“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” – John 21:16
For Charles Haddon Spurgeon, although this text was a “short and simple one” it was nonetheless a “very large one…full of meaning.” In this sermon Spurgeon sought to address only one point, that “our Lord asked Peter whether he had a love to his person.”
Spurgeon found Jesus’ line of question profound. Jesus’ question wasn’t “concerning [Peter’s] love to the kingdom of God, or the people of God, but it begins and ends with his love to the Son of God.” Specifically, Jesus did not ask “‘Do you now believe my doctrines?’” He did not ask “‘Do you not trust in one whom the other day you denied?’” He did not ask “Are you pleased with my precepts?’” Rather, he asked “‘lovest thou me?’”
Spurgeon saw that the point of the question was discerning a “personal attachment to a personal Christ.” Here there was no “beating about the bush,” as Spurgeon noted that “one thing was needful; love to Jesus is the chief, the vital point.” “This nail,” Spurgeon said, “was meant to be well fastened, for it is smitten on the head with blow after blow.” In short, “a threefold denial demanded a threefold confession.”
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon observed that this “Love to the person of Christ may be absent from our bosom.” Here Spurgeon pressed the question saying “I know of nothing which can screen any one of us from the necessity of the question.” He conceded that “our gifts and apparent graces may prevent our fellow creatures questioning us,” but insisted that “nothing should prevent our questioning ourselves.”
Spurgeon asserted that “no outward religiousness renders this enquiry needless.” Mere church attendance was not enough, after all there were “hundreds of thousands who do that every Lord’s-day, and yet they do not love Christ!” For others “the end-all and be-all of religion” was “an orthodox statement of doctrine.” For such as these “so long as the preaching is according to the confession of faith…they are well pleased.” And yet, “no love to Jesus ever stirs their bosoms.” In Spurgeon’s view such religion was worthless.
In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon declared that “We must love the person of Christ, or all our past professions have been a lie.” Here Spurgeon plainly stated that “it is not possible for [a] man to be a Christian who does not love Christ.” In his view, to “take the heart away” would make life “impossible.” Similarly, Spurgeon insisted that “the blessings of the covenant are none of them separate from Christ.” Indeed, these blessings “cannot be enjoyed apart from him, any more than light and heat can be divided from the sun.” Thus, there was no salvation at all apart from one which included love for Jesus Christ.
In the third section of his sermon, Spurgeon considered that “We must have love to the person of Christ, or nothing is right for the future.” He began on a hopeful note, saying that “all will go right if we love Christ, but nothing can proceed as it should do if love to Jesus be absent.” Turning to consider pastoral ministry, Spurgeon insisted that “for a true pastor the first qualification is love to Christ.” He believed that “love is essential” and that “you cannot work for Christ if you do not love him.” In fact, he declared that “if you do not love the Master, you will not love his work, or his servants, or the rules of his house, and we can do better than with you.”
Furthermore, Spurgeon warned that lack of love to Christ would have dire personal consequences for all believers. He warned that “If you do not love Jesus intensely sin will get the mastery over you.” He also noted described three deficiencies of faith that arise from lack of love to Christ. First, he noted that a faith which lacked love was missing the “adhesive element.” Spurgeon observed that “men often leave what they like, but never what they love.” And so he warned his congregation that “if you are to persevere to the end, it must be in the power of love.”
Second, Spurgeon observed that “love is the great inspiriting force.” Here he noted that “many a deed in the Christian life is impossible” without love. Simply, “if you lack love your energy is gone” and your service to Christ will soon shrivel up. Third, Spurgeon noted that “without love…you are without the transforming force” because “love to Christ is what makes us like him” for “you are like that which you love, or you are growing like it.”
In the fourth, and final, section of his sermon, Spurgeon asked “If we do love him, what then?” Here Spurgeon spurred his hearers on, saying “brother, sister, if you love Christ, do not idle away this Sunday afternoon. If you love Christ get to work.” Indeed, someone had to “feed his sheep,” “get to soul winning,” “get down among the poor and needy,” and “get down among the lost and wondering” and “hold forth Jesus Christ as the Balm of Gilead and the Saviour of sinners.”
Why you should take up and read:
For Charles Spurgeon, Jesus’ question “‘lovest thou me?’” was a “very large one” and “full of meaning.” In this sermon Spurgeon sought to address only one point, the believers’ love for Jesus Christ. For those wanting put the question to themselves please take up and read.
Here is a link to the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/lovest-thou-me–2#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves as the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City while studying in The Residency Ph.D. program.