And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:…
In this adversative but, there is a threefold antithesis or opposition, which may be here observed and taken notice of by us. First, an opposition of the persons, Christ against Satan. It is the devil that assaults, but it is the Saviour that labours to divert it. And there is a great matter in this — a potent assistant is a great encouragement against a potent assailant. Now, thus is Christ, in comparison of Satan. He has the greater prevalency with Him, especially in approaches to God, and the requests which He makes to Him for His people. The second is, the opposition of actions or performances, praying against desiring. Satan has but desired, yea, but Christ has prayed. But He choses rather here to do it by prayer, that He might hereby sanctify this performance to us, and show us the efficacy of it as to the vanquishing of temptations themselves. The third is, the opposition of success, establishment against circumvention. Satan has desired to have you, but I have so ordered the matter that thy faith shall not fail notwithstanding. His attempts upon thee shall be in vain. Which latter now leads me from the first general part to the second here in the text; to wit, the matter of Christ's prayer, or the thing itself requested by Him in these words, "That thy faith fail not." For the negative — First, to consider that what it is not. Where we may observe that it is not that Peter might have no temptation befall him; that, one would have thought, had been more suitable. When He had said before "Satan hath desired to have you," we might have expected He should have said next, "but I have prayed that he shall have nothing to do with you." This it pleases God to suffer and permit upon divers considerations. First, for their greater abasement and humiliation. The servants of God are apt sometimes, where grace is not more watchful in them, to be advanced and lifted up in themselves. Secondly, as to breed humility, so also to breed compassion and tenderness of spirit to others. Christians, as they are apt sometimes to be too well opinionated of themselves; so also to be now and then too harsh and rigorous towards their brethren. Thirdly, God suffers His servants to be tempted for the honour of His own grace in supporting them and keeping them up, and for the confusion likewise of the enemy in his attempts upon them. Let us not, then, have our armour to get when our enemy is coming upon us, but be furnished aforehand; and remember that we trust not to any grace which we have already received, but be still labouring and striving for more. The second is the positive part of it in the words of the text, "that thy faith may not fail." To take them absolutely as they lie in themselves, and so they do signify to us the safety of Peter's condition; and, together with him, of all other believers. Their faith, it shall not fail. This, it may be made good unto us from sundry considerations.
1. The nature of grace itself which is an abiding principle. Faith is not a thing taken up, as a man would take up some new fashion or custom, but it is a thing rooted and incorporated in us, and goes through the substance of us, it spreads itself through the whole man, and is, as it were, a new creature in us.
2. The covenant of grace, which is an everlasting covenant. "I will make an everlasting covenant with them" (Jeremiah 32:40).
3. The spirit of grace, which is not only a worker but an establisher and a sealer of this faith in us, and to us (2 Corinthians 1:20). That the servants of God they shall have their faith much upheld in such conditions. We have this implied, that a steadfast faith is a singular help in temptation. Now, the efficacy of faith in temptation is discern-able in these particulars —
(1) As it pitches us upon the strength and power of God. That which keeps up a soul in temptation, it is an almighty power, it is a power which is above all the powers of darkness itself.
(2) Faith helps in temptation as it lays hold upon the promises of God.
(3) As it lays hold upon Christ, and pitches us, and fastens us upon Him, we are so far safe and sure in temptation, as Christ has any hold of us and we of Him. When the stability of a Christian is said to depend upon the prayers of Christ, this is exclusive of any virtue or merit of their own. The consideration of this doctrine is very much still for the comfort of believers, as to this particular. They may from hence, in the use of good means, be very confident, and persuaded of their perseverance, because they have Christ praying for them. And there arc two things in this that make for them. The one is, as I said, first, the acceptance which Christ is sure to have with His Father. Secondly, As there is Christ's acceptance, so the constancy of His interceding for us. If Christ should only pray for us sometimes we might seem to be no longer upon sure terms, than such times as He prayed for us; "but now He ever liveth to make intercession for us."
(J. Horton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: