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From Disciple Simon to Apostle Peter - an Amazing Transformation

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Most of us find Peter to be likable and lovable from the moment we are first introduced to him. He definitely had his natural strengths. He was outgoing, gregarious, transparent and enthusiastic. Most important of all, he loved Christ.

Because of being impulsive and strong-willed, his faults were also quite obvious. That’s what enables us to see such a contrast after he was converted. Because of that contrast, Peter’s example and writings are a great inspiration.

Unstable, Impulsive and Insecure Simon

Simon was anything but a rock. He wasn’t dependable the way a Christian leader needs to be. Without God’s Spirit, he often spoke or acted in a way that would be inappropriate for a Christian. His actions belied an underlying insecurity in spite of his outward confidence.

Think of some of his impulsive actions: In Capernaum Peter invited Jesus and the disciples to his house even though his wife’s mother was sick in bed (Mark 1:29-30 Mark 1:29-30 29 And immediately, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and immediately they tell him of her.
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). When Peter saw Jesus walking on water, he said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” (Matthew 14:28 Matthew 14:28And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be you, bid me come to you on the water.
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). He impulsively tried to kill the servant of the high priest (John 18:10 John 18:10Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
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). When Christ appeared to Peter and some of the other disciples when they were fishing on the Sea of Tiberius, Peter “put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea ” (John 21:7 John 21:7Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat to him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
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, emphasis added throughout).

All four Gospels tell of Peter’s shameful denial of Jesus. The main reason for this emphasis is probably to reassure us that God will forgive even the worst of sins. But it also shows Peter’s fear, cowardice and lack of commitment at times. He even “began to curse and swear,” perhaps relapsing into habits from his earlier life (Matthew 26:73-74 Matthew 26:73-74 73 And after a while came to him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely you also are one of them; for your speech denudes you. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
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).

Simon Peter was not yet a rock of steadfastness and godly character.

The process of conversion isn’t completed at baptism. We see evidence of Peter’s further growth long after he received the Holy Spirit. Consider how Peter shrank back from eating with gentiles when men from the Jerusalem church were present—and this was many years after his conversion (Galatians 2:11-13 Galatians 2:11-13 11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; so that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
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). However, much to Peter’s credit, he evidently took Paul’s correction well and repented of that.

With all of Peter’s strengths and abilities, it seems a little odd that he would have some underlying insecurity. But character traits are largely formed by experiences in childhood, and who knows what Peter’s childhood was like.

Bold Simon

Peter is known for being bold, spontaneous and impulsive, but without knowing more about his background, it is impossible to know what caused him to be that way.

Peter was outspoken, which can be both good and bad. When Jesus asked His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter immediately and emphatically stated, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16 Matthew 16:15-16 15 He said to them, But whom say you that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
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). Jesus was clearly pleased with Peter’s understanding and reverence. It could be that Jesus’ compliment went to Peter’s head, but we cannot know with certainty.

Right after that, Jesus described His upcoming death and the events that would lead up to that. “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’” (verse 22). Peter apparently took hold of Jesus, nudged Him to one side and began to correct Him sternly! This was audacious, presumptuous and foolish.

Then Jesus “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’” (verse 23). Shortly after Jesus had praised Peter He gave him a stern reprimand, calling him “Satan”! That’s because Peter began relying on human reasoning and was speaking in opposition to God’s divine plan.

In the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus was arrested, He told His disciples that all of them would “stumble” and be “scattered.” “Peter answered and said [bragged] to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble’” (Matthew 26:33 Matthew 26:33Peter answered and said to him, Though all men shall be offended because of you, yet will I never be offended.
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).

Ah, “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 1 Corinthians 10:12Why let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
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). “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 Proverbs 16:18Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
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). Peter was undoubtedly sincere, but any unconverted person is blind to his own weaknesses.

Presumptuous Simon

The next chapter tells about the transfiguration of Jesus that Peter, James and John were invited to witness. “And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’” (Matthew 17:3-4 Matthew 17:3-4 3 And, behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4 Then answered Peter, and said to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if you will, let us make here three tabernacles; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
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a).

Peter, the compulsive talker, interrupted the discussion between Jesus, Moses and Elijah and “answered”—even though no one had asked him anything or invited him to speak! First he made a trite comment and then went on to offer his advice!

“While he [Peter] was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” (verse 5). Perhaps Peter learned to be less quick to assume he understood the spiritual implications of a given circumstance.

Solid Rocklike Peter

Simon’s unconverted character was unarguably less stable than his converted nature. But in spite of Simon’s impulsiveness and inconsistencies, Jesus prophetically named him for what, by God’s grace, he would become. After Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, “when Jesus looked at him, He said, ‘You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated, A Stone)” (John 1:42 John 1:42And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, You are Simon the son of Jona: you shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
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). Cephas is Aramaic, and Peter is Greek.

Peter became a rock-solid pillar in the Church and part of its foundation.

Peter’s first recorded sermon is related in Acts 1:15-22 Acts 1:15-22 15 And in those days Peter stood up in the middle of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) 16 Men and brothers, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spoke before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. 17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. 18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the middle, and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it was known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem; so as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his position as bishop let another take. 21 Why of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, to that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
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. Already we see an added dimension of sobriety, maturity, wisdom and knowledge of Scripture, clearly inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. With his second sermon in Acts 2, we see a mighty preacher of the gospel giving a focused and powerful masterpiece of a sermon.

Acts 3:1 Acts 3:1Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
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tells us that “Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer.” That shows a willingness to go where the people were, as Jesus had instructed Peter to do.

When Peter and John were arrested, they were inspired and fearless in their testimony because they were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8 Acts 4:8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them, You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
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). The officers “saw the boldness of Peter and John” and marveled (verse 13).

Humble Peter

Peter went through the most humbling experience imaginable. He well understood the gravity of having forsaken and even denied Jesus Christ. He had “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62 Luke 22:62And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
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). All of us have let Christ down many times, although in less dramatic ways.

So it was a very emotional time when Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17 John 21:15-17 15 So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me more than these? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my lambs. 16 He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my sheep. 17 He said to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Love you me? And he said to him, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my sheep.
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). Each time Peter answered in the affirmative, and Jesus responded with, “Feed My lambs… Tend My sheep… Feed My sheep.” That’s a sobering message Jesus meant for all of us.

After Pentecost, Peter was no longer self-centered and vain. He sought to do all to the glory of God. When Peter healed the lame man at the temple and a crowd gathered in amazement, Peter said to them, “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12 Acts 3:12And when Peter saw it, he answered to the people, You men of Israel, why marvel you at this? or why look you so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
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). He let them know it was by the power and name of Jesus Christ (verses 13-16).

Peter wrote, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility , for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6 1 Peter 5:5-6 5 Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
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).

Peter begins his second epistle with “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ” and speaks of Jesus as “ our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1 2 Peter 1:1Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ:
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).

Peter’s humility and loving-kindness are evident all through his two epistles.

Spiritual humility is indicated by regular reliance on prayer. Acts 3:1 Acts 3:1Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
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; 4:31; 6:4; and 10:9 are examples of Peter’s devotion to prayer.

Respectful and Submissive Peter

Who would have thought that Simon—independent, self-willed, strong-willed, presumptuous, brash and bragging Simon—would become a role model of a humble servant-leader, having a shepherd’s heart? But all that we read of Peter in the book of Acts shows him to be that humble, dedicated example. His two epistles are filled with beautiful instruction on how to live the Spirit-filled life.

Peter makes it clear that what motivates and empowers us is the “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 1 Peter 1:3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
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). This first epistle has a theme of hope (1:13; 1:21; 3:15).

Peter explains that we should be grateful even for our trials, though “tested by fire,” and that we should “rejoice with joy inexpressible” because of our great hope (1 Peter 1:6-11 1 Peter 1:6-11 6 Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 10 Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come to you: 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
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).

After giving us the big picture in chapter 1, chapter 2 begins with: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:1-2 1 Peter 2:1-2 1 Why laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby:
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).

Then notice his theme of submission to authority.

“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14 1 Peter 2:13-14 13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or to governors, as to them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
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).

“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:18-20 1 Peter 2:18-20 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the fraudulent. 19 For this is thank worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when you be buffeted for your faults, you shall take it patiently? but if, when you do well, and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
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).

Then Peter reminds us of the example of Jesus Christ who submitted to the authorities and did not retaliate or revile but “committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-25 1 Peter 2:21-25 21 For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously: 24 Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were as sheep going astray; but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
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).

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (1 Peter 3:1-2 1 Peter 3:1-2 1 Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
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).

“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7 1 Peter 3:7Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
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). The word “likewise” indicates that Peter considered this a continuation of his theme of submission. A loving, self-sacrificing husband will suppress his natural selfish inclinations and put first the needs and desires of his wife.

The next section begins with “finally,” which indicates this is still part of his theme, plus it amplifies the theme to the larger beautiful picture.

“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

“For ‘He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil’” (1 Peter 3:8-12 1 Peter 3:8-12 8 Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that you are thereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
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).

In chapter 5, Peter reminds elders that they are to be good shepherds to “the flock of God,” as we will give account to “the Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:1-4 1 Peter 5:1-4 1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.
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).

Then Peter writes, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6 1 Peter 5:5-6 5 Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
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).

Disciple Simon Became the Apostle Peter!

Yes, who would have expected Simon to become a primary example of rock-solid conversion, truly living up to his new name Peter? And who would have expected Simon to become one of the world’s greatest teachers of love, hope, humility and respect for and submission to authority?

Spiritual conversion requires the greatest miracle of all, but God’s Word is reassuring. If people like Peter and Paul could become deeply converted, then we know there is hope for all the rest of us.