Luke 22:32
But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(32) I have prayed for thee.—The individualising pronoun is significant as indicating to the Apostle, who was most confident, it may be, of his claim to greatness, that he, of the whole company of the Twelve, was in the greatest danger. In the Greek the other pronoun also is emphatic. “It was I who prayed for thee.” The prayer was answered, and the words that follow assume the answer as certain. In one sense “faith” did “fail” when the disciple denied his Lord; but repentance came after it, and a new power was gained through that weakness to make others strong. The word for “strengthen” does not meet us in the other Gospels, but is used frequently by St. Paul (Romans 1:11; 1Thessalonians 3:2, et al.), and twice by St. Peter himself (1Peter 5:10; 2Peter 1:12).

Luke

PARTING PROMISES AND WARNINGS

A GREAT FALL AND A GREAT RECOVERY

Luke 22:32
.

Our Lord has just been speaking words of large and cordial praise of the steadfastness with which His friends had continued with Him in His temptations, and it is the very contrast between that continuance and the prevision of the cowardly desertion of the Apostle which occasioned the abrupt transition to this solemn appeal to him, which indicates how the forecast pained Christ’s heart. He does not let the foresight of Peter’s desertion chill His praise of Peter’s past faithfulness as one of the Twelve. He does not let the remembrance of Peter’s faithfulness modify His rebuke for Peter’s intended and future desertion. He speaks to him, with significant and emphatic reiteration of the old name of Simon that suggests weakness, unsanctified and unhelped: ‘Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.’ There is a glimpse given, a corner of the curtain being lifted, into a dim region in which faith should not refuse to discern so much light as Christ has given, because superstition has so often fancied that it saw what it only dreamed. But passing from that, the words before us seem to me to suggest a threefold thought of the Intercessor for tempted souls; of the consequent re-illumination of eclipsed faith; and of the larger service for which the discipline of fall and recovery fits him who falls. Let me say a word or two about each of these thoughts.

I. We have the Intercessor for tempted souls.

Notice that majestic ‘but’ with which my text begins, ‘Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee.’ He presents Himself, then, as the Antagonist, the confident and victorious Antagonist, of whatsoever mysterious, malignant might may lie beyond the confines of sense, and He says, ‘My prayer puts the hook in leviathan’s nose, and the malevolent desire to sift, in order that not the chaff but the wheat may disappear, comes all to nothing by the side of My prayer.’

Note the discrimination of the intercession. He ‘hath desired to have you’-that is plural; ‘I have prayed for thee’-that is singular. The man that was in the greatest danger was the man nearest to Christ’s heart, and chiefly the object of Christ’s intercession. So it is always-the tenderest of His words, the sweetest of His consolations, the strongest of His succours, the most pleading and urgent of His petitions, the mightiest gifts of His grace, are given to the weakest, the neediest, the men and women in most sorrow and stress and peril, and they who want Him most always have Him nearest. The thicker the darkness, the brighter His light; the drearier our lives, the richer His presence; the more solitary we are, the larger the gifts of His companionship. Our need is the measure of His prayer. ‘Satan hath desired to have you, but thou, Peter, dost stand in the very focus of the danger, and so on thee are focussed, too, the rays of My love and care.’ Be sure, dear friends, that it is always so for us, and that when you want Christ most, Christ is most to you.

Then, I need not touch at any length upon that great subject on which none of us can speak adequately or with full comprehension-viz. our Lord as the Intercessor for us in all our weakness and need. We believe in His continual manhood, we believe that He prayed upon earth, we believe that He prays in heaven. His prayer is no mere utterance of words: it is the presentation of a fact, the bringing ever before the Infinite Divine Mind, as it were, of His great work of sacrifice, as the condition which determines, and the channel through which flows, the gift of sustaining grace from God Himself. And so we may be sure that whensoever there come to any of us trials, difficulties, conflicts, temptations, they are known to our Brother in the skies, and the stormier the gales that threaten us, the closer He wraps His protection round us. We have an Advocate and an Intercessor before the Throne; His prayer is always heard. Oh, brethren! how different our endurance would be, if we vividly believed that Christ was praying for us! How it would take the sting out of sorrow, and blunt the edge of temptation, if we realised that! O for a faith that shall rend the heavens, and rise above the things seen and temporal, and behold the eternal order of the universe, the central Throne, and at the right hand of God, the Intercessor for all who love and trust Him!

II. Notice again the consequent re-illumination of eclipsed faith.

‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.’ Did it fail? If we look only at Peter’s denial, we must answer, Yes. If we look at the whole of the future life of the Apostle, we answer, No. Eclipse is not extinction; the momentary untruthfulness to one’s deepest convictions is not the annihilation of these convictions. Christ’s prayer is never vain, and Christ’s prayer was answered just because Peter, though he fell, did not lie in the mud, but staggered to his feet again, and with sore weeping and many an agony of shame, struggled onward, with unconquerable hope, in the path from which, for a moment, he strayed. Better one great outburst like his, the nature of which there is no possibility of mistaking, than the going on, as so many professing Christians do, from year to year, walking in a vain show of godliness, and fancying themselves to be disciples, when all the while they are recreants and apostates. There is more chance of the recovery of a good man that has fallen into some sin, ‘gross as a mountain, open, palpable,’ than there is of the recovery of those who let their religion trickle out of them in drops, and never know that their veins are empty until the heart ceases to beat at all.

Here, then, we have two large lessons from which we may take strength, taught us by this darkening and re-illumination of an eclipsed faith. One is that the sincerest love, the truest desire to follow Jesus, the firmest faith, may be overborne, and the whole set of a life contradicted for a time. Thank God, there is a vast difference between conduct which is inconsistent with being a Christian and conduct which is incompatible with being a Christian. It is dangerous, perhaps, to apply the difference too liberally in judging ourselves; it is imperative to apply it always in judging our fellows. But if it be true that Peter meant, down to the very bottom of his heart, all that he said when he said, ‘I will lay down my life for Thee,’ while yet within a few hours afterwards the sad prophecy of our Lord was fulfilled-’Thou shalt deny Me thrice!’-let us take the lesson, not, indeed, to abate our horror of the sin, but on the one hand to cut the comb of our own self-confidence, and on the other hand to judge with all charity and tenderness the faults of our brethren. ‘Be not high-minded, but fear,’ and when we look into the black gulf into which Peter fell bodily, let us cry, ‘Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe.’

The other lesson is that the deepest fall may be recovered. Our Lord in the words of our text does not definitely prophesy what He subsequently declares in plain terms, the fall of Peter, but He implies it when He says, ‘when thou art converted’-or, as the Revised Version reads it much more accurately, ‘when once thou hast turned again strengthen thy brethren.’ Then, the Apostle’s face had been turned the wrong way for a time, and he needed to turn right-about-face in order to renew the old direction of his life. He came back for two reasons-one because Christ prayed for him, and the other because he ‘turned himself.’ For the only way back is through the valley of weeping and the dark lane of penitence; and whosoever has denied with Peter, or at least grovelled with Peter, or perhaps grovelled much more than Peter, ‘denying the Lord that bought him’ by living as if He was not his Lord, will never come back to the place that Peter again won for himself, but by the road by which Peter went. ‘The Lord turned and looked upon him,’ and Christ’s face, with love and sorrow and reproach in it, taught him his sin, and bowed his heart, ‘and he went out and wept bitterly.’

Peter and Judas both ‘went out’; the one ‘went out and hanged himself,’ because his conviction of his sin was unaccompanied with a faith in his Master’s love, and his repentance was only remorse; and the other ‘went out and wept bitterly,’ and so came back with a clean heart. And on the Resurrection morning he was ready for the message: ‘Go, tell His disciples, and Peter, He goeth before you into Galilee.’ And the Lord appeared to him, in that conversation, the existence of which was known, though the particulars were unknown, to the rest; and when ‘He appeared unto Cephas,’ spoke his full forgiveness. There is the road back for all wanderers.

III. The last thought is, the larger service for which such an experience will fit him who falls.

‘Strengthen thy brethren when once thou hast turned again.’ I need not remind you how nobly the Apostle fulfilled this commandment. Satan desired to have him, that he might sift him as wheat; but Satan’s sifting was in order that he might get rid of the wheat and harvest the chaff. His malice worked indirectly the effect opposite to his purpose, and achieved the same result as Christ’s winnowing seeks to accomplish-namely, it got rid of the chaff and kept the wheat. Peter’s vanity was sifted out of him, his self-confidence was sifted out of him, his rash presumption was sifted out of him, his impulsive readiness to blurt out the first thought that came into his head was sifted out of him, and so his unreliableness and changeableness were largely sifted out of him, and he became what Christ said he had in him the makings of being-’Cephas, a rock,’ or, as the Apostle Paul, who was never unwilling to praise the others, said, a man ‘who looked like a pillar.’ He ‘strengthened his brethren,’ and to many generations the story of the Apostle who denied the Lord he loved has ministered comfort. To how many tempted souls, and souls that have yielded to temptation, and souls that, having yielded, are beginning to grope their way back again out of its vulgar delights and surfeiting sweetnesses, and find that there is a desert to be traversed before they can again reach the place where they stood before, has that story ministered hope, as it will minister to the very end! The bone that is broken is stronger, they tell us, at the point of junction, when it heals and grows again, than it ever was before. And it may well be that a faith that has made experience of falling and restoration has learned a depth of self-distrust, a firmness of confidence in Christ, a warmth of grateful love which it would never otherwise have experienced.

The Apostle about whom we have been speaking seems to have carried in his mind and memory an abiding impression from that bitter experience, and in his letter when he was an old man, and all that past was far away, he writes many words which sound like echoes and reminiscences of it. In the last chapter of his epistle, in which he speaks of himself as a witness of the sufferings of Christ, there are numbers of verses which seem to point to what had happened in the Upper Room. ‘Ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.’ Jesus Christ had then said, ‘He that is the greater among you, let him be as the younger.’ Peter says, ‘Be clothed with humility’; he remembers Christ wrapping a towel around Him, girding Himself, and taking the basin. He says, ‘God resisteth the proud,’ and he remembers how proud he had been, with his boast: ‘Though all should . . . yet will not I,’ and how low he fell because he was ‘fool’ enough to ‘trust in his own heart.’ ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist, steadfast in the faith.’ ‘The God of all grace stablish, strengthen, settle you.’ He thus strengthened his brethren when he reminded them of the temptation to which he himself had so shamefully succumbed, and when he referred them for all their strength to the source of it all, even God in Christ.22:21-38 How unbecoming is the worldly ambition of being the greatest, to the character of a follower of Jesus, who took upon him the form of a servant, and humbled himself to the death of the cross! In the way to eternal happiness, we must expect to be assaulted and sifted by Satan. If he cannot destroy, he will try to disgrace or distress us. Nothing more certainly forebodes a fall, in a professed follower of Christ, than self-confidence, with disregard to warnings, and contempt of danger. Unless we watch and pray always, we may be drawn in the course of the day into those sins which we were in the morning most resolved against. If believers were left to themselves, they would fall; but they are kept by the power of God, and the prayer of Christ. Our Lord gave notice of a very great change of circumstances now approaching. The disciples must not expect that their friends would be kind to them as they had been. Therefore, he that has a purse, let him take it, for he may need it. They must now expect that their enemies would be more fierce than they had been, and they would need weapons. At the time the apostles understood Christ to mean real weapons, but he spake only of the weapons of the spiritual warfare. The sword of the Spirit is the sword with which the disciples of Christ must furnish themselves.That thy faith fail not - The word "faith," here, seems to be used in the sense of religion, or attachment to Christ, and the words "fail not" mean "utterly fail" or fail altogether - that is, apostatize. It is true that the "courage" of Peter failed; it is true that he had not that immediate confidence in Jesus and reliance on him which he had before had; but the prayer of Jesus was that he might not altogether apostatize from the faith. God heard Jesus "always" John 11:42; it follows, therefore, that every prayer which he ever offered was answered; and it follows, as he asked here for a specific thing, that that thing was granted; and as he prayed that Peter's faith might not utterly fail, so it follows that there was no time in which Peter was not really a pious man. Far as he wandered, and grievously as he sinned, yet he well knew that Jesus was the Messiah. He "did know" the man; and though his fears overcame him and led him to aggravated sin, yet the prayer of Christ was prevalent, and he was brought to true repentance.

When thou art converted - The word "converted" means turned, changed, recovered. The meaning is, when thou art turned from this sin, when thou art recovered from this heinous offence, then use "your" experience to warn and strengthen those who are in danger of like sins. A man may be "converted or turned" from any sin, or any evil course. He is "regenerated" but once - at the beginning of his Christian life; he may be "converted" as often as he falls into sin.

Strengthen thy brethren - Confirm them, warn them, encourage them. They are in continual danger, also, of sinning. Use your experience to warn them of their danger, and to comfort and sustain them in their temptations. And from this we learn:

1. That one design of permitting Christians to fall into sin is to show their own weakness and dependence on God; and,

2. That they who have been overtaken in this manner should make use of their experience to warn and preserve others from the same path.

The two epistles of Peter, and his whole life, show that "he" was attentive to this command of Jesus; and in his death he manifested his deep abhorrence of this act of dreadful guilt in denying his blessed Lord, by requesting to be crucified with his head downward, as unworthy to suffer in the same manner that Christ did. Compare the notes at John 21:18.

32. But I have prayed—have been doing it already.

for thee—as most in danger. (See on [1726]Lu 22:61, 62.)

fail not—that is, entirely; for partially it did fail.

converted—brought back afresh as a penitent disciple.

strengthen, &c.—that is, make use of thy bitter experience for the fortifying of thy tempted brethren.

See Poole on "Luke 22:31" But I have prayed for thee,.... Christ prayed for all the apostles; but particularly for Peter, because he was in the greatest danger: whether the prayer Christ refers to was that in John 17:1 in which are many passages relating to the preservation, sanctification, final perseverance and glorification of the apostles, as well as of other saints, as in John 17:9 and so these words might be spoken a little after that prayer was ended, which was about this same time; or whether it was any other, and only mental, and not vocal, is not certain: however, the petition was,

that thy faith fail not; Satan in his temptations strikes principally at the faith of God's people; that being a grace which gives much glory to God, and in the exercise of which believers have much peace, joy, and comfort; both which he envies and grudges; and it is also a shield which keeps off, and quenches his fiery darts, and is a piece of armour he is sadly harassed with, and therefore endeavours all he can to weaken and destroy it, or wrest it out of their hands: but though, through the power of sin, and the force of temptation, it may fail as to some degree of the steadfastness of it, as to the acting and exercise of it, and as to the sense believers may have of it; yet never as to its principle, it being an irrevocable gift of God's grace; a work of his almighty power; a solid and substantial grace, even the substance of things hoped for; an immortal and incorruptible seed, and of which Christ is the author and finisher; and to nothing more is its security owing, than to the prayers of Christ, which are always heard, and to his powerful mediation, and prevalent intercession; Christ is the advocate of his people; he prays that they might have faith, and then he prays, that it may not fail; and it shall not, notwithstanding all the opposition of hell, and earth, unto it:

and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren: Peter was now a converted man, and had been for some years; but whereas he would fall by temptation into a very great sin of denying his Lord, and which was attended with such circumstances as made him look like an unconverted, and an unregenerate man; his recovery by the fresh exercise of faith in Christ, and repentance for his sins, is called conversion: and which was not his own act, but owing to the power and efficacy of divine grace; see Jeremiah 31:18. Some versions render it in the imperative, "in time, convert, turn, or return, and strengthen thy brethren"; as the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions: as he afterwards did: for whereas all the disciples forsook Christ, and fled, some one way, and some another, Peter, after his recovery, got them together again, and returned with them to Jerusalem; when they with him assembled together, till the third day Christ was risen: he strengthened their faith in the Messiah, and put them upon filling up the place of Judas, by choosing another apostle; and on the day of "Pentecost" preached a most excellent sermon, which as it was made useful for the conversion of three thousand sinners, was, doubtless, a means of confirming the minds of the disciples; and he has left two exceeding useful epistles for the strengthening of his brethren in all ages of time; the design of which is to establish the saints in faith and holiness, that they may not be drawn aside, and fall from the steadfastness of their faith, either by the lusts of the flesh, or by the persecutions of men, or by the error of the wicked.

{11} But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

(11) It is through the prayers of Christ that the elect never utterly fall away from the faith: and because of this they should encourage one another on.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 22:32. ἐγὼ δὲ ἐδεήθην, but I have prayed: I working against Satan, and successfully.—ἵνα μὴ ἐκλίπῃ ἡ π. σ., that thy faith may not (utterly) fail or die (Luke 16:9), though it prove weak or inadequate for the moment. Job’s faith underwent eclipse. He did not curse God, but for the time he lost faith in the reality of a Divine government in human affairs. So Peter never ceased to love Jesus, but he was overpowered by fear and the instinct of self-preservation.—ἐπιστρέψας, having returned (to thy true self). Cf. στραφῆτε in Matthew 18:3. The word “converted,” as bearing a technical sense, should be allowed to fall into desuetude in this connection. Many regard ἐπιστρέψας as a Hebraism = vicissim: do thou in turn strengthen by prayer and otherwise thy brethren as I have strengthened thee. So, e.g., Grotius: “Da operam ne in fide deficiant, nempe Proverbs ipsis orans, sicut ego pro te oro”. Ingenious but doubtful.—στήρισον: later form for στήριξον; for the sense vide Acts 14:22 and 1 Peter 5:10.32. I have prayed for thee] Rather, I made supplication concerning thee, shewing that Peter, the most confident, was at that moment the most imperilled, though Jesus had prayed for them all (John 17:9; John 17:11).

that thy faith fail not] The word means ‘fail not utterly, or finally.

when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren
] Comp. Psalm 51:13.

So, after the Resurrection, Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). The very word for ‘strengthen’ sank into his heart, and is repeated in his Epistle, 1 Peter 5:10.‘Converted’ has not here its technical meaning—but ‘when thou hast turned again.’ It means more, however, than merely vicissim, ‘in turn.’ Comp. 1 Peter 2:25; 2 Peter 2:21-22; Matthew 13:15, &c.Luke 22:32. Ἐδεήθην) A striking word. I have prayed, although thou, Peter, wert not aware of what was being done. Jesus prayed for His disciples: therefore Satan was not able by his seeking to get Him to deliver them up (ἐξητήσασθαι, Luke 22:31, to get Jesus to deliver them up from their spiritual place of safety).—ἵνα μὴ ἐχλείπῃ, that thy faith might not fail) He does not say, that thou mightest not be sifted. Even though Satan sifted Peter, yet he did not altogether wrest from him his faith. Satan sought to cause an ‘eclipse’[237] of faith in Peter: but the light of faith immediately shone out again in him after the strife [Luke 22:24] and after the subsequent denial. Peter, during that instability on his part, was, notwithstanding, in secret ‘Peter’ [“A rock”] truly still: just as James and John, although they had externally a nice and refined manner of speech, were notwithstanding truly “the sons of thunder” still.—[ἡ πίστις, thy faith) which pride is assailing, and which Satan is bringing into jeopardy.—V. g.] σὺ ποτὲ) ΠΟΤῈ (John 9:13, ΠΟΤῈ, “a while before was blind”) is even used of a short interval of time, as Eustathius shows us. In this passage it conveys an indefinite idea [“when (soever) thou art converted,” Engl. Ver.], at some time or other, whenever it may be, at a long or short interval hence.—ἐπιστρέψας στήριξον, in thy turn strengthen [confirm]) To make up for the fact that [according as] thy brethren are now put in peril through thee: the verb ἐπιστρέφω is to be resolved into an adverb [“vicissim,” in thy turn. But Engl. Ver. “When thou art converted”], as the Heb. שוּב. Comp. ἜΣΤΡΕΨΕ, Acts 7:42.[238]—στήριξον, confirm, strengthen) What I now do to thee, that do thou to those like thee [those liable to fall as thou art], whom thou hast previously weakened (by the fall). Peter did so not long after, Acts 2, 3, 4, and in both of his Epistles, where this very word is often repeated; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 3:17; 2 Peter 3:16; 2 Peter 2:14. And often one may thus observe the words of Jesus subsequently employed by the apostles.—τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου) thy brethren, saith Jesus, not our brethren. For the footing on (the manner in) which Peter has his ‘brethren’ is one thing, that on (in) which the Lord has His brethren is quite another thing. The rest of the apostles were brethren of Peter, Matthew 23:8 [“One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren”]: but inasmuch as these afterwards did not need the confirmation (strengthening) of Peter, it is to be understood of other believers of a feebler sort.

[237] Como ἐκλείπη, from which ‘eclipse’ is derived.—E. and T.

[238] “Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven.” Engl. Vers. Rather, “God in His turn, in righteous retribution, gave them up,” etc.—E. and T.Verse 32. - But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. The prayer of Satan apparently was not refused. Jesus, however, says, that for one of that loved company, who he knew from his peculiar temperament was in especial peril, he had prayed. The prayer was answered thus: the temptation came to all the apostles; all fell; Peter, though, more disastrously by far than his brethren, but the result of the fall was not hopeless despair as in the case of Judas, but bitter remorse and a brave manly repentance. "It is said by Roman divines (e.g. Maldonatus, a Lapide, and Mai, here) that this prayer and precept of our Lord extends to all bishops of Rome as St. Peter's successors, and that in speaking to St. Peter our Lord spoke to them. Would they be willing to complete the parallel, and say that the bishops of Rome specially need prayer, because they deny Christ? Let them not take a part of it and leave the rest" (Bishop Wordsworth). When thou art converted. "Converted" must not be understood here in its technical sense; it should rather be translated, "And thou, when thou hast turned (i.e. to God) strengthen thy brethren." Prayed (ἐδεήθην)

See on prayers, Luke 5:33.

Art converted (ἐπιστρέψας)

Converted is simply the Latinized rendering of the word to turn round (convertere). Rev. renders the aorist participle, denoting a definite act, by once: "when once thou hast turned again."

Strengthen (στήρισον)

See on Luke 16:25, and 1 Peter 5:10. Rev., stablish, which is much better. Strengthen may denote only a temporary effect. The word implies fixedness.

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