Peter— Imperfect, Impetuous, and Important
I’ve got an encouraging word for you today: God uses imperfect people. Scriptural proof and case in point is Peter the Apostle. Peter wasn’t anything like Paul; although those two men were probably the most important figures of the New Testament outside of Jesus, they were as different as night and day! As a faith leader, you should recognize that different people with varying personalities can all be used by God to build His family. Don’t assume that God prefers one personality type over another. He uses willing vessels—whether they are scholarly like Paul or straightforward like Peter.
A Common Man and Pillar of the Church
I believe most leaders in the body of Christ today can identify more closely with Peter than with Paul. Paul was a Roman citizen (a coveted status) and was highly educated by the premier rabbi of that day. Peter, on the other hand, was just a regular guy, an ordinary fisherman. His family lived in Galilee in the city of Bethsaida, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Later, they relocated to Capernaum. When I take tour groups to Israel, we visit Peter’s home. In the eighth century, a church was built on top of Peter’s house, so although it has been altered, it is still the place where Peter’s family lived, along with his brother Andrew and his mother-in-law.
Peter’s original name was Simon. Simon means hearing. Jesus renamed him Peteror in Greek, Petros, meaning small rock. His Aramaic name was Cephas. The New Testament refers to this important, albeit imperfect man of God 183 times in nine different books. His impact on Christianity was massive. Paul called Peter a pillar of the church.
And when James, Cephas, [Peter] and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (Galatians 2:9)
He Didn’t Immediately Respond to the Call
Peter’s brother Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. He later became an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and he was the one who brought Peter to Jesus. (John 1:39-41) The first time Jesus met Peter, He told the fisherman, “you are a rock.” (Matthew 4:18) Peter didn’t immediately drop everything to follow Jesus; he went back to fishing. Like many of us in the ministry today, Peter didn’t immediately respond to the call of God on his life. Jesus, however, didn’t write Peter off. Peter’s second encounter with Jesus, recorded in the fifth chapter of Luke, led Peter to leave his fishing business to follow Jesus.
And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.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 was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.(Luke 5:1-11)
Impetuous but Bold
Peter often spoke when he should have stayed silent. For example, Jesus publicly chastised Peter for contradicting Him. (Matthew 16:22-24) On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter piped up and suggested he build tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah (Matthew 17:4-5)and the Father spoke from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” In other words, the Father told Peter, “Stop talking and start listening!”
Peter's impulsive mouth got him into some trouble, but his bold faith allowed him to walk on water while the other disciples sat in the boat! Some people call that a failure on Peter's part, but I see it as a victory. Who else do you know that has walked on water? Peter got distracted and didn't finish his water-walking journey, but his bold faith took him somewhere none of his boat sitting companions had been.
Many people remember when Peter disowned Jesus, but they forget that just an hour or so before that, he was willing to die for the Lord. When the soldiers, chief priests, and Pharisees came to arrest Jesus, Peter was the only one to put up a fight. He cut off the High Priest's servant's ear! Had Jesus not restored it immediately, Peter would have likely faced the death penalty.
Peter followed Jesus from a distance throughout His mock trial. When Peter denied the Lord, guilt and shame overtook him. (Matthew 26:69-72) After the crucifixion, Peter decided to return to what he was comfortable with—fishing—and the other disciples followed him. Leaders lead, and people follow leaders—whether they are going the right direction or the wrong direction. That’s why it’s so vital that you, as a faith leader, become grounded and established in God’s Word. Jesus restored Peter and set him back in the ministry. (John 21:16-18) On the day of Pentecost, Peter was the one who stood up in the streets of Jerusalem and preached so powerfully that 3,000 people got saved. Peter’s boldness birthed the church in power!
God used an impetuous, imperfect man to do a very important job. You may not be impulsive, but I can guarantee that you are not perfect. Neither am I. However, I know God uses imperfect people to do great things. Whether you relate more to Paul or to Peter, remember that God has given you unique traits and abilities that He will use when you yield yourself to Him!