by Mike Ratliff
And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4 ESV)
The builder and sustainer of the Church, the Body of Christ, is the Lord Jesus not any man (Matthew 16:18). The building of the true Church is accomplished as God works through the foolishness of preaching to draw people from the darkness into the light and life that is found in Christ alone. It is built up in Christ through the means of grace, which are ordained by God not men. While we see that it is God who actually is doing the building, He has chosen to work through His servants to accomplish that which will bring Him glory. These servants that He uses as fishers of men are symbolically like the fishermen in their boats on the Sea of Galilee who cast their nets to catch fish to sell as their business. Let us make some comparisons.
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. (Luke 5:1-7 ESV)
This event happened immediately prior to our Lord calling His first disciples. Notice that without our Lord being with Peter, James and John that they toiled all night and caught nothing. However, our Lord got in the boat, taught the people and told Peter, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” The difference this time was that this is a divine command, although Peter does not know it. The partners who had to come and help drag the great catch to shore were the brothers James and John. I don’t often like to make these sorts of analogies from Scripture for I have heard so many that are man-made things that some take and overuse to the deception of many. However, in this case, we are looking at something our Lord used to teach these men the truth about God and how He uses His servants to do His will in the preaching of the Gospel and the building of His Church.
If we compare the mindset of many Christians, they believe that it is their efforts, their ideas, their inovations that when added to preaching the gospel (if it even includes it) that will cause numbers to go up and that many will be added to the Kingdom because of their efforts. From this analogy, however, we learn that a true catch, the saving of many souls is always the work of God as He labors through His obedient servants. If He is not present then the fruit will not be genuine. If our Lord is not part of an evangelical push then it can only accomplish what men can do. Some may ‘decide for Jesus’ as the result of the entertainment or the glitz or the personality of the preacher, but is it genuine? No, it is as these fishermen laboring all night and catching nothing. However, if the workers obediently cast their nets into the deep Christ’s way then those drawn into the net will be genuine because they are effectually called by God Himself. When He saves someone, it is always genuine for it is not simply a human decision, but it is the result of the washing of regeneration and belief in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. These are justified by God’s grace through the faith given to them by Him. Numbers may or may not be large, but these who are effectually called and drawn by God are the real deal. The “catch” is miraculous for it is God’s work not man’s.
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:8-11 ESV)
Why did Peter fall at the feet of Jesus saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”? Peter was astonished by this obvious miracle of the demonstation of the presence of God. Jesus used this to begin the teaching to these men of who He really is. However, it was not until He was crucified and resurrected that these men finally “got it.”
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. (John 21:1-8 ESV)
The first fishing miracle was done the day Jesus called Peter, James and John as His disciples. This fishing miracle took place just days after our Lord’s resurrection. It is very similar and our Lord is obviously using this analogy to teach these men that if they are surrendered and obedient to their Lord then they will accomplish His will and is there anything better than that? No! Ministering on one’s own terms is a recipe for spiritual mediocrity. All you can do in your own efforts are things the world loves and the world can do. On the other hand, when one ministers surrendered to the will of God, then nothing can stop him or her from laboring according to the will of God and that is where we see people changed forever on the Lord’s terms not theirs. These can do things the world cannot do nor does it understand. In fact, it will actually despise or hate these ministries because they have forsaken the ways and means of the world. They do not exist for self-glory or to elevate self in the eyes of this lost and dying world. Instead, their goal is for God to be glorified in them. They preach the Gospel as the Apostles did. They do not leave out the law and the utter lostness of the natural man. They preach the necessity of a perfect redeemer and then give the good news of the incarnation of Christ and the atonement accomplished at the Cross. This is fishing for men with the Lord sitting in the boat with us. This is preaching the Word to God’s people that they may hear it and be transformed as their minds are renewed by being continually immersed in God’s truth. They become living sacrifices because their shepherd is not interested in being cool or concerned with the contextualization of the truth, but in preaching the unadulterated truth as God draws His people to Christ who has been lifted up on that cruel Cross.
“Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.”-Luke 5:4
We learn from this narrative, the necessity of human agency. The draught of fishes was miraculous, yet neither the fisherman nor his boat, nor his fishing tackle were ignored; but all were used to take the fishes. So in the saving of souls, God worketh by means; and while the present economy of grace shall stand, God will be pleased by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. When God worketh without instruments, doubtless He is glorified; but He hath Himself selected the plan of instrumentality as being that by which He is most magnified in the earth. Means of themselves are utterly unavailing. “Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing.” What was the reason of this? Were they not fishermen plying their special calling? Verily, they were no raw hands; they understood the work. Had they gone about the toil unskillfully? No. Had they lacked industry? No, they had toiled. Had they lacked perseverance? No, they had toiled all the night. Was there a deficiency of fish in the sea? Certainly not, for as soon as the Master came, they swam to the net in shoals. What, then, is the reason? Is it because there is no power in the means of themselves apart from the presence of Jesus? “Without Him we can do nothing.” But with Christ we can do all things. Christ’s presence confers success. Jesus sat in Peter’s boat, and His will, by a mysterious influence, drew the fish to the net. When Jesus is lifted up in His Church, His presence is the Church’s power-the shout of a king is in the midst of her. “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” Let us go out this morning on our work of soul fishing, looking up in faith, and around us in solemn anxiety. Let us toil till night comes, and we shall not labour in vain, for He who bids us let down the net, will fill it with fishes. – C.H. Spurgeon from Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning for October 8th.
My brethren, do not try to serve the Lord outside of His presence. That means that we must minister on His terms not ours and not according to the ways and desires of the world. We don’t take surveys of what people want from our ministries, but we do according to the will of God, His way and by His power according to His will and by His grace. Never forget that there are those who look very successful in their ministries with large numbers and the love and respect to the world, but their fruit is bad because they are preaching the doctrines of demons which has no power to change people to crucify the flesh and follow the Lord. Instead, we must preach the sound doctrines of God which are just the opposite. Only they are in-dwelt by the power of God to work in the hearts of people to change them forever because their fruit is good.
Soli Deo Gloria!