“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ:”
Welcome to my blog on 1 Peter! This might seem like a strange verse to start with, but I think it is important to start with the person of Peter. Who is he? Everything I write today will be things that I discovered by putting his name (Peter and Cephas) in the search feature of my Blue Letter Bible app. I wrote down the references, then I looked at each one and took notes. I am telling you my process because there is nothing fancy about what I do! It just takes time. I will be using commentaries when we get into the verses. I have Wayne Grudem’s Tynedale New Testament commentary on 1 Peter, the Gospel Coalition commentary on my phone, and I am watching Mike Winger’s series on 1 Peter from the Bible Thinker website. I know I will be using more, but this is what I have now. Now back to Peter!
Simon, who Jesus later renamed Peter, and his brother Andrew were fishermen. They were the first two disciples that were called by Jesus. This can be found in Matthew 4:18, Mark 3:16, Luke 5:8, and John 1:40. Matthew 4:19-20 gives this account. “’Follow me,’ he told them, ‘and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Another account can be found in John. “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John and followed him. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated “the Christ”), and he brought Simon to Jesus. When Jesus saw him, he said, ‘You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which is translated “Peter”)” (1:40-42).
He was from Bethsaida. “Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter” (John 1:44). He was married. We read in Matthew 8 that Jesus healed his mother-in-law. And Paul writes in his letter to Corinth, “Don’t we have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife like the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas? (1 Corinthians 9:5).
There are many stories of Peter in the Gospels. I see Peter as someone who acts first and thinks later, especially during his early years. We see this over and over again when he was with Jesus. He stepped out onto the water, and then he became afraid (Matthew 14). He rebuked Jesus when Jesus told the disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer, be killed, and be raised the third day (Matthew 16, Mark 8). He cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear when he was trying to protect Jesus (John 18). And he denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 18).
Peter understood from the beginning who Jesus was. Luke 5:8 gives this account, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, ‘Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!’” He understood that Jesus was the Messiah. In Matthew, we read, “’But you,’ he asked them, ‘who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” (16:15-16). This account can also be found in Mark 8 and Luke 9. He knew that Jesus had the Words of Eternal Life and that he was the Holy One of God (John 6:68-71).
Peter had a special relationship with Jesus. In Matthew 16:17-18 it says this, “Jesus responded, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.’” Jesus took him, James, and John up on the mountain for the Transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9). When he went to pray before his crucifixion, Jesus took these same three with him to keep watch. After Jesus rose from the dead, the angel told the woman that Jesus had risen he then said, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there just as he told you’”(Mark 16:7). And when Jesus saw Peter (after Peter had denied him three times) he restored him to fellowship.
After Jesus ascended into heaven, Peter was the one who suggested that it was time to pick a new apostle to replace Judas. I heard one pastor suggest that it was important to replace Judas because Jesus had sent the disciples out in pairs. The disciples were all gathered in a small room in Jerusalem and the church was about to begin its growth. When the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles at Pentecost, we begin to see a new Peter. He was emboldened to preach Christ no matter the cost. On that day, he stood before the crowd and delivered a message and a call to repentance. Three thousand were added to the church that day (Acts 2).
Peter healed a lame man. He then addressed the crowd and said it was because of God’s power that he was able to do it. Because of this message, about five thousand were added to the church. Peter and John were arrested and then released. They gave all the glory to God (Acts 4 & 5).
The early church were mostly Jewish converts. In Acts 10, we read about Peter’s vision. The short version is that Peter understood that he was to go preach to the Gentiles. Read the full account in Acts 10 about Cornelius’s vision, then Peter’s, and how God used Peter to share the Good News with the Gentiles. Many believed and were baptized that day. Peter went back and told the apostles, brothers and sisters, and the circumcision party what had happened. The circumcision party criticized him at first. Remember, up until this time, the early church was made-up of Jews who were still following the law. This was the first time a large group of Gentiles were added to the body of believers. After Peter explained everything that happened, verse 18 in Chapter 11 says it this way. “When they heard this they became silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘So then, God has given repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles.’”
Paul later criticized Peter in his letters to the church at Galatia. Paul writes that he had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised (the Gentiles) and Peter for the circumcised (the Jews). God was at work in both of them. But he calls Peter (Cephas) out for separating himself from the Gentiles out of fear of the circumcision party (Galatians 2:12). Paul writes in verse 14, “But when I saw that they were deviating from the truth of the gospel, I told Cephas in front of everyone, ‘If you, who are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel Gentiles to live like Jews?’” The letter to Galatians was written between 49 and 51 AD and Peter wrote his first letter sometime after 60 AD, so we know he worked out this issue. I think the important thing to take away is that we can call out people by name if they are teaching incorrect doctrine. There is a way to do this without insults or rudeness, but it is important to call out false teaching when we see it.
This is a lot of background information on Peter! I had no idea when I started just how much I would find on him. There is so more that I did not write about. I always loved him when I read about him in the Gospels because of his impulsiveness and his love for Jesus. But I especially loved seeing his growth into the rock that Jesus said he would build his church on. This is the kind of steady growth and maturity that we should all be doing.
Grace be with you!