Video preaching

The root of folly exposed

Scripture: Matthew 16:13-28

Sermon notes

This passage evidences the struggle between wisdom and folly in the Christian life. It is the battle between the flesh and the spirit that every true Christian knows.

How quickly radical spiritual change can come. Likely within a matter of only minutes Peter abandons the wisdom he has learned in the classroom of heaven to being a spokesman for the Devil. Even while still in that classroom, presided over by the Saviour, he speaks for Satan. The basic innate knowledge/wisdom of the disciple is set aside for a time and he acts as if he had never heard of the truth he has just confessed, v16. The devil can invade the heart of the Christian even while they sit under Jesus’ instruction! The greatest folly can infiltrate the heart and mind of God’s servants in the place of highest wisdom and spiritual learning. If Peter’s name had not been recorded here we would never have thought these words could have come from the same mouth as spoke v16.

Yet such a drastic U-turn is possible. It is something we must ever be on our guard against lest we find ourselves where Peter was in v22-23.

I   The underlying motivation.

It is important for us to identify the root cause of this behaviour, to ask why it happened.

  1. Peter uses language that gives a critical insight into his thinking at this point, v22. His words betray the state of his heart. Literally, Be kind to thyself… His actions were prompted by a spirit of self-indulgence. The comfort of self, pandering to self and its desires is dominant in his mind. Cp v23. Obedience to God’s revealed will and the instruction of Christ comes second to self-comfort.
  2. The flesh is disposed to be antagonistic to the doctrine of the cross. The Saviour goes on to develop this in the following verses. The doctrine of the cross is central to the Christian life. Cp v24, Gal 2:20, 5:24. There is a personal identification with, and experience of, Christ’s sufferings that is fatal to the flesh. It is to be expected that the flesh will react to the doctrine of the cross that compels the believer to go in the way of the cross. Cp Rom 7:23, Gal 5:17. To carnal thinking this is cruel and harsh rather than kind to self.
  3. This sinful attitude of the flesh is common to all Christians. No Christian on earth is exempt from a struggle with the flesh. Sin is present with us in this form and will be till we are glorified. The warning of Peter’s sin is pertinent to us all!


There are two spiritual ‘tastes’ identified in v23 which lie at opposite ends of the spiritual palate.

  1. A negative reason why Peter speaks these foolish words. He had at this moment no taste/appetite for the things that be of God, v23. He had lost his appetite for heavenly wisdom. Savourest > ‘to use the mind, think’. The inclination of his mind for this moment was away from the things of God. The same language appears in Rom 8:5, mind… This had occurred while Jesus was teaching! In this instance the preacher and His message cannot be blamed!
  2. A positive reason. He had rather a taste for the things of men. He was ruled at this point by desires and feelings that were purely human. This is the work of the flesh in the life of the Christian. This appetite has to be curtailed and controlled by crucifixion. Cp 1 Cor 9:27. How careful we must be when we think; when we preface anything with, “I think that…”.
  3. An important explanation for sin in the Christian. Here is why the Christian can swing wildly and suddenly from wisdom to folly. Both are present within! The new man and the old; the flesh and the Spirit; strive continuously for dominance, sometimes one then the other gaining dominance.
  4. Christ diagnoses the issue. The Saviour points this out to Peter! How badly wrong we may be spiritually and not even see it!

III  This why ultimately Peter speaks and acts for the devil.

It is clear that Peter is still a disciple so any description of him in this way is relative and temporary. He has not lost his salvation, not proved to be a false professor.

  1. This is why the will of our depraved flesh/self is so dangerous in the Christian. This is where carnality leads! There is a need for God’s people to recognize the fact that it is in our very nature to accommodate such devilry! Quickly we can become in a certain sense, as the devil! There is no long deterioration here, no vicious external acts of vileness, but Peter has fallen into the dreadful sin of opposing, resisting, speaking against Christ because he indulged fleshly thinking.
  2. Peter speaks and acts for Satan. In doing so he becomes the enemy of the Saviour and a stumbling block in the path to the cross. Cp James 4:4. Peter is for this time opposing the whole plan of redemption and identifies with the spiritually destructive plan Satan has for mankind.
  3. The Saviour rebukes this folly sternly, v23. He does not mince words! The reality is that at this moment Peter and the Lord are on opposite sides! Peter is siding with the devil in this issue. There is a breach in the happy fellowship with Christ Peter ought to have enjoyed. Paul used similar sharpness in Galatians 2:11-14. Cp Titus 1:13.
  4. The Saviour’s purpose was to restore Peter to where he ought to be. The Saviour’s command to Peter was to get back in line as a follower. This is the place that carnal thinking removed him from. It was where he must return.

There is no recorded response from Peter here other than the obvious compliance. What he thought, said is not on record. How it must have grieved him ever after that he had acted and spoken in such a way.

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