Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Peter - A Christian Testimony of Grace

1 Peter 5:12 Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!"

The Apostle Peter is the focus of today's post, in that he gives us a Biblical example of a Christian testimony of grace.  The word "testimony" in scripture comes from a Greek word that we translate "martyr".  Thus when someone was "martyred" for their faith, they were using their life to "testify" of their faith in Christ as being more valuable than life itself. In our everyday Christian usage, a testimony has come to refer to what life was like before salvation, followed by the circumstances wherein God called us to faith and repentance with a third part referring to our lives post-conversion.  

I call the Apostle Peter the "apostle of grace" due to the nature of his Christian testimony, the message of his preaching in the book of Acts and the letters he wrote in 1 and 2 Peter.  For today I want to sketch out the Christian Testimony of Peter as we see unfolded in the New Testament.  As you will see, five components can be gleaned that help us understand what is part of a Christian Testimony of Grace.

1. Begins with the Call of Grace. 
John 1:40-42 is the first place in redemptive history that we see Simon Peter being mentioned: "One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He *found first his own brother Simon and *said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated 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 is translated Peter)."  That first initial contact by Jesus of Peter led Peter to follow Jesus for about a day, but the manner of his following was more of curiosity than commitment.  

Peter was outwardly called by Christ in his physical ears and mind.  He was curious but not converted, and thus he resisted and went back to his fishing business along with the sons of Zebedee.  A number of weeks and perhaps months would pass until Jesus would come calling on Peter again in Mark 1:16-17 "As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  This time the call of Christ was effective in reaching the ears of Peter's heart, for the passage states he immediately left his nets and followed Jesus. (Mark 1:18)  The resistance to the gospel is the complete work of man, however the response to Jesus' call is due to the grace of God at work.  Every Christian can testify of the times they heard the Gospel and resisted repeated attempts, however upon the hearing of the Gospel in which they believed, Grace alone can be credited for their free response.  Salvation from beginning to end is a work of God's graceful call.

2. Birthed Through Faith. 
Once grace came calling Peter's name through the voice of Christ, Peter's response was immediate.  Faith in the original language means "firm persuasion."  Faith is a Divine gifting of God that turns into a decision of the will. (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9) Faith must first come in order to be freely received and acted upon. (Galatians 3:24-26).  The New Birth is both a miracle that logically preceeds our faith and yet in actual practice is simultaneous with faith.  As the Baptist Faith & message 2000 notes:  "Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace."  Without faith no one can be born again. (John 3:3,16).  Peter was cut to the heart and from Mark 1:16-18 onward followed Christ as a genuine believer. 

3. Boldness
Peter's testimony of grace centered around the boldness by which He expressed his faith-life, whether positively or negatively.  The natural as well as spiritual boldness of Peter placed him first on the listings of twelve disciples mentioned throughout the Gospels. (Matt. 10:2; Mk 3:16; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13)  Once when Jesus slipped off to be alone with His Heavenly Father, Peter led the way to look for Him. (Mark 1:36-37) Peter was the first to confess Jesus as the Christ (Mark 8:29) and was the first to enter into the empty tomb following Christ's resurrection. (John 20:6).  Negatively Peter's denial of Christ is figured quite prominently in all four Gospels, however Peter is restored by Christ in John 21, indicating the leadership role Christ intended for him to perform in the early church.  All in all, Peter's testimony is one of grace, whether in his triumphs or failures.  

4. Brokenness.
Peter's testimony of grace includes those episodes where he experienced humiliation and brokenness before God.  Mark 8:33 has Jesus rebuking him for his impulsive rebuke of Jesus.  Mark 14:72 records the tearful episode wherein Peter denied our Lord three times.  Then of course even later on in his Christian walk, Peter was confronted by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:11ff for his compromise of the Gospel with a powerful Jewish party.  Peter's life was punctuated by brokenness, and yet Jesus restored him in John 21 and Paul was able to still refer to Peter as one of the three pillars of the early church in Galatians 2:9.  Only when we are broken can we be healed.  Every Christian who has moved forward in the faith has only done so when brokenness has occurred. 

Bible Based
When you look at the life of the Apostle Peter, his testimony of grace began with God's call of grace, birthed through faith, was bold, included seasons of brokenness but was also Biblical based.  At the end of John 6 we see many thousands of people leaving Jesus.  Jesus turns to his twelve and inquires as to whether or not they will leave.  Peter's response is that he has no where else to go since Jesus alone has the words of life.  Church history tells us that Peter's preaching was the basis for Mark's Gospel and that he authored the two epistles bearing his name: 1 and 2 Peter.  Throughout the book of Acts we see Peter preaching 5 Biblically saturated sermons. (Acts 2:14-36; 3:11-26; 4:8-12; 10:34-48; 15:7-11)  Peter's love for scripture stemmed from his love for Jesus Christ.  

May we as Christian people be those who have visible and obvious testimonies of grace.  

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