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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


13-3-4  Appreciation Of Christ’s Exaltation

Who God is, and the nature of His Name, is of itself an imperative to action. Man cannot truly know God and be passive to that knowledge; he must somehow respond to the God he sees so abundantly revealed to him (1). And so it is with an appreciation of the height and nature of the exaltation of the man Christ Jesus. This motivates to repentance and conversion, and therefore the man who has himself been converted by it will glory in it, and hold it up to others as the motive power of their salvation too. Acts 5:31 is the clearest example: “Him (Jesus) hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things”- in the sense that Peter himself was a witness to the repentance and forgiveness brought about by God’s resurrection and exaltation of His Son. Earlier Peter had preached Jesus of Nazareth as “made…both Lord and Christ”, and when they heard this, when he reached this climax of his speech in declaring that Jesus was now made kurios, the Greek word that would be used to translate Yahweh, then they were pricked in their heart and repented and desired association with Him in baptism (Acts 2:36-38). Later he boldly declared: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men [i.e. no other name given to any man as this Name was given to Jesus], whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Paul, in one of his many humble allusions to the words and thought of Peter, alludes to these passages in Phil.  2:9, where he declares that God highly exalted Jesus so that at His Name, in response to that exaltation now given, every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The ‘confession’ he has in mind is that strange confession of sin and faith that is particularly made at the time of conversion, when the response to “the word of faith, which we preach” is to confess Jesus as Lord and “be saved” (Rom. 10:8-10). This is why Peter preached Jesus as having been made “Lord and Christ”; for he saw that whoever believes that message will in their turn confess Him as Lord and Christ too. The response of men to his message was to confess their guilt in crucifying the Lord Jesus, to be “pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37). This was effectively confessing Jesus as Lord; to know the height of His Lordship is to know the depth of our sinfulness. This is why ‘confess’ carries the sense of both confession of sin, and also confession in the sense of statement of belief. The two things are inter-related, and Peter himself was the prime example. Those crowds would have known of Peter’s denials, of how as he ran out of the door he was crying, so the girl keeping the door would have reported with the glee of the underling temporarily in the limelight. And now, there he was standing up in almost the same place and preaching the exaltation and wonder of this Man from Nazareth, and the absolutely real offer of forgiveness and new spiritual life in Him. And as with every true preacher, in Peter, the man was the message. Peter had once struggled with the teaching of the Lord that whoever humbled himself would be exalted (Lk. 14:11). Now he joyfully preached the height of the Lord’s exaltation, knowing that by so doing he was testifying to the depth of His humility in His life. Now he valued and appreciated that humility (his allusions to the Lord’s washing of feel in his letters is further proof of this). 

He himself had cried out “Lord, save me!” when most men in that situation would have simply cried out “Save me!”. But his grasp of the Lordship of the One he followed inspired faith. If He was truly Lord, He was capable of all things. “Lord, save me!” was a call uttered in a moment of weakness. His “sinking” (Mt. 14:30) is described with the same word used about condemnation at the last day (Mt. 18:6), and yet Peter in his preaching persuades condemned men to do just the same: to call on the Lord in order to be saved (Acts 2:21,40,47; 4:12; 11:14). He invited all men to enter into the weakness and desperation which he had known on the water of Galilee, and receive a like unmerited salvation. And when he tells his sheep that the righteous are “scarcely saved” (1 Pet. 4:18) he surely writes with memories of that same gracious deliverance. And in discussing ecclesial problems he points out that all of us have had a similar salvation, and should act with an appropriate inclusiveness of our brethren (Acts 15:11). 

The basis of the Lord’s exaltation was the resurrection. When asked why he preached when it was forbidden, Peter didn’t shrug and say ‘Well Jesus told me too so I have to’. His response was: “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). It would have been like saying that, say, sneezing or blinking was a sin. These things are involuntary reactions; and likewise, preaching is the involuntary reaction to a real belief in the Lord’s death and resurrection. His preaching was a ‘hearkening unto God’, not so much to the specific commission to preach but rather to the imperative to witness which the Father had placed in the resurrection of His Son. When arrested for preaching a second time, Peter says the same. I’d paraphrase the interview like this:

Q. ‘Why do you keep preaching when it’s forbidden?’

A. ‘Jesus has been raised, and been exalted to be a Prince and Saviour, “for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins”. We have to obey the wonderful imperative which God has placed in these things: to preach this wondrous message to those for whom so much has been made possible’ (Acts 5:28-32). 

It’s not that Peter was the most natural one to stand up and make the witness; he spoke a-grammatos, but it was somehow evident from his body language that he had “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). In rebuking the false teachers, he likens himself to the dumb ass that spoke in rebuke of Balaam- i.e. he felt compelled to make the witness to God’s word which he did, although naturally, without the imperatives we have discussed, he would be simply a dumb ass. 

“Lord of all”

Peter’s grasp of the extent of Christ’s Lordship was reflected in the scope of his preaching. He had known it before, but understood it only to a limited extent (see Peter And Christ). It seems that he preferred to understand the commission to preach “remission of sins among all nations” as meaning to the Jewish diaspora scattered amongst all nations (Lk. 24:47)- notwithstanding the copious hints in the Lord’s teaching that His salvation was for literally all men. He preached forgiveness (s.w. remission) to Israel because he understood that this was what the Lord’s death had enabled (Acts 5:31). It was Israel who needed it, because they had crucified God’s Son- this seems to have been his thinking. Peter applies the word “all” (as in “to all nations”) to his Jewish audiences (Acts 2:14,36; 3:113; 4:10). But he was taught in the Cornelius incident that because Christ is “Lord of all”, therefore men from every (s.w. “all”) nation can receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:35,36). He makes the link back to the preaching commission in Acts 10:43: all  in every nation who believe can receive remission of sins (s.w. Lk. 24:47)- as he was commanded to preach in the great commission. He came to see that the desperate need for reconcilliation with God was just as strong for those who had not directly slain His Son; for, Peter may have mused, all men would have held him “condemned by heaven” if they had been Jerusalem Jews. And he realized that Christ was truly Lord of all, all men, everywhere, and not just of a few hundred thousand Jews. And with us too. The wider and the higher our vision and conception of the ascended Christ, the wider and more insistently powerful will be our appeal to literally all men. Yet Peter had heard the Lord’s words, when He had asked them to tell all nations, and when He had prophesied that His cross would draw all men unto Him. And his comment that “unto you first God, having raised up His Son, sent him to bless you” (Acts 3:26) suggests he suspected a wider benefit from the resurrection than just Israel. But all this knowledge lay passive within him; as with his understanding of the cross, he just couldn’t face up to the full implications of what he heard. But it was his recognition of the extent of Christ’s Lordship that motivated him to make the change, to convert the knowledge into practice, to throw off the shackles of traditional understanding that had held him from understanding the clear truth of words he had heard quite clearly. An example would be the words recorded in Mk. 7:19 RV: All meats were made clean by Christ. But Peter had to be told: “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15). He had to be taught to simply accept the word he loved, with all its implications. 

We have shown (Peter And The Cross) that not only did Peter initially fail to make the connection between giving up material things and following the pattern of the cross. He also had the impression that by forsaking all and following the Lord, he would somehow benefit: " We have left all and followed thee…what shall we have therefore?" (Mt. 19:27). He still had to learn that the carrying of the cross is not to be motivated by any desire for personal benefit, spiritual or otherwise. We live in a world in which religion, like everything else, is seen as a means toward some personal benefit. If we love the Lord, we will follow Him, wherever the life in Him leads us; sheerly for love of Him, and recognition that His way is the way to glorifying the Father. Peter had left all, but expected something back. For the excellency of fellowshipping the sufferings of the future Saviour, Moses gave up all the riches of Egypt. The Lord responded by saying that nobody who had left all for His Name's sake would go unrewarded (Mt. 19:29). The riches, the surpassing excellence of Christ, all the things tied up in His Name, these were not appreciated at that time by Peter. They are enough, purely of themselves, to make a man count all things as dung. Later, he understood this. He told the lame man that the silver and gold which he had was the salvation possible in the Name of Jesus (Acts 3:6). Peter rejoiced that he was counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name, and he preached in that Name. There is quite some emphasis on this: Acts 2:21,28; 3:6,16; 4:10,12,30; 5:41. Now he had learnt his mistake, or rather he realized the poverty of his understanding of the Lord. He now found the excellency of the Lord's Name an imperative of itself to witness to it. Likewise " for his name's sake they went forth" in obedience to the great preaching commission (3 Jn. 7; Rev. 2:3) (2).  

Peter understood what it was to be in Christ. All that he did, all that he preached and taught by word and example, was a witness to the one in whom he lived and had his being. As he reached forth his right hand to lift up the cripple, he was manifesting how the right hand of God had lifted up (in resurrection) and exalted His Son and all those in Him (Acts 3:7). Likewise he took Tabitha by the hand and then lifted her up and “presented her alive” (Acts 9:41), just as the Father had done to His Son. When Peter “stood up” after his conversion (Acts 1:15; 2:14), he was sharing the resurrection experience of his Lord. And now he reflected this in his preaching to others. As God stretched forth His hand to heal through Christ (Acts 4:30), so Peter did (Acts 9:41). And he includes us all in the scope of this wondrous operation: for as God’s hand exalted Christ, so it will exalt each of us who humble ourselves beneath it (1 Pet. 5:6).  

Appreciation Of The Cross

Peter was a “witness” of the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 5:1). The same word is used to characterize his witness of preaching in Acts 1:8; 5:32; 10:39. The Greek word doesn’t convey that he simply saw the Lord’s sufferings, but that he saw-and-therefore-spoke it. There is something in the cross that cannot be held passively once it has been seen / understood. It must be spoken out. Having described the physicalities of the cross, Is. 52:15; 53:1 continue: “So shall he sprinkle many nations…for that which had not been [i.e. the like of which had never been] told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard [ever before the like of] shall they consider. Who hath believed our preaching (Heb.)? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” by our preaching? There is an undeniable link between the Lord’s sufferings and the preaching of them. They are in themselves an imperative to preach them. So shall He sprinkle many nations with His blood of atonement and new covenant, in that His sufferings would provoke a world-wide (“to all nations” cp. “many nations”) witness to them by those who knew them. Paul sums it up when he speaks of “the preaching of (Gk. ‘which is’) the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18). This is how essential the link between preaching and the cross. Peter’s witness to men is a living exemplification of this. Matthew and Mark record how the Lord told the disciples to go world-wide with the message of His death and resurrection; He commanded them to do this. Luke’s account is different. He reminds them of His death and resurrection, and simply adds: “And ye are witnesses of these things” (Lk. 24:48). Not ‘you will be, I’m telling you to be, witnesses…’. The very fact of having seen and known them was of itself an imperative to bear witness to them. This is the outgoing power of the cross. 


Peter not only preached on Pentecost. His life became dedicated to the work of the Gospel. Paul referred to the Jews to whom he preached as his “brethren” (Acts 13:26), and it may be that Peter at least initially understood his commission to “strengthen thy brethren” as meaning preaching to his unbelieving Jewish brethren (although the same Greek word is used by Peter regarding his work of upbuilding the converts, 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:12). Gal. 2:8-10 informs us that Peter had a ministry to the Jews of the diaspora in the Roman empire just as much as Paul did to the Gentiles living in the same area (Gal. 2:8-10). Because the Acts record focuses more on Paul’s work rather than Peter’s doesn’t mean that Peter was inactive. 1 Peter is addressed to Jewish converts living in the provinces of Asia Minor, and we can assume that Peter had spent years travelling around building up groups of believers based around the families of the individual Jews he had converted in Jerusalem at Pentecost. It would seem from 1 Cor. 1:12 that Peter had made a number of converts in Corinth, and 1 Pet. 5:13 strongly suggests Peter lived for a while in “Babylon” and had begun an ecclesia there. Whether this be taken as a code name for Rome or as literal Babylon (where there was a sizeable Jewish community), this was somewhere else Peter reached. All through this remarkable life of witness, he was motivated by his own experience of the Lord’s greatness, and His all sufficient grace toward him in his weakness. And a similar life of powerful witness lies before any who are touched likewise. 


(1) See The Power Of Basics.

(2) Peter learnt the lesson, of forsaking all for His Name’s sake. But the Lord had promised that those who did so would be given brethren, sisters, houses, lands etc. in this life. This surely can only be true through the members of the ecclesia counting nothing as their own, and sharing what they have, emotionally and materially, with their brethren. In this we see the limitation of God: the Lord’s prophecy has a fulfilment whose extent is conditional on our generosity. Peter realized this when he lead the early ecclesia into having all things common, so there were none who lacked.