to Jesus Christ’s intercessory prayer as your advocate, what does He propose for you? Notice the last phrase of our text: “strengthen thy brethren.” We know that after Peter’s three betrayals of the Savior only a few hours after these words were spoken, he was humiliated by his cowardice and discouraged to disconsolation. My Lord knew those things would happen. He knew Simon would be sifted as wheat. He knew Simon Peter would stumble badly. He knew Simon Peter would be humiliated by his betrayal. He also knew Simon Peter would repent of his sins, recover his determination and commitment to serve the Savior, and once more be in a position to minister to others. Once there, Simon’s Lord wanted him to “strengthen thy brethren.”

While we must recognize that sometimes a person’s sins are so destructive that the damage cannot be fully repaired, we must also recognize that sins can always be fully and completely forgiven. Restoration can take place. When that happens, strengthen thy brethren. It is not always possible to regain your standing as a pastor, as a spouse, as a parent, or as a credible leader in other people’s lives. Sometimes the sins and the stumbling resulting from Satan’s siftings are really that bad. However, when you are converted, be it coming to Christ or coming back to Christ, you can always strengthen the brethren. You can always strengthen the brethren.

 The title of my sermon is “Christ Wrestling.” By wrestling, I refer to Christ’s prayers on our behalf, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and His advocacy at the Father’s right hand since His ascension.

A wonderful savior is Jesus, my Lord. A wonderful savior is He. What kind of blindness, what kind of deafness, what kind of dullness, prevents a sinner from embracing and depending upon so wonderful a savior as Jesus Christ, my Lord?



[1] 2 Corinthians 1.3-4

[2] Ruth 1.16

[3] I recommend his biography, Tortured For Christ, published by Living Sacrifice Book Company, P. O. Box 2273, Bartlesville, OK 74005-2273

[4] Psalm 73.17

[5] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol II, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1930), page 270.

[6] 1 John 2.1

[7] Darrell L. Bock, Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), page 1742.

[8] Genesis 12.-15.5; Hebrews 11.8

[9] Romans 4.1-5; Galatians 3.6



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org