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Simon Peter

On the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee lay the city of Bethsaida. From this port many boats put out to work the fishing grounds of the lake. We know that some of these boats carried sturdy men who were godfearing. They were men who valued the sacred writings and who through the words of Moses and the prophets received the soul-stirring promises concerning the coming Messiah. One such man was Simon the son of John.

It was an important day for Simon when his brother Andrew informed him, "We have found the Messiah". This simple, confident testimony opened the door for an act of far-reaching consequence - "He (Andrew) brought him (Peter) unto Jesus". The history of these two men reveals that Simon was to find a place of much greater prominence and participation in divine service than his brother, but it is instructive to observe that in the sovereignty of God it was Andrew who led Simon to Christ. Those who have a concern for the salvation of others may find strong encouragement in the assurance that they may be used by God to lead to the Lord Jesus Christ persons who may be fitted and called by the Lord to be outstanding men of God. Such assurance should be enjoyed by parents and family relations, by preachers of the gospel, and by workers among the young, by tract distributors and by those who pray.

Another important day came for Simon Peter when, in the company of his brother, he heard the voice that said, "Come ye after Me, and I will make you fishers of men". What a challenge was in those words! Leave what you now have and follow Me. Abandon your present interests and ambitions to serve Me. The response claimed by the Lord was not that of a reckless adventurer. He wanted the response of one whose heart had been touched to give the loyalty of love and faith. Simon Peter "left all and followed Him". The cost was great. The recompense was to be very much greater.

Peter was naturally endowed with the qualities of leadership. He was a man of strong character and influence. His spontaneity of thought and action must have given him a place of prominence among his fellows. Those who lead and influence others have very serious responsibility. Leaders must have greater accountability than those who are led. Men who find that they have the ability to lead others tend to become self-confident, arrogant and intolerant. Those who would lead others in divine service must not permit such a tendency to assert itself. It is therefore worthy of careful attention that, at the very commencement of his association with the Lord Simon Peter passed through an experience which prostrated him before the lovely Man who was to be his Lord, and which drew from his contrite heart and humbled spirit the words of genuine self-realization and self-abasement, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord" (Luke 5.8). As Peter listened to the wondrous words of the great Teacher and witnessed the manifestation of the miraculous power of the Creator, self-esteem perished. The lesson is important.

There is copious evidence in the Gospels of the spontaneous character of Peter. He was frequently the spokesman, sometimes expressing his own thoughts, sometimes speaking what was also in the minds of the other disciples. His quick response to challenge and to circumstances must at times have grieved the Lord. Spontaneity can often lead to the unwise intrusion of one's own opinions and human reasoning. This is dangerous and damaging. But there were times also when the ready response of Simon Peter must have filled the heart of the Lord with joy. There was the occasion when the widespread defection of many of His disciples caused the Lord to say to the twelve, "Would ye also go away?" It was Peter who replied, "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and know that Thou art the Holy One of God" (John 6.67-69). This was not a lukewarm answer. These words came from a fervent heart, a loving heart, a loyal heart. Disciples who are not swayed by popular opinion and mass influence to turn away from the Lord must give Him pleasure. There was also the occasion when the Lord raised the question of His identity and solicited from His disciples their impressions as to what men thought about the Son of Man. The replies showed how far short fell unenlightened human opinion. What about the disciples themselves? What convictions had they? Again it is Peter who speaks out, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16.16). Noble words, true words, words of divine illumination. Could the Lord remain silent? From the lips of a rugged man, called from his boat at Galilee, a man who by human standards was ignorant and unlearned, had come these words of remarkable confession, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah", said the Lord, "for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven". The ready reply of Peter touched the Lord's heart. Now is the time for the great disclosure. Now is the time for the historic announcement which eternal counsels awaited, "Upon this Rock I will build My Church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16.18). And to Peter was given the significant indication of the part which he would play in the fulfilment of this purpose of the ages.

The apostle John gives a very vivid description of an incident which occurred during the post-resurrection manifestations of Christ to His disciples. The disciples were experiencing the test of waiting. Waiting requires patience. The tension was too great for Peter. The call of the sea seemed to offer escape and satisfaction. He announced, "I go a fishing". Here is Peter the impulsive. Here is Peter the leader. Here is Peter the influential. Six men say, "We also come with thee". It was a disappointing night. At day-break the disciples returned to the beach. Perhaps dejection had now been added to tension. A Man stood on the beach waiting for them to return. It was their gracious Lord. There was no word of rebuke in relation to what the disciples had done. Instead there was an affectionate welcome to the provision which their Lord had made. No doubt the sight of their Lord and the assurance of His grace moved deeply the hearts of those men. At the appropriate time the Lord spoke directly and personally to Peter. It was a searching experience. The issue was clearly posed and repeated. "Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me?" Ahead lay great responsibilities and possibilities which would come to Peter in the service of his Lord. But Peter must know that mere activity is not sufficient. In the language of the apostle Paul, "If I ... have not love I am nothing". There on the beach of that sea which held so powerful an attraction for him, Simon Peter realized that Someone had come into his life to attract him from all else that might appeal to him. And he loved that Person. "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee" (John 21.17). There can be no doubt as to the sincerity of that confession.

The sacred history of the early days of this dispensation shows Peter to be a vigorous leader and a bold preacher in the Lord's service. As the disciples waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit it was Peter who stood up in the midst of his brethren to give the lead in the matter of the vacancy caused in the apostolic circle by the departure of Judas. On the day of Pentecost, it was Peter, standing up with the eleven, who spoke to the assembled multitude. At the very important conference held in Jerusalem to consider the matter of circumcision, after there had been much questioning and debate, it was Peter who rose up and addressed the gathering. What he said had a big effect on the minds of those present and on the subsequent course of the discussion which enabled guiding decrees to be formulated. In Galatians 2 that outstanding servant of the Lord, the apostle Paul, tells of visits he made to Jerusalem to become acquainted with the leaders among God's people, and to be assured that he and they were preaching the same gospel. Paul clearly shows that he recognized and acknowledged Peter as one who was prominent among those leaders. It is good to know that the leadership qualities of this courageous man were sanctified for the glory of God and found their expression in the highest of all service.

Peter, the preacher, delivered his message with clarity of thought and utterance, and with great boldness. He wasted no words. This is demonstrated in his address to the multitude on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), in his reply to the rulers of the Israel nation (Acts 4) and in his message to Cornelius (Acts 10). Christ, the only Saviour and sovereign Lord, was the theme of his preaching. Those who heard felt the challenge as to what was their attitude to this blessed One.

For the communication of the divine mind in the inspired writings of holy Scripture the Spirit of God used Peter to supply two epistles. To read those epistles is to gain an impression of the profound knowledge which had been granted to the one-time fisherman-knowledge of God and of His Son, knowledge of God's purpose in His house and knowledge of the true grace of God in holy living. Perhaps most impressive is the knowledge revealed by Peter in his second epistle. There he deals with things yet to be fulfilled and with purposes of God in connection with what will happen to the present heavens and earth. Men of tremendous intellect and mental ability have applied their minds in research and study to probe what they would refer to as secrets of the universe. Many theories have been propounded. In a few words Peter conveys the profound knowledge, "The day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that' are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3.10). Where did Peter get his information? How could an unlearned man dare to intrude in the realm of such matters? Peter was Spirit-taught and Spirit-impelled in what he wrote.

Peter had his defects. We see in him the failure of human weakness. As we think of the special purposes for which he was chosen-such purposes as were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost and on the day that Peter went to the home of Cornelius to throw open to the Gentile peoples the door of divine purpose - we are greatly impressed by the sovereignty and inscrutability of divine choice. As we think of Peter being so chosen we readily understand that he was a special target for the enemy. Satan desired to have him. There were times when the attack of the enemy broke through, but Peter was not broken down.

The last words we have from Peter were not the words of a broken and disappointed man. To encourage and to admonish and to strengthen saints who were struggling in trials he said, "Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3.17, 18). "Thou knowest that I love Thee".