003 - Who was Peter? [A]
Who was Peter?
2 Peter Lesson #003
May 23, 2019
“Father, it’s such a privilege to be able to study Your Word, to live in a country where we still have freedom. Father, we pray that our freedom may continue that we may live our lives peaceably and that we may be able to proclaim the truth of Your Word and to proclaim the gospel.
“Help us to carry out the mission the Lord Jesus Christ has given us without fear of any kind of government interference or any kind of persecution. Father, above all we pray that whatever we might face that we might do it on the basis of Thy Word.
“We know that we must study Your Word, internalize Your Word, and put on the full armor that You have provided for us that we may be able to stand even in the evil day.
“Father, as we study tonight help us to understand what we’re studying to be able to internalize it, to boil down what the Scriptures said so we can recall it to mind in terms of our reading, our study, and living our spiritual life. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are studying 2 Peter. This is our third lesson in 2 Peter. In the first lesson we dealt with a lot of introductory issues. Last week we looked at an overview, just a flyover where we get the overall focus on what Peter’s message is. It’s a warning that fake teachers—since we have “fake news” now and everyone uses that term—we have fake teachers, fake teaching, and fake theology that Peter warns about.
At the time he writes this he sees it as something that is going to rise soon and in the future and be a threat to the spiritual life and a threat to those to whom he is writing and a threat to the stability of the church. It will be a threat to the truth of God’s Word.
His focus is on the fact we have to grow. We have to “grow,” he says in 2 Peter 3:18, “in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I don’t think this is a mistake that is one of the last things that Peter says because he will go to be crucified by Nero not long after he wrote this Epistle. This is his parting shot.
One thing we’ll learn tonight is that Peter came to a profound understanding of the grace of God. Tonight, as we begin this third lesson, I want to talk about who Peter was. I did this when we started 1 Peter and I took three lessons to do it [1 Peter Lessons #004–#006]. If you want a little more detail than what I’m giving now, you can go back and listen to those three lessons.
I find that for a lot of us it’s good to just get a good synthesis and a condensed version of a lot of things just so we can put it together and so we can have a good overview. I’m going to just look at this tonight in a way that we can just remember who Peter was.
The epistle opens with a salutation stating the author of this Epistle as Simon Peter, a bond servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ. We’ll take a couple of weeks to go through the background of that statement and why that’s so important.
As we look at the key events in the life of Peter as I’m thinking about this. We start with Peter before Christ. This is before he met the Messiah. The second thing we’re going to look at is Peter’s search for the Messiah. Then third, we’re going to look at Peter as one of the twelve disciples, what we learn about Peter in the Gospels, then fourth, we’re going to look at Peter as an Apostle in the early church. Finally, we’re going to look at some traditions about Peter.
So those five things we’re going to cover tonight. What do we know about Peter B.C., before Christ?
Here’s a map so you can get a little bit of an overview orientation of Israel. This is in the north. This whole area was known at the time of Christ as Galilee.
Over here on the coast of the Mediterranean you have this little swerve going along the coastline where Haifa is located. It’s the deepest and only deep-water port in the eastern Mediterranean. That’s at the mouth of the Kishon River, which is well-known by the time of Deborah and Barak as well as later. Mount Carmel is located on this ridge here. That’s where Elijah called down fire from Heaven. This is the Jezreel Valley. Many, many things happened there.
Then you go up here on the Sea of Galilee and on that north-northwest coast is where Capernaum was located. Due north is where Bethsaida is located. Bethsaida is where Peter was born and as an adult he was married and lived here in Capernaum. Many of the events that took place in the Gospels happened in and around the Sea of Galilee. Many of the things that happened in Peter’s life which we’ll be talking about tonight happened in and around the Sea of Galilee.
This gives you an aerial photograph of that area so Bethsaida would be located on the northern coast land [photo is taken facing north] and then if you come around to the left you get right into this area here, which is about where Capernaum was located. The width of the Sea of Galilee here is about three or four miles across so it’s pretty wide and it’s pretty extensive.
At the beginning we learn who Peter is. He’s referred to as Simon or Simon Peter. Simeon is a name that means harkening or hearing with acceptance or hearing to obey. He is referred to as Simon bar Jonah, which means Simon son of John.
We don’t know who his mother was. She’s not named. We just have the name of his father, who was John. He had one brother who we know of and that’s Andrew. We learn about them in the first chapter of John as Jesus comes down to the Jordan River where John the Baptist is baptizing, and we learn that both Peter and Andrew are followers of John the Baptist.
They have demonstrated a very deep interest in spiritual things. They were looking for the Messiah and following the message of John the Baptist, which was to “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. That wasn’t a message of salvation. That was a challenge to Israel to change. That might imply the need to trust in God for their individual salvation, but it also implied that they needed to turn away from idols, away from legalism, away from tradition, and back to God.
The word shuv is a word rich in meaning from an Old Testament Hebrew concept and means to turn. This is what God says several times. Paul uses a Greek word ANASTREPHO in 1 Thessalonians saying they turned from idols to worship the living God.
It’s not an emotional thing. It’s not turning from, it’s turning away from the nonworship of God, a worship of idols or something else, to the worship of God. That was John the Baptist’s message.
What we learn about Peter is that he grew up in Bethsaida in Galilee, which was a fishing village. When we think about Peter and John as fishermen and we look at the size of the boats that they had, which were not very long, about as long as from me to that door on the back over here, we don’t think of this as something big, but this was a commercial operation.
They were not just a couple of guys going out and throwing nets. This was a major business. He and Andrew were in partnership with James and John, who are also going to be disciples and apostles. This was their business and they were fairly successful in their business.
We would classify them probably as middle class for that time and that era. The reason I point that out is because one of the things when we studied the introduction of 2 Peter is that because of the style of Greek that’s used in 1 Peter, and a slightly different style in 2 Peter, there’s been the theory since the 19th century by scholars that a poor fisherman from Capernaum would not be as adept at Greek as the writer of these Epistles.
That just shows a certain amount of academic arrogance and scholastic arrogance. I know many people who are not necessarily well educated but because of the area where they grew up, they grow up being very adept at two or more languages.
If they grow in an area that’s bi-lingual, such as the Texas border or other areas in Texas, or Europe, you’ll have many people grow up speaking three, four, or five languages, reading and writing them well, and they do not necessarily have a great form of education. They may be tradesmen. They may work with their hands. Who knows what they will be. They may be farmers or own a vineyard or work in a vineyard—not necessarily what we would classify as well educated, but because of the environment where they live, they know how to speak two or three or four or five languages very, very well.
Peter grew up in Galilee and Galilee had a certain Gentile population. Koine Greek was the lingua franca for much of the eastern part of the Roman Empire. You also had Aramaic, which was very common in much of the area of the Middle East at that time.
We can expect most people were very fluid in both of those languages. By the time Peter comes along and writes 1 and 2 Peter he’s much older and would have improved in both the reading and writing of Greek and Aramaic as well.
This was not something unusual. We know approximately where Peter’s house was in Capernaum. He lived very close to the synagogue that was there. As a result of that, there were continuous classes that were taught about Torah, about many other things related to Jewish traditions and Jewish history. So he had every opportunity to be well educated through the synagogue school.
We also know that Peter was married. The idea of celibacy for the primacy of Peter is just not biblical. Peter had a wife. He was married according to 1 Corinthians 9:5. He traveled with his wife. He traveled to Corinth and he brought his wife with him. Mark 1:30 talks about the fact that his mother-in-law was sick. In order to have a mother-in-law in most cases you have to have a wife. I’d say over 95% of the time you have to have a wife to have a mother-in-law. So, Peter was married.
He had moved to Capernaum and this was the center of the business that he and his brother, Andrew, and James and John, ran. At that time Jesus was going to rename him CEPHAS which means the rock. The Greek word is PETRA. The Aramaic is CEPHAS. The K is in Greek and it’s transliterated into Latin with a C but it’s not a soft C so it sounds like Kephas. It’s a hard C. In English we tend to make C softer than hard, but you have to go with the original. Jesus renames him CEPHAS in Mark 3:16. I’ve already covered that he was married.
The second thing is that he began a search for the Messiah. We don’t know how long before. He was very interested in the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures teaching about the coming of a Messiah. There was a general expectation. We know from historians of that time that there was an expectation of someone coming, something happening.
There was a prophetic expectation in Israel and with the arrival of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, who was a voice calling the wilderness. There was an expectation enhanced that the Messiah would soon be coming. Peter began to search for the Messiah and he goes from his home area near Capernaum.
The first time we meet him he is down where the Jordan empties into the Dead Sea [larger red circle]. This is the area where John the Baptist was baptizing. This is all described in the first chapter of John. A little bit earlier than the events there you have Jesus being baptized by John.
I think in the chronology of Jesus’ life at this point Jesus had come down here. The synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—talk about Jesus coming down to be baptized by John the Baptist. Then immediately the Spirit led Him into the wilderness where He is tempted for forty days and forty nights.
The events described in John chapter one are a little later. We read starting in John 1:19, “This is the testimony of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him ‘Who are you?’.” He confessed he’s not Elijah, he’s not the prophet. They asked him who he was, and he quotes from Isaiah saying, “I’m just the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”
Then the second day John saw Jesus coming toward him and announces who He is saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Then you have to pay attention to John 1:30 where John says “This is He of whom I said …”
He’s not talking about this current event. He’s talking about something that already happened in the past when Jesus came down to be baptized. He says, “This is the One of whom I said—in the past—after me comes a man who is preferred before me.”
What’s interesting here is when you get to John 1:32 it says, “John bore witness saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending like a dove and He remained upon Him.’ ” When John says “he saw” in the Greek, it’s a perfect tense. Perfect tense means it’s a completed action in the past so it’s emphasizing the completion of that act in the past. So he’s talking about the descent of the Spirit sometime in the past, not within these couple of days. This is after the temptation of the Lord and he’s describing that and looking back on it.
Then on the third day of these three days mentioned in John he sees Jesus come again and again he announces him as the Lamb of God. There are two disciples with him and the two disciples heard him speak and they followed Jesus. These two disciples are Peter and his brother, Andrew. This is when they recognized Jesus as the Messiah on the testimony of John the Baptist and so they follow Him.
Andrew was the first one we’re told in verse 41, “He first found his own brother, Simon, and said to him ‘We have found the Messiah, which is interpreted as Christ.’ And he led him to Jesus. Jesus looking at him said, ‘You are Simon, the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas (which is translated a stone).’ ”
This is when that event took place, when Jesus renamed Peter or gives him the name Cephas, which is also translated into the Greek as PETRA. So, he becomes Simon Peter or in the Hebrew Simeon Cephas. This is when he is first in Galilee, before the wedding in Cana. This is before Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover the first time and this is when Peter comes to realize that Jesus is the Messiah.
It’s not long after that Peter is going to be called as one of the disciples. This is the third event. I’m going to have nine events here that cover the Gospels and ten events that cover the period of the Acts. Peter becomes one of the disciples.
Jesus calls these twelve men to forsake all and to follow Him. This is described in Matthew 4:18–22, Mark 1:16–20, and Luke 5:1–11. This is when Jesus tells them to follow Him and He would make them become fishers of men according to Mark 1:17.
When we think about Peter now as one of the twelve disciples, we think of his being called as one of the disciples and he’s going to become a fisher of men. Peter is called as a disciple and he’s going to follow Jesus.
What happens when he starts to follow Jesus? He comes as part of the Twelve and this is Jesus’ training camp to train the disciples for their future ministry. They don’t understand any of that yet, but that’s what’s going on. They are to be given certain missions and sent out on certain evangelistic missions during the time of the incarnation. After the resurrection they’re going to become the apostles. That’s all in the future.
When you think about Peter and these nine key events you can think about others, but I tried to synthesize this down a little bit and these are the major events that most of us think about. The episode of Peter walking on the water is in Matthew 14:28–31. It is a time when Jesus is teaching the disciples about faith.
They are out on the Sea of Galilee. A storm comes up. Waves can get enormous out there. They are scared to death and all of a sudden in a middle of the night, as they’ve been trying to get back to shore and they’re exhausted, they look out on the lake and here’s Jesus walking on water.
We see something about Peter here because Peter immediately wants to go out and run to the Lord. We see that part of his personality is that he is impetuous. He is one of the first to act. Whenever you see the list of disciples in the Gospels, Peter is always listed first. He’s the one who is the most outspoken. He’s the one who seems to be the most aggressive and he’s the one who seems to put his foot in his mouth more frequently than any of the others.
We often identify with Peter because we see ourselves in one way or another in Peter. He is going to walk on the water, and this shows his trust. Then, all of a sudden, he gets his eyes on the waves that are coming and he forgets to focus on the Lord. He stops trusting Him and he starts to sink. He cries out to the Lord and the Lord rescues him.
It’s a great illustration of the fact we need to go moment by moment trusting the Lord, not getting our eyes on the storms of life, the details of life, but keeping our focus on the Lord.
The second thing is an event that occurs in John 6:66–69. This is a great passage. It’s at the end of a long day. It’s at the end of the bread of life discourse. They have fed the five thousand with the fishes and the loaves. As Jesus teaches, many of his disciples begin to leave. That’s not in the strict sense of the twelve disciples, but those who are just coming to listen to Him teach. In John 6:66 we read, “From that time many of His disciples went away and walked no more with Him.”
They began to realize He was saying that being a true disciple, not a true believer, is different. A believer is simply someone who’s trusted in Christ as Savior. They have eternal life. They can never lose that eternal life. But a disciple is someone who is a believer who has reached the point where they want to “grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ”.
They’re not someone who just shows up at church occasionally or Christianity is something that is significant for them one morning a week, but it is their life. It becomes internalized for them and they want to grow and mature and truly serve the Lord with their lives.
These disciples, fair-weather disciples, left and then Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks why they don’t go away or why they’re still there. In John 6:68 Peter says, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” He’s saying where else can we go. No one else is going to teach us how to gain eternal life. Nobody is going to teach us how to grow and to mature spiritually so we can experience that fullness of life.
Remember in John that Jesus said He came not like a thief to destroy, but He came to give life, eternal life at salvation, and secondly to give life abundantly. That is realizing the abundant Christian life as we grow and mature as believers.
Peter recognizes this. He asks where shall they go since Jesus has the words of eternal life. In John 6:69 he says, “And we have believed and know that You are the Holy One of God.”
That’s the issue all through John. How do you get saved? John says in John 20:31 that “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing”—not believing and doing good, not by believing and repenting. Repent is never used in the Gospel of John. Believe is used over 95 times to emphasize that the core issue is believing in Jesus Christ—so we have believed and know that you are the Holy One of God.
That’s the gospel. We believe You are the Messiah. The role of the Messiah was to come and die for our sins. That’s the second big event. The third big event is at a place called Caesarea Philippi, which is far in the north of Israel. There is an enormous rock escarpment at the base of it. There were several caves. There was a temple to the Greek God Pan because this was thought of as the entrance to Hades or the entrance to Sheol.
Jesus takes His disciples up there and He’s going to teach them about the significance of the rock. This is described in Matthew 16:13–21, Mark 8:27–30, and Luke 9:18–20. There Jesus comes to the region of Caesarea Philippi. Note here that Jesus didn’t tell His disciples things. He asked a lot of questions to get them to think about what He was saying.
He asked who men said He, the Son of Man, was. That question is loaded. When He calls Himself “the Son of Man” he’s using a term out of Daniel 7 that is the term for the future Ruler of the Kingdom of God on earth who will return and establish His Kingdom on earth. It’s a Messianic title. It was understood to be a Messianic title. So, by the fact that He continued to call Himself the Son of Man indicates He was claiming to be the God-Man.
He was human, the Son of Man emphasizes His humanity. The Son of God emphasized His deity. He said, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
They’re just like if you’ve ever taught Sunday school or any class and you ask students questions, some say one thing, some say something else. They look at each other. They’ve likely never heard anything like this before. They’re saying, “There are some people who say you’re John the Baptist.” By this time John the Baptist had been martyred.
“Some say you’re Elijah. Some say you’re Jeremiah, one of the prophets.” Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” This is when Peter, outspoken Peter, steps up to the plate and shows his initiative. He says, “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Mashiach, the Promised One. You are the Son of the Living God.”
Remember where they are. I’m going to show you a picture. They’re under this huge rock escarpment. Right then Jesus answers and says, “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah,—Simon, son of John—for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter—PETROS, the word for rock—and on this rock I will build my church.”
It’s interesting when He says “on this rock”, there are a lot of different views on that. The best way to interpret this when Jesus says “this rock” is He’s talking about Himself as the God-Man. He is the Rock. What did Peter just say? He said Jesus was the Son of the Living God. Peter knows Jesus is God.
All through the Old Testament God is called the Rock. It’s this rock. It’s saying Jesus is the living God and He is going to build His church. Then He says, “The gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
Look at the picture on the slide of Caesarea Philippi. You see this huge rock escarpment as background. Jesus is taking what is there in the background to illustrate this.
It wasn’t just by accident or chance that Jesus took them on that trip that day and walked up to Caesarea Philippi. It probably took them most of the day to walk that far. They got there and Jesus has taken them there to use this rock escarpment and the whole scenario as a training aid to teach His point.
This cave here you see in the middle of the picture is a “Gate to Hades”.
He’s using this to teach the fact that He is the Living God, He is the Rock, and the Gates of Hades will not prevail against Him. This is the point that He is teaching.
He goes on to say that He is going to give to Peter “the keys to the kingdom of the heavens; and whatsoever he binds on the earth shall be bound”. In the Greek that means “will have already been bound”. In other words, as an apostle when you are carrying out your mission, you are giving the gospel to those who will respond and have eternal life. God has already determined that those who believe in the gospel will have eternal life and those who don’t will not have eternal life.
The authority resides not in and of themselves, but in the message that they will proclaim relating to Jesus Christ. That is what Jesus is emphasizing here. He’s not emphasizing that Peter is the foundation of the Church. He’s not giving the Roman Catholic view here. He’s not talking about Peter being the foundation of the Church. He’s talking about Himself. This plays out in the rest of Scripture that Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone.
Again and again you have terms related to Foundation, Cornerstone, and Rock that all relate to Jesus Christ. This fits with Old Testament passages, for example in Deuteronomy 32:4 Moses writes of God, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.”
Then in Deuteronomy 32:31 Moses says, “For their rock—referring to the false gods of the pagans, lower case gods—is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves have been judged.” So again and again you have passages throughout showing God as a Rock. Not just God is a rock but our God is The Rock. Rock was another way of referring to God in the Old Testament.
When Jesus says “on this Rock” He’s talking about Himself, the identification of Himself as the Living God.
The next event is what happens on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John—later identified by Paul in Galatians 2:9 as the three pillars of the church in Jerusalem—are personally invited to go with Jesus upon top of this mountain. We’re not sure what this mountain was. Some say it was Mount Tabor. Others say it was up on Mount Hermon. No one knows which mountain it was.
They go upon this mountain. It’s called the Mount of Transfiguration because that’s what happened there. Jesus reveals His glory as the eternal Son of God.
This is what happens when He does that. Again Peter is the spokesman. He’s the first one to step out there and put his foot in his mouth. He speaks before anything happens that explains the situation. He just immediately thinks he understands everything.
He recognizes that along with Jesus, Moses and Elijah have also appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration, so he’s going to worship all three of them. Peter says, “Lord it’s good for us to be here. If you wish, let us make here three tabernacles for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He’s saying all three are equal.
While he’s speaking, God basically shows up on the scene and says for Peter to be quiet. That’s the free translation here. God shows up with a bright cloud overshadowing them. Suddenly a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”
Peter is talking when he should be listening. When the disciples heard this, they fall on their faces and are greatly afraid. Peter refers back to this event in 1 Peter and in 2 Peter because this is where they saw the glory of the Lord. This has a radical impact on Peter’s thinking.
We’ve looked at the first four events in Peter’s life. The fifth event is that Peter struggles with forgiveness. This is an interesting fact when you put it together like this because this is a little later after the Mount of Transfiguration.
We’re in Matthew 18. Jesus is giving a lot of instruction to the disciples at that point and as they go through this time, Peter comes to the Lord in Matthew 18:21 and says, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ ”
Peter is probably thinking that’s being very kind if I forgive him seven times. I’m being very gracious. Then Jesus says, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’ ”
In other words, Jesus is saying to continue to forgive them even if they take advantage of you. We take advantage of God’s grace all the time every time we sin. The Scripture doesn’t say that after you’ve committed that sin 10,372 times there will not be any more forgiveness.
People come to the Lord and they beg Him and say they’re so sorry. God, in His omniscience, tells them “not to try to pull the wool over His eyes. You’re going to commit this sin 17,392 times more times and I will forgive you every single time you confess your sin. I’m never going to put a condition on it because Christ paid the penalty for that sin once and for all. All you need to do is just admit that you did it. You don’t have to try to show remorse or tell Me you’re never going to do it again because you know you will and I know you will. All that’s at stake here is for you to recognize it and admit that you’ve committed a sin.”
Peter then begins to understand a little bit more about forgiveness, that this is something that characterizes God’s relationship with us, and it should characterize our relationship with others. This is part one of what I call his lesson on forgiveness.
Then when we get to the night before Christ went to the Cross and they’re in the Upper Room and Jesus is washing their feet in order to teach them the principle of cleansing from sin, He comes to Peter. Peter is stepping right out talking just exactly about what he’s thinking. He says, “Lord, You’re not going to wash my feet.”
He’s saying it in the sense of “Lord, are You washing my feet?” He’s thinking that this isn’t going to happen. The Lord says to him, “What I am doing you don’t understand now, but you will know after this.”
Peter is saying, no, no, no. “You shall never wash my feet.” He doesn’t understand that this is again a teaching aid, a training aid, a visual aid to understand the importance of forgiveness and cleansing.
The Lord says to him, “If I do not wash you, you will have no part with Me.”
Now we’ve gone through this many times, so I’ll just hit the high points. Jesus uses two different words in this section when He’s talking about washing and bathing. One word that He uses is NIPTO. This is the word that you use for just washing your hands or washing your feet or washing your face. It’s just a partial washing.
The other word, LOUO, indicates taking a bath. So, right after this Peter’s going to say that if he won’t have any part with Jesus unless He washes him, then just bathe him all over. He uses the word LOUO here. The Lord says, no, no, no, “all of you are cleansed except one.” In other words, because everyone there is already completely cleansed and washed of sin, all you need to do is have a partial washing, a partial cleansing each time you sin.
The imagery here and the words that are used here go back to the Old Testament ritual in the Tabernacle and the Temple. When a priest was inaugurated or anointed into his role, then the priest would be washed from head to toe. He had to take a completely submerged bath. It was a one-time event, just as our salvation is a one-time event when we’re forgiven of all sins, as we’ve studied in Ephesians 1:7 “in Him—in Christ—we have—as our present possession—redemption [through His blood], the forgiveness of sin”. That is the cancellation of sin. We have that in Christ.
That is what happens positionally the instant we trust in Christ as Savior. What happens as we go through life; we go places and we do things that “dirty” us spiritually, as it were, and we become unclean. We’re walking according to our sin nature and not according to the Holy Spirit, so there needs to be a partial washing or cleansing. That’s what was pictured by the priests. One time a complete washing. After that, whenever they went into the Tabernacle or Temple they just washed their hands at the laver. That was the picture of that partial cleansing. That was what that was to teach.
Jesus is teaching that what I am doing, you do for one another. He’s teaching them that He forgives them by cleansing them. We are to forgive one another, which is the essence of the major command given at the end of John 13:34–35, that we are to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Peter learns a second lesson in forgiveness. Then we come to the sixth big issue in Peter’s life when he denies the Lord. The Lord predicted that he would deny Him and he said he’d never do that. The Lord told him He would pray for him, that his faith should not fail and that he would be strengthened. Peter again says that even though everyone fails Jesus, he won’t stumble or deny Him. Then that’s exactly what happened. He denied the Lord three times.
The next thing that happens after that is that Peter is at the empty tomb. This is described in Luke 24:12 in which he just simply summarizes things that went on there. Peter runs to the tomb and he’s the first one to get there.
In John 20 we read, as soon as Mary told Peter and John that the tomb was empty, “Peter took off with the other disciple and they were going to the tomb. So they ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.”
For all of eternity we’re going to know John runs faster than Peter and Peter lost that race. He’s learning humility. But John stopped at the entry and Peter just came right on in there and looked in and saw the linen grave clothes lying there and then he realizes that the tomb is empty.
Luke says Peter left there and goes away marveling. That’s a pretty broad word there, marveling. I think one of the things he’s thinking is “Uh oh, Jesus looked at me. He knows I betrayed Him, and He’s going to come back and say He told me so.” I bet that was going through Peter’s mind.
What we’re told after this is that Peter then learns that lesson about forgiveness. When Peter learns that lesson about forgiveness, we have to put together a couple of passages from other places. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:5 where Paul is listening to people who saw the resurrected Lord, he lists Peter alone. He’s not with the Twelve. Paul says, “He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.”
What happens is that somewhere after this time when Peter sees the empty tomb and John 21, when Jesus shows up in Galilee and they’re out fishing in the boat and can’t catch anything, Jesus calls them to come in. He’s already cooking some fish and He has them cast their net on the other side of boat from where they’ve been fishing and they brought in a large haul.
Then Peter realizes it’s the Lord. He just strips off his clothes and dives in the water to swim to the shore. He’s already been forgiven at that point. Someone in there there’s a private meeting with the Lord and he realizes forgiveness. At this point, Peter is coming to understand grace—that’s it’s not dependent upon him at all, it’s dependent upon God’s love and His mercy and the work that Christ did on the Cross.
This becomes an important part of his message. In fact, in Acts he refers to the gospel as receiving the remission of sins, the forgiveness of sins. This becomes a major part of Peter’s understanding of the gospel and his understanding of the spiritual life.
Then we come to the last event, which is the ninth event and that’s Peter’s commissioning. That’s at the end of John 21:15–19. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. We’ve gone through that passage many times. Jesus uses three different words for love.
Peter doesn’t respond the right way, but the important part is that Peter is commissioned three times as he’s given a command. The first one is to “Feed My lambs.” That’s the young believers, the lambs. The word there for feeding means to give them spiritual nourishment. That’s why Peter says in 1 Peter 2:2 we’re to “desire the sincere milk of the Word that we can grow by it.”
He understands that the role of the pastor, the role of the apostle, was to feed the lambs, the young believers, as well as the adults.
The second command is “tend My sheep”. That has that same sense, feeding the sheep. You feed the sheep the Word of God. And the last command is “feed My sheep” and that’s for the adults. Each command has a little different emphasis on how you’re feeding, how you’re protecting, how you’re providing for those in the congregations to the young ones, to the mature ones. Feed My lambs, tend My sheep, feed My sheep. That’s the point. He understands that knowledge of the Word is key to spiritual growth. That’s why his parting shot is to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we’ve looked at Peter before Christ when he was searching for the Messiah, Peter as one of the twelve disciples, and now we’re going to look at Peter as an apostle in the early church. What were the things that he learned there?
Several key things. Ten key things that happened in Acts. First of all, we see Peter in the Upper Room. We see in the first fifteen chapters of Acts that Peter is the leader of the apostles in Jerusalem. What’s interesting is that Saul of Tarsus gets saved in Acts 9. Up to then, it’s Peter, Peter, Peter.
In Acts 9 we get Saul. Then we go back to Peter in Acts 10–11. Then we get Saul in Acts 12–14. In Acts 15 it’s back to Peter and that’s the end of Peter. We don’t hear from Peter any more in Acts. After that it’s Paul. So, Acts starts off with the growth of the church, the early church in the Jewish community. It’s primarily Jewish. It’s not until Acts 10 that Gentiles are welcomed in.
They come in through the ministry of Peter in Acts 10 and 11. Acts 9 is when Paul is saved. We learn that Paul is the one who will become the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter is specifically the apostle to the Jews. That’s the pattern that you see in Acts.
In the Upper Room Jesus told them to wait until the Holy Spirit came. That was a one-time event. The Holy Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost. While they’re waiting in the Upper Room, the same room where they’d celebrated the Passover, the night before Jesus went to the Cross, Peter takes the initiative that they needed to find someone to replace Judas because “we have to have a full contingent of twelve disciples”.
They select Matthias as the twelfth disciple. Then, right after that, the Twelve … The pronoun is very specific, “they”. They who? If you look back at the previous two verses the “they who” are the Twelve. They go to the Temple and they receive the Holy Spirit.
Not every believer at that instant received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit descends first and uniquely to the Twelve. Probably Matthias was there. It doesn’t say whether he received the Holy Spirit or not. There’s a big debate. We went over that in Acts. I’m not going to go over that again.
The Holy Spirit descends and as evidence of the descent of the Holy Spirit they saw a visual sign, which was some flames over their head. Not the whole one hundred twenty. You’ve got to be careful with that pronoun. The pronoun refers to the Twelve, not the one hundred twenty because the Twelve are the foundation of the church. Not the one hundred twenty.
It’s those who are the foundation of the church according to Paul in Ephesians 2:20 that are the ones who are the foundation. They first received the Holy Spirit. Then the question comes up what in the world is going on? Are these guys drunk?
Peter stands up as the spokesman. He gives his first sermon there on the southern steps of the Temple where he again challenges the listeners to trust in Christ as the Messiah and to be baptized. Right there, there are at least two or three hundred mikvahs, the ceremonial baths that Jews would go to on their way in to the Temple, so there are two or three hundred baptistries that are there, which makes it real easy to baptize five thousand people.
That’s Acts 1 and then Peter on the Day of Pentecost is Acts 2. Then we have Peter and John healing the lame man at the Temple the next day. That’s in Acts 3. Again, he addresses the Jews and says they have to change their mind about Jesus. They have to repent so the times of refreshing will come. That’s the Kingdom.
They have to go back to that, Peter says, but they don’t so Peter says the Kingdom is postponed until Jesus comes back. Then in Acts 4 we have Peter and John arrested by the Sanhedrin. They’re told to keep their mouths shut. That’s where Peter says, “We have to obey God rather than man.”
Then in the next chapter we see Peter’s authority over Ananias and Sapphira, when Ananias and Sapphira lied. It wasn’t there was anything wrong with them holding back any part of the money from the sale. It was that they lied about it. Because they lied, Peter is going to exercise his authority and they are condemned, and they die instantly.
That doesn’t always happen that when we lie against the Holy Spirit we die. If it did, the church probably wouldn’t have survived the first century. What’s interesting is that every time you have the beginning of God’s plan and program in a new dispensation, there seems to be something serious that happens where people disobey God and God lowers the boom. A lot of people die because they’re disobedient to Him.
Sodom and Gomorrah occurs not long after the call of Abraham and the giving of the Abrahamic Covenant. When you have God calling out the Jews from Egypt you have all the first born getting killed in the first plague. These kinds of things are not normative. They are things that happen uniquely at a dispensational shift when God is establishing His authority that says no one is going to mess with Him on this, that He’s serious about it and He’s going to show mankind how serious He is in this event. It’s usually at the beginning of each dispensation.
In Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira die until Peter’s authority. The sixth point is that in Acts 8 Peter and John come to the Samaritans and they receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is the same thing that happened in Acts 2. It happens to them because under apostolic authority they have the keys to the Kingdom. That means they have the authority.
They were there when the Jews started the church. They’re there when the Samaritans are brought in under apostolic authority with the baptism by the Spirit, to show there’s one Spirit, one baptism, and one church. Then Peter will be there in Acts 15 when the Gentiles are added.
Before that we have the seventh event where Peter heals the paralyzed and the dead. People thought if they just had Peter’s shadow fall on them, they would be healed. Later on, the same kinds of events take place with Paul and people thought if they just touched the hem of his garment they would be healed. The same kind of thing is going on and it’s a demonstration that God is at work in establishing the foundation of the church. It doesn’t go on after that. It just happens at the beginning of the dispensation.
Eight, the Peter and Cornelius event. Peter is strict about food. He’s only eating kosher food, but God gives him a vision that He’s declared all things clean. The tablecloth comes down with all the unclean animals there. God tells Peter to take and eat, that he can eat lobster, catfish, pork, and bacon, and have all you want. Peter says three times that unclean things never touch his lips. Finally, Peter gets the point. Just after that there’s a knock on the door. It’s three Gentiles.
Gentiles did not go into the home of Orthodox Jews, observant Jews, because that would make the house unclean. Observant Jews wouldn’t go into the house of Gentiles. Peter is learning the point, so when these Gentiles tell him to come, that they were sent to get him to come back to the house of Cornelius, Peter goes back there and gives Cornelius the gospel and the same thing happens with speaking in languages as it did in Acts 2. The Samaritans didn’t [speak in languages] but they do in Acts 10 and it’s the unity of the church all under apostolic authority, all with the same basic events in terms of the coming of the Spirit.
Then in Acts 12 Peter is in prison. The church prays for him to be released. He’s released. They don’t believe it when he knocks on the door and after that he goes to other places. Some have interpreted that to mean that’s when he left Jerusalem and he went to Babylon. I’m not sure you can put that weight on that verse, but he certainly got out of town and he went somewhere where he wouldn’t be subject to the authority of the Sanhedrin.
He is next seen, three chapters later in Acts, at the Jerusalem Council, and that’s the last time that we see Peter. This is when the question arises what to do about the Gentiles. Do they need to be circumcised? Do they need to eat kosher? What demands do we place on them? How are they saved? How does this whole thing work where we’re one in the body of Christ?
Peter recounts what happened in Acts 10 and 11 about God opening the door to the Gentiles, just as He did to the Samaritans, and that they’re all part of the body of Christ. They’re not going to put any obligations on them other than the gospel and that they should live in an honorable way. That’s why they’re not to commit adultery and other things that are mentioned in that particular passage.
Those are the ten events that we have coming to Peter’s basic life in Acts. After that, we don’t know a whole lot about what happened to Peter until we get to the end of 1 Peter 5:13 when he says that he’s writing from Babylon. He’s mentioned only one other time in all the epistles and that’s in Galatians 2 when Paul talks about him as being present in Antioch. He came to Antioch and there he backed up on his grace orientation and he’s only going to eat clean food and only eat with the Jews and follow the Law. Paul had to straighten him out in Galatians 2 and that brought things back into order.
There are some traditions about Peter, which are the last things I want to talk about. Some of this is tradition and some of this is related to specifically what Scripture says. For example, Galatians 2:9 clearly states that Peter went to Antioch. I don’t have a slide for it, but Antioch is in far northwestern Syria. Today that would be just south of the Turkish border.
That’s important because when Peter wrote 1 Peter, he’s sending it to those who live in Pontus, Bithynia, and Cappadocia. That’s just across the border into Turkey. Antioch was the strong mother church which sent out Paul, John Mark, and Barnabas on the first missionary journey. Later it was Paul and Silas. It became a foundational church for sending out missions.
According to church history, church tradition, in the second century you have a major church leader there named Ignatius. Eusebius, who is a fourth century historian and bishop at Caesarea writes the earliest church history we have, and he identified Ignatius as the successor to Peter in Antioch.
I can’t say that’s biblical, but it’s just according to early church history and the information that we have. Eusebius stated that Peter established his headquarters there and it’s from Antioch that he went to Bithynia, Pontus, Cappadocia, and Galatia. It’s also his base from which he went east. If you go east from there you go to Babylon. That’s where the largest Jewish community outside of Israel was at that time and this is where Peter the apostle to the Jews would go. There’s this hole in his chronology and it’s believed that from AD 44 to AD 49 he is living and ministering in Babylon, literal Babylon.
I pointed out that when we covered that passage in 1 Peter 5:13 that Babylon there was literal just as every other geographical location in 1 Peter was literal. It’s not a code word for Rome. Peter actually went to Babylon and that’s where he wrote 1 Peter directed to the Jewish-background believer that were living in what we call central Turkey today.
Another place that Peter went that we know of from Scripture is to Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 9:5 Paul mentions him as traveling with his wife and being completely supported financially by the Corinthians while he was there. This is also supported by church history and references later on. One of the bishops of Corinth in the middle of the second century which is AD 140–150, in his writings associated Peter with Corinth, that he had had a significant ministry there, ministering especially to the Jews in Corinth.
Then there’s also Rome. There’s no evidence Peter was in Rome until at least the mid-50s, if not later. He was not the founder of the church in Rome. He is not mentioned there even when Paul writes the Epistle to the Romans. There’s already a strong contingent of believers that were thee. There were Jewish believers that were there in AD 50 when Claudius expelled all the believers from Rome because they were having a lot of arguments and disagreements about someone called Chrestos, which, of course, is a reference to Christ.
Jesus Christ was causing a lot of divisions in the Jewish community, so Claudius told them all to leave. It was after that that Peter came, so he’s not the founder of the church at Rome. He wasn’t a bishop in Rome. He was brought there under duress and it was there that he died.
We only have a couple of sources, mostly based on tradition, that says Peter was crucified in Rome. Most people believe this is true that he was crucified in Rome. He did not want to be crucified in the normal fashion as the Lord was crucified because he said he wasn’t worthy of that, so he was crucified upside down. That is the tradition.
We covered the basics on the life of Peter. What stands out? I think three things stand out. First of all, grace. He learns about forgiveness. He learns about forgiveness through the teaching of the Lord and then through his personal experience of the forgiveness of our Lord for denying Him. That would seem to be one of the most horrible sins we could do, which is to deny the Lord who bought us. In 2 Peter 2:1, he uses that phrase.
The second thing that stands out is Peter learns humility. He’s this brash, outspoken first person to stand up and say something, usually the wrong thing, and over time he matures. He learns humility. We see him emphasize that in 1 Peter 5:6–7 where he says to humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God by casting all your care on Him.
Last, he learns about grace in terms of the spiritual life, which is how he closes out 2 Peter 3:18, by telling us to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. That’s what he emphasizes. Understanding grace and understanding God’s love, His unmerited forgiveness, His provision for us for everything, the fact He has blessed us with every spiritual thing in the heavenlies and as Peter says in 2 Peter 1:3–4, “He has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness.”
We learn about forgiveness. We learn about humility. We learn about grace which applies to both of the previous topics. That’s Peter in an hour.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to review Peter, to come to this understanding of who he was and the way Your grace transformed his life, just as Your grace can transform our lives. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, studying Your Word and applying it as we walk by the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit transforms us from faith to faith as we grow day by day learning Your Word and Your work of creating in us by the Holy Spirit the character of Christ.
“We pray we may have the humility and the passion that Peter had to serve You. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”