A Remarkable Life

(Lesson 1 from "If Ye Do These Things, Ye Shall Never Fall")

(This Sunday's lesson was presented on PowerPoint.
You can download that presentation in various formats HERE.)

In literature and drama, an “everyman” is an ordinary individual with whom the audience can easily identify, and who is often placed in extraordinary circumstances. Peter is the “everyman” of the gospels. He was the spokesman of the twelve, and in many ways, he is our spokesman as well. Through his very human reactions to the things he experienced – and his flaws – we see ourselves.

There is no indication that Peter himself was on a spiritual quest when his brother Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, took him to meet Jesus:

John 1:40-42   
40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 
41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. 
42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

In Greek, Cephas is Petros, from which comes Peter. Paul referred to Simon as Cephas in his letters to the Corinthians and Galatians:

1 Corinthians 15:5   
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

Galatians 2:9
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship…

Just as Saul of Tarsus is better known as Paul, Simon the son of Jona is better known as Peter, or Simon Peter.

Not long after that initial meeting, Peter was cleaning up after a fruitless night of fishing when Jesus asked him for a favor:

Luke 5:1-10
1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 
2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.

After the teaching, Jesus had a test for Peter:

4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.    

Jesus told Peter to let down his NETS, but Peter dropped only one. His doubt turned what should have been a great blessing into a near calamity!

8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 

Peter’s words to Jesus say a lot about the man!

10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.

If you read only Matthew and Mark, you might think these men spontaneously pledged themselves to a mystical stranger:

Matthew 4:18-20
18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 
19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 
20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

Jesus tested Peter in many more ways during his apprenticeship to the Master.

Matthew 16:13-19  
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying,
Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Jesus was pleased by Peter's answer.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Jesus clarified the difference between Peter – a stone – and himself – the Rock of Ages who is the foundation of the church. As Paul later wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:11, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

18 And I say also 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.

But Jesus had even more for Peter’s ears to hear:

19 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.

One can be certain that Peter did not know what Jesus was talking about. But it sounded like he was being set apart for something special. Did this go to his head? He must have felt pretty sure of himself to rebuke the Lord! Read the very next record:

Matthew 16:21-23   
21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew 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 be raised again the third day. 
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

Imagine pulling Jesus aside to correct him!

23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

Even after this stinging rebuke, Peter still kept speaking his mind, but he was much more careful in his choice of words! (Notice that he added, "If thou wilt.")

Matthew 17:1-4
1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 
2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
4 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 for Elias.

  But don’t imagine that Peter ever lost his adoration of the Christ. The thought of Jesus so degrading himself to wash his feet was more than poor Peter could bear.

John 13:6-9
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet.

Jesus assured him it was the right thing to do:

8b Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.

When Jesus foretold his denial, the words hit him like a hammer. Peter knew he had many failings, but he was sure he was not a coward.

John 13:33, 36-38
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
36 Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. 
37 Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.
38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

Perhaps Peter was trying to prove his loyalty when he attacked the high priest’s servant:

John 18:10  
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.

It must have stunned both men when Jesus “touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:51). But try to imagine Peter’s anguish a few hours later when the rooster crowed, and he realized what he had just done:

Luke 22:61-62  
61 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 shalt deny me thrice. 
62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Imagine his wonder at seeing the empty tomb. What was it like for Peter to see the resurrected Christ, and watch him ascend into heaven forty days later? And think of everything that had happened after that! The Day of Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Ghost. The healing of the lame man that sparked a great revival – and great persecution. His rooftop vision and the first Gentile Christians.

When he heard about Saul’s conversion, did he believe it? How long did it take before he could call him “our beloved brother Paul” (2 Pet. 3:15)? What was it like for him to accept Paul’s reproof? (To be fair, this could not have been easy for Paul either!)

Galatians 2:11-12  
11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

So many amazing things had happened to this fisherman from Galilee! But now he knew he was nearing the end of his spiritual race:

2 Peter 1:14
Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.

He knew the letter he was now writing to the church would be his last. After all he had seen and done, and all the people he’d seen come and go, what would he say? He gave them one of the greatest promises in the Word of God, assuring them, “If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”

2 Peter 1:5-10   
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

To fall is to abandon your faith. We all need to guard against this.

1 Corinthians 10:12  
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

But this does not we must try to earn our salvation. If salvation required even one work, it would not be of grace.

Romans 11:6
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Good works do not earn salvation. But good works should accompany salvation.

Hebrews 6:9
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

The epistle we call 2nd Peter is his last will and testament; his gift to Christians of his time and all time.

2 Peter 1:12-13, 15
12 Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

Faith, Virtue, Knowledge, Temperance, Patience, Godliness, Brotherly Kindness, Charity: You cannot know everything your future holds, but you can know this — If you do THESE THINGS, you will NEVER fall. Let us take the time to study these precepts, and learn how to make our calling and election sure.

The next lesson in this series will examine FAITH.


Presented 11 November 2018 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana