We recently began a new series through the 1st Epistle of Peter. Expository sermons through books of the Bible is the mainstay of our preaching (Why?) at Perryville Second Baptist.
This is from our introductory sermon on the Epistle.
This letter was written by the Apostle Peter probably in the 60s AD. So Peter is older in life and it has been nearly 3 decades since the death, burial, crucifixion, and ascension of Jesus. Peter is someone we have a lot to learn from. But even more importantly, we know that as he pens this letter that the Holy Spirit has worked in and through Him in such a way that we don’t merely have Peter’s words but God’s. However, it is still helpful for us to understand the human author. And so today, I want us to see 8 things about Peter’s life and hope to show you that even though he died a gruesome death, his life was not wasted. Chiefly for one reason: He loved and lived for Jesus!
But, we’ve got to start from the beginning. So, point 1:
I. Peter the Person – Who was the Apostle Peter?
He was born as ‘Simon’ in the city of Bethsaida in Galilee. Bethsaida sits on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and so it’s not hard to imagine that he became a fisherman. That was the family business. Simon the fisherman was first introduced to Jesus by his brother:
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:40-42)
Here is a fitting illustration of how when you meet Jesus, you get a new identity, don’t you? Jesus changed Simon's name. Sort of how Peter says:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Pt. 2:9-10)
I don’t mean to suggest that Peter was ‘saved’ at his first encounter with Jesus but just that immediately when he met Jesus, Jesus changed his name. When we meet Jesus he doesn’t just change our name, but everything about us.
II. Peter the Professor –
Now, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. After this first meeting w/ Jesus some time elapsed until Jesus saw Andrew and Peter again and officially called them to follow Him:
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Mt. 4:19-20)
And Peter wasn’t just a measly fisherman. There’s evidence that he was doing well. James and John were partners with him:
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:8-11)
Peter left everything and followed Jesus. Furthermore, we can be even surer that as he pens this epistle that he understands even greater the radical call of following Jesus and that the only way to not waste your life, is to give up everything and follow Christ! How fitting that we see in Peter that when he met Jesus not only did he get a new name, but also a new profession – from fisherman to fisher of men.
You probably remember that Peter’s personality was such that he became sort of the unofficial spokesperson for the disciples a lot didn’t he? He wasn’t always right mind you. But sometimes he was:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mt. 16:13-18)
Peter, by grace, professed Jesus as God’s Messiah.
III. Peter the Presumptuous
Peter also had some negative traits, didn’t he? Just a few verses down from Peter being right, we read:
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:21-23)
(Just as an aside, it’s never a good thing to rebuke Jesus.)
(Just as an aside, it’s never a good thing to rebuke Jesus.)
Peter had some pride issues and if he’d gone to the doctor he’d have been diagnosed with foot in mouth disease. Two other examples:
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31)
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. (Matthew 17:1-8)
Along with James and John, Peter was in Jesus’ ‘inner 3’. He would later be used mightily of God, but that didn’t happen overnight did it? His presumption and pride got him into a lot of trouble. That leads us to our next point:
IV. Peter the Pretender
Peter says he writes about the ‘true grace of God’ (1 Peter 5:12). The best people to explain grace, are those who’ve experienced it. Let’s take a look at the darkest time in Peter’s life:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”…Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:31-34, 54-62)
I think a lot of people miss a point in the gospel stories. And that point is this: Both Judas and Peter denied Jesus in His most crucial hour. And yet, Judas killed himself, but Peter was brought back. But think of Peter! A pretender! A hypocrite! A coward! He talked a big talk but cowered at the interrogation of a servant girl! So why is Peter prayed for by Jesus and later restored? Grace.
V. Peter the Pardoned –
Consider what the gospel of Mark tells us after the resurrection of Jesus:
And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:6-7)
Now we are getting glimpses of grace. Why do you think Peter was singled out here? Tell the disciples AND peter…? Peter had absolutely blown it. He had denied Jesus. He had deserted Jesus. He had turned His back on the One whom he’d said he’d die for. Peter needed to understand grace.
Grace isn’t necessarily ‘easy’ is it? Grace probed Peter’s heart. In John 19 Jesus got at the root of Peter’s pride and denial so that Peter could understand that he was forgiven and that his commission was to love Christ above all else, to follow Christ above all else, and to teach Christ’s people.
Peter deserved to die abandoned and alone just like Judas. But instead Jesus sought Him, and dealt with Him in love and grace showing that the blood of Christ was enough to cleanse Peter of his sin.
VI. Peter the Proclaimer –
In 1 Peter 1:1, Peter identifies himself as an Apostle of Christ. Spurgeon says of this text “It must have been very pleasant to his heart to write those words. Not “Peter, who denied his Master”; not “Peter, full of imperfections and infirmities, the impetuous and changeable one of the twelve.” “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” as truly sent of God as any of the other apostles, and with as much of the Spirit of his Master resting upon him.”
Now Peter’s life is forever changed. He’s not perfect mind you. But he is changed. Consider his boldness in Acts! (See for example - Acts 2:22-24, Acts 4:4-13 Acts 5:27-31) From Simon the fisherman, to the unrefined prideful disciple of Jesus, to the unfaithful and disloyal traitor, to a bold proclaimer of the gospel!
This is the power of God and the effect of the grace of the gospel! Peter passionately preached that there is salvation in no one else but Jesus! Right in the face of those who he’d once feared. Jesus was right: Peter was a ROCK. And on this ROCK – the truth of Christ’s ministry, and the confession of it by Peter and others - Jesus builds His church. Peter unashamedly proclaimed the forgiveness of sins through the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We see it in this letter too:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pt. 2:24)
VII. Peter the Pastor –
Peter says he is a fellow ‘elder’ (1 Peter 5:1). This is synonymous with the term ‘pastor.’ The reason I bring up that Peter was a pastor is b/c this letter is extremely pastoral. There are 3 major themes found in 1 Peter. He wants his readers (who are members of mainly gentile churches scattered throughout modern day Turkey) to:
1. Understand the Glorious Gospel of Grace and its implications – 1 Pt. 3:18
2. Live Holy Lives – 1 Pt. 1:14-16
3. Know the Reality of and Hope in Suffering while living as strangers in this world – 1 Pt. 4:12
The letter of 1 Peter is extremely pastoral, practical, and a needed word for us in 2017. It is worthy of your reading it and rereading it. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection produces a holy people. And our hope isn’t in this life or the fame or fortune or accolades we can receive from it (1 Peter 1:3-5)/
Peter is a man in love with Jesus and in love with the church and this pours out of every page of this letter…
VIII. Peter the Persecuted -
The Bible tells us that Peter would die a martyr (John 21:18-19). But it doesn’t tell us exactly how he did end up dying. Tradition however, says he died in Rome at the hands of Emperor Nero sometime in the mid to late 60s after he had written 1-2 Peter.Tradition also says that he was to be crucified but did not consider himself worthy to be crucified like Jesus so he requested to be crucified upside down.
I bring up Peter’s death for two reasons:
1. When Peter writes about suffering, he wasn’t just saying ‘do as I say’
He was writing with conviction and calling the church to be faithful in suffering and his own death proves that he was living that out too. Read Acts and see Peter’s suffering. He was beaten and imprisoned because of his love for Christ. Peter understood suffering.
2. He did not waste his life
See, you might be reading this today and think that any person who gave up their family business, and some even close relationships with friends and family, in order to be beaten, ridiculed, persecuted, and eventually martyred for their faith in Christ, would be a wasted life. Oh, but I assure you today, Peter did not waste his life. And you might think “Well, I wish I could ask him” but we already KNOW what he thought because we have his letter! His life was oriented to proclaiming the excellences of the person and work of Jesus! (1 Pt 2:9)
Peter lived an unwasted life b/c he followed Jesus:
· He didn’t live for this world but the one that is to come at Jesus’ return
· His hope was so set on what Jesus had done, was doing, and has still yet to do, that he resolved to live holy in the midst of a twisted culture
· He was willing to love, and to share the hope of Jesus with others.
· And he was willing to suffer for his faith to the glory of God.
It has been my endeavor to set before us the man who wrote this letter so that we might understand the background of his writing. But, even more importantly, I hope that we have seen the Man whom Peter would want to be set before us: Namely, the God-Man Jesus Christ. A life that loves, submits to, follows, and obeys King Jesus is never a wasted life. Whether we are known in 100 years by this world or not.
Who cares? Jesus knows us! Jesus knows me, this I love!
· Jesus became a curse that I might receive the blessing.
· Jesus tasted death that I might have life.
· Jesus was forsaken that I might never be abandoned.
· Justice was paid on the cross that I might receive grace.
And by faith in this gospel, we go free. Free to live in holiness. Free to live in joy and delight in Christ. Free to suffer in hope. Free to eagerly await the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Free to grow until he returns (2 Peter 3:18).
I implore you today: Do not live a wasted life. Do not buy into cultural expectations for what matters.
Christian: See Jesus as infinitely better than any worldly achievement or the applause of men. See your life, and your children’s lives, as more valuable than the paltry goals the world has for you. Live for Christ! Rest in His finished work daily and let the world know who you really are by your holy lives and by the spoken gospel.
Unbeliever: Do not waste your life. Oh you may think the cost is too great. But I assure you: The cost of a wasted life is much greater. Surrender now to Jesus as your only suitable and all-sufficient Savior. Can you receive pardon? Oh yes! Yes you can! Just ask Peter! But you must come to Christ in faith alone…
Don’t waste your life.
(You can hear this sermon preached by clicking here)