But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean has at any time entered into my mouth.
Peter had before this supposed that he knew better than the Lord what was right. Accordingly, this "Not so, Lord," was very Petrine. God was going to honour Peter by giving him the second key wherewith he would open the kingdom to the Gentiles. Peter is shocked at the idea, and says," Not so, Lord." He not only refuses to obey, but offers a reason. His refusal and his buttressing argument were both shivered to atoms by the Lord's reply: "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common."
I. POOR, WEAK, IGNORANT MAN IS FOUND CONTRADICTING AND CORRECTING THE ALMIGHTY AND ALL-WISE GOD. If God had a human heart, the thing would not happen twice from the same person. The Divine fire would consume the presumptuous soul. But God is not a man. He patiently endures all man's presumptuous folly. Many, arguing from impunity, go on to increase their rebellion against God. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily," etc. But this daring resistance to God is not confined to unbelievers. Our text shows that a Peter can say, "Not so, Lord." There may be politeness in the form, but in the matter it is rebellion and nothing else. It is a declaration that "I know better than God." What is complaint of our lot (which God has arranged) but a saying, "Not so"? What is refusal to follow the clear leadings of Providence but saying, "Not so, Lord"? And then we wonder we are not prospered. As if children in open rebellion could prosper!
II. ALL THE FORLORN EXPERIENCES OF CHRISTIANS COME FROM THEM SAYING, "NOT SO, LORD." An Abraham going unhesitatingly to offer up his son at the Divine command is given us as a marked example of spiritual attainment. If ever man could have said, "Not so, Lord," it was Abraham. He might have said, "Lord, I cannot commit murder; and I cannot commit sin against my natural affections. Furthermore, what will people say of it? Not so, Lord; I cannot do this thing." But that which made Abraham's name the synonym of faith, and which exalted him to the very highest rank in sainthood, was a humble, unquestioning, immediate obedience. Compare him with Jacob, who was fond of saying, "Not so, Lord," and see the difference. A young Christian starts out in life. The Lord says to him, "Come out and be separate from the world"; and the young Christian replies, "Not so, Lord, for if I can marry into that influential family it will be of great benefit to me, and I can persuade my wife to become a Christian"; and so, repenting his "Not so," he marries and is soon led into the entanglements of a thoroughly worldly society. To another young man the word of the Lord comes, "They that desire to be rich fall into a temptation," and the young man responds, "Not so, Lord — there must be exceptions. I want to be rich in order to do more good." And so this young man starts on a career for gold, and whether he grows rich or ends his life in poverty, his life is a wretched failure on the side of God.
III. THE SOUL THAT SAYS, "NOT SO, LORD," MUST NECESSARILY MEET WITH EVIL. The unfortunate experiences are not accidents, but belong to the Divine system of government. Every departure from God's way has a sting in it, that we may be stung into going back into the right way. Conscience does a godly service to every Christian wanderer. It is harsh in its kindness. But the work of conscience is supplemented by events around us. Are you finding things going awry? Are troubles multiplying? Look and see if you have not been saying, "Not so, Lord." David suffered greatly from his children, and two "Not so's" stand out conspicuously as the cause of it all. What a man soweth that must lie also reap. If we resist God's commands, we shall certainly meet a reversal, because we are out of the only way where He insures our peace. It is of God's mercy that those reactions occur, just as it is of God's mercy that if I run a nail in my foot I am pained.
IV. THE VERY OPPOSITE SPIRIT TO THAT WHICH WE HAVE BEEN CONTEMPLATING IS THE SPIRIT OF HUMBLE INQUIRY FOR GOD'S WILL. It becomes us to be distrustful of our own knowledge and wisdom. James describes God as giving wisdom liberally to all who ask Him. We surely need not be discouraged. Now, the only method for every child of God to pursue is to go to God for everything, to seek constantly the Divine guidance. "But," someone says, "how can you tell when it is God's will?" Let me answer,If you stand a quarter of a mile off from your father, you will be sore puzzled to know what he says; but if you go within five feet of him, everything will be plain. So, if you stand away from your Heavenly Father, you will undoubtedly be much at a loss to know what is His will; but if you live near to Him, you will have no difficulty of this sort. Now, it is true (and Peter is an example of it) that a Christian may live near to God and understand His will and yet say, Not so, Lord." A paroxysm of self-confidence may seize him even in the very presence of God. It is a sad commentary on our feeble faith. The reaction in such a case is overwhelming. Peter's "Not so," when Jesus told him of a coming Calvary, was the direct antecedent of the threefold denial and the deep scar which it made on his whole life. Such a catastrophe arises from breaking what should be the invariable rule of going to God for everything. "Pray without ceasing" is the Divine injunction and its fulfilment is this life which is habituated to rest upon the Divine support and guidance. The thought of opposing God's will would cause a shudder in such a soul. As in the case of a little child, it feels that independence would be only misery.
(Howard Crosby, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.