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One of the most convincing proofs of the perfect truthfulness of the Bible is how honest it is about its greatest heroes. The Bible reveals the universality of sin plainly: “None is righteous, no, not one. . . . All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10–12). There aren’t many characters in the Bible about whom we know many things who don’t at some point reveal personal sin. Perhaps no great leader in the Bible so clearly demonstrates this than the erratic Apostle Peter. Yet at the same time, an even greater biblical theme is how transcendently powerful the grace of God is in Christ, infinitely greater than all our sins. The transforming power of the Word of God will be most seen for all eternity in this one dynamic: “God . . . gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom. 4:17). God says, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), and there is light. So Christ calls erratic Peter a rock, and then makes him so.

Why do I call Peter erratic? On one unforgettable afternoon in Caesarea Philippi, Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, resulting in Jesus’ calling him Peter and saying that He would build His church on that rock. Moments later, however, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him when Jesus predicted that He would die on the cross, whereupon Jesus said to him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matt. 16:15–23). Peter would contradict Jesus three more times: (1) when Jesus wanted to wash his feet (Peter said, “Never!”; John 13:8); (2) when Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three times that very night (Peter said, “Never!”; Mark 14:31); and (3) when the Lord from heaven commanded Peter to rise, kill, and eat “unclean” foods (Peter said, “Never!”; Acts 10:14). In all three cases, Peter thought that he knew better than the Lord. Peter’s nadir came the night that he denied Jesus three times, even calling down curses on himself to save his own life.

Yet Christ forgave him, restored him, and employed him to begin the massive work of harvesting souls on the day of Pentecost through the clear proclamation of the gospel. He filled Peter with the Spirit of boldness to testify fearlessly to the Sanhedrin of the resurrection of Christ. He filled Peter with the Spirit of revelation to write two epistles whose truths have strengthened millions of Christians for twenty centuries. And He made Peter (and the other Apostles) the rock on which the church of Christ would be built through their eyewitness testimony to Christ’s finished work on the cross.

For us sinners who are just as erratic, Peter’s story is inspirational. The same power of Christ is working in us, making us “living stones” and then fitting us permanently in His spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:5).

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From the July 2024 Issue
Jul 2024 Issue