Over the next few weeks, leading up to Advent, we are going to meet some of the Christians in the Early Church.
We want to discover the ways in which they provide us with role models today. Tonight we begin the Peter the Apostle. Lets start with his call to ministry.
1. The Lord's Purpose for Peter (Matthew 16:13-20)
The Lord chose Peter to fulfil a very important work. Evangelicals have often avoided this passage because of the emphasis given to it by our Roman Catholic brethren. What was Jesus saying to Peter?
1.1 A Special Position?
Was Jesus giving Peter a special position of Papal primacy?
No. As we shall soon see, Peter was very fallible and ordinary.
Jesus is the head of the Church. Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the apostles and prophets collectively were the foundation of the Church.
1.2 A Special Power?
We might get that impression from verse 19, where Jesus seems to give Peter the power to "bind and loose" people's eternal destinies.
But no, two chapters later Jesus confers the same power to all believers. (Matthew 18:18). Here the use has to do with discipline within the church and giving new believers assurance of God's love and forgiveness.
If Jesus is not giving Peter a special position or a special power what does Jesus mean?
1.3 A Special Purpose
Read 16:19. Jesus praises Peter for his faith, and then prophecies that Peter has a very special role in God's plans. The ancient world was locked into a kind of caste system like that still found in India today.
The class system of Marxist theory is nothing compared to the animosity that existed between Jews, Samaritans who were half Jews, and Gentiles. The Jews looked down on Gentiles, the Greeks looked down on the Barbarians, and the Romans looked down on everyone else...
Jesus had come to save mankind. He was about to send His disciples out to take the good news to the world and to penetrate and break through these man made cultural and ethnic barriers. How was Jesus going to avoid the creation of a separate Hebrew Christian church, a Samaritan church and a Gentile church? Peter was to be the key - literally. Jesus was pronouncing Peter the key, the one who would unlock the door of the kingdom to these three separate groups so that there would be one church and not three. Jesus promised that after his ascension he would send the Holy Spirit upon the Church and Peter would be the human agent.
Acts 2 First Jewish believers
Acts 8:14 ff First Samaritan believers
Acts 10: First Gentile believers
In each case the Christians do not receive the Holy Spirit until Peter is present and lays his hands upon them. Some Christians wrongly believe these passages teach that we receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit after we become Christians. This completely misses the point of why Luke includes these first examples of Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles becoming Christians. These were unique, unrepeatable events. Peter is the key to unlock them. After these events it became the norm for Christians to receive the Holy Spirit at the same time they become Christians. By the time Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, he could write in chapter 8 that anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit is not a Christian.
The only theological commentary on this historical record comes in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians 12:13. "For we were all baptised by the Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, we were all given the same Spirit to drink." There is going to be one Church not three. Peter didn't understand this yet. By Acts 15 and the Council of Jerusalem, Peter and the other Jewish believers began to realise that it was not necessary for Gentile Christians to become Jewish proselytes first or submit to circumcision. Why ? Because they had received the Holy Spirit as well, proof that God had received them into His one Body.
Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom in the sense that it was Peter who by Gods grace opened the door into God's kingdom for the first Jews, the first Samaritans and the first Gentiles. After then, the door has remained wide open for all, irrespective of their colour, race or background. The tragedy then as now is that some Christians are more concerned for their denomination or their ethnic grouping than the Kingdom of God which knows no such subdivisions. By so doing they are unwilling to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit, or they try and create unity on some other basis. The Lord's Purpose for Peter
2. The Lord's Preparation of Peter
To become an effective servant of the Lord, Peter had some very painful lessons to
learn. Lets look at some of them.
2.1 Peter's Three Lessons
Peter is the only person in the Bible to have been cut short by all three persons of the Trinity. In Matthew 16 by Jesus when Peter thought the cross was not a good idea. Jesus says "Get behind me Satan".
In Matthew 17 by God the Father at the transfiguration of Christ when Peter wanted to build a church for Moses and Elijah. "This is my beloved son listen to Him".
Acts 10:44 Peter is interrupted this time by the Holy Spirit. He had gone very reluctantly to tell Cornelius about Jesus. It had taken two visions and several prods. Eventually he went. Verse 44 says that while he was still speaking the Holy Spirit came upon them. The Holy Spirit couldn't wait for Peter to finish. Three Lessons.
2.2 Peter's Three Denials
At the Last Supper Peter had bragged about his allegiance to Christ but when his own life was on the line Peter disowned Jesus three times. (Matthew 26:69 ff). He was afraid of a servant girl's accusations.
2.3 Peter's Three Affirmations
After the Resurrection Jesus specifically asked Peter three times "Do you love me?" (John 21:15ff). Jesus made Peter face his failures. Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to declare his commitment again. Jesus reaffirmed his confidence in Peter and recommissioned him, "feed My flock". Slowly, painfully, Jesus brought Peter to a realisation that he was restored and forgiven. The Lord's Purpose for Peter.
The Lord's Preparation of Peter.
3. The Lord's Power Through Peter
After our Lord's crucifixion but before the Day of Pentecost Peter was a wreck, a failure. He had most probably gone back to fishing.
3.1 Power Promised
Jesus was going to leave the disciples and return to heaven, but he was not going to leave them alone.
He promised to send another comforter (John 14:15ff, 16:12ff) He promised that the Holy Spirit would enable them to speak about what they knew of Jesus. (Acts 1:8).
After Pentecost Peter was a changed man. It was the Holy Spirit who made the difference. Read Acts 2:1-6; 11-13; See the difference? Power Promised.
3.2 Power Provided
In our reading from Acts 3 we see how the apostle Peter brought instant healing to this man disabled from birth. The man asked for money, they brought wholeness. Read 3:6. This was evidence of Peter's apostolic authority. Repeatedly in Acts 2:43, Acts 4:33, Acts 5:12 Luke is careful to stress that these miraculous signs were done by the apostles. They were signs of an apostle, signs of the apostolic authority of the Apostles to proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ, until the Scriptures were complete. Although the 11 Apostles knew it was necessary to replace Judas, they did'nt see the need to replace James after he was martyred. The apostles were the foundation of the church of the 1st Century. When Paul was challenged on the grounds of his apostolic authority at Corinth how does he reply? 2 Corinthians 12:12 "The things that mark an apostle -signs and wonders and miracles- were done among you with great perseverence" How could Paul appeal in such a way if these miracles were the norm? God does perform miracles today. The overwhelming majority of healings though are of a completely different order to those of the apostles. There is a difference between functional disorders like backaches, or headaches, or infections, and organic diseases like Leukemia, cancer, muscular distrophy, aids, parkinsons disease.
The NT healings were of organic diseases, the withered hand, the man born blind since birth, the crippled beggar, the raising of the dead.
Each of these was instant and complete. Today the Lord principally heals through medicine and psychiatry, through drugs and pastoral counselling, slowly over time where often healing appears only partial and temporary.
The miracle on this occasion provided Peter with his second preaching opportunity. That I believe is the primary task of the church today.
By that I mean everybody in the church. Here is a good definition
"True preaching is the communication of the divine truth through human personality in the power of the Holy Spirit" Isn't that what we are here for? To be filled with the Holy Spirit in order that we can tell others about what God has done for us. Lets look at Peter's Sermon together and see what we can learn.
3.2.1 Peter Exploits the Miracle 3:11-12
Peter preaches spontaneuosly. He seizes the opportunity. As on the day of Pentecost he does not want them to misunderstand what had happened.
3.2.2 Peter Explains the Miracle 3:13-23
What was the central and dominant theme of Peter's sermon?
It was the love and grace of God revealed in His Son.
Peter mentions Jesus in verse 13, 14, 15, 18, 20 and 26.
Peter describes him as "God's servant Jesus, the Holy Righteous One, the Prince of Life, the Christ, Jesus Christ" When we find opportunities to talk to our friends or neighbours often we end up talking about the church or about religion in general. Its Jesus we need to tell them about because He is the only one who can save them.
22.214.171.124 He explains the miracle by correcting the people. 12-13
Correcting the people of their stubbornness. (read verses)
"Why does this surprise you? Why do you stare?"
The only reason you find this hard to believe is because you have rejected Jesus. The very people God revealed himself too couldn't believe it when God acted right in front of them. Campbell Morgan says that "wonder in the presence of the supernatural demonstrates infidelity, and infidelity creates false explanations." Haven't you found that?
You start to talk to a friend about Jesus, and they look for excuses to doubt the miracles, to dismiss belief in a Creator God, to deny any accountability. Peter corrected the people with the truth.
126.96.36.199 He explains the miracle by convicting the people. 14-15
Convicting the people of their sin. (read verses) "You handed him over" "You disowned him" "You killed him" That's very direct language, but people need to know that we and they are sinful before God, that it was because of our sin that Christ died, in fact had we been there most likely we would have shouted for his death too. As we talk to people about what sin is and why Christ died, the Spirit will convict them of their sin.
188.8.131.52 He explains the miracle by convincing the people 16
Convincing the people of their Saviour. (read verse)
It was faith in the Name, the Nature of Jesus that resulted in this miracle. Though the people had rejected Jesus, God had vindicated His Son.
He was still alive working miracles. Peter exploits the miracle.
Peter explains the miracle, correcting, convicting, convincing the people about Jesus.
3.2.3 Peter Earth's the Miracle 3:24-26
He took the people back to their scriptures, and showed them that this was all part of God's promised plan. (read verses)
Peter is really positive after correcting them and challenging them he speaks of God's blessing if they will indeed turn to Christ. That's part of the Good News, God longs for people to share his abundant life in eternity. That's the amazing promise we can share, that they too can become members of God's family.
So be encouraged when you feel immature or ill equipped to talk about your faith, this was only Peter's second attempt at preaching. He was faithful and God blessed him. The same Holy Spirit indwells you.
It was a slow painful process that brought Peter from being a fearful failure to a faithful fisher of man, a pillar in the early church. Despite his prejudice, his impulsiveness and his presumption, Jesus persevered patiently with Peter. A miracle? Yes. A unique miracle? no.
There is no one in the world like you. You are special because God has made you, breathed his life into you and through Jesus Christ saved you. He has a plan for your life. It will involve facing your failures. It will involve pain and suffering. But if the Lord could forgive Peter he can forgive you.
If the Lord could use Peter he will use you. He has a plan for your life.
He wants you to be a fisherman too. He wants to use you to open the door of the kingdom of heaven to others.
He wants you to introduce others to the King, like at the Alpha Supper mentioned in the News Sheet. There can be no greater privilege. He will equip you as he equipped Peter to do it. If the Holy Spirit needed to fill Peter to do this, he needs to do the same in our lives. The question is are you willing? Read Matthew 16:24-27