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Who was Simon Peter?

The Apostle Peter, also called Simon Peter or Simeon,  son of Jonah or John who was born in  the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee.  He had a brother name Andrew.  He was a fisherman by profession with his brother and and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. He was also married.  He then met Jesus and his life changed forever.  Does your pastor preach and teach like Peter?

Peter Coming to Faith

Peter was a traditional Jew in the sense that he believed in the coming Messiah that has been prophesied in Hebrew scriptures.  His brother Andrew was a disciple of John The Baptist and heard him preach about Jesus and started following Jesus.  He then went to Peter and told him about Jesus saying, "We have found the Messiah", and then brought Peter to Jesus.  He then became a follower of Jesus and left everything behind (Matthew 19:27).  Later, Peter's mother-in-law was healed by Jesus at their home in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14).

Peter's Witness of Jesus

Peter was a bold individual who was part of Jesus' inner circle of 3.  He was privileged with seeing the most amazing works of Jesus personally.  When Jesus walked on water, Matthew additionally describes Peter walking on water with Jesus for a moment but beginning to sink when his faith wavers. (Matt. 14:28–31).  He was present to witness Jesus' major miracles first hand.

Jesus asks, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" The disciples give various answers. When he asks, "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answers, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus then declares:  Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Cephas (Peter) (Petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.(Matthew 16:13–19)

He is also frequently mentioned in the gospels as forming with James the Elder and John a special group within the Twelve Apostles (Mark 5:37, 9:2), present at incidents at which the others were not present, such as at the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1).

Peter was most often named first and would speak to Jesus some times on behalf of the other apostles.  He sought clarification from Jesus as well (Matthew 15:15, 18:21, 26:33,35; Mark 13:3).  But some times, in his boldness, he would not always think before he speaks (Matthew 17:4).  One instance he even rebukes Jesus because he failed to understand God's plan but Jesus sharply corrected him (Matthew 16:22-23)

Later Jesus foretold that Peter would deny him three times before the following cockcrow (Matthew 26:69; Mark 14:72).  In the Gospel of John, Peter, in one of the resurrection appearances of Jesus, three times affirmed his love for Jesus, balancing his threefold denial, and Jesus' forgiveness and reconfirmed Peter.

Peter and The Crucifixion

When Jesus was arrested, one of his companions cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest.  The Gospel of John also includes this event and names Peter as the swordsman and Malchus as the victim.(Jn. 18:10)  Luke adds that Jesus touched the ear and miraculously healed it.(Lk. 22:49–51).  While on trial, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times just as Jesus said he would.  There is no doubt that he would have been present in the crowds (Mark 14:54) that watched Jesus carry his wooden beam to the cross to be crucified. 

Peter and The Resurrection

In John's gospel, Peter is the first person to enter the empty tomb (Luke 24:12), although the women and the beloved disciple see it before him.(Jn. 20:1–9) In Luke's account, the women's report of the empty tomb is dismissed by the apostles, and Peter is the only one who goes to check for himself, running to the tomb.  He witnessed first hand the empty tomb.  The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon! (Luke 24:34).  And after eight days his disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, 'Peace to you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving but believing.' And Thomas answered and said to him, 'My Lord and My God!' (John 20:26-28).   Peter was there to witness these appearances of Jesus after his crucifixion and empty tomb.  When he saw him he knew who Jesus was but also realized that he was a sinner in the presence of The Holy Jesus Christ (Luke 5:8).  After Jesus died they went fishing, probably to make some money and go back to the life they once knew but then Jesus appeared to them (John 21:7) 

Peter and The Ascension 

The disciples all witnessed Jesus Ascension possibly Mary and Jesus’ brothers, of the latter part we can’t be certain but the angels told the disciples that “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11b)

Peter's Ministry Work

After walking with Jesus, being there at his arrest, trial, crucifixion, empty tomb, post crucifixion appearances, and lastly the ascension;  He had absolute faith in Jesus. He preached the powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost and witnessed the descension of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (Acts 2:14, 3:12).  From then on he worked diligently on building Christ's church (Mark 16:20).  At the Council of Jerusalem (c. 40-50), the early Church, Paul and the leaders of the Jerusalem church met and decided to embrace Gentile converts. Acts portrays Peter and other leaders as successfully opposing the Christian Pharisees who insisted on circumcision.  His initial work was conducted in Jerusalem but later the traveled to Antioch and Corinth and finally to Rome.

Even in all his ministry work he was not a wealthy person (Acts 3:6).  He was persecuted and arrest too (Acts 4:1, 12:1).  This did not stop Peter from calling people out publicly (Acts 4:8, 5:3, 29, 8:20).  Peter's ministry work was not just with words but God validated his words with miracles (Acts 5:15, 9:34, 40).  But Peter made it absolutely clear that HE is not to be worshiped (Acts 10:25-26)

Peter In Antioch and Corinth

But his upbringing and cultural heritage was still of the Jewish faith.  According to the epistle to the Galatians 2:11, Peter went to Antioch from Jerusalem where Paul rebuked him for separating himself from Gentiles.   Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his Epistle to the Roman Church under Pope Soter (A.D. 165–174) declares that Peter and Paul founded the Church of Rome and the Church of Corinth, and they have lived in Corinth for some time.  "You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both of them planted and likewise taught us in our Corinth. And they taught together in like manner in Italy, and suffered martyrdom at the same time."  According to the writings of Origen and Eusebius in his Church History (III, 36) Peter would have been the founder of the Church of Antioch and "after having first founded the church at Antioch, went away to Rome preaching the Gospel, and he also, after [presiding over] the church in Antioch, presided over that of Rome until his death"  After presiding over the church in Antioch by a while, Peter would have been succeeded by Evodius, and after by Ignatius, who was a student of John the Apostle. He, with Paul, established and appointed leaders of these newly born churches.

Peter In Rome

The writings of the 1st century Church Father Ignatius of Antioch refer to Peter and Paul giving admonitions to the Romans, indicating Peter's presence in Rome.  Church tradition ascribes the epistles First and Second Peter to the Apostle Peter, as does the text of Second Peter itself.  First Peter implies the author is in "Babylon", which has been held to be a symbolic reference to Rome.  Eusebius of Caesarea also states:  Clement of Alexandria in the sixth [book] of the Hypotyposeis cites the story, and the bishop of Hierapolis named Papias joins him in testifying that Peter mentions Mark in the first epistle, which they say he composed in Rome itself, and that he indicates this, calling the city more figuratively Babylon by these: "She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings and so does my son Mark." (1 Pet 5:13)  Irenaeus of Lyons wrote in the 2nd century that Peter and Paul had been the founders of the Church in Rome and had appointed Linus as succeeding bishop. 

Peter's Death

Clement I, in his Letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 5), written c. 80–98, speaks of Peter's martyrdom in the following terms: "Let us take the noble examples of our own generation. Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most just pillars of the Church were persecuted, and came even unto death. … Peter, through unjust envy, endured not one or two but many labours, and at last, having delivered his testimony, departed unto the place of glory due to him..."  Clement of Rome was a disciple of the Apostles, who also was personally antiquated with Peter.  The big question is DID Peter go to Rome?

The death of Peter is attested to by Tertullian at the end of the 2nd century, in his Prescription Against Heretics, noting that Peter endured a passion like his Lord's: In his work Scorpiace 15, he also speaks of Peter's crucifixion: "The budding faith Nero first made bloody in Rome. There Peter was girded by another, since he was bound to the cross".  Origen in his Commentary on the Book of Genesis III, quoted by Eusebius of Caesaria in his Ecclesiastical History (III, 1), said: "Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer."  These two early witnesses point to Peter being crucified in Rome.

Jesus even hints at the death by which Peter would glorify God, (Jn. 21:18–19) saying "when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." This is interpreted by some as a reference to Peter's crucifixion.  Acts 12 tells how Peter, who was in Jerusalem, was put into prison by King Herod (A.D. 42–44), but was rescued by an angel. After his liberation Peter left Jerusalem to go to "another place" (Acts 12:1–18).  Why was this "another place" not mentioned?  Probably due to the time of the the writing of this section of Acts, Luke wanted to protect the location and identity from the authorities.   He was a now fugitive who escaped from confinement in Jerusalem.  The likelihood he remained in Jerusalem, where he had become more famous, as an Apostle of Christ and now a fugitive would be unlikely.   Peter then traveling to Rome and given the accounts by Tertuillian, Origen quoted by Eusebius of his death in Rome would make sense.

The church in Rome was already flourishing when Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans about AD 57, he greets some fifty people in Rome by name, but not Peter whom he knew. There is also no mention of Peter in Rome later during Paul's two-year stay there in Acts 28, about AD 60–62.  The reason for this is by the time of Paul penning these letters, Peter had already passed away.

WHO was Peter?

All this information about what he did and saw is helpful but who was he personally?  We can deduce from the amount written about him what kind of person he was.  He owned his own fishing business and owned the boat that Jesus used to preach to the people on the shore.  A business he went back to after Jesus was crucified temporarily.  But once he saw the risen Christ, his business became secondary to the mission of the Church.  He made proclaiming Christ and growing the church his main priority.

While with Jesus, he was the unofficial leader of the group.  Not only was he named first when the Apostles were named together but he, himself, took a leadership role.  He was part of the inner ciricle of Jesus.  He spoke up first, acted first (some times without thinking).  He gave THE sermon at Pentecost.  He first spoke up and testified about believing that Jesus was the Son of God.  He, along with James, lead the Church in Jerusalem and later traveled to Antioch and Corinth to plant churches.  He was a leader, assertive, and a 'go-getter'.  He was bold and after being restored by Jesus after his denials, he was fearless.

Despite all that he had done and seen, he was still human; a sinner.  Jesus rebuked him on one occasion and Paul even had to rebuke him for segregating himself from the gentile Christians and neglecting them.  He related to the Jewish Christians better than the Hellenistic and Greek Christians.

Was Peter The First Pope?

This actually fairly easy to see.  First of all, in his letters, he never refers to himself as holding such an office.  Secondly the Bible (the other apostle writings) itself does not suggest the existence of such an office.  The argument that Jesus called Peter the rock and corner stone of the church also fails in numerous areas.  First, Jesus was the corner stone that was thrown away, not Peter.  Secondly in Peter's own writings he describes (1 Peter 2:4) he describes the entire church body as "like living stones".  This relates to what Jesus actually told him about being a stone within the church.  Yes, he was the part of the first stones (and the other apostles) (Matthew 16:18) that were the foundations of the church, but Jesus was the corner stone of the entire church. Peter himself recognizes that the corner stone is Jesus, not himself (1 Peter 2:7).  Peter did not have a special authority over the other apostles (Acts 15:1-23; Galatians 2:1-14; 1 Peter 5:1-5) but it is the Apostles together that were authoritative due to their witness (Ephesians 2:19-20), not Peter alone.  Paul does NOT call on believers in various churches to receive Titus, Timothy, and other church leaders based on their authority as bishops or their having apostolic authority, but rather based upon their being fellow laborers WITH him (1 Corinthians 16:10; 16:16; 2 Corinthians 8:23).  Peter himself, along with other areas in scripture call people to test what they are taught with scripture and not the authority of a pope (Matthew 5:18; Psalm 19:7-8; 119:160; Proverbs 30:5; John 17:17; 2 Peter 1:19-21).  Lastly, Peter himself calls Jesus as THE Shepherd and Overseer of the church, not a pope (1 Peter 2:25).  The idea and office of Pope came about later in history and was not part of the teachings of the Apostles.

What Did Peter Teach Specifically?
  • The Church
    • Special Office of Apostle, a witness of Jesus himself (1 Peter 1:1,25, 5:1; 2 Peter 1:16-18)
    • Peter was only a elder, not a pope (1 Peter 5:1) 
    • Elders serve without gain as examples (1 Peter 5:2-3) 
    • The Church is the body of believers, not a building (1 Peter 2:5)
    • Jesus is the corner stone of the church (1 Peter 2:4,7)
    • Spiritual gifts are for others (1 Peter 4:10)
  • God
    • God's Omniscience (1 Peter 1:2,20) 
    • Election (1 Peter 2:9, 5:10; 2 Peter 1:10)
    • God alone does the work in us (1 Peter 5:10)
    • All things are done for God's Glory alone (1 Peter 4:11; 2 Peter 1:3) 
    • God is not bound by time (2 Peter 3:8)
  • The Holy Spirit 
    • Sanctification of The Holy Spirit, not works (1 Peter 1:2) 
    • The Holy Spirit directly influenced the authors of scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21)
  • Christian Living
    • Seek holiness in works because of faith (1 Peter 1:13-17, 2:12, 3:8) 
    • Reward for faith is in heaven, not material gains (1 Peter 1:4,8,18)
    • Believers do not act like the world (1 Peter 4:2-4, 15-16) 
    • Respect worldly institutions as to Honor God (1 Peter 2:13-14,17-20)
    • Freedom with limits, rejects antinomian (1 Peter 2:16)
    • Christ is our example, not a pope (1 Peter 2:21-25)
    • Marriage is between a man and woman (1 Peter 3:1)
    • Wife's obedience to husbands (1 Peter 3:1,5)
    • Wives beauty is internal, not external  (1 Peter 3:3-4)
    • Husbands sacrificial love for wife (1 Peter 3:7)
    • Continually Proclaim the gospel (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Peter 1:13-15) 
    • Spiritual maturity and growth (2 Peter 1:5-9)
  • Jesus
    • The resurrection of Jesus (1 Peter 1:3,21)
    • Jesus died for all who believe (1 Peter 3:18-22)
    • Jesus was perfect (1 Peter 1:19)
    • Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, not a pope (1 Peter 5:4)  
    • Deity of Jesus (2 Peter 1:1,3, 3:18) 
  • Salvation
    • Salvation is through faith (1 Peter 1:5,9)
    • Jesus is the only way to salvation (1 Peter 1:21)
    • Only believers are children of God (1 Peter 2:10)
    • Faith is granted by God (2 Peter 1:4) 
    • Some who accept the gospel, still aren't truly saved (2 Peter 1:20-22)
    • God desires everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9)
  • The Bible
    • The Old Testament points to Jesus (1 Peter 1:10-12)
    • Scripture Alone and its authority alone (1 Peter 1:24-25, 2:2, 6-8, 3:10; 2 Peter 1:19-21, 3:1)
    • No new revelations from God (1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 3:1) 
    • Scripture is divine (2 Peter 1:19-21) 
    • Peter validates Paul's letters as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16)
  • Sin
    • Everyone is dead in sin without faith (1 Peter 4:6)
    • Fight sin (1 Peter 2:1,11, 5:9)
    • Exposes sin (1 Peter 4:3; 2 Peter 1:7-8) 
    • Judge rightly (1 Peter 4:7, 5:8; 2 Peter 3:17)
    • Suffering is a blessing (1 Peter 3: (1 Peter 3:14,17, 4:12-14,16,19) 
    • The wicked are kept under punishment, i.e. slaves to their sin, until judgement (2 Peter 1:9-19)
  •  Hell
    • The actual place (2 Peter 2:4, 17)
  •  False Prophets 
    • There were and will be in the future (2 Peter 2:1)
    • Motives are secretive (2 Peter 2:2)
    • Their teachings and personalities will be attractive and many will follow them (2 Peter 2:3)
    • They are secretly greedy and will exploit their followers (2 Peter 2:3)
  • The Last Days
    • They will mock the second coming (2 Peter 3:3-4)
    • They will mock God as creator (2 Peter 3:5-7) 
  •  New Heaven and New Earth
    • No one will see God's judgement come, like a thief (2 Peter 3:10)
    • The universe will be destroyed and replaced (2 Peter 3:10)
  • Specifically names: Paul, Silvanus (Silas, Acts 15:22, 2 Corinthians 1:19, who was with Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy), and Mark (1 Peter 5:12-13) 

There is A LOT we can learn about Peter and how it relates to our day.   Peter is not politically correct, especially in our day.  He preached about sin and repentance.  He talked about hell and false prophets.  His teachings about Christian living in a wicked world would make churches like Joel Osteen's fall away.  In fact he seems to hint at their coming (2 Peter 2:1-4) and contradicts a lot of the teachings of the Health Wealth and Happiness preachers (1 Peter 2:3,8,18, 2:10, 16, 5:10, and many more, see references above).  He also supported that a true godly marriage is between a Man and Woman (1 Peter 3:1-7).  He was bold and offended a lot of people, so much so, he was arrest and threatened on numerous occasions.  In our day in age people would say that he is not Christ-like!  Does your preacher teach like Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ?

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