Chapter 36


Get Thee Behind Me, Satan


“And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. And he charged them that they should tell no man of him. And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” (Mark 8:27-33)


Mark has informed us of the doctrine Christ preached and the miracles he performed. Whenever we think of our Lord’s miracles, we must never associate them in our minds with the self-proclaimed miracle workers of our day. Our Lord’s miracles were numerous, well-attested, wrought in many different places, performed before countless eye witnesses who knew the people who were healed, raised from the dead and fed by his power. They were so well established as facts that no one, not a single person familiar with his life and ministry, not a single one of his enemies and accusers ever even questioned their validity.


Having spoken so much of these things, the Holy Spirit would now have us pause to consider what they mean. Those wondrous works, which our Lord would not allow his disciples to publish in the streets of Israel, were recorded for us in the Book of God for our learning and admonition. These things were not written by the finger of God for our amusement, or to supply us with material for debate. — “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:31).


We have before us a conversation which took place between our Lord Jesus and his disciples as they were walking towards Caesarea Philippi. We read in verse twenty-seven that — “Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?” There is something for us to learn, even from this thing, which seems to have been just casually observed by Mark. We ought to take advantage of every opportunity to do good. Let us never behave as pretentious, religious hypocrites, who cannot talk about anything but religion, or as people who try to button hole everyone they meet. Yet, we ought to do what we can to do good to men’s souls and to help one another along the way, ever watching for opportunities to speak a word in season.


Knowledge and Faith


Many confuse doctrinal knowledge with saving faith. They vainly imagine that knowing the facts revealed in the gospel is knowing Christ, that having a good opinion of Christ is knowing Christ. Multitudes have a very high and good opinion of Christ and his doctrine who do not know him. That fact is evident in verses 27 and 28.


“And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.”


There was among the Jews a great variety of opinions about Christ. Almost everyone thought he was a very good man, a godly man, even a great man. Most considered him a great prophet, perhaps even a resurrected prophet. They compared him to John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. The Jews thought he was a great prophet who had come back from the dead. No one at this time considered him a deceiver or a wicked man. Only the Scribes and Pharisees spoke evil of him, and they did so only because of envy. Multitudes knew much about the Savior and approved of what they knew. Yet, very few knew him.


Things are pretty much the same today. Christ and his gospel are just as commonly misunderstood and unknown today among religious people as they were among the Jews two thousand years ago. Almost everyone knows the name of Christ. Most of our relatives and neighbors go to church and acknowledge that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, that he died on the cross, was buried, and rose again the third day. In remembrance and honor of him they set aside special holy days, build huge buildings, and engage in great enterprises. Yet, there are very few who know him. Vague ideas about Christ are common. Very few people know who he is, what he did, or why he did it. Those who know the Son of God are very few.


Many there are who move beyond vagueness, and have very clear, even an orthodox knowledge of gospel doctrine and of the historic facts revealed in the gospel. They readily confess that Jesus Christ is the incarnate God, that he is God the eternal Son. They understand and defend the doctrines of Substitution, Redemption, Justification, Sanctification, and Regeneration. They can accurately describe Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and exaltation, his priestly intercession at the Father’s right hand as our Advocate, and the certainty of his glorious second coming, who obviously do not know him.


            Those who know the Son of God appear to be very few. Yet, apart from knowing him there is no salvation. Without the knowledge of him, there is no eternal life. Until you know him, you are dead in trespasses and in sins (John 17:3); and if we would know him we must be born again (John 3:5-7).


            Three hundred years ago the heretic Robert Sandeman insisted that to teach (as the Scriptures demand) that in regeneration the heaven born soul is made partaker of the divine nature and that this new, righteous nature imparted to God’s elect by grace is vital to salvation is to teach men to look for righteousness in themselves, rather than in Christ. Like his successors today, Sandeman insisted that the new birth is nothing more than giving assent to doctrinal facts. Another heretic’s name may be more familiar than Sandeman’s. — Alexander Campbell, founder of the Arminian, works denomination called “the Church of Christ,” wrote, “Sandeman was like a giant among dwarfs.” Heed Paul’s warning. — “Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit.” Any man who denies the necessity of the Spirit’s work in us, teaching that faith in Christ is nothing but learning doctrine, is an utter heretic, a man to be marked and avoided.


            The new birth is more than a change of mind. It is more than the mere acquirement of religious knowledge. Anyone who is familiar with the Word of God knows that all men and women have some awareness of God, of sin, of life, of death, of judgment, and of eternity (Romans 1:18-20; 2:14-15). Man is by nature a very religious creature (John 5:39-40). And unsaved religious people often recognize and believe some true facts about God and Christ and salvation (John 3:2). But the quickening, regenerating work of God the Holy Spirit is much, much more than embracing facts about God and salvation. As John Owen wrote…


“Of all the poison which at this day is diffused in the minds of men, corrupting them from the mystery of the gospel, there is no part that is more pernicious than this one perverse imagination, that to ‘believe in Christ’ is nothing at all but to believe the doctrine of the gospel!’”


            In the new birth Christ is revealed in the chosen sinner (Galatians 1:15-16). God the Holy Spirit gives impotent, dead sinners eternal life (John 3:5-8; Ephesians 2:1-5). And the life he imparts is Christ himself (Colossians 1:27; 2 Peter 1:4). Revealing Christ in the heart, he convicts and convinces sinners of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-15; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; Zechariah 10:12), and effectually draws sinners to Christ and makes them willing to come (John 6:44-45; Psalm 110:3).


Saving Knowledge


Allow me to pointedly apply these things to the present day. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul declares that all who are born of God are constrained, motivated, and ruled by the love of Christ. The love of Christ rules in our hearts, he tells us in verse 15, because we have been born again. We have been born again, because Christ died for us. His death as our Substitute obtained and guaranteed our new birth. And, being born of God, we live, not unto ourselves, but unto Christ, who died for us and rose again. Then, in verse 16 the inspired writer tells us that our knowledge of Christ is not a carnal apprehension of the intellect, but the gift and revelation of God the Holy Spirit. — “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.”


            Be sure you understand what the Spirit of God tells us here. Our knowledge of Christ is not a carnal apprehension of the intellect, but the gift and revelation of God the Holy Spirit. Being born again by the omnipotent grace and irresistible mercy of God the Holy Spirit, all who are taught of God, know Christ after the Spirit, and not after the flesh.


            Will worshipping Arminians have long taught that faith in Christ is nothing but and act of the will, mental assent to the historic facts of the gospel. When I was a seven year old boy, I was conned into a profession of faith by will worshipping fundamentalists, who told me that salvation would be mine if I would simply believe “God’s plan of salvation.” Giving assent to what I was told, a “soul-winner” put his arms around me, with tears in his eyes, and announced, “Praise the Lord, son, you’re saved! You are born again.” But I didn’t know God from a gourd.


            Such deception is common among fundamentalists. But today there are some who claim to believe the gospel, or what we refer to as the doctrines of grace, who teach the same heresy, utterly denying the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. Theirs is a much more subtle and dangerous heresy.


            They tell us that faith in Christ is nothing but agreement with “God’s testimony.” They laugh at what the apostle Paul calls “the mystery of the faith,” asserting that there is nothing mysterious about it. Being too deceptive to openly assert what their doctrine is, they continue to use terms like “regeneration,” “the new birth,” “effectual calling,” “the new nature,” “the new man,” and “Christ in you.” Yet, everything they teach denies the work of God the Holy Spirit in chosen redeemed sinners, teaching that salvation is arrived at by acquired knowledge, not by divine regeneration, by an act of the will, not by the revelation of grace. This philosophy of vain deceit denies the necessity of the new birth, denies that the believer is given a new nature by the Spirit of God, denies that righteousness is imparted to us, and that we are made partakers of the divine nature in regeneration. These modern Gnostics speak of God’s saving grace as nothing but a “principle” (an accepted philosophical rule).


            They look upon those who believe God’s revelation of himself in his Word and trust Christ as their Wisdom, as well as their Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption, as poor, ignorant people, without spiritual understanding. One such deceiver has described that which the Scriptures call a God given light shining “in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” “a mystical, religious experience that takes place in ecstatic ignorance”!


            Deceivers are never honest men! The liberals of the mid 1900s, at first, were not manly enough to openly state that they did not believe in blood atonement, regeneration, and the resurrection. They made it a point to use such words frequently. But, with their “enlightened” understanding, they gave those clearly defined biblical terms new definitions.


Carnal Knowledge


That is exactly what is happening in our day. Many, who talk much about faith in Christ and imagine that no one possesses it except those who bow to their shrines, openly assert that, “Mental assent itself is equal to faith.” That is Gnosticism in its very essence. That is freewillism of the most deceptive form. It is the assertion that salvation is nothing but a man’s decision to agree with irrefutable facts!


            That which they have arrived at by their imaginary “brilliance of intellect,” the Holy Spirit calls, knowing “Christ after the flesh,” by mere carnal reason. They are people with religious knowledge, who are totally void of grace and spiritual life, groping in the darkness of their invented light.


            Most people presume that knowledge is the basis of faith; but the Scriptures assert exactly the opposite. Hebrews 11:3 declares, “Through faith we understand.” Through faith we see, perceive, and comprehend all things spiritual. And this faith, which gives spiritual understanding, is the result of the new birth, without which no man can see the kingdom of God (John 3:5-7). Faith in Christ is the basis of spiritual knowledge and understanding. Spiritual knowledge is the result of faith in Christ. As I have heard Pastor Henry Mahan say so many times, “You don’t get to Christ by doctrine. You get to doctrine by Christ.” Saving knowledge is not what you know, but who (John 17:3).


Believe and Confess


“And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. And he charged them that they should tell no man of him” (Mark 8:29-30).


The confession of faith in Christ that Peter here gave was remarkable. He made this confession when the Lord Jesus was in a very poor earthly condition, without honor, without power, without majesty, without wealth, without influence. It was a confession made in opposition to the opinions and thoughts of the world in which he lived. All the Jewish world, civil and ecclesiastical, refused to acknowledge him as the Christ, and the entire Gentile world laughed at him as a Jewish zealot.


            Yet, Peter boldly confessed, “Thou art the Christ.” His faith was not shaken by opposition. His confidence did not waver before popular opinion. Peter believed that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Prophet like Moses, the Priest like Melchizedek, the King like David. He believed and confessed the Man Christ Jesus to be God the Son!


Erring and unstable as his faith sometimes was, Peter was a man of strong, exemplary faith. He believed the record God had given of his Son and boldly confessed his Master and his faith in him. Obviously, there was much that he did not know, much that had not yet been plainly revealed; but Peter was loyal to the core and confessed Christ unhesitatingly.


            Let us follow this faithful disciple’s example. Christ and his doctrine have never been popular, especially in the religious world. We must be prepared to confess him, though, if necessary, we are compelled to do so outside the camp of the religious world (Acts 2:36; 4:11-12; Hebrews 13:7-12). All true Christians know, believe, and confess that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the living God. As Matthew Henry put it, To be a Christian is to sincerely believe that Jesus is the Christ.”


            We should not overlook the fact that Mark, by divine inspiration, omitted the words that Matthew was inspired to include, “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Had Mark esteemed Peter as the foundation rock upon which the church is built, as papists assert, he would certainly have included those words of our Lord. Indeed, had any of the Apostles thought that our Lord was referring to Peter as the rock, surely we would have some indication of it in the New Testament. The fact is, Matthew, Mark, Peter, and all the writers of the New Testament understood clearly that our Savior’s words, “upon this rock I will build my church,” had reference to himself as the Foundation Stone upon which we are built. That fact is so evidently stated in Holy Scripture that the delusion of papists is obviously a willful delusion (Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Mark 1210; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Peter 2:7).


Must Suffer


And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (v. 31). — Our Lord spoke these things openly. He did not preach in code. He did not wrap his message in ambiguous words. When he began to teach his disciples, he used plain, clear speech. Every true prophet does the same.


Here the Lord Jesus made a full declaration of his own coming death and resurrection as our Substitute. Can you imagine how strange this must have sounded in the ears of these disciples, these men who knew he was the Christ, but who were yet looking for him, at any moment, to establish a great Jewish empire over the world in which he would sit as King forever? Yet, he now declares that he must suffer many things, that he must be rejected of the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, that he must be killed, and that he must rise again in three days.


Why did our Lord use the term “must”? Why must these things be done? What was the great necessity that demanded the suffering and death of God’s dear Son? Was it because some force greater than he would compel him to endure these things? Was he saying that he would not be able to prevail over his enemies? Of course not! Was he saying he must endure these things to sit a good example of love, self-denial, and self-sacrifice? Nonsense! Our Master said that these things must come to pass because they were decreed by the Father, declared in the Old Testament Scriptures, demanded by the law and justice of God for the salvation of his elect, and greatly desired by Christ himself. He said, “With desire have I desired to eat this supper with you.”


            It was necessary for Christ to suffer and die on the cross, under the wrath of God, to save his people. He did not have to save us; but if he would save us, he could not save in any other way. Justice demanded satisfaction (Proverbs 16:6; 17:15; Romans 4:5; 1 Peter 3:18). Since it was the design, purpose, and pleasure of the Almighty to bring chosen sinners into eternal glory and happiness as the sons of God by Christ, it was necessary for Christ, the Son of God, to suffer all that the law and justice of God required for the punishment of sin, dying under the wrath of God as our Substitute.


      I do not suggest that the sin-atoning death of Christ, by which justice has been satisfied, procures the love of God for us. It does not. The death of Christ is the fruit of God’s love, not the cause of it. But I am saying that it is the death of Christ and the satisfaction of justice by his death that opens the way into the embraces of God’s arms. We could never have been reconciled to God without the shedding of Christ’s blood.


            Our Savior said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). He came into this world with a commission, on a mission of mercy, under the bondage of his own voluntary suretyship engagements, which he assumed for us as the Surety of the everlasting covenant. His death upon the cursed tree was no accident. It was not something that came to pass because of man’s free will, or because the Jews would not let him be their king! The Lord Jesus died at Calvary because he must die at Calvary! Why? What necessity was there for the death of the Son of God upon the cursed tree? Why must this Holy One be made sin for us? Why must this Savior be put to death? Here are four reasons given in the Word of God why he had to die the painful, shameful, cursed death of the cross at Jerusalem.


  1. The Lord Jesus Christ had to die at Jerusalem as he did because God the Father purposed it from eternity (Acts 2:23).


  1. Our dear Savior had to die at Jerusalem in order to fulfill his covenant engagements for us. Our Lord Jesus Christ voluntarily assumed all responsibility for our souls in the covenant of grace; but once he assumed that responsibility, he must fulfill it. He was honor bound to do so (Genesis 43:8-9; John 10:18; Acts 13:29).


  1. The Son of God must die as he did because the Scriptures must be fulfilled (Psalm 22; 40; 69; Isaiah 53)


  1. It was absolutely necessary for the Lord Jesus Christ to die as he did upon the cursed tree, lifted up from the earth, in order for the holy Lord God to save us from our sins (Romans 3:24-26; John 3:14-17). If God would save us from our sins, he could only do it this way, because righteousness must be maintained, sin must be punished, justice must be satisfied, forgiveness must be legitimate, and love must be blameless. If the holy, just, and true God would be the Savior of sinners, it must be by the satisfaction of justice; and justice could be satisfied in no other way. Now, justice being satisfied, the God of all grace declares himself to be “a just God and a Savior,” and bids poor sinners look to him in his Son and live forever (Isaiah 45:20-25).


Peter’s Great Error


“And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men” (vv. 32-33).


As often as I read this passage, I pause as I hear our Savior rebuke his servant Peter, and try to remind myself that there is in every true child of God a strange mixture of flesh and Spirit, grace and infirmity, strength and weakness, faith and unbelief, knowledge and great ignorance, the old man and the new.


I can almost see Peter. No doubt, he acted out of love and zeal for his Lord. It is as though he took the Master by the arm and said, “Now don’t you fret about these scribes, elders, and chief priests. We’re not about to let anything happen to you.” But his love and zeal were misguided passions of carnal reason and ignorance. He attempted to stand in the Lord’s way and, in doing so, drew down upon himself the sharpest rebuke that ever fell from our Savior’s lips upon one of his disciples. John Gill explained…


“Peter might more especially be concerned at this free and open account Christ gave of his sufferings and death, because he had just now acquainted him, that he should have the keys of the kingdom of heaven; by which he might understand some high post in the temporal kingdom of the Messiah he expected; and immediately to hear of his sufferings and death, damped his spirits, and destroyed his hopes, and threw him into such difficulties he was not able to remove; and therefore he takes Christ aside, and very warmly expostulates with him about what he had said, and chides him for it, and entreats him that he would not think, or talk of such like things.”


John Trapp wrote…


“Peter having made a notable profession of his faith, and being therefore much commended by Christ, presently takes occasion to fall from the true holiness of faith to the sauciness of presumption, in advising his Master to decline the cross.”


            When he did, the Lord Jesus said to this man, who had just declared, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” He called this disciple, one of his chosen Apostles, “Satan,” because the devil himself had taken advantage of Peter’s weakness and ignorance, and, acting through his flesh, inspired Peter to contradict and dispute his God and Savior, dissuading him from suffering and dying for the salvation of his people, urging him not to pursue his purpose and fulfill his work as Jehovah’s Righteous Servant, and his eternal engagements as the Surety of the covenant. Though he was a true believer, a heaven born soul, and a faithful servant of Christ, Peter was still a sinful man, just like you and me. When he spoke as he did here to the Savior, he spoke as a carnal man, savoring the things of men, not the things of God. May God the Holy Spirit teach us the things these two verses are obviously intended to teach us. May he give us grace never to forget them.

·      The best of God’s saints are but poor, fallible, sinful creatures.

·      As long as we are in this world, our highest attainments of knowledge are ignorance.

·      Let no child of God entertain high thoughts about himself.

·      Let us be charitable and gracious toward our erring brethren (Galatians 6:1).




Don Fortner



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