Thoughts on Simon Peter: 7. His Life and Testimony

Matthew 16:18  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
THE first testimony used of God in blessing to Simon was exceedingly simple. The preacher gave what he had, what God had made his own; he did not attempt anything beyond his measure of faith” We have found the Messiah.” This is strikingly characteristic of the testimony of all in John 1, and such testimony be it little or much is always precious, stamped as it is with divine certainty. It certainly went no farther than Jewish expectation—Messiah, the object of prophecy; Messiah on earth, a sure foundation for faith in Israel's worst condition (Isa. 28:1616Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (Isaiah 28:16)), but not Messiah fully revealed in the intrinsic glory of His Person. It was this full revelation that, by the express teaching of the Father, was to be the sure foundation of Christian blessing as distinct from Judaism. Peter's faith and confession must be ours if we are to enter into God's present truth, and know the present truth, and learn the present work of Christ, the building of His church— “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Immediately on this unique confession further truth was given. Jesus answered— “I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter (Petros, a stone); and upon this rock (petra) I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
The Person of the Christ, the security of His church! What exalted revelations to an unlettered man, who had so recently confessed himself a sinful one! Can we wonder at the certainty with which he presents these truths in his Epistles? He does not rise to the higher things found in the writings of Paul; but, for the suffering and the weak in the church, where is there any testimony more calculated to strengthen with strength in the soul than his? The heart needs it more than ever; for the gates of Hades, unless by faith seen to be overcome, are mighty with all the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:1414Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; (Hebrews 2:14)). Many a trembling saint has found it so when nearing the grave, for in present ministry little is done for delivering souls from bondage through fear of death, for clearing the perception of the life given them as beyond the enemy's power by the resurrection of Christ from the dead and for enabling them to know, enjoy, and confess their risen and heavenly standing in Christ. Heaven is doubtless extolled in sermons and hymns; but for many it is in the distant future when everything here fails. Jews, as it were, now seeking earthly things, and Christians hereafter, they have but little “to counteract the strong currents of their natural delight and desires.”
But for the Jews, even the godly, let it be remembered, the gates of Hades were not overthrown; none could anticipate the Christian “desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.” There is a touching pathos in the lamentation of Hezekiah when commanded to set his house in order, for he shall die and not live— “I said, in the cutting off of my days I shall go to the gates of the grave...I said, I shall not see Jehovah, even Jehovah in the land of the living; I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world...From day even to night thou wilt make an end of me” (Isa. 28:10, 1110For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. (Isaiah 28:10‑11)). Yea, from the fall in Eden until the risen Christ began to build His church, who among men was not exposed to bondage through the fear of death? (See Psa. 6:5; 88:10-12; 115:175For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? (Psalm 6:5)
10Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah. 11Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? 12Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (Psalm 88:10‑12)
17The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. (Psalm 115:17)
). How intense was the grief, how great the despondencies, almost amounting to despair, of the disciples during the time the Lord lay in the grave! Thomas was the most outspoken, but not even John knew the scripture that He must rise again from the dead. And, when the women, who were early at the sepulcher and found not His body, came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive, their words seemed to the rest as idle tales (mockery). Indeed, so real was the power of death over their spirits, that when “the Lord Himself stood in the midst of them, and said unto them, Peace be unto you, they were terrified and affrighted, supposing they beheld a spirit"—that the pains of death still held Him (Luke 24).
Surely the gates of Hades are mighty, a terrible reality; and their total overthrow by the resurrection of Christ is a glorious fact for faith, setting the soul at liberty from all fear of them. Satan has no longer the power of death; he never could go beyond it. God alone can do that—can quicken the dead.
Let us observe then Peter's doctrine. He takes up the words of Isa. 40 “All flesh is as grass.” Man must wither—is soon cut down; notwithstanding all the gracious dealings of God with him, he has never profited by them. What can he plead then, in arrest of judgment after such a verdict? “There is a time to die.” But he has the word of God (the only thing in the world from God which liveth and abideth forever), and in the gospel it is preached to men. Souls are thus drawn to Christ, to Christ victorious over the gates of Hades; and being thus drawn, are partakers, by grace, of life in Him in which Satan has nothing. Hence Peter speaks of all believers as “living stones,” equal with himself; and as builders, even as he, on and by “THE LIVING STONE,” beyond the gates of Hades (1 Peter 1:23; 2:523Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23)
5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
). Life, then, is his theme—life in a world of death, yet beyond all that death can do—life with its holy peace and undying hope. He does not go on to Paul's truth of Christ and the church, His body, and His bride, as in the Epistle to the Ephesians, but is full of that hope of resurrection beyond all fear of the gates of Hades that enabled him, and would enable us, to follow in the steps of Christ even to martyrdom. He, who in the high priest's palace cowered before a servant maid, when partaking, as “a living stone,” of the power of Christ that had overthrown all the power of the enemy, was one of the first to rejoice that he was counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:4141And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. (Acts 5:41)). That name had been revealed to him by the Father; and to uphold the dignity of it against all adversaries, he was willing to die. Is this less incumbent on us, if “living stones”? Surely not.
As viewed by Peter, then, the church is a spiritual building, concerning which the natural man can know nothing; for neither the Spirit nor the things of the Spirit can he recognize (1 Corinthians 14). It is builded by Christ Himself of those who are saved by faith, through grace, by like precious faith with Peter. It is set up outside Judaism and the world, and is the object of the hatred of both.
Christ, “the living Stone,” being its foundation, “disallowed of men, but chosen of God and precious,” they share in His preciousness before God, and in His rejection by men. It is true that the public body, known as the church, has in order to escape suffering, yielded to Judaism and the world; yet there are those who have desired humbly and patiently to follow the steps of Christ Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth; Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” However, weak and feeble, they rejoice that they are not separate stones in their individuality. Neither are they as stones arranged, according to the mind of man, in companies, like heaps large or small, and often mingled with the unsaved: but are component and integral parts of a habitation of God through the Spirit, for the will and worship of God—His assembly, beautiful in His sight as the work of His Son, however scorned in the sight of men. It is the remark of another and worthy of repetition— “A tache of gold, or a loop of a curtain in the tabernacle, formed an integral part of the tabernacle of God, and was looked upon and judged as such, not according to its own individual worth.” It was the presence of God in the tabernacle that gave value to every part of it, however minute. So is it with those who are truly gathered to the name of Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)). W. B.