The Holy Spirit brought Peter back from an embarrassing fall to be the leader who opened the door to God’s Kingdom for the Gentiles and the world. I do know that the Holy Spirit also brought me back from a life that was going in the wrong direction, which required a dramatic change and adjustment so that I could become a servant of men and God. Imagine what he can do for you if you decide to partner with the Holy Spirit of the Lord? Those that did, after Pentecost, propelled the Kingdom of God into the world.
King Herod’s Persecution added to the Growth of the Jesus Movement
The influx of people in Jerusalem created a health and sanitation problems enough to shut down the city. The Jewish Christians were not scattering, but they were gathering for some event in Jerusalem. The religious leaders could not halt the increase. The Romans had no reason to disrupt a peaceful movement that did not require a military for force. But Herod feared the rumor that Jesus was on his way back to unseat him as king. Herod’s grandfather killed the baby boys when Jesus was born, his father beheaded John the Baptist, and decapitated James Zebedee. Herod’s evil intentions became the means that drove the Christians out of Jerusalem before the Jewish rebels forced Rome to shut Jerusalem and Judea down. Peter, too, had to be rescued and he too left the area.
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell of his hands. And The angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on you sandals.” And did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your mantle around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When he had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. And Peter came to himself, and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
When he realized this he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And Rhoda came to answer Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and told that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are mad.” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking; and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell this to James and to the brethren.” Then he departed and went to another place (Acts 12:1-17).
Peter’s Last Appearance was in Antioch and at the First Church Council in Jerusalem
The stoning of Stephen and Herod’s persecution were directly responsible for the Gospel being carried to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. Antioch became the second Jerusalem. Barnabas was dispatched to examine the growth and he instantly saw the need for a person like Saul to become the head teacher in Antioch. It was mostly a Greek congregation, and it was being endangered by Judaizers who tried to turn them into Jews before they could become Christians. Peter, who had been neutralized by Cornelius relapsed, and he sided with the circumcision group in Antioch. However, Peter repented at the Council in Jerusalem. Saul made Peter change his attitude towards the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-14). It was Peter, who learned first-hand, how patient God is with man and with us.
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will burned up.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hasting the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire. But according to his promise we wait for the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (II Peter 3:8-18).
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number that believed turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world; and this took place in the days of Claudius. And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea; and they dis did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:19-30).
Peter did what was Right and he Obeyed the Holy Spirit by Admitting the Gentiles
Based on what Jesus may or may not have intended in Matthew 16:16-19. The Latin leaders believed that Peter was the first Pope. In John 20:21-23, Jesus charged all of his eleven disciples to go and make converts; and so He did in Matthew 28:16-20. And in John 21:15-22, Jesus put, in Peter’s care, ten disciples and excluded John. At the time when the first council gathered, James, the Lord’s brother, had taken over the leadership in Jerusalem. And Paul overshadowed Peter in the Gentile world. Peter’s last contribution was to side with Paul and Barnabas to convince James and the other leaders to abstain from forcing the Gentiles to become Jews by circumcision. If it were not for Silas, his friend, who helped Peter to publish some of his thoughts, the believers in Christ had not much to rely on (I Peter 5:12). Tradition has come up with the idea that Peter went to Rome (Babylon) with Mark (I Peter 5:13), was crucified upside down, and his death inspired his followers to lift him above Paul. Peter, himself, appeared aloof from being the head of any organization. He was not the kind of person who would demand that his feet be washed (John 13:8).
But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to charge them to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and the elders were gathered to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Pete rose and said to them, “brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows he heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brethren, listen to me. Symeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild the ruins, and I will set it up, that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who has made these things known from of old.’
Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the pollution of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangles and from blood. For from early generations Moses has had in every city those who preach him, for he is read every sabbath in the synagogues” (Acts 15:5-21).
Peter Became an Example of the Forbearance of God
Forbearance is the period of grace God grants to every person. That period of grace is to allow sufficient time to prepare for eternity. Eternity begins when we breathe our last breath. For Peter, salvation was not complete until the human spirit could safely pass into the “Arms of God.” Faith, to Peter, was a journey! And faith did get sidetracked, pushed off course; and therefore, faith again must find its way back to the road, which grants safe passage into the other side. The human soul does not rest until it rests in the “One” who gave of Himself to make man, in “His Image and in His Likeness.” The “Breath and the Spirit of God” breathes in every chest (Genesis 2:7; Acts 17:28). Peter must have remembered how concerned Jesus was about his disciple’s faith persevering and to stay resilient (Luke 18:8). No one else had the experience that the disciples enjoyed with Jesus the Christ and Lord. Peter shared these rare blessings with his people in his Epistle.
In that hour he (Jesus) rejoiced in the Holy Spirit ad said, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Luke 10:21-24).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted you. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.
The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (I Peter 1:3-12).
Peter Learned that Faith had to be Forified and Reinforced to get Him to the Finish Line
Faith is the vehicle of salvation and not salvation itself. Faith has to be maintained and regulated by the believer. The Holy Spirit always is on hand to assist with the filling of the right fuel. Faith will severely be tested mentally and physically in this world. Tribulations will persist until the believer’s last breath (John 16:33). One filling, like a conversion and the rebirth, will not suffice. To keep the faith is an endless process of cleaning and choosing the right fuel. For Peter, to maintain the faith, was to maintain salvation and that maintenance was a full time task.
Therefore gird your minds, be sober, set your hope fully on the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake. Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides forever.”
That word is the good news which was preached to you.
So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander. Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to e a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stand in scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but to those who do not believe, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,” and “A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall”; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do (I Peter 1:13-2:8).