Summary: This sermon examines the account of Peter walking on the water to see the true nature of the Grace of God.
We all know we are supposed to say God’s grace is amazing, marvelous, wonderful. That’s what the songs tell us. And yet, I wonder when someone will write a song discussing how confusing it is. It must be confusing because I hear all kinds of different thoughts about grace. Many false doctrines circle around God’s grace. And a whole lot of questions. That is especially true when we strive to recognize we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-10) and yet if we do not obey God, we are not saved (II Thessalonians 1:8). To help clarify, I’d like for us to get a picture of God’s grace set firmly in our minds. We can find it in the well-known story of Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14:28-31. Certainly, every illustration falls short in some areas. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be illustrations; they would be the exact same thing. But I believe this can give us a clear picture of God’s grace to help us serve the Lord. Let’s examine what occurred there step by step and relate it to our own walk with God. We know that Jesus had sent the disciples ahead of Him across the sea as He stayed behind to pray. The disciples were plagued with wind and waves and were not able to easily get across to the other side. After hours of straining against the sea, they saw something. It was Jesus walking on the water. At first they feared it was a ghost, but Jesus let them know it was Him, trying to set their minds at ease. We pick up our story here.
I. Jesus commanded
A. I don’t know what made Peter do it, but he asked if this was really Jesus for Him to “command” him to walk on the water (Matthew 14:28). I want to highlight that word—command. When Jesus said “come,” this wasn’t a suggestion, a request, a possibility; it was an order, a command, a law.
B. This is the first place of confusion when we picture God’s grace. Sadly, when anyone starts talking about grace, we begin to fear that they are forgetting God’s law. Too often, we see grace as nothing more than the ignoring or overlooking of sin. Therefore, when someone talks about grace, we fear they are telling every-one they can sin as much as they want because God will simply ignore it. That however is not the case.
C. God has given commands. God does have a law. And it does matter. Just as Jesus commanded Peter to “come,” God has commanded us to submit to His law. Paul admitted we are under the law of Christ in I Co-rinthians 9:21. Further, we know what sin is. Sin is lawlessness (I John 3:4). If there were no law or if God’s law didn’t matter, then there would be no sin. If there were no sin, there would be no need for grace. Therefore, the mere fact that we claim we need grace is a claim that God’s law matters. Jesus commanded Peter. God has commanded us and His commands matter.
II. Peter chose
A. Peter has really stuck his foot in it now. I don’t know why he set this in motion, but now he is put to the test. Jesus has given him a command to get out of the boat in the middle of the wind-driven sea. Jesus hasn’t forced Peter to get out. Jesus didn’t grab Peter and throw him out. He simply commanded it, and now Peter has to choose. And in Matthew 14:29, Peter chose to get out of the boat. That was Peter’s choice. Jesus didn’t choose for him. Peter didn’t get out because Jesus had primordially foreordained Peter to get out of the boat. Peter chose.
B. This is another place of confusion about God’s grace. Some fear that anyone who talks about grace is in danger of removing the personal responsibility of man. No doubt, there are some Calvinistic teachers who do exactly that. But not everyone who teaches God’s grace says so, and the Bible certainly does not teach that. Peter chose to get out of the boat.
C. In just the same way, God has commanded us, and it is our choice whether or not we follow what He says. It is our choice to get out of the boat, if you will, and walk with God. Thus, in Romans 6:17, Paul says, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the stand-ard of teaching to which you were committed” (ESV). It stems from our heart, our choice. And where did this choice stem from? Peter’s faith. Though it is not expressly stated, it is demonstrated. Why did Peter get out of the boat? Because he had faith in Jesus to empower him to walk on the water. And thus Paul teaches us in Romans 5:2 it is faith that gives us access to God’s grace. And be clear that this faith is far more than just a mental assent. This faith was not merely Peter agreeing mentally that Jesus could empower him to walk on the water. This was Peter trusting Jesus and therefore stepping out of the boat. We must understand the only faith that works is a faith that actually works (James 2:17-18).