On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew near to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:…
"Not so, Lord," is a very strange compound. "Not so Lord," is an odd jumble of self-will and reverence. We are not without fault in the matter of incorrect speech. In our utterances there has been faith mixed with unbelief, love defaced with a want of submission, gratitude combined with distrust, humility flavoured with self-conceit, courage undermined with cowardice, fervour mingled with indifference. Note here —
I. THAT THE OLD MAN REMAINS IN THE CHRISTIAN MAN. Though crucified, it is long in dying, and struggles hard.
1. Peter was Peter still. I think that if I had read Peter's life in the four evangelists, and somebody had newly shown me the present text, and asked, "Who said that?" I should have been sure that it was Peter. The best of men are but men at best. And Peter, after the Holy Ghost has fallen upon him, is, nevertheless, Peter; the accent of his words still bewrays him.
2. Peter here shows how readily he fell, not precisely into the same sin, but into the same kind of sin. This Peter who said, "Not so, Lord," is the same man who rebuked his Master, and said, "That be far from Thee, Lord." It is the same man who at supper time refused his Master. When the Lord was about to wash the disciples' feet, Peter said, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." And this is he who flatly contradicted his Master, and said, "Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will not I." He did this in his earlier days, but after the Holy Ghost had come upon him, yet he still tripped in the same place where he used to fall. What were your faults before conversion? Guard against them now. You notice about Peter, then, this thing still remaining, that he blurts out what he feels. Be it for bad or good, prompt deliverance of his mind is still the characteristic of Peter. He was always blundering because he was in such a hurry. I may be addressing young folk here who are very impulsive, and speak all in a hurry things which they afterwards are sorry for. Be on your guard against it. It is a strength if it be rightly managed. Give me the man who in a good cause does not think twice, but acts upon the warm impulses of a ready mind; but that same characteristic, if not kept in proper order by the Spirit of God, may lead you into a world of mischief. You cannot call back the words which now cause you to bite your tongue with regret.
3. Yet Peter as Peter still has good points, for he owns all this. Luke could not have recorded this incident in the Acts of the Apostles unless Peter had personally told him, and when Peter was brought up before the other apostles for what he had done, he confessed, "But I said, 'Not so, Lord'" — always outspoken, honest, and clear as the day. In this let us be at one with him.
II. THE OLD MAN GENERALLY FIGHTS GOSPEL PRINCIPLES. This "Not so, Lord," applied to —
1. The abolition of the ceremonial law. Peter was to know that those laws, which forbade the eating of this and that, were now to be abrogated. All of us are apt to err here, for we incline to attach undue importance to matters which are proper and useful in their places, but which are by no means essential to salvation. Where Jesus has made no rule we are not to make any. None are unclean whom He has cleansed. Yet this lesson is not soon learned by sticklers for propriety.
2. The equality of men before the law and under the gospel. An evangelist attracts the poorest and worst. This ought to be great joy, but in certain cases it is not. Many in effect say, "'Not so, Lord.' I do not like sitting next to one who smells so vilely, or to a woman of loose character." Never let us set up the tyranny of caste, and rebuild the middle wall of partition which our Saviour died to throw down. We sprang of a common parent, and for men there is but one Saviour.
3. The gospel principle of free and sovereign grace. You war against this yourself when you are conscious of having done wrong, and therefore doubt the grace of God; as if God wanted some good in us before He would bestow His grace upon us. A diseased man is fit to be healed, a poor man is fit for alms, a drowning man is fit to be rescued, a sinful man is fit to be forgiven.
III. THE OLD NATURE SHOWS ITSELF IN MANY WAYS. "Not so, Lord," is the cry of our unregenerate part against —
1. The doctrine of the gospel. Some persons do not believe the gospel because they do not want to believe it. They studiously omit to read all such parts of Scripture as would enlighten their minds. It is mine to believe what the Bible teaches; it is not mine to object, and cry, "Not so, Lord."
2. Duty. We can do anything except the special duty of the hour, and as to that one thing, we say, "Not so, Lord." Yonder young woman knows that according to God's "Word she must not be unequally yoked together with an unbeliever. Now, she was quite willing to be baptized, to give her money to the Lord, and, in fact, to do anything except that one act of self-denial. Yet I do not know what sorrow you will make for yourself if you really break that salutary rule. Take you the precept, and knowing that it is God's mind concerning you, never dare even for a moment to hesitate. "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."
3. Processes of sanctification. We are anxious to bear fruit, but we do not care to be pruned; we are glad to be delivered from dross, but not by the fire.
4. The dispensation of the kingdom. We like not that God should bless men by a sect to which we do not belong; we are envious for our own Moses, lest the irregular Eldads and Medads should eclipse him.
5. Our sufferings. Whenever you are called to endure trial, do not complain of the particular form it takes. Perhaps it is great bodily pain, and you say, "I could bear anything better than this." This is a mistake. God knows what is the best for His child. Do not cry, "Not so." "Oh, I could bear sickness," says another, "but I have been slandered!" Thus our will asserts its place, and we pine to be our own god and ruler. This must not be. A dear sister had quarrelled with the Lord for taking away her husband, and she would not go to any place of worship, she felt so angry about her loss. But her little child came to her one morning and said, "Mother, do you think Jonah was right when he said, 'I do well to be angry, even unto death'?" She replied, "Oh, child, do not talk to me," and put the little one away, but she felt the rebuke, and it brought her back to her God, and back to her Church again, humbly rejoicing in Him who had used this instrumentality to set her right with her Lord.
6. Our service. The Lord says, "Go into the Sunday school." "Not so, Lord; I should like to preach," says the young man, and thus he misses his life work. Who would employ servants who, when they are told to do this or go there, should say, "No, sir; I prefer another engagement"?
IV. IT IS A GREAT PITY WHEN THIS KIND OF WILFULNESS STANDS IN THE WAY OF USEFULNESS. In some things Peter was —
1. Too conservative. He says, "Not so, Lord," and some read it, "Never, Lord, never, Lord, for I have never"; that is, "I must never do a thing I have never done." Many are of this mind; they cannot advance an inch. Many will only act as others act; they must keep in the fashion, even though they fall asleep in the doing of it. This kind of routine forbids enlarged usefulness, prevents our getting at out-of-the-way people, and puts a damper upon all zeal.
2. Propriety hinders very many; decorum is their death. Shake yourself up a little. If you are too precise may the Lord set you on fire, and consume your bonds of red tape!
3. Some are hindered by their great dignity. We have seen very great little people, and very little great people who have given themselves mighty airs; but we have never seen any good come of their greatness. God seldom sends His Elijahs bread and meat by peacocks. If you go into the houses of the poor very finely dressed, and you "condescend" to them, they will not want to see you any more. Let I grow very small, and let J grow very great.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: