The Apostle Peter

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(Teacher: Lawrence O. Richards)

“Jesus took this rugged, successful commercial fisherman and commissioned him as a disciple.  In fact Peter is the leading disciple.  He is mentioned first on each list of the Twelve.  Along with James and John, he is one of an inner circle of three.  The Gospels constantly portray him as taking the lead: he asks questions, gives unsolicited advice, leaps from a boat to join Jesus walking on the sea, expresses his conviction that Jesus is the Christ, fervently affirms his loyalty, draws a sword at Gethsemane, and strikes out at those who came to take Christ prisoner.  In Acts, he is again the unquestionable leader.  He preaches the church’s first great evangelical sermon (Acts 2), boldly confronts the Sanhedrin (Acts 4), and first shares the Gospel with a Gentile at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). 

Christians have been divided over the meaning of Christ’s statement, “You are Peter, and on this rock I shall build My church. . . . I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 16:17-19).  Roman Catholics interpret this as Peter’s commission to be the church’s first pope.  Most Protestants, and many early church fathers, take the “rock” to be the truth expressed in Peter’s affirmation, “You [Jesus] are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (16:16).  And the “keys” are the Gospel, which Peter was the first to proclaim to mankind’s two great classes, Jew and Gentile.

Yet for all his prominence and enthusiasm, Peter was a flawed human being.  Peter could call Christ “Lord” in one breath and in the next dare to correct Him (Matthew 16:22).  Peter could fervently affirm his loyalty and a few hours later deny the Lord (Mark 14).  And Peter could even hypocritically deal with the Gentiles and earn Paul’s rebuke (Galatians 2:11-21).  How like us Peter was in his weaknesses.  How we might yearn to be like him in his strengths”.

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