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13. Peter
13.1 Peter’s Conversion || 13-1-1 Peter The Rock || 13-1-2 Peter Our Example || 13-1-3 Peter's Coversion || 13-2-1 Peter And The Cross || 13-2-2 Peter And Quo Vadis? || 13.3 Peter’s Preaching: 13-3-1 Peter’s Preaching || 13-3-2 Peter And The Stone Of Daniel 2 || 13-3-3 Peter's Realization Of Sinfulness || 13-3-4  Appreciation Of Christ’s Exaltation || 13.4 Peter The Shepherd: 13-4-1 Peter The Shepherd || 13-4-2 Peter And The Judaizers || 13-4-3 The Letters Of Peter || 13-5-1 Peter And Christ || 13-5-2 Peter And The Titles Of Christ || 13-6 Peter: Bible Student || 13-7 Walking On Water


13-3-1 Peter’s Preaching

It would have become public news in Jerusalem that the man who nearly killed Malchus had slipped in to the High Priest’s yard, and just got out in time before they lynched him. And the fool he had made of himself would for sure have been exaggerated and gossiped all round. Jerusalem would have had the small town gossip syndrome, especially at Passover time. Every one of his oaths with which he had disowned his Lord would have been jokingly spread round in the three days while Jesus lay dead. But then Peter’s preaching of the Gospel after the resurrection reached a pinnacle which probably no other disciple has reached, not even Paul. No one individual made such huge numbers of converts, purely on the basis of his words of preaching. Nobody else was so persuasive, could cut hardened men to the heart as he did, and motivate them to be baptized immediately. He brought men far more highly educated and cultured than himself to openly say from the heart: “What shall we do?”, in the sense: ‘Having done what we’ve done, whatever will become of us?’. And of course Peter had been in just that desperate position a month ago. He was just the man to persuade them. And yet on the other hand, there was no man more unlikely. The rules of social and spiritual appropriacy demanded that someone who had so publically denied his Lord keep on the back burner for quite some time. And Peter of all men would have wished it this way. Further, he was an uneducated fisherman. Who was he to appeal to Jerusalem’s intelligentsia? He was mocked as speaking a-grammatos, without correct grammar and basic education even in his own language (Acts 4:13; AV “unlearned”). The way his two letters are so different in written style can only be because he wrote through a scribe (2 Peter is actually in quite sophisticated Greek). So most likely he couldn’t write and could hardly read. So humanly speaking, he was hardly the man for the job of being the front man for the preaching of the new ecclesia. But not only did his Lord think differently, but his own depth of experience of God’s grace and appreciation of the height of the Lord’s exaltation became a motivating power to witness which could not be held in. We all know that the way God prefers to work in the conversion of men is through the personal witness of other believers. We may use adverts, leaflets, lectures etc. in areas where the Gospel has not yet taken root, with quite some success. But once a community of believers has been established, the Lord seems to stop working through these means and witness instead through the personal testimony of His people. We all know this, and yet for the most part would rather distribute 10,000 tracts than swing one conversation round to the Truth, or deliberately raise issues of the Gospel with an unbelieving family member. If we recognize this almost natural reticence which most of us have, it becomes imperative to find what will motivate us to witness as we ought, a-grammatos or not (1). The example of Peter leaves us in no doubt: 

1. Appreciation of personal sinfulness and the reality of forgiveness

2. The height of Christ’s present exaltation

3. Appreciation of the cross

Appreciation Of Personal Sinfulness

Peter’s maiden speech on the day of Pentecost was a conscious undoing of his denials, and consciously motivated by the experience of forgiveness which he knew he had received. Having been converted, he was now strengthening his Jewish brethren. He went and stood literally a stone’s thrown from the High Priest’s house, and stood up and declared to the world his belief that Jesus was and is Christ. Peter also preached in Solomon’s Porch, the very place where the Lord had declared Himself to Israel as their Saviour (Jn. 10:33; Acts 5:12). Peter at the time of his denials had been "afar off" from the Lord Jesus (Mt. 26:58; Mk. 14:54; Lk. 22:54- all the synoptics emphasize this point). Peter's denials would've been the talk of the town in Jerusalem. So when in Acts 2:39 he says that there is a promised blessing for "all" that are far off... I think he's alluding back to himself, setting himself up as a pattern for all other sinners to find salvation. That's perhaps why he talks of "all" [those others] who are [also] "far off" [as he had been]. He could've just spoken of "they" or "those" who are far off. But the use of "all" may suggest he is hinting that the audience follow his pattern. This, in Peter's context, makes the more sense if we see one of the aspects of the promised Spirit blessing as that of forgiveness and salvation- as in Acts 3:25,26, the blessing was to be turned away from sins. When Peter speaks of how the Lord Jesus will ‘turn away’ sinners from their sins (Acts 3:26), he is using the very word of how the Lord Jesus told him to “put up again” his sword (Mt. 26:52), thereby turning Peter away from his sin. Peter’s appeal for repentance and conversion was evidently allusive to his own experience of conversion (Lk. 22:32 cp. Acts 3:19; 9:35). In this he was following the pattern of David, who sung his ‘Maschil’ (teaching) psalms after his forgiveness in order to convert sinners unto Yahweh (Ps. 51:13). Like Peter, David did so with his sin ever before him, with a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:3,17). He invited them to seek forgiveness for their denial of their Lord, just as he had done. He dearly wished them to follow his pattern, and know the grace he now did. He reminds his sheep of how they are now “returned” (s.w. ‘converted’) to the Lord Jesus (1 Pet. 2:25), just as he had been. His experience of the Lord’s gracious spirit inspired him. It had been generous spirited of the Lord to pray on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. He may have meant they were relatively ignorant, or it may be that He felt they were so blinded now that the recognition of Him they once had had was now not operating. And Peter, who probably heard with amazement those words from the cross as he beheld the Lord’s sufferings, found the same generous spirit to men whom naturally he would have despised: “In ignorance ye did it” (Acts 3:17 cp. Lk. 23:34). 

Peter would have reflected how his denial had been in spite of the fact that the Lord had prayed he wouldn’t do it- even though He foresaw that Peter would. Just a short time before the denials He had commented, probably in earshot of Peter and John, “ask them which heard me, what I spake unto them” (Jn. 18:21 RV). Perhaps He nodded towards them both as He said it, to encourage them to speak up rather than slip further into the temptation of keeping quiet. He had used the same phrase earlier, just hours before: “These things have I spoken unto you” (Jn. 16:33).


(1) This theme is discussed at length in ‘We’re All Preachers’ and ‘The Humility Of The Gospelin From Milk To Meat. Peter’s confidence in preaching to the wise of this world in his a-grammatos way is continued in the way his letters stress that the only true knowledge is that of Christ (2 Pet. 1:5,6; 3:18). He was writing in response to the Gnostic heresy that ‘gnosis’ , knowledge, enlivens the eternal spark within man until a man’s knowledge becomes his ‘immortal soul’. Peter didn’t leave this for the more erudite to combat. Like an illiterate peasant farmer unashamedly challenging atheistic evolution, Peter powerfully made his point.