Life of Peter, by N.E. Rhodes Jr. — No. 12
WHAT SHALL WE HAVE THEREFORE?
I used to read my Bible for the sole purpose of ascertaining God’s will. Then it occurred to me that I knew more of his will already than I seemed willing to obey. For a while I read my Bible in the hope of gaining recognition as a Bible scholar. But at last I saw that a Bible scholar who shirked obedience was more contemptible than the man who knew nothing about the Bible. I used to read in order to be able to talk religion brilliantly, but then I saw that an unlived religion is easily talked to death.
To Catch the Sense of Value
Today I read my Bible primarily to catch the sense of value, the breathless expectation, of men who have seen farther than I have seen, and can awake within my soul the longing for what they have seen. I want to immerse my mind in their thinking until I come to think like they did. I want to live their adventures with them till they seem as real to me as they were to them. For this is what made them the men they were. Simon Peter was what he was by the grace of God; made that way by what he heard and saw. It is this that the Bible primarily offers us. We climb the mount of transfiguration with Peter in order that we may share in the new point of view that was given him there. I believe it all happened and happened as we find it recorded there. Believing this I find it ridiculous to quibble about life after death or heavenly reward. They are real. Since they are real we can understand the significance of Peter’s question in 2 Peter 3:11, “What manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and Godliness?”
How the Glorious Becomes Practical
Simon Peter has had a taste of the glorious things that be of God on the mount of transfiguration. The time rapidly approaches for him when he must begin to live in keeping with these things. Jesus next makes him face the fact that a man who chooses the things that be of God cannot sit in judgment on a man who clings to the sins of earth. When Peter asks how many times he must forgive a brother who sins against him, Jesus tells him seventy times seven and then gives him the parable of the man who having been forgiven a great debt is condemned because he refused to forgive a small debt. God will forgive Peter of so much that Peter can hardly refuse to forgive others. Peter now discovers that the servant of God cannot be resentful or even demand personal justice. He learns that though he must forgive others he should be careful not to give offense himself. This is taught to him by the incident of the tribute coin in the fish’s mouth. Jesus explains that though they do not actually owe the tax, yet they will pay it simply to avoid giving offense. Peter sees that even when a man chooses the things of God he is not wholly free from paying tribute to the things of men. It begins to look rather discouraging. He must forgive the man who offends him seventy times seven, yet all the while do all those things not actually required of him, to keep from offending the other man. He must give up the world and still pay tribute to the world.
Do We Have the Right to Question Motives ?
Peter is beginning to wonder, so he asks a vital question. “What is in it for me?” His actual words were, “What shall we have?” I have often heard this question of Peter’s condemned. Peter is accused of serving the Lord for the wrong motive. This may be true but still we must remember that he was serving. What right do we have to question the motives of a man who gave up his home, his business, his reputation, and his friends for Jesus? What have we given up? We live in comfortable beds and criticize a man with his head pillowed on a rock. We count our dollars and sneer at a man who gave up his source of income for Jesus. That man who lives a pure life for any reason whatever is better than the impure man. That man who tells the truth just because he is hell scared is still ahead of a liar. That man who follows Christ with a reward motive in mind is still better than the man who doesn’t follow.
Peter Asks a Permissible Question
I notice too that Jesus does not resent the question. There were questions he refused to answer and quibbles that he ignored. Examples of such are, “Make my brother share the inheritance with me,” and “What shall this man do?” But the question of Peter concerning future reward, he answers readily and in glowing terms. The men who sacrifice everything for the kingdom will receive back far more than they have given and in the end eternal life.
Eternal life is a theme not very popular today. When you do hear it discussed men try somehow to equate it with time. This is because men’s minds are centered on time. They savor the things that be of men. In the matter of morals men consider anything right that is in keeping with the times. Anything short of nudity is modest apparel because this is the age of abbreviated costumes. Anything short of fornication is permissible, whether the petting is done in time to music or not, because this is an enlightened age of freedom. This is the age when men are more concerned for the health of their temporal bodies than the future of their eternal souls. The doctrine that what is wrong in one age may be right in another has become very popular. I do not intend, at this time, to discuss this idea analytically. I simply point out that it exists to show you how completely men’s minds are taken over by time. Even preachers deal only in time and seem to forget about eternity altogether. But the Bible they profess to believe seeks constantly to call our minds away from time to eternity.
When Peter asked, “What shall we have?” he was asking a permissible question. It was a question he himself would later strive to answer in 2 Peter 3. It might be well if at this point we stopped and read that chapter. Let the glory that Christ offers seep into our hearts. Then perhaps we will be ready to contrast what little we can know of eternity with the fraudulent claims of time. We cannot contrast the things that be of men with the things that be of God. It is my purpose to say more of the eternal reward promised to the faithful but that will have to be done at some other time.