Jesus is not afraid of being misunderstood. For instance, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, will say, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” He will say something shocking, something meant to make you think, something that we may think contradictory to something else He has said, and then leave you with it. He feels no necessity to qualify and explain away all of the difficulties. Gospel ministers should do the same. Their are times when we should try to explain the difficulties, more often this will be in regards to doctrinal truths. There are often other times when we should just let the tension be, and let sheep wrestle with the text.
Jesus says that if we acknowledge Him, He will acknowledge us. If we deny Him, He will deny us. I will ease tension as to how this does not contradict justification by faith, but I will not seek to ease tension for one who is apprehensive to share Jesus by assuring them that they must be saved despite that fact.
1 John 2:23 is illuminating to our text, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” Notice it does not say that if you confess you will have the father, but if you confess you have the Father. If you possess the Father you profess the Son. If you do not profess Jesus, you do not possess the Father. This confession is not meritorious towards salvation, but resultant from salvation.
This does not alleviate tension for the apprehensive soul timid to share Jesus. Explaining the doctrine rightly increases conviction rightly.
A hard soul might instantly object, “But Peter denied him!” Indeed Peter did, but ultimately and most often Peter boldly professed Him.
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.’ -Acts 5:27-32
Don’t quickly comfort yourself by looking at Peter’s failures, challenge yourself by looking at his courage. I leave you with the exclamatory, Christ-like, tension-creating question of Thomas Brooks:
Ah, souls, you can easily sin as the saints, but can you repent with the saints! Many can sin with David and Peter, that cannot repent with David and Peter, and so must perish for ever.