CONTEND 2 by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Who comes to your mind from the Bible when I say old (Methuselah), strong (Samson), beauty queen (Esther), apostle/missionary (Paul)? But, how about fisherman, impulsive, denier? They would all be Peter. None of us would ever say “Peter the apologist.” In fact, when it comes to Christian apologetics, we usually think of the Apostle Paul – his conversion experience, his preaching on Mars Hill, and even his testimony before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa who said, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” As we go back for round 2 of our Contend series, I want to begin by reading what is considered the “go to” verse for Christian apologetics. Guess where it is found? I Peter! Main point: Being an apologist is not about being argumentative or defensive over the faith. It is about giving a reasonable defense of the biblical faith that will lead people to the gospel of Jesus Christ and becoming solidly grounded in their faith. The call to be an apologist is not just to a select few; it is to all believers.
1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”
Context: “Always be ready to give a defense” = the Greek word for “defense” is the noun form of “apologia,” from which we get the word “apologetics.” Peter was much more than just some impulsive fisherman. He was also an apologist. I want us to walk through Peter’s life from the gospels, Acts, and his own letters to see what it takes to be an apologist:
1. Peter had a living encounter with Jesus Christ.
John 1 40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). Peter’s brother, Andrew, was a disciple of John the Baptizer, but it doesn’t say that Peter was. It could also have been that Peter was a disciple of John too but may have been busy that day or possibly even drifted away. Nonetheless, Andrew found Peter and 42 “And he brought him to Jesus…”
There are several applications here:
- Sometimes, it may be hard to reach our own family; but when we do, the rewards are tremendous.
- Even though Andrew was the first to follow Jesus, Peter took on a central role, became part of the inner circle with James and John, and became a pillar of early church. Nevertheless, the credit to bringing Peter was given to Andrew.
42 …Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). Every time in the Bible God changed someone’s name, it reflected something much greater – Abram became Abraham; Sarai became Sarah; Jacob became Israel; Saul became Paul. Name change implied a deep work of God in a person. Here Jesus called him Cephas (Kephas), which in Aramaic meant, “rock.” Rock in Greek was Peter. Why Rock? It symbolized stability, dependability, endurance, and perseverance.
Application: Have you had a living encounter with Jesus Christ? Have you received your new name from him?
2. Peter had to grow in his understanding of discipleship.
Jesus had to call Peter again later – Matthew 4 18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
It took Peter sometime to understand what it meant to remain and abide with Jesus, but he did. John 6 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Peter made that declaration again and Jesus reaffirmed his new name – Matthew 16 13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Application: Have you had an encounter with Jesus Christ? Have you received your new name from him? Are you built upon him? Have you declared your allegiance to him?
3. Peter had many misunderstandings that had to be corrected.
To begin with, the incident on the Mount of Transfiguration – Mark 9 5 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— 6 because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. (in case you didn’t know, according to church tradition, Peter was behind the Gospel of Mark.) 7 And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”
Then, a sort of a funny incident – Matthew 16 21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” By the way, just 4 verses earlier, Jesus had complemented him for saying “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” and promised him the keys of the kingdom of heaven!
Then, the infamous incident in John 13, at the Last Supper, when Jesus had told them that he had to go away and they couldn’t follow him now, listen to verse 36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38 Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times. As you know, Peter denied Christ three times with cursing. Of course, he repented and was restored.
Application: Have you fallen on your face in your spiritual journey? You thought you were doing so good and then you did something so bad. Could it be that you were stepping farther than God wanted you to go? Were you trusting in your strength and power?
4. Peter was willing to be bold for the gospel.
Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. As you know, 3000 got saved!
Then at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, Acts 3 4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Of course, it got them arrested, but it gave them another opportunity to preach the gospel. Acts 4 18So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
Illustration: I was talking to someone sometime back. This person had been through a terrible accident that had made them disabled. We began to talk, and the person said that God had him here for a purpose. I thought that this was great! He’s talking about faith in God. Then, he said, “And, you don’t have to believe all this Jesus stuff.” I wanted to walk away. The Holy Spirit told me not to leave until I mentioned the name of Jesus. I did, and he backed down.
Application: Are you bold for the gospel of Jesus Christ? How about even praying before a meal in public places?
5. Peter valued the gospel far more than his personal honor.
Galatians 2. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
How would you have thought of Paul from then on? 2 Peter 3 14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
Invitation: Have you had a living encounter with Jesus? Are you growing in your understanding of discipleship? Are you willing to be corrected for your misunderstandings? Are you willing to be bold for the gospel? Does personal honor matter more to you than the gospel?