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Peter and Paul

Peter and Paul

I.       Foreword

Peter ranked as number one on the list of the Lord’s twelve apostles, and stood among the first apostles the Lord called. He had the determination to forsake everything because of Jesus. Yet, he still needed to go through trials, tests, intercession from the Lord, and receiving of the fullness of the Holy Spirit in order to become the founder of the ApostolicChurch. In addition, Peter became the first worker who spread the gospel to the house of the Gentiles.

Paul possessed excellent prerequisites:  a celebrity who stood above the crowd, both religiously and intellectually. The Lord intended to use this lowly vessel and shone a bright light upon him, marking the onset of his trials and tests. With intercessions from the believers, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul made the determination to preach the gospel to the end of the earth. At the same time, he left behind numerous epistles for model Christian living for later generations to follow.

Peter’s foundation and Paul’s expansion had manifested the glory of God. These two workers were merely vessels of God; each of them accomplished what He had entrusted them and in the end they offered their bodies in martyrdom.

II.    Peter

A.     Background introduction

Originally named Simon (in Greek), or Simeon (in Aramaic), Peter was a fisherman from Galilee (Mk ; Lk 5:2; Jn 21:3). His father’s name was John (Mt ; Jn ; -17), his brother was Andrew. They were from Bethsaida (Jn -43; ). The two brothers were former disciples of John the Baptist. Peter was married and often took his wife on his missionary and pastoral journeys (Mk -31; I Cor 9:5). He had a house in Capernaum (Mk ) where it is still called “Peter’s house.” At that time, his mother-in-law lived in that house as well! (Mt 8:14f; Lk 4:38f).

B.     At the time of his calling

He was one of the very first apostles whom Jesus called (Jn 1:40-42; cf. Mk 1:16-23; Mt 4:18-22). In Luke 5:1-11, it records the moment when Jesus called Peter and the two brothers, James and John. Peter experienced a spiritual awakening and elevation. Witnessing God’s grandeur upon Jesus, he quickly realized that he was a sinner (Lk 5:6-8). Peter forsook his boat, ignoring two boats filled with jumping fish, and answered Jesus’ call to become a “fisher of men” (Lk 5:9-11).

C.     On the path of following the Lord

After being called, Peter followed his Lord everywhere to preach the gospel. He often took the position as the “head of the sheep,” and appeared to be the spokesman for the apostles. Among the names of the twelve apostles, Peter was the “first one” (Mt 10:2; Mk ; Lk ). In addition, with the company of James and John, Peter was one of the closest followers of Jesus (cf. at the resurrection of the ruler’s daughter in Mk ; Lk ; and witnessing the glory of the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 10:71; Mk 9:2; Lk ).

Passionate and expressive, Peter’s daring actions and speech frequently revealed some of his impudent character. Amidst his pride and discouragement, his strengths and weaknesses, the Lord Jesus helped him to improve, transforming him into the “rock” useful in serving the Lord  (“Peter” in Greek is “Petros,” “Cephas” in Aramaic also means rock-- Jn 1:42; I Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14). Jesus wanted to rely heavily on Peter; He gave him responsibilities and changed his name, calling him “Peter” (Mt 16:18f).

From the following, let us take a look at the hills and valleys on Peter’s path of following Jesus:

1.       Realization of the truth (Mt -32; -20)

 a.      Looking at his surrounding, Peter lost faith and sank in the water. Peter who called for help engraved the final lesson in his heart: “Truly you are the Son of God” (Mt ).

 b.      Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” At that moment, Peter could transcend above the multitude’s limited perspective of “some say” and immediately answered with  affirmation: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt ; cf. Lk ; Mk ).

2.       Casting of Satan (Mt -23)

 a.      The compassionate yet insolent Peter, not knowing the full story, tried to persuade and prevent Jesus from suffering (Mt , 22). Apparently, he demonstrated a fervent heart of loyalty.

 b.      The Lord who knew the future, turned and cast out Satan from Peter, driving out this “stumbling block” that had sympathy only for the flesh (Mt 16:23). Not long before this incident, Jesus had called the same person as the “Rock.” How could there be so great of a change in Peter?!

3.       Receiving rebuke because of his consideration of being an accomplished person (Mt -35)

 a.      Seemingly successful in his spiritual cultivation, Peter came forth before the Lord to offer his treasure. He considered himself to be far above the level of “eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth,” and raised a rhetorical question: “How often shall I forgive him?” After having prearranged his answer, he made a grand declaration immediately: “As many as seven times!” With the tone of a great victor, he awaited impatiently for praises of Jesus, pressing for an answer: “Is that enough?” (Mt 18:21)

 b.      Jesus’ answer of “I say to you!” indeed shattered the self-righteousness and pride of “forgiving seven times.” Peter appeared so pitiful, insignificant, narrow, and parsimonious when contrasted against the Lord’s great love and perfect forgiveness. Afterward, Jesus told a parable of two debtors.

4.       Changing his mind after having made commitments to forsake everything (Mt ; Jn 21:1-14)

 a.      When the young ruler realized his inability to forsake his wealth and follow Jesus, he left sorrowfully. Jesus exclaimed: “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” At this time, Peter irresistibly remembered his great sacrifice. He “had left everything” and followed Jesus. With such a perfect offering from Peter, he asked: “What then shall we have?” (Mt 19:27; Lk 18:28; Mk 10:28). The Lord Jesus proclaimed righteously the content of reward and added a warning: “But many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Mt ). Following, Jesus told a parable of the vineyard (Mt 20:1-16).

 b.      This Peter who had already forsook everything, after the Lord had appeared to him two times, had dared to suggest to a group of helpless disciples: “I am going fishing.” Three years after he had abandoned everything, he now picked up again. What had led him to go back to his old job? Was it the pressure from the reality of life or the depression from a vanishing faith (Jn 21:3)?!

D.     The Turning Point of Peter’s Life

1.       The intercession of Jesus sustained Peter from abandonment

2.       The fullness of the Holy Sprit plucked up Peter’s courage to martyrdom

Although Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him three times, the emotional and self-righteous Peter swore that he was ready to die with Jesus (Mt 26:31-35; Mk 14:29-31; Lk 22:33f; Jn 13:37f). Soon after his boastful words, on the night of the Gethsemane, Peter neglected the Lord’s pleading: “Be alert, wait and pray.” Three times, he fell into deep sleep in the garden (Mt 26:36-46). Suddenly, a group of people came to arrest Jesus with swords and clubs. In a moment’s haste, Peter drew his sword and cut off the right ear of the slave of the high priest. (Was it because of his poor swordsmanship or was it because he was still half-asleep?) Thankfully, the merciful Lord Jesus demonstrated God’s power by healing the slave’s ear. Otherwise, Peter would have had to face the judge! (Lk 22:51)

Jesus fell temporarily under the reign of darkness (Lk ). Peter, who pledged his life to the Lord, only followed from afar and denied knowing his Lord three times! Nevertheless, the compassionate Lord still turned to glance at him with loving eyes that reflected Peter’s helplessness, weakness, and spitefulness. Peter collapsed; he still did not have the courage to die with the Lord. He dared not to face the Lord of Life for whom he forsook all in the last three years. He merely “went out.” A man well advanced in years, what could Peter do to express these mixed feelings welled up in his heart? He simply “wept”! (Lk 22:62). After Peter’s exit from the scene, the officers questioned the Lord with endless irrational questions; the soldiers whipped Him; the violent crowd roared at Him with anger. Yet, where was Peter who pledged his life to the Lord? His Lord shouldered the cross, shambling toward the path of suffering, exhausting all His strength; and He fell. Who would carry His cross? It was not that swearing Peter, but a foreign countryman (Lk 23:1-16). Sigh...Never mind! We did not find him under the cross, nor did he take part in the wrapping of the Lord’s body. However, his Lord had prepared the intercession to support this vulnerable apostle whom He loved. Appearing to him time and again, the Lord dearly prepared the breakfast and  entrusted him anew with a great commission (Lk 22:31f, Jn 21:1-17).

Although feeble at one time, Peter received the support from the Lord’s intercession. Jesus reestablished his faith. Nevertheless, he hid in the house cowardly, waiting with patience and hope for the promised Holy Spirit. With one accord, the apostles’ prayers brought about the fullness of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. After the experience at the Pentecost, Peter had his:

1.       first evangelical sermon (Acts 2:14ff)

2.       first miracle that glorified the Lord (Acts 3:1-10)

3.       first imprisonment on account of the Lord (Acts 4:1-31)

4.       first direct judgment from God (Acts 5:1-11)

5.       first rescue by the angel (Acts )

E.     Peter, the Evangelist

The temple officers considered Peter as an “uneducated common man” (Acts ). Yet, he did not only “follow Jesus,” he also “obtained Jesus,” spreading the work of evangelism and gaining men like fish (Acts chapters 2 to 12). He even carried the gospel of the Holy Spirit to Samaria (Acts -17).

Peter was the first apostle who walked into the house of a Gentile to preach the gospel. As soon as he stepped into that house, Peter brought the entire apostolic period into an era of evangelism to the Gentiles. He diligently inquired of Jesus concerning the parable of “the uncleanness” (Mt -15; Mk ); the Lord showed him the same vision three times consecutively to reveal the teaching of “cleanness” (Acts 10:9-16). Thus, the Lord had formally brought the gospel to the house of a Gentile through Peter (Acts -48). Afterwards, although some Jewish Christians protested (Acts 11:2), Peter explained the revelation and the truth to them. Thus, he erected another milestone for the future evangelism–evangelism to the Gentiles. At the same time, it also set a course for Paul’s missions later on.

In Acts 12:17, Peter came out of the prison and “went to another place,” very possibly to Antioch (Gal ). He passed the work in Jerusalem to young James, then took his wife to preach everywhere (I Cor 9:5). He was not only one of the three major pillars (Gal 2:9), he also became the protégé of the Truth and fervently encouraged evangelism to the Gentiles (Acts 15:7ff). It was possible that his evangelical work reached as far as Rome (“Babylon” as mentioned in I Peter should refer to Rome). In addition, Peter left strong marks of influence in the church of Corinth (I Cor ; ; 9:5).

F.      Peter, the Martyr

Peter indeed fulfilled his vow to “die with the Lord” which Jesus had prophesied long ago (Jn ). According to I Clement 5:4, the tyrant Nero crucified Peter upside down in AD 64. No one can agree on the location of his martyr, some say it was Via Appia, and others indicate Vatican, on the road to Ostia. On December 23, 1950, the Pope on his proclamation of Christmas declared that he had found the tomb of Peter. In Paradise, Peter may sigh loudly, not knowing whether he should laugh or cry.

III. Paul

A.     Paul, Before His Conversion

The first-hand source regarding the life of Paul comes from the letters he have written.  The Book of Acts is a overall summary of the chronological events in the Apostolic church (Lk 1:3).  His name Saul is used in Aramaic speaking community, while the name Paul is in the Roman form.  It is commonly believed that he was born in 1 A.D. (or 10 A.D.) in Tarsus.  Although a Jew, he was born a Roman citizen and was raised in the time of the Roman Empire (Acts ; 22:3,28).  He possessed a respectable family heritage (Phil 3:5), more diligent in the Truth than others (Gal ), taught according to the laws by Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), later be­came a Pharisee abiding strictly by the laws (Acts 26:4), and persecuted the Christians with great zeal (Acts 26:9-11; 7:60).

B.     Paul’s Conversion

Similar to the calling of Jeremiah (Jer 1:4-10; Gal -17), Paul recog­nized that Jesus was the true God that he had worshipped (Acts 9:1-9; 22:2-21; 26:4-18; I Thess 1:9).  The process of his conversion is an act of God in completely destroying what he had before in order to build him up anew (Acts 9:10-18; 22:12-16).  Seeing the Lord of crucifixion (I Cor 9:1; 15:8) is the turning point in his life, and it is also the beginning of his spiritual elevation from a state of weakness (II Cor 12:9).

C.     Paul’s Missionary Activity and Pastoring Work

1.       Similar to Moses’ forty years of training in the palace (Acts ), Paul had “much learning” (Acts 26:24) in things both old and new (Mt ), and in those with and without the law (I Cor -23).

2.       Paul’s fourteen years of silence (Gal - 2:1; Acts -30; -26; 13:1-3) may be compared to the forty years Moses endured in the wilderness (Acts )

 a.      Three years in Arabia (Gal )

 b.      Escaping from Damascus (II Cor 11:32f; Acts -25)

 c.      Lived bitterly in his home town (Acts )

3.       Preaching the Gospel and serving God with pain and suffering (II Cor -27; Acts 13:1 - 28:31)

4.       Pastoring the church in tears (Acts ,31; II Cor 11:28f; 2;4) with the heart and mind of a parent (I Cor 4:14f; Gal ; I Thess 2:7-12)

D.     Paul’s View of Life from the book of Philippians

1.       To live is Christ (-30)

 a.      Transcend sufferings of imprisonment (-14)

 b.      Transcend envies of co-workers (-18)

 c.      Transcend life and death (-30)

2.       Forsake all thing to receive Christ Jesus (3:4-24)

 a.      Forsake the glory of the past (3:1-12)

 b.      Strive to receive the reward in heaven (3:1-8)

 c.      Hope to have the likeness of Christ’s glory (-21)

3.       Live a life of contentment without worries or cares (4:4-20)

E.     Paul’s Victory (II Tim 4:7f)

F.      A Chronology of Paul’s Life

Paul has become a household name for workers of God’s kingdom; however, among all the different opinions regarding his life chronology, no one has a definite conclusion. In the discussion of Paul’s chronology, one may look from two perspectives: a) the Absolute Chronology–finding accurate dates in Paul’s epistles or in the Acts of the Apostles from literature of world history; b) the Relative Chronology–estimating time between two events of Paul and then arranging in order.

1.        The Absolute Chronology

 a.      “At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city in order to seize me” (II Cor )

In Macc 5:8, it mentions about Aretas, a tribal king of Nabatean, Arabia, that had its capital in Petra (300 km south of Amman). Aretas IV (9BC-AD40) should be a contemporary Nabatean king to Paul. However, from the verse in II Cor , we cannot ascertain the exact year.

 b.      “There would be a great famine over all the world; and this took place in the days of Claudius” (Acts )

Claudius (10BC-AD54) was the fourth emperor of the Roman Empire (AD41-54). Several famines arose during his reign; therefore, it is difficult to determine the time of the famine recorded in Acts 11:28.

 c.      “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.” “Because he did not give God the glory, an angel of the Lord punished him immediately and he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:1-6, 20-23)

This Herod Agrippa I is the grandson of Herod the Great and the son of Aristobulus. He was born in 10BC, became king in Palestine in AD41, and died suddenly in AD44. Therefore, we can be sure of the date in Acts 12:23 to be AD44.

 d.      “Sergius Paulus in Paphos sought Paul” (Acts 13:7-12)

No one can find a trace of this Roman proconsul in any historical records. As a result, we cannot put a date for this event.

 e.      “Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome” (Acts 18:2)

Sueton, a Roman historian once recorded (Claudius 25,4): “He (Claudius) banished the Jews from Rome because Christ had greatly influenced them, often causing disturbances.” This event took place in AD49, which means that Paul went to Corinth after AD49.

 f.       “Gallio was proconsul of Achaia” (Acts -17)

Gallio’s full name was Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeus. The Bible made little mention of him; but there are significant recordings about him in Roman history. He had gone to Rome to be proconsul. Upon returning Rome, his older brother Seneca died in an unsuccessful revolt against Nero. Thus, Gallio lost his favor from Nero and was forced to kill himself in the end. In 1905, someone found a letter written by the Roman emperor Claudius among one of the unearthed tombstones in Delphi. In it, he mentioned that during the period of AD51/52, Gallio was the proconsul to Achaia. This document marked an absolute time for Paul’s chronology. That is, by using the summer of AD51 as the starting point, one can push the date forward or backward to estimate the time of an event in Paul’s services.

 g.      “But when two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus.” (Acts 24:27)

According to the records of a Roman historian Tacitus (Hist V, 9), Felix Antonius was a slave the Emperor Claudius had freed. Because of help from his brother Pallas, he rose to become an important and wealthy politician. Someone described him as having “power like a king, yet a mind like a slave.” He married Drusilla, the daughter of Herodes Agrippa. He governed over the state of Judah in AD49 and over Samaria in 52/53. In AD60, he was summoned back to Rome and was succeeded by Porcius Festus. Felix died in AD62 while serving as a governor.

Conclusion: On the basis of on the above information, we can determine with certainty that Paul arrived Corinth during AD49/50, departing there in 51, and was arrested in Jerusalem in AD58 (Act 24:27).

2.       The Relative Chronology

 a.      A very reliable source of Paul’s chronology is his biography as recorded in Galatians 1:11-2:1. This period covered from Paul’s calling till the Jerusalem Council.

His calling -> To Arabia -> Return to Damascus ->Going up to Jerusalem (living with Peter for 15 days)

after 3 years

-> To Syria and Cilicia -> Going up to Jerusalem (in the company of Barnabas and Titus),

after 14 years

then the incident in Antioch (Gal -19)

no mention of exact date

 b.      Conclusion: There are two ways to calculate the number of years since Paul’s calling till the Jerusalem Council:

(a)     3 + 14 = ± 16 years (more likely);

(b)     14 years.

 c.      Recordings about Paul in the Acts of the Apostles (chapters 9 to 15) made no mentions of Paul’s trip to Arabia or to Syria and Cilicia since his calling till Jerusalem Council.

(a)     The light turned him to the Lord (Acts 9:1-22)

(b)     Escape from Damascus to Jerusalem (-29) -> This should be the journey to the HolyCity as recorded in Galatians

(c)     Was sent back to Tarsus for safety ()

(d)     Barnabas found Paul in Tarsus and brought him to Antioch to work for one year (-27)

(e)     Went to Jerusalem with Barnabas in bringing a relief fund, and took Mark with them (; )

(f)      Paul and Barnabas evangelized together for the first time (ch. 13f)

(g)     Went up to Jerusalem because of the question of circumcision

·         The Acts of the Apostles seem to account for locations only and not time. They describe the events without the mentioning of time differences. We find only rough figures such as “for several days” (), “when many days had passed” (), “for a whole year” (), “for a long time” (14:3), and “no little time” ().