Luke 6:13-16 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.
The past week I've been made to see the Apostle Peter in a whole new light. Having logged many hours in protestant, Pentecostal churches over the years, I have never heard anyone speak of Peter in the way the Lord has allowed me to see him. If anything, he is most often remembered and referred to as the one who denied the Lord. We refer to people who struggle with their faith as doubting Thomas's, and when we think of denying Christ, we think of Peter. There is much we can learn from the accounts concerning Peter throughout the New Testament. This is a scriptural walk through the life of Peter.
Starting in Matthew 4:18-20, And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he said unto them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." And they straightway left their nets and followed him.
This is where Peter's story starts. The Lord chose him, to be His Disciple. >He was not any one of importance in the eyes of his generation. He was just like most of us, an average guy working to make a living. Yet the Lord of heaven took notice of him, and picked him out specifically. Moving on to Matthew 10:2-4 we see listed the names of the twelve Apostles. Verses 5-7, These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter you not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." The Lord specifically instructed them to go to the house of Israel, and not to go to the gentiles (remember this).
Now we find Peter and the other disciples in a ship in the midst of the sea, with a storm tossing them about. Jesus comes to them, walking on the water, and they cried out for fear. Matthew 14:27-33, But straightway Jesus spoke unto them, saying, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come to thee on the water. And he said, "Come." And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshiped him saying, of a truth thou art the Son of God.
There were twelve disciples in the ship, but only one of them stepped out to go to the Lord. There was a quality in Peter of which Jesus was very much aware, and used to teach him many things. I believe it is something that many possess. The courage to test something new out, to act on your convictions, to make blunders and mistakes, and learn from them.
As we go through the New Testament, note how often in the scriptural accounts Peter is the disciple who questioned the Lord the most. Perhaps he was somewhat the spokesman for the group. The others wanted to know and understand as much as he did, but he had the courage to ask the questions. Also, note the occasion's when the Lord took Peter, James and John with him apart from the other disciples.
We see in Matthew 15:1-14, Jesus gives answer to the Scribes and Pharisees who are questioning the disciples about not washing their hands. In verses 15-20, Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, "Are you yet without understanding? Do not you yet understand, that whatsoever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly, and is cast into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashed hands defileth not a man." Matthew 16:15-19, He saith unto them, "But whom say you that I am?" And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." And Jesus answered and said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven."
There could be and has been much theological debate as to exactly what the Lord meant by the above statement, "that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church." What I see is Peter being used as a type of a follower of the Lord. God knows the very thoughts and intents of our hearts. Peter's heart was for God. He had walked away from his normal life, to follow this man, because in his heart he knew that Jesus was the Christ. So it is with every believer that has followed that same example down through the ages. Individually and corporately we all make up the Church, our rock being Christ himself.
Matthew 16:21-25, From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the Elders and chief Priests and Scribes, and be killed and raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, "Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee." But he turned and said unto Peter, "Get thee behind me Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." Then said Jesus unto his disciples, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
We know, in this instance, that Peter reacted to what the Lord told them from the natural understanding. He couldn't bear to think of the things that Jesus told him must come to pass as being so. That the Lord should suffer and die went against all his natural reasoning. Even though Jesus knew that Peter spoke as he did out of love for him, he still sharply rebuked him. Peter was new to this way of life, and learning as he went. How many times do Christians today say, "But God wouldn't do that?" Until we become dead to self, and one with Christ, we are doing most of our thinking from the viewpoint of a natural man, and cannot comprehend the things that God is doing. We cannot see from the vantage point of the Spirit. Our viewpoint is so limited and small in scope it is comparable to a child telling his parents what bills to pay and how to run the household. It doesn't work. We are no different than Peter. We too, are just as often in need of being reprimanded by the Lord for things we say and do. Although we too may have the best of intentions, we could just as easily hear the Lord tell us, "thou art an offense to me, for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
It is interesting that the word, savorest, used in the King James, means to entertain; to have a sentiment or opinion. What Christ is teaching his disciples goes far beyond sentiment and opinion. He is teaching a total, radical life change.
Matthew 17:1-7, And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And behold, there apeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter and said unto Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one of Elias." While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you him." And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, "Arise, and be not afraid."
Again, we see Peter, impulsively caught up in the moment, and reacting with his natural reasoning as to what might be a good and proper way to commemorate what they had just witnessed. Men have committed the very same response to moves of God ever since. As long as our flesh rules us more than the Spirit, we cannot have any other response. Further on in the same chapter, (vs. 24-27) we have the account of when they were in Capernaum, and asked to pay tribute money. Jesus told Peter, "Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the first fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: take that and give unto them for me and thee." Peter, over and over again, was the one the Lord called on to participate in miracles, great and small. He was preparing him for what lay ahead in his life. God deals with us today in much the same way. He sometimes asks us to do things that seem illogical, even wrong or foolish to those around us, yet he has a purpose in it. Sometimes it is to teach us a lesson we need to learn, sometimes it is to see if we will obey him or not, or to prepare us for a future change. But all these things are for a purpose, and we must be willing to follow him, regardless of whether we understand why, or what others may think or say.
We see in Matthew 18:1-20 Jesus teaches on humility and forgiveness. Verses 21, 22, Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus said unto him, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but until seventy times seven." Matthew 19-27-30 then answered Peter and said unto him, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" And Jesus said unto them, "Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first."
There is a great reward for being obedient, for learning our lessons, for laying down our own life and following Christ. Salvation is a free gift, but there is a price for reaching maturity. The cost is our self life.
Looking in the other Gospels, we see in Mark 11:13-22, Jesus came to a fig tree, because he was hungry, and there was no fruit on it. In the disciples hearing Jesus said, "No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever." In the morning when they passed by the same tree, they saw it dried up from the roots. Peter, remembering, said to the Lord, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursed is withered away. And Jesus answering said unto them, "Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith."
Mark 5:37-43, And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he said unto them, "Why do you make this ado, and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he took the father and mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entered in to where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, "Talitha cumi;" which is interpreted, "Damsel, I say unto thee, arise." And straightway, the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with great astonishment. And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat. (remember this).
We see in John 6:53-58 Jesus teaching that he is the bread of life, that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. The crowds that followed him were offended by his words, and many left off following him. John 6:67-60, Then said Jesus to the twelve, "Will ye also go away?" Then Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
Peter had a good measure of insight into who Christ was, yet he was still very much bound by the flesh; natural (carnal) thinking was still where he dwelt. The Lord had to continually reprimand him, to explain what he meant, to instruct him in spiritual things. We are no different than Peter. In fact, we should endeavor to be like him, for he is an example of us all, in how we too, strive and stumble to follow Christ.
The 13th Chapter of John gives account of the foot washing Jesus did with his disciples. Verses 6-10, Then came he to Simon Peter: and Peter said unto him, "Lord, dost thou wash my feet?" Jesus answered and said unto him, "What I do thou know not now; but thou shall know hereafter." Peter said unto him, "Thou shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." Simon Peter said unto him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." Jesus said unto him, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all." (He was referring to Judas Iscariot).
What the Lord did here was symbolic. Mankind is limited to the physical, natural world. We learn spiritual things, many times, from examples in the natural world. Jesus was not giving them a lesson in personal hygiene, saying that they only needed to wash their feet and not the rest of the body when bathing. He was showing them that they must be willing to humble themselves before one another. If our feet are walking in the path we are called to walk, the rest of our body will be in compliance with what God desires for us as well. We cannot follow in Jesus' example, and walk in our own will too. The Lord continued to instruct them, that they should love one another, following his example.
Luke 22:31-34 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren". And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both to prison and to death. And he said, "I tell thee Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shall thrice deny that thou knowest me."
This is a very interesting passage. Peter has been walking daily with the Lord for three years. When Christ called him, he walked away from everything in his former life. He has seen all the miracles that Jesus performed; witnessed Christ's transformation on the Mount. He has been devoted and faithful to the Lord to the very best of his ability, yet here Jesus speaks of his yet being converted. He warns Peter that Satan has desired to destroy him, but that the Lord himself has prayed that Peter's faith will not fail. Why did the Lord tell Peter that he yet needed to be converted? Strong's Concordance defines converted as: From G1909 and G4762; to revert (literally, figuratively or morally): - come (go) again, convert, (re-) turn (about, again). Let us honestly consider this for a moment. If Peter, who was personally called and chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve, yet still needed to be converted after walking in close proximity to the Lord during his entire earthly ministry, how much more might we need to seriously examine our own personal walk and relationship with Christ?
Similar accounts are given in all four of the Gospels as to what transpired in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:36-41, Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and said unto the disciples, "sit you here, while I go and pray yonder." And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then said he unto them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death: tarry you here, and watch with me." And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, "O my Father, if it were possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." And he came unto the disciples, and found them asleep, and said unto Peter, "What, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." We see in John 18:10, 11, Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" Again, we see Peter reacting in a natural way, trying to physically defend his Lord, rather than being led by the Spirit. There is a good reason for this, Peter has not yet received the Holy Spirit.
In all four Gospels, we see Peter followed after Jesus as they took him away. Luke 22:57-62, and he denied him, saying, "Woman, I know him not." And after a little while another saw him, and said, "Thou art also of them." And Peter said, "Man, I am not." And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, "Of a truth this fellow was with them: for he is a Galilean." And Peter said, "Man, I am not what thou sayest." And immediately the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, "Before the cock crow, thou shall deny me thrice." And Peter went out and wept bitterly. We can only imagine the sorrow Peter felt that night. Yet the Lord knew Peter's heart. He also knew the weakness of the flesh. He did not rebuke Peter for denying him. Every one of us is just as guilty of denying the Lord as Peter was. In some way, at some time, we too have failed to take the stand we know in our heart's we should have.
After Christ's resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and others several times. John 21:15-19, So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" He said unto him, "Yea Lord: thou knowest I love thee". He said unto him, "Feed my lambs." He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" He said unto him "Yea, Lord, thou knowest I love thee". He said unto him, "Feed my sheep." He said unto him a third time, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" Peter was grieved because he said unto him a third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee". Jesus saith unto him, "Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkest whither thou wouldest : but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not". This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, "Follow me."
When we make mistakes, and fail in some way, the Lord does not condemn us. He does, however, remind us that we must persevere, and follow Him. He is our example, the firstborn among many brethren.
From the time that the Lord called Peter from his fishing boat, through all that he heard, saw and experienced in the three years of walking in close fellowship with the Son of God, Peter has been in training. Remember what Jesus said to Peter in John 22:31? When thou art converted? Let's look on and see how things change for Peter.
We see in Acts 1:15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty). Peter went on to lead them in choosing a replacement for Judas Iscariot, and they chose a man named Mathias. Acts 2, is an account of the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. Peter again takes a leadership role, this time filled with the Holy Spirit and gives an eloquent message to the multitudes who had gathered, the result of which was 3000 souls being saved.
Acts 3:3-8, Who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John said, "Look on us". And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something from them." Then Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking.
Acts 5:1-11, But a certain man names Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostle's feet. But Peter said to Ananias, "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, "Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?" And she said, "Yea, for so much". Then Peter said unto her, "How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out." Then she fell down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
We would all do well to give heed. Far too many Christians in this generation are eager to embrace the love and forgiveness of God, without ever learning the fear of the Lord. They are one, we cannot know one without the other. Just because we don't see the Lord striking dead everyone who lies to the Holy Spirit, does not mean that they are getting away with anything. Our God is an awesome God, and a consuming fire. We need a healthy, reverential fear of the Lord. The church of today, at least in America, has not tasted of persecution. Neither does the Church today walk in the power of the early Church. Don't believe the lie that those things were just for that time. God is seeking a people, just like Peter, and those whose lives are recorded in the New Testament. That would be us. What things might the Lord desire for us to do?
Acts 5:14-16 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and of women. Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: they were healed every one.
Is this the same Peter? Yes and no. It is indeed the same man, but he is not the same. Where once he seemed to forever be putting his foot in his mouth, he now is an eloquent, powerful spokesman for the Kingdom of God. Where once he was full of doubts and fears, he now is walking in confident authority. None of this was achieved by anything he did of himself. He is now an example of a man, chosen by God, and operating in the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let us go on with Peter. Following Christ's ascension, Peter developed into a leader of the early Church, yet his lessons were by no means over. He still had more to learn.
Acts 9:39-42, And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent to him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing coats and garments which Dorcas had made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down and prayed; and turning to the body said "Tabitha, arise". And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed on the Lord.
Little did Peter know when he accompanied Jesus to the ruler of the synagogue's house (Mark 5:37) where the Lord raised the little daughter back to life, that one day the Lord would use him to perform the same miracle.
Acts 10:9-35, On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: and he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to earth. Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fouls of the air. And there came a voice to him, "Rise, Peter; kill, and eat." But Peter said, "Not so Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean". And the voice spake unto him again the second time, "what God hath cleansed, that call not common." This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate. And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, "behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them." Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, "Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?" And they said, "Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned of God by an holy angel to send for thee". And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshiped him. But Peter took him up, saying, "Stand up, I myself am also a man". And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. And he said unto them, "Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore I came unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?" And Cornelius said, "Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing". And said, "Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore we are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God". Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him". While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
It is beautiful to see here how the Lord orchestrates things. He gives Peter a vision, that is contrary to all he has believed and practiced till now; at the same time he prepares Cornelius and those with him to receive Peter. I believe that this was as much a necessary lesson for Peter, as it was God's plan to give the baptism of the Holy Spirit to Cornelius and his company. Remember when the Lord Jesus called Peter, and commissioned the disciples. He specifically charged them at that time not to go to the gentiles, but rather to the lost sheep of Israel. Yet here, he is now telling Peter that "God is not a respecter of persons". Peter and those who accompanied him are amazed at this turn of events. Also, it is significant to note in this account how the Holy Spirit is totally in control of everything that transpired. Peter did not even know who he was going to see. He had no information concerning this man or his friends. He did not have time to prepare a message suitable for them. We should take note that he did not even give a message. The power of the Holy Spirit was completely in charge, and moved in these people's lives without the need for human words. The Spirit left no room for interference by human thinking. This is what it means to walk in the Spirit, and let God be in control. We would do well today to stop trying to do the work of the Lord, and simply be a yielded, obedient vessel available for the Holy Spirit to work through. We sometimes lose sight of whose work it is.
Acts 12:1-3, Now about that time Herod the King stretched forth his hands to vex certain in the Church. And he killed James, the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take Peter also. Verses 6-18, and when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, "Arise, quickly". And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, "Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals". And so he did. And he said unto him, "Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me". And he went out, and followed him, and understood not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leads unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out. And passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews". And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, "Thou art mad". But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they,"it is an angel". But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. But he, beckoning them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, "Go show these things unto James, and to the brethren". And he departed, and went into another place. Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.
Peter was a simple man, no different than you or I. His deliverance from the prison was unexpected and hard even for him to comprehend. Those who were gathered together praying were just as astonished at God's intervention, as we would be in their shoes. We need to know that God is always aware of our situation. He can deliver us just as readily as He delivered Peter (or Daniel). Peter was in prison because of the stir he was causing among the people. The Jews had just recently crucified Christ because he did not come in the manner they were looking for. Jesus was a threat to the religious leader's control over the people and they hated him for it. Now his followers were causing the same disruption. God is in control of all that happens. If we desire to see His deliverance, we must be walking in close fellowship with Him. We cannot be a Sunday only Christian and expect to see this kind of deliverance. Remember, God requires our all. The rewards for our obedience are beyond our ability to comprehend. But as we study in the Word the lives of those who have gone before and how God moved in their lives, we should be able to see ourselves. We are no different. We too, can walk in a close relationship with God. We too, can make an impact on the world we live in.
Peter and Paul were brothers in Christ, but not without contention. We see in Galatians 2:11-13 (Amplified), But when Peter came to Antioch, I protested and opposed him to his face concerning his conduct there, for he was blameable and stood condemned. For up to the time that certain persons came from James, he ate his meals with the Gentile converts; but when the men from Jerusalem arrived, he withdrew and held himself aloof from the Gentiles and ate separately for fear of those of the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews along with him also concealed their true convictions and acted insincerely, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy (their example of insincerity and pretense).
Just because we have experienced mighty moves of God in our lives and on our behalf, does not mean that we are beyond making mistakes. There is no one alive that has never reacted from fear of men or out of respect for tradition. Both of which have no place in a Spirit-led-life. We must continually exercise our senses and learn to walk in the Spirit. Peter has already had a dramatic lesson given by the Spirit to teach him that God is no respecter of persons. When initially in Antioch, Peter fellowshipped and ate with the Gentile converts there. When others, who were not so accepting of the Gentiles arrived, Peter removed himself so as not to offend the men who he knew would not readily accept his Gentile associations. He was in a no-win situation. Someone was going to be offended, whichever way he went.
Today, with all of the different denominations and groups just among those who label themselves Christian, it would be impossible not to offend someone. That's not even taking into consideration all of the non-christian religions and belief systems in the world today. Jesus said, "Follow me". He never said it would make you popular or well liked, quite the contrary. I believe he said that "If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you." John 15:18. Our focus cannot be on pleasing people, or being peace-makers, or anything in or of this world. Our focus has to be on knowing God, on walking in obedience to all of Jesus' commandments. On daily dying to our flesh and our carnal, reasoning mind. Instead, we must crucify our flesh, and live by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.
We face the very same problems and challenges in our walk today as the early Church members and leaders faced. Given the same situation, many of us make the very same mistakes. They were involved in the birth of the Church, while we have been called to be involved in the culmination of all that they started. God chose to send Christ to earth to spread the message of the Kingdom of God, at a time in history when the Jewish people were under Roman occupation. There was a conflict of cultures, governments, traditions, beliefs and philosophies. We are faced with as great a conflict today. Unbelief is rampant. Our calling is first to know God, to follow Christ, to take up our own cross. We can be transformed into the image of the Son of God, if we will walk in obedience. We don't get to set the agenda, or the timetable. We must be willing to let God be God, while we are willing to serve the Master.
The lives of the individuals recorded in God's Word are there as examples. That we might learn by observation and application. The Word is not for our entertainment, but for our instruction. What we hear and understand at one place in our walk, may change as we progress with the Lord. (i.e. Christ instructed Peter and the disciples to only go to the Jews. Years later, he demonstrated to Peter that the Gentiles were also partakers of the heavenly calling). Before Peter could be used by the Lord, before he could become the rock upon which the Church would be built, he had to suffer many things, thereby learning invaluable lessons. There are no shortcuts to holiness. We, too, must learn by the things that we suffer in this life. To summarize some of the lessons Peter learned:
- He first learned the importance of obedience; of not taking his eyes off the Lord. (Walking on water)
- He learned not to question God, not to think that he knew better (get thee behind me Satan).
- He learned the fear of God; (the transfiguration, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom).
- He learned that God can supply all of our earthly needs, (feeding the multitudes, paying the tax owed with money from the fish's mouth).
- He learned to listen to the Holy Spirit. He walked in & exercised spiritual discernment, (Ananias & Sapphira).
- Peter learned the depths of despair and pain, (when he denied the Lord after he was taken in the Garden).
Peter lived the things recorded in the Word. Each one of us must live out our own lessons, as the Holy Spirit deals with each of us individually. With the realization that we only see in part, we understand in part, it is not necessary for us to have all the answers to every question. It is however, imperative that we have a vital, living relationship with God. What is the difference between the outspoken disciple in the garden who cut off the centurion's ear in an effort to defend the Lord, and the distraught follower who denied ever-knowing Jesus a few hours later? There is none. We need to acknowledge that as long as we are in this fleshly body, we will experience conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. Peter did not love the Lord any less when he denied knowing Jesus, than he loved him when he assaulted the soldier in Jesus' defense. Our flesh is not always going to be able to comprehend and understand. That is why it is so imperative that we learn from the things that we suffer. The things that cause us the most pain are the lessons that we will remember, that will change us from within. The more out of our control our situation is, the more dependent we are on the Spirit for guidance and direction. How many times in our Christian walk have we cried, "Just tell me Lord, and I'll do it". Without comprehending that he has already told us, and we are not doing it.
I feel impressed to introduce something the Apostle John wrote to us. John 2:5, Jesus said, Except a man be born of water and of spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. And again in 1 John 5:6, This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ, not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. To understand this, we need to look to nature, comparing our spiritual born again experience to being born in the natural. A child is conceived through intercourse, which is a joyous, pleasurable experience. The Father (God) plants his seed, and the child begins to develop in the womb (Church). This is the water experience. There is a period of time needed for the child to develop, but after he has grown to maturity within the bounds of the womb, he must come forth. The child must be delivered from the safety and security of the womb, and come forth in newness of life. This is a painful process for both mother and child, far different from conception. This is the blood experience. So it is in our spiritual birthing. Salvation, coming to know the Lord for the first time is a cleansing, wonderful, joyous experience. But we must grow up in Christ. We can only grow so much while still in the womb, and then we must break forth, and for the first time see our Father's face. We must grow up in Christ, we must learn what it means to take up our cross and follow him. We must be processed through life experiences, till we die to self; till not I live, but Christ liveth in me. There are many that make up the Kingdom of God. But do not be deceived. Not all will rule and reign with Christ. Only those who overcome will be given that honor. Only those who reach spiritual maturity, and are conformed to the likeness of Christ will be able to reign with him.
Having a desire to serve God is not enough. Possessing natural leadership attributes is not enough. Taking on a form of religion is not the answer either. We must come under the Lordship of Christ. We must learn to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, in every aspect of our daily lives. Living to please God, rather than living to please men. There is no difference between the men and women of old and us today. The temptations, the struggles, the needs are common to humanity and this world. We must overcome the flesh, and learn to live by the Spirit, just as Peter did. When we read the scriptures, we need to seek the Spirits guidance and revelation of the truths hidden within. Note the distinction between these two verses:
For the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. And: Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for he will not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that will he speak: and he will show you things to come.
They are summed up in what Jesus said in John 6:63, It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. When we operate from the power of our carnal thinking, we are operating in opposition to the Spirit. We can perform any multitude of good works from the flesh, without ever seeing any lasting change for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God. But when we learn to subjugate our flesh to the Spirit, God will move through us to perform those things that HE desires.
We have seen from the scriptures of the transformation that took place in Peter's life. We have seen his weakness, his shortcomings, and his humanity. May we all be encouraged as we struggle with our own walk with God. We are not yet what we desire to be, but we have the promise that God is faithful: Faithful is he that called you, who will also do it. And John 16:33, These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.