When I was a kid, we lived in a neighborhood that had some mean dogs. If you rode your bike near their house, the mean dogs would sprint at you barking loudly and bite your leg in hopes of pulling you off your bike. In the religious world, there are some very mean, nasty, scary folks God calls “dogs” (Philippians 3:2). At some point, they come to bite all Christians, and they did the same thing to Peter, who was the highest spiritual authority alive on the earth in his day.
Significantly, the Jewish Peter from Israel is chosen by God to be a pioneer in expanding the Church of Jesus Christ beyond that nation of Israel and culture of the Jews to every nation and culture. This calling happened supernaturally, as God gave Peter a vision of his future ministry to Gentiles (10:1; 15:7). Once again, we see a supernatural element to Peter’s life and ministry, the only way to make sense of such an ordinary person doing such extraordinary ministry. Stepping into his calling to bring Jesus to the nations immediately brings criticism upon Peter as religious people fail to share God’s heart for the nations and care only for people like themselves (11:2). Like so many of us, the religious spirit of folks thinks that we are the good people who deserve God’s love, and that God could not possibly love people we find annoying, offensive, or too sinful for salvation. Sadly, Peter takes a step back to his old wishy- washy ways (Galatians 2:11-14).
In Galatia, a church grew with a mix of self-righteous religious Jewish folks, and brand-new Christians who came from pagan backgrounds. In addition to loving Jesus, the religious folks wanted to impose a long list of requirements (e.g. circumcision for males) upon the new Christians to be considered full members of God’s family and worthy of sitting down to eat a communion meal together with the entire church. The religious folks started the usual negative public relations attack on Peter, and sadly he caved in to pressure as a coward once again, just as he had when Jesus was crucified. Rather than holding his ground and preaching the grace of God, Peter let the rule-making, law-keeping, barking religious dogs run him off in fear.
As was his tendency, Peter did eventually come to repentance, owned his error, and fought the war against the religious folks so that people could become a Christian without also becoming Jewish. This opened the door for the gospel of Jesus Christ to get out to the nations, something Peter was the first to argue for at the Council which decided that Gentiles needed only Jesus and were not obligated to adopt any Jewish traditions (Acts 15:7). Had this battle not been won, the gospel would have lost. If we add anything to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, we lose the gospel. In the same way, adding pollution to a pure glass of water makes it all impure.
Peter’s failure stories remind us of the trap of the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25). Peter seemed to struggle with this a lot, as we all do. When faced with doing what was right, he would step forward. But as soon as the criticisms and attacks rolled in, he would step backward. Then, God would again push his timid son forward, which is an encouragement for us all.
As the Apostle Paul and others become more prominent in the early church history of Acts, the work of Peter gets harder to trace. The focus of church history moves into the new areas that churches were getting planted and the gospel was spreading. Therefore, it is difficult to determine exact details about exactly where Peter was and what he was doing in his latter days. Exceptions include a few details like his escape from prison (Acts 12:17), trip to Antioch (Galatians 2:11), and possible brief trip to Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12). Timing the end of Peter’s life, however, helps us establish the time by which he would have had to complete his writing of 1-2 Peter. Concerning the death of Peter, Bible commentator Karen Jobes writes: “There is virtual unanimity that the apostle Peter died in Rome in the mid-60s during the reign of Emperor Nero.” (1)
(1) Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 8.
To download the free e-book ODD LIFE: Good God which is a study in 1 Peter for individuals, groups, and families from Pastor Mark click HERE. To listen to Pastor Mark’s 9 sermons on 1 Peter preached in the summer of 2020, click HERE. These and other resources are made possible by our ministry partners who support Real Faith as a Bible teaching ministry of Mark Driscoll Ministries to whom we say THANK YOU!