Suggested further reading: Galatians 2:11-16
The apostle stood among the crowd of his Master's enemies
and warmed himself like one of them, as if he had nothing to think
of but his bodily comfort, while his beloved Master stood in a
distant part of the hall, cold and a prisoner. Who can doubt that Peter,
in his miserable cowardice, wished to appear one of the party
who hated his Master and thought to conceal his real character by
doing as they did? And who can doubt that while he warmed his hands
he felt cold, wretched and comfortless in his own soul? `The
backslider in heart is filled with his own ways.'
How many do as others do and go with the crowd, while
they know inwardly they are wrong!
A second time we find the unhappy apostle telling a lie and
this time it is added emphatically: `He denied it.' The further a
backslider goes, the worse he becomes. The first time he seems to
have said quietly, `I am not.' The second time he flatly `denied'.
Even an apostle can fall into being a liar!
The third denial, we know from the other Gospels, was
more loud and emphatic than any and was made with cursing and
swearing! The further a man falls, the heavier his fall.
Calvin remarks on the course of a backslider, `At first the
fault will not be very great; next, it becomes habitual; and at last,
after the conscience has been laid asleep, he who has accustomed
himself to despise God will think nothing unlawful, but will dare
to commit the greatest wickedness.'
As long as the world stands, Peter's fall will be an
instructive example of what even a great saint may come to if he neglects
to work and pray, of the mercy of Christ in restoring such a
backslider and of the honesty of the Gospel writers in recording such a history.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love