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Lesson 9: A Pillar of Mission: The Apostle Peter *

Introduction: Last week we looked at Peter's "early years" in the ministry. His failure to understand the self-sacrificing nature of the gospel work ahead of him was replaced with an understanding of his true mission and the future glory which awaited him in heaven. What can we learn from a mature Peter? How does a mature Christian live? Or, is Peter not an example for us because he was given special authority not available to us? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and find out!

  1. Pope Peter?

    1. Read Matthew 16:13-14. Many organizations hire a "clipping service" to collect all of the newspaper reports that mention them. They want to know how they are portrayed in the press. Is Jesus asking for a similar service from His disciples? What is Jesus' motive for asking? (Jesus may have been curious about the public's perception of Him, but what He was really looking for was how His disciples viewed Him.)

    2. Read Matthew 16:15-17. Last week we discussed Peter's failure to take advice with the result that he had a wrong view of Jesus' role on earth. (See Matthew 16:21-23.) Does Peter's answer fit with his (then wrong) view? (Peter thought Jesus would establish a kingdom on earth and what Peter says here is compatible with that view.)

      1. Has Peter taken advice here? ( Matthew 16:17 says God revealed this to Peter. He was taking advice - at least at that moment.)

    3. Read Matthew 16:18. Who or what is this rock? (Peter's name in Greek means rock or a stone. Jesus is saying "You are a rock (or a stone) and on this rock I will build my church.")

      1. It seems that Jesus is literally referring to building His church on Peter. Is that what you think Jesus means? (Strong's says the Greek for Peter means "a piece of rock" while the Greek for the word rock in this verse means "a mass of rock.")

      2. Read 1 Corinthians 10:3-4. Who is the rock here?

      3. Ephesians 2:19-20. Who or what is the rock here?

      4. Read 1 Peter 2:7-8. Who or what is the rock here?

    4. Protestants argue that the rock of Matthew 16:18 is not Peter. Last week we studied some of Peter's very "un-rock" like failures. However, since the text says that Jesus will build His church on this rock, would that not include Peter? (I think we are missing an important lesson when we totally dismiss Catholic claims that Peter is the rock and the "First Pope." Ephesians 2:20 teaches us that the apostles and prophets were a "foundation" and Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone. This suggests that Jesus is the Rock, and the apostles (including Peter) are rocks in the foundation of the church. Peter's confession of Jesus as God is also a rock - for this is the theological foundation of the church.)

      1. Do you have a gate at your home? Have you ever been attacked by a gate? What does Jesus mean in Matthew 16:18 that Hell's gates will not overcome the church? (I like this word picture. Gates don't attack, they defend. This is a picture of the church taking on evil. Evil is on the defensive against righteousness.)

    5. Read Matthew 16:19. What do you get for having "rock" status? What kind of a "key" are you given? (You get the keys to heaven.)

      1. What does that mean? (I'm far from sure what all it means. However, when I'm given the keys to a car or to a house I am in charge. I am able to enter them and use them. I can let others in or keep others out. I think that at a minimum, those who acknowledge the divinity of Jesus are given access to heaven. Those who were apostles then, and who are church leaders now, are given special privileges and responsibilities to invite others into the Kingdom of Heaven.)

      2. When Jesus says that the apostles (and current church leaders?) get to "bind" and "loose," things, what does He mean? (Read Acts 15:5-11. Here Peter says that the Gentile converts should not have to follow the law of Moses. If you continue by scanning Acts 15:12-21 you will see that James delivered the judgment that only the matters specified in Acts 15:20 would still be binding from the ceremonial law. Peter and the church are here "loosing" commands given to Moses by God.)

        1. We see in this event that James, not Peter, seems to hand down the final word. Read Matthew 18:15-18. This is Jesus speaking to His disciples (and perhaps a listening crowd). What does this context suggest about binding and loosing? (It suggests this addresses disputes within the church.)

  2. Rock Peter

    1. Read Acts 2:1-4 and Acts 2:14-16. This describes the first day of Pentecost following Jesus' resurrection. What significance does Pentecost have to the early church? (This is where Jews from ( Acts 2:5) "every nation under heaven" got to see the power of the Holy Spirit and hear that Jesus was the Messiah!)

      1. Who is the leader in this event? (Peter!)

    2. Read Acts 10:9-13 and Acts 10:16-18. What is the meaning of Peter's vision? (If you do not know this story, read all of Acts 10. The meaning of the story is that Peter should not call Gentiles "unclean" and refuse to share the gospel with them. The specific application was to Cornelius and his representatives.)

      1. What does this event add to Peter's resume? (Peter was first in preaching to the Jews world-wide at Pentecost. If Acts is written in chronological order, Peter is now the leader in sharing the gospel with the Gentiles. In Acts 15:7 Peter confirms this idea by saying the Gentiles heard the gospel "from my lips.")

    3. Read Acts 2:42-43. What new activity do we find among the apostles? (They performed "many wonders and miraculous signs.")

      1. Why was this power found just among the apostles, and not the members? Is this part of the "binding and loosing" authority?

    4. Read Acts 3:1-5. If you were this beggar, what would you expect?

    5. Read Acts 3:6-8. What do we add to Peter's resume now? ( Acts 2:43 tells us that many miracles were performed by the apostles, but Peter performs the first recorded miracle.)

      1. Look again at Acts 3:6. Does Peter perform this miracle in the authority given to him? (No, he performs it in the name and power of Jesus.)

        1. What, exactly, does Peter have (verse 6 "but what I have I give to you") which he gives to this crippled beggar?

        2. Is Peter sharing his "binding and loosing" power? (Read Mark 16:15-18. It would be easy to say that Peter (and the other apostles) had special power not available to the rest of the believers. But, Jesus' words in Mark 16:17-18 show that the power is available to all who believe. Peter is sharing with the beggar his faith and his access to the power of God.)

    6. Read Acts 5:15. Did this work? Read Acts 19:11-12. Did this work? (The first text does not say that this worked, but the second text tells us it did work. My guess is that if touching Paul's handkerchief got you healed, Peter's shadow should be enough.)

    7. As you consider all of these attributes about Peter, is it fair to call him a "rock"? What about the "First Pope?"

  3. Rocky Peter

    1. Read Galatians 2:8-10. How is Peter involved in the organization of the work of the early church? (They divided the work among the various people.)

    2. Read Galatians 2:11-13. Why did Peter change his practices?

      1. How could a man who had the vision of the unclean animals do this? Why would he do it?

    3. Read Galatians 2:14-16. How are eating relationships part of the "truth of the gospel?" (The truth of the gospel is that the gospel is for all people. I believe Peter acted as he did to try to avoid controversy with the Jewish Christians who were sent by James.)

      1. What does this teach us about Peter the Rock? (Even church leaders can be wrong. Even those blessed by God to open new frontiers for the gospel can make mistakes.)

    1. Friend, have you made mistakes during your Christian life? Do you find, that even after you are a mature Christian, you still make them? Peter's story is an encouragement to all sinners who want to follow their Lord. Peter's miraculous work is an example to all who want to do great things for God.

  1. Next week: Women of Mission.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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