Sermon: The Divine Conspiracy (Luke 22:31-34)

The Divine Conspiracy

Luke 22:31-34

Introduction

Primary Claim

Peter possessed saving faith and saving faith will overcome the darkest of trials, persevering to the end.

Human Condition

We have a wonderful word today that we so desperately need to hear.  All Christians need to hear passage and understand its implications.  Jesus prays for His followers that their faith endures to the end.  The reason we can be secure in our salvation is that true saving faith cannot fail because Jesus prays that it won’t.

If you are truly saved there is no plan of the devil, no trial in the entire universe that can cause your faith to fail.  This guarantee is not because of anything within us.  True faith will endure because Jesus desires it to endure.

In our text today, Jesus prays for Peter and all the disciples and He predicts Peter’s denial in just a few hours.  Peter’s trial causes him a momentary lapse of fear and doubt, but ultimately even though the devil throws everything he can at Peter, his faith endures.

We too may encounter difficult struggles in this life, we too may have slight momentary lapses of fear and doubt but ultimately our faith will endure.  Not because of us, but because of Jesus.  He not only secures salvation for His people but He keeps them by His power.

Aren’t you glad today that your salvation doesn’t depend on you? 

Ephesians 2:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [1] 

This is God’s Word for GCC Today, please hear it…

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” [2]

1.  Satan’s Bold Demand

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,

We’ve recently read through the Book of Job.  The book begins by allowing us to witness, as it were, a behind the scene conversation between God and Satan.  The devil claimed that the only reason Job loved God so much was because He gave him everything…children, livestock, servants etc.  Satan’s claim was that if all the stuff was removed from Job, then Job rather than loving God would hate God.

Job 1:20

20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” [3]

The thing that separates the people of God from all others is that the people of God possess saving faith and the rest of humanity does not.

Jesus tells Peter than Satan approached God asking permission to sift Peter like one sifts the chaff from the wheat.

Here’s the imagery…

Peter is like a kernel of wheat and his faith is the husk.  Satan’s desire is to shake Peter so hard in a trial that he separates Peter from his faith like you separate a kernel of wheat from the husk as you sift it.[4]

The idea is that the kernel falls through the sieve but faith doesn’t.  If Satan can sift Peter and separate him from his faith then the cross is less important.  If the devil can disqualify Peter and the others from preaching the cross then the cross would really be of no effect.  Jesus could die but if there is no one to preach the cross, if no one hears of it then it really doesn’t matter much.

I don’t think we should overlook the fact that Jesus calls Peter by his original name, Simon.  Peter, if you remember means “rock”.  Jesus wants Peter to realize that he had better listen and be on guard because when he comes up against Satan, he will be very very weak.

Jesus warns Peter because the sifting will begin tonight.  Satan will sift and scatter the disciples even tonight just as it had been predicted in the OT.

Matthew 26:

56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. [5]

This is quoting Psalm 88 and also this is found in the Prophecy of

Zechariah 13:7.

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,”

declares the Lord of hosts.

“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;

I will turn my hand against the little ones. [6]

Jesus explains to Peter that Satan really had demanded to have them all and sift them all and to rip away all their faith.

I wonder if we realize what was at stake?  If Satan could tear their faith away then there would be no Apostles, no New Testament, and No authoritative spokesmen who had been with Jesus.  Christianity was on the line.

Another point we should make here is that we must always remember that anytime in Scripture that Satan has attacked a child of God it was with God’s permission.  The devil is God’s devil, in other words, he is subject to God.

For Job, his faith did not fail.  It was shaken but it remained.  We are about to see the same thing with Peter.  His faith will be shaken but it too will remain.  Not only will Peter’s faith remain, but through this sifting by the devil, Peter will be better equipped to accomplish what God had called him to do.

Under normal circumstances this violent shaking of Peter would separate him from his faith.  However, there is Someone else at work.  There is a divine conspiracy in the making.

2.  Jesus’ Effectual Prayer

32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

We should see here that while Jesus is speaking with one person, namely, Peter, He is really speaking about the entire group of His disciples.  The you in verse 31 is hymas, which is second person plural…literally, our southern friends have made up a word for this because there is no English word…You all or all of you.

Jesus prays for Peter.  I’m afraid many of our prayers, even though we tack on at the end, in Jesus name are not really prayers Jesus would pray.  Our prayers usually revolve around a sickness we want God to heal or some discomfort that we want God to make better.  What can we learn from Jesus’ prayer for Peter?

Jesus does not pray that Satan doesn’t sift Peter.  His prayer is not that Peter be spared from Satan’s attacks.  Rather, that while he is under the rod of Satan that his faith would not utterly fail.

We know this because Jesus says it clearly,  I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.  The problem we have is that we are so used to praying prayers of comfort for people that we automatically assume that Jesus is praying that Peter be spared the trial, when in fact it is this particular trial that God will use in Peter to equip him to do what God has called him to do, namely, And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Here’s the idea…God gives the ok for Satan to sift Peter, knowing all along that his plan will be accomplished through the sifting.  Peter will come out on the other side refined, as gold is refine by fire.  So, the most loving thing God can do for Peter is to send Satan to sift him.  Through the sifting his faith will grow to the place where he can preach the message at Pentecost in Acts 2 and 3000 souls be added to the church.  Through this refined faith Peter can speak to the authorities and give an account of the faith that is within him.  Through this refining Peter can accomplish the call of God to strengthen his brothers.  There is however, a condition.  Satan will not be able to sift him to the point of shaking him loose from his faith.

Jesus then tells Peter; after it’s all over strengthen your brothers.

Please understand that if it weren’t for Jesus praying for Peter, his faith would have been ripped from him in an instant.  Saving faith remains because God gives it and prays that we keep it.  Jesus’ prayers are always answered affirmatively because He always prays exactly in the Father’s will.

Look with me at some Scripture passages that show Peter after Satan sifts him…

1 Peter 1:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. [7]

Can you see how the Holy Spirit has used the trials of Peter to equip him to write this passage?

We also have a tremendous example of Peter who knew these things first hand…

1 Peter 5:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. [8]

When I read these words, my heart is strengthened.  I know that these words were not written by some ivory tower theologian whose thoughts and words are nothing more than theory.  Peter can speak with us about enduring trials and suffering a little while because he did.  He went through them and after the trial and after he repented he did strengthen his brothers and today we too are strengthened because of the sifting of the Apostle Peter.

3.  Peter’s Untested Claims

33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” [9]

One thing the sifting did for Peter was to knock him down a notch or two.  He was prideful and a little too confident in his own power and ability.  After Satan was through, Peter was humble and depended upon the strength God provides.

While sifting Peter and trying to shake him loose from his faith, what Satan actually did was to shake him loose of his pride and self-reliance.

This is very similar to the Apostle Paul’s experience…

2 Corinthians 12:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [10]

Peter was very quick to act and bold but when Jesus was taken away and suffering, he caved in quickly.  His words would soon be tested and we’ll see that he actually wasn’t willing to go with Jesus to jail or to death.  The fact is he would deny that he even knew him.  Peter was confident when sitting around the table with the others, but when push came to shove he denied three times that he even knew Jesus at all.

The amazing part though is that Jesus would restore and give Peter the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The day came when Peter stood up and boldly proclaim the message of the cross.  The day came when he even was crucified and he demand that he be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to be crucified like his Lord.

Primary claim refocused

Peter possessed saving faith and saving faith will overcome the darkest of trials, persevering to the end.

He could persevere to the end because of the Divine Conspiracy, Jesus prayed to the Father and Peter’s faith remained in tact.

Human condition changed or Human need met

Jesus prays for His followers that their faith endures to the end.  The reason we can be secure in our salvation is that true saving faith cannot fail because Jesus prays that it won’t.

If you are truly saved there is no plan of the devil, no trial in the entire universe that can cause your faith to fail.  This guarantee is not because of anything within us.  True faith will endure because Jesus desires it to endure.

We can now endure trials for the glory of God.  We can attack life and trust in the power of God to keep those who are His.

John 10:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” [11]

As followers of Christ, we are eternally secure.  Nothing on the face of the earth, nothing in the spiritual realm, and not even we ourselves can change our eternal state once we have been saved.  We are secure.

We also must examine ourselves to make sure we truly are believers.

Exhortation in godly living

Because of this passage and the sifting of Peter, we can endure trials with confidence.  We can count them as joy as James tells us.  We can endure as strong believers fixed on Christ not being tossed about by every wind of doctrine.  We can endure because now after watching Peter we see that the sifting doesn’t separate us from our faith but it separates us from our pride and self-reliance.  Sifting makes us stronger.  It’s time we step up and in trust in Christ be men and women and stand firm to the end.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Eph 2:8–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 22:31–34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Job 1:20–21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] This idea is from a sermon by John Piper on the same text

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mt 26:56). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Zec 13:7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (1 Pe 1:3–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (1 Pe 5:6–11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 22:31–34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (2 Co 12:7–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 10:27–30). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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