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13-5-2 Peter And The Titles Of Christ

How Peter speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ over time, as reflected by an analysis of Peter's use of the titles of Christ.

The Gospels 

1.   Master

2.   Lord

3.   Lord

4.   Son of God

5.   Master

6.   Lord

7.   Christ, the son of the living God

8.   Christ, the son of the living God

9.   Lord

10. Lord

11. Lord

12. Lord

13. Master

14. Master

15. Lord

16. Lord

17. Lord

18. Lord

19. Lord

20. Lord

21. Lord

22. Lord

Peter’s recorded speech in Acts 

23. Jesus

24. Lord Jesus

25. Lord

26. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God

27. Holy One (of God)

28. Christ

29. Christ

30. Jesus

31. Lord

32. Lord and Christ

33. Jesus Christ

34. His Son Jesus

35. Holy One and the Just

36. Prince of life

37. Christ

38. Jesus Christ

39. His Son Jesus

40. Jesus Christ of Nazareth

41. This man

42. Head stone of the corner

43. Jesus

44. A Prince and a Saviour

45. Jesus Christ

46. Jesus Christ…Lord of all

47. Jesus of Nazareth

48. Judge of quick and dead

49. Lord

50. Lord

51. The Lord Jesus Christ 

1 Peter 

52. Jesus Christ

53. Our Lord Jesus Christ

54. Jesus Christ

55. Jesus Christ

56. Christ

57. Christ

58. Jesus Christ

59. The Holy One (1:15 RVmg.)

60. Christ

61. Lamb without blemish

62. Lord

63. Jesus Christ

64. Chief corner stone

65. Stone of stumbling and rock of offence

66. The King

67. Christ

68. Shepherd and bishop

69. Christ

70. Christ

71. The just

72. Jesus Christ

73. Christ

74. Jesus Christ

75. Christ

76. Christ

77. The chief shepherd

78. Christ Jesus

79. Christ Jesus 

2 Peter 

80. Jesus Christ

81. Our saviour Jesus Christ

82. Jesus our Lord

83. Our Lord Jesus Christ

84. Our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ

85. Our Lord Jesus Christ

86. Our Lord Jesus Christ

87. (God’s) beloved Son

88. Lord

89. Lord and saviour Jesus Christ

90. The Lord and Saviour

91. The Lord

92. Our Lord

93. Our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ


- Over time, Peter uses a far richer variety of names and titles for the Lord. At the transfiguration, He addressed Jesus as Lord (Mt. 17:4), rabbi (Mk. 9:5) and master (Lk. 9:33). Job, Jacob, Moses and others displayed a like feature- of diversifying in the titles with which they approach to God as their spiritual maturity increases. This was evidently a sign of growing appreciation of who the Lord is and was- not just a display of certain lexical items. The woman of John 4 likewise grew, quickly. She addressed the Lord as: a Jew (4:9); “sir” (4:11); greater than Jacob (4:12); a prophet (4:19); the Christ (4:42); saviour of the world (4:42). M.R. Vincent (Word Studies In The NT Vol. 1 p. 113) has observed that Christ is progressively addressed as “Lord” as the NT record progresses; as if the community’s perception of Him increased over time.

- Whilst Peter evidently grew in appreciating the height and exalted nature of the Lord’s present glorified position, his spoken words reflect a progressive emphasis on the Lord’s humanity- he uses the title “the man”, and three times emphasizes that this man really came from so human Nazareth. And so it should be with us; an appreciation of the Lord’s vital and essential humanity is connected with a growth in appreciation of the wonder of who He is and was, and thereby we will appreciate the height of His exaltation. It is tragic, really, that Trinitarians think that by rejecting the Lord’s essential humanity they somehow magnify Him the more- when the very opposite is the case.

- Even without making the above analysis, the Lord Himself commented that “ye call me Lord and master” (Jn. 13:13). These titles were the usual form of address used by the disciples, and the analysis of Peter’s words bears this out in his case. But after the resurrection, this ceases to be the commonest way he perceives of his Lord. Could it not be that over time, he came to see the Lord as someone far more than a Master who gave commands for his slave / servant to obey. He used a far richer range of titles for the Lord; he came to see the multi-faceted beauty of the Lord’s being, both in His mortality and now in His glory. It is Peter who likewise makes the observation that the grace of God is “manifold”, using a Greek word which means multi-faceted, many coloured, light split into its various components through a prism (1 Pet. 4:10).

- At different stages in spiritual growth, we perceive different aspects of the Lord. In his early days of discipleship, Peter saw Him as Lord and Master. At the time of writing his first letter, he saw Him as ‘Christ’, with all that goes with that title. In his final maturity at the time of 2 Peter, he saw Him as our personal saviour, on account of His being Lord and Christ.

- At the end of Peter’s recorded words in Acts, he comes to a climax of understanding in coining the phrase “the Lord Jesus Christ”. In 2 Pet. 2:1 he describes Christ as “Lord” using a word which is never used of Christ in the Gospels, but only of God. He saw the extent of Christ’s perfection, the height of His exact manifestation of the Father. He was the “Lord” who bought us through His blood, and therefore and thereby He has an almost God-like authority over us. Appreciating the  true implications of the cross leads to a true sense of His Lordship. At the end of 2 Peter Peter reaches an even greater height in the title: “Our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ”. He brings together in one title all the different aspects of his Lord he had learnt and come to appreciate in the course of his life. And this should surely be the climax of every life of discipleship.  

The Titles Of Christ

Peter used the Lord’s titles with a growing understanding. Eventually his understanding of the Lordship of Christ was going to be one of the fundamental inspirations behind his preaching on Pentecost and also extending the grace of this “Lord of all” to all the Gentile world (see Peter And Preaching). Peter had declared that Jesus of Nazareth was son of the living God (Mt. 16:16), even though before this the disciples on Galilee had confessed: “Of a truth thou art the Son of God!”. Peter’s confession was evidently of an altogether higher level. But straight after his confession, he showed his complete misunderstanding of the Lord’s death, and the whole message of following Him to that same end. He was rebuked: “Thou savourest not the things of God”, straight after having been told that his understanding of Jesus’ Sonship was given to him of God. If he savoured that knowledge, he would have understood the message of the cross which his Lord so insistently preached. But he wasn’t yet at that level. He had to be told at the transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son…hear ye him” (Mt. 17:5). It was as if the Father was emphasizing the imperative which lay in the fact that Jesus really is Son of God: if that is truly comprehended, we must hear Him. The implication is surely that Peter had almost painlessly confessed the Divine Sonship of Jesus. Perhaps the Father had in mind the way Peter, for all his acceptance of that Sonship, would later forget the Son’s words and mindlessly deny Him. Straight after this incident, Peter says that his Master pays taxes, as if this is something the Lord just had to do. But the Lord seems to rebuke Peter, by reminding him that if He is truly Son of God and Lord of all, then it is quite inappropriate for Him to have to pay such taxes; for the Father’s children are free (Mt. 17:24-27). This evidence all indicates that there are different levels in knowing that Jesus of Nazareth is Son of God. 1 Jn. 5:13 says as much: those who believe on the name of the Son of God must come to believe (i.e. on a higher level) on the name of the Son of God. We must ask ourselves of our own degree of appreciation. For every member of the ecclesia is built up on the foundation of faith that Christ is the Son of God. 

Likewise with Peter’s profession of the Lordship of Jesus. He asked: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”. Jesus responds with a parable in which a man who calls his king “Lord” is himself forgiven, but refuses to forgive another man. Surely that parable was specifically for Peter, the one who delighted to know Jesus as Lord. He was warned through the parable that calling Him ‘Lord’ wasn’t enough. An appreciation of Him as Lord of his life would mean quite naturally that he had a spirit of frank forgiveness for his brother, not carefully measuring it out, but rather reflecting his Lord’s forgiveness of him. If Jesus is really Lord, then everything which He does and all that He shows becomes an imperative for us to follow. When Peter realized that it was Jesus standing on the shore in Jn. 21, this was probably the second or third time he had met the risen Lord. But when John says “It is the Lord”, Peter throws himself into the water to rush to Him as if it’s the first time they have met after the denials. Surely it was a higher appreciation of what Christ’s Lordship entailed that suddenly struck him at that moment, and he now rushed eagerly to Him, believing surely in His gracious forgiveness. No wonder in a month or so’s time he was appealing for men to repent and accept forgiveness on the basis that really, Jesus is Lord. The Lordship of Christ convicted Peter (and all men) of both their sinfulness (as they seee themselves in the peerless light of His moral majesty) and also of the reality of His forgiveness. “I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8) is a case in point. A case could be made to argue that Peter’s use of ‘Master’ tends to be at times when he is weak or doubting (Lk. 5:5; 8:45; Mk. 11:21); whilst he saw Jesus as a master who simply gives directives to His slaves, there was not such great inspiration to faith. But the utter and surpassing Lordship of Jesus had quite a different message. Peter’s perception of Jesus as ‘Lord’ climaxed when he perceived that “It is the Lord!” whilst fishing on Galilee after the resurrection. His sense of the greatness of this more-than-man led him to do something counterinstinctive and even absurd- he adds clothes before jumping into the water to swim to Him, in order to be attired as best he could be before Him. It would seem that He was imitating the body language of the Lord when He washed Peter’s feet- he tied a towel around Him [s.w. as Peter wrapping his outer garment around him, Jn. 13:4,5 cp. 21:7]. 

Peter’s growth of understanding of Jesus as ‘Christ’ also grew. He declared Him as this during His ministry (Jn. 6:69), and also as ‘Lord’, but he preached Him as having been made Lord and Christ after the resurrection (Acts 2:36). He saw the Lord’s status as having changed so much, even though he used the same words to describe it, and therefore he responded the more fully to Him. He so often refers to the Name of Christ, which had now been given Him (Acts 4:12 RV)- as if this new Name and the redemption in it was the motive power for his witness. Jesus had been born a Saviour, Christ the Lord (Lk. 2:11). But Peter uses each of these titles as if they had been given to the Lord anew, after His resurrection. And indeed they had been. They were no longer just appropriate lexical items for Peter to use; they were the epitome of all that the Lord was and had been and ever would be, all that He stood for and had enabled. And he preached them to men as the basis upon which salvation and forgiveness was now possible.