Good morning. I am excited to begin 2019 with a brand new sermon series called “The 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ”. Over the course of the next few months we will carefully examine each of these men to learn more about their lives and ministries. At the conclusion of each message, we will consider how their experiences apply to us and what lessons we can learn as a result. This promises to be an informative and transformational series!
Let’s begin by distinguishing between a disciple and an apostle. A disciple is someone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. Jesus is calling everyone everywhere to become a disciple, and He teaches us what is necessary to be a true disciple. The word disciple can be thought of synonymously with the name Christian. All Christians are disciples because they have believed in Jesus, and thus are commissioned to go and make other disciples by sharing the gospel message. There are thousands of disciples and the number continues to grow.
The word apostle has a somewhat different definition. It literally means, “One who is sent.” The emphasis is here is on the sender. In other words, apostles were those who Jesus specifically chose and then sent out to establish the church. They did not approach Jesus first, but rather He came to and selected them as His own. Some interpret this concept in a broader spiritual sense and continue to apply the title of apostle to certain people who are sent today, such as missionaries. Generally speaking however, Baptists have a more restrictive understanding of apostleship that is limited to only those men that Jesus personally chose during His earthly ministry. Most Baptists do not use the title apostle to describe people today. We believe that there were only a small number of apostles and none have been added since the days of the New Testament.
All apostles were disciples, but not all disciples were apostles. The apostles were a small subset, or select group, of disciples. The apostles were prominent leaders among the disciples and served alongside them in carrying the gospel throughout the known world. The apostles were highly regarded and revered because they personally knew and served with Jesus. The apostles were chosen to follow while the disciples chose to follow, yet both groups were equally the redeemed children of God. In the same way, all real Christians have been both chosen by God (His will) and choose to follow Him (their will). This is the nature of any healthy relationship.
In this series we will learn about the 12 men who Jesus chose to be His apostles, the man who served as a replacement for a deceased apostle, and an apostle who was born “at the wrong time”. There are a few other people who were called apostles in the New Testament, but we will limit our discussion to just these. These men include: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the Less, Simon the Zealot, Thaddeus, Judas Iscariot, Matthias, and Paul. We will begin our series this morning with Peter.
I. GENERAL INFORMATION
Peter is called by a few different names in the Bible. Among them are Simon Barjona (Simon son of Jona), Cephas (little rock of stone), Simon Peter, and mostly commonly just Peter. Peter was the son of Jona and was born in Bethsaida of Galilee. As an adult he lived in Capernaum where he worked as a fisherman. Peter was the brother of Andrew, and was a business partner with James and John. Peter was married, as evidenced by the fact that he had a mother-in-law. Peter was one of the leading apostles, and a member of the inner circle (those who were closest to Jesus).
The Bible describes Peter as impulsive, often speaking or acting before thinking things through. On occasion he acted quite cowardly and was afraid to stand firm. Peter had a hot temper, but could also be very tenderhearted. Sometimes he showed incredible insight, and other times seemed rather dense. Most of us can identify with Peter and the struggles he faced. But for all of his imperfections, after Jesus’s resurrection Peter became a bold and courageous leader in the early church.
Peter was one of the few apostles who penned writings that were included as books of the Bible. He wrote 1st and 2nd Peter, both of which are letters that were addressed to Christians in the early church. Although he didn’t write it himself, the gospel of Mark is believed to be based primarily upon the spoken testimony of Peter.
II. HIS MINISTRY WITH JESUS
Peter was one of the four fishermen that Jesus called while walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. They had been out fishing all night and had caught nothing, but when they first saw Jesus on the beach that morning He told them to cast the nets on the other side of the boat. When they did, the nets were filled with fish and the men were amazed. Then Jesus asked them to leave everything behind, to follow Him, and He promised to make them “fishers of men”. Peter, as well as the others, answered the call and became apostles (Matthew 4:18-22).
Peter was one of three apostles who had a particularly close relationship with Jesus. Unlike most of the others, Peter was allowed to accompany Jesus into the room when Jairus’ daughter was healed (Mark 5:37), was permitted to join Jesus atop the Mountain of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2), was invited to meet privately with Jesus on the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:3), and was brought deeper into the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of Jesus’ arrest (Mark 14:33).
During a raging storm at sea, Peter climbed out of the boat and briefly walked on water toward Jesus (Matthew 14:28-29). Later on, perhaps speaking on behalf of all the apostles, Peter recognized and verbally confessed Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:16-19). He was harshly reprimanded for refusing to accept that Jesus would be crucified (Matthew 16:23). He also cut off a man’s ear during Jesus’s arrest (John 18:10). Peter denied knowing Jesus 3 times, but was later forgiven and restored (Luke 22:54-62; John 21:15-17). Peter raced to see the empty tomb on the morning that Jesus arose (John 20:3), and was the only apostle that Jesus appeared to individually after His resurrection (Luke 24:34).
III. HIS MINISTRY AFTER JESUS WAS GONE
After the ascension of Jesus into Heaven, Peter became the de facto leader of the apostles. He encouraged them to name a new apostle to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:16-26). When the Holy Spirit fell upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, Peter delivered a stirring message that led to the conversion of 3,000 people (Acts 2). Empowered by the Lord, Peter healed a lame man who was lying near the temple gate (Acts 3:1-10). Peter was arrested for preaching the gospel and imprisoned on multiple occasions, but always managed to be either released or miraculously freed (Acts 4:1-22; 5:17-42; 12:1-17). He confronted Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-16), taught in Samaria and many other places, performed several miracles including raising a dead woman back to life (Acts 9:36-43), and was the first to present the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Later on Peter was present and spoke at the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15).
Peter was a pillar of the early Christian church in Jerusalem. At some point, he traveled to Rome and may have been instrumental in establishing the church there as well. Peter wrote letters to encourage and correspond with the persecuted churches. Eventually Peter was arrested and imprisoned in Rome, likely by the crazed Emperor Nero. Tradition states that Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy to be executed in the same manner as Jesus. He was martyred sometime around 67-68 AD.
There is much more we could say about the Apostle Peter. In fact, we could probably do an entire series on just him. The details we’ve mentioned this morning are only some of the many found in Scripture. Though not exhaustive, we have covered several of the most notable events that took place in Peter’s life and have presented a fairly thorough overview of this apostle.
Peter made many mistakes, and often stuck his foot in his mouth. He tended to leap before he looked, which regularly got him into trouble. He sometimes said things that he later wished he could take back. I can relate to that. But despite his numerous missteps, Jesus repeatedly forgave and restored Peter. Jesus loved Peter beyond his faults, just as he does to all believers.
The lesson today is this - Jesus will forgive the shortcomings and strengthen the faith of those who truly love Him. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but rather to be faithful and obedient. May we all, like Peter before us, have the courageous faith necessary to step out of our boats and to walk on the waters of this life in the mighty name of Jesus’ Christ!