Apostle Paul once uttered a sentence that is considered to be impossible? Did you also know that as Believers we often speak that same sentence? Stick around and we’ll talk about it, here on Five Minutes of Truth.
Many of us remember the tragic story of Peter’s denial of Christ as espoused in all four of the Gospels. Jesus, prior to His arrest and trial, clearly told Peter that he would fall away but that he would also return. Jesus, wanting desperately for Peter to believe His prediction, then went on to give the exact time, date and nature of his failure by stating: “I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times”. Peter, possibly stung by the accusation, boldly told Jesus he would follow Him to “prison and to death”.
Of course, Jesus was 100% correct. Peter did, in fact, in plain view of Jesus and those who were accusing him, strongly announce that he didn’t even know Who Jesus was. Thus fulfilling this tragic prophecy. We also know the end of the story. After Jesus’ resurrection, He forgave, redeemed, and restored Peter to his position as Apostle and leader. Showing that no matter how far we fall, we never fall outside of His grace and mercy. Peter learned his lesson and never let anything like this happen again…right? Not so much.
We would think that once Jesus rose from the dead and showed Peter and the world Who He truly was, that there would be little room in the heart of a great Apostle like Peter to once again refuse to listen to Jesus. But, alas, Peter was human just as we are human, and we still make significant mistakes from time to time. Even when we should know better. Such is the case with this Apostle.
There is an absolutely fascinating event that is recorded in Acts chapter 10 that leads Peter to utter the impossible sentence we mentioned in the introduction. Let me set the stage for you a bit in order for this to make sense.
When the New Testament Church was in its infancy, it was faced with many challenges both from without and within. The powers that had Jesus crucified, were now desperately trying to stamp out the movement that resulted from His resurrection. Stephen was martyred, Saul was arresting Christians, and persecution flourished. But there were also internal struggles threatening the viability of the 1st Century Church.
Since Christianity emerged from the Jewish faith, and the early church was predominantly Jewish, there were those in leadership positions that were still clinging to parts of the Mosaic Law as a part of the salvation process. Jesus was crystal clear. Salvation was not in any way, shape, or form related to any works that we could do. Adherence to the Law and its precepts was not necessary to becoming a Believer. But that was a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people who had grown up with the idea that keeping the Law made one righteous.
Even Apostles were not immune from this folly. In Acts chapter 10, Peter was praying on the roof of a house owned by a man named Cornelius. While he prayed, he saw an unusual vision and heard a familiar voice. In the vision Peter saw, “a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him”. That’s not all. On the sheet he saw all kinds of animals and birds. This obviously included animals that from the Mosaic Law were listed as unclean and therefore forbidden to eat. We know this because of a statement Peter makes later in the vision.
He also hears a familiar voice. The voice commands Peter to: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat”. Peter recognizes the Voice because he refers to it as “Lord”. So Peter knows that Jesus is telling Peter to kill and eat all of the animals on the sheet…both the clean and the unclean. And here is where it happens. Here is where Peter makes the impossible statement. He replies: “Not so, Lord. For I have never eaten anything common or unclean”.
It’s that first three-word sentence we are most interested in. Listen to it again: “Not so, Lord”. Why is this an impossible sentence? Because as Believers, the moment we say “no” to God, is the moment He stops being Lord to us. Acknowledging Jesus as Lord means that we trust Him, will listen to Him and will obey Him. We cannot say “no” to Him and He still be Lord of our lives. The moment we say “no”, we are telling Him He is wrong, and we know best. In other words, we then become Lord.
So it is an impossible sentence. We can’t say “no” to Him and call Him Lord at the same time. It is impossible. Jesus is reminding Peter as He reminds us of the dangers of legalism. Adherence to the Law as a means of righteousness is legalism. It does not save us. Note the reason Peter gives for saying no to Jesus: It’s against the rules. Therefore the rules become more powerful than God. Jesus had already made all foods clean in …Peter knew this.
But the non-biblical rule had more power than Jesus and led Peter to say “no” to Jesus. That’s the danger of legalism. It is not an annoying trait to be explained away. It is a heresy that keeps Jesus from being the Lord of our lives. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”. How cool is that?
On behalf of myself, Robert Houghton, and all of us here at Growth Project…keep reading God’s Word.
Dr. Purvis started Growth Project with Robert Houghton after spending 20 years on active duty as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. After many moves and multiple deployments, he settled in Winter Haven, Florida to do God’s will. A glutton for educational punishment Danny has a BA in English from Carson-Newman College, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He has been married to his wife Kimberly (whom he met when they were 6 years old) for nearly 30 years and they have four wonderful children.