Life of Peter, by N.E. Rhodes Jr. — No. 21

APPOINTMENT IN JERUSALEM

For some years I have believed the epistle by Luke that we call the “Acts of the Apostles” should be called the “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” I have heard men say that Simon Peter dominates the first third of Acts and Paul dominates the latter two thirds. I consider this a mistake for actually the Holy Spirit dominates the entire book.

The second chapter of the Acts is one of the vital chapters of the Bible. Almost no Bible scholar will deny this. There is very little argument about what is actually taught there but a great deal of argument concerning how much and what part of it is applicable today. Even if we narrow our sights down to Acts 2:38 the argument goes on. Some people want to retain baptism for the remission of sins but dispense with, “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Others want to retain the gift of the Holy Ghost but dispense with baptism for the remission of sins.

Recently I heard a man say he would like to hear someone preach on the second chapter of Acts without working in a lot of doctrine. But nobody needs to work doctrine into a sermon on Acts 2. The doctrine is already there.

The Holy Spirit Empowers Peter

With the descent of the Holy Spirit and the resultant gathering of the crowd to witness the strange things taking place, Simon Peter began a new phase of his discipleship. I have heard men argue that Peter was the chief speaker on this occasion merely because of his natural outspokenness. I think they are wrong. On this occasion the Apostles were under an almost absolute sway of the Holy Spirit. They spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance. They said what the Spirit gave them to say when the Spirit desired them to say it. Peter was the chief speaker because he was chosen by the Spirit for the task. His sermon was the message the Spirit gave. It was a Christ centered message. The message of the Holy Spirit always is.

Peter proclaimed that the crucified Jesus was risen and that He was the Messiah. He cited the strange events taking place as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, concerning the coming of the kingdom. He said nothing concerning what the response to the message should be until he was asked. He preached Jesus, nothing more. But the preaching of this message had a powerful effect upon his audience. They were struck to the heart. Peter waited until they asked before he told them what they should do. When they asked he answered briefly and pointedly. His answer was neither hard to understand nor difficult to obey. Why there should ever have been any controversy concerning it is hard to see. We may argue about it today after the muddy streams of human imagination have sullied it through the centuries, but on the day it was given it seemed to leave no doubt or confusion in the minds of even the simplest men there. Peter spoke and they heard and obeyed. They seemed to know exactly what was expected of them. They repented and were baptized for the remission of sins. Their sins were forgiven, they received the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Lord added them to his church. Problems would arise but this was no problem. Debates would occur but this was not considered a question moot enough for debate. They simply heard and obeyed. They were all baptized. Not one of the early Christians left it off so far as we know.

The Holy Spirit Transforms Peter

From this time on we shall have to think differently of Peter, if we are to understand him at all. Up until Pentecost we have been studying a very loveable but very frail individual coming in contact with events that were too big for him. After Pentecost we will be looking at a man moved by the Spirit of God and bringing about events that are well nigh too big for us. This does not mean that Peter became either a perfect man or a superman. It means simply that from this time on he was God’s man. He was still prone to make mistakes and at least on one occasion was to be blamed. But his life was pervaded by a Presence and guided by a Wisdom that men recognized and reacted to in one way or another. We even read of people bringing their sick to lie under his passing shadow that they might be healed.

Never again could this man live for his own advantage. He was God’s man and so he belonged to God’s people and to all people who needed him. God had given him greatness and, in so doing, had made him the servant of all. It is ever the price of true greatness. Jesus had said, “Let him that would be great among you become your servant.” It is still true today. That man who would follow the direction of the Holy Spirit to true greatness must be willing to be the servant of all. He can live for himself no longer. There is a dedication of purpose, a consecration of life, and a denial of self that is absolutely necessary. That man unwilling for such sacrifice beats upon the door of greatness in vain. His walk with God must ever be a stumbling one. The man who remains anxious about his own career and ambitious for his own glory and advancement has neither part nor lot in this matter. This kind of greatness is not built on talent, human brilliance, or pull. I have known many men who were brilliant and talented speakers but who never became great preachers. They were unwilling to pay the price.

There are men who gaze hungrily at the power and glory active through Peter who would turn fearfully from Peter’s life. I have seen men envy other men when they would have been completely unwilling to trade places with those men. God is no respecter of persons. He exists for all. Let us not then belittle even our own mediocrity by envying that man who pays the price and walks with God. Let us rather warm our own cold hearts by the side of his blazing faith and perhaps catch the· warm contagion of the Spirit that pervades him.

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