Thursday: Peter as Church Leader

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During the ministry of Jesus, Peter often acted in the role of leader of the 12 disciples. He was their usual spokesman. When Matthew lists the disciples, he says “first, . . . Peter” (Matt. 10:2). Peter also took a prominent role in the early church. It was Peter who took the initiative to appoint a disciple to replace Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus (Acts 1:15-25).

Peter Preaching

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On the day of Pentecost, it was Peter who explained to the multitudes that they were seeing the promised gift of the Spirit, poured out by God upon His people (Acts 2:14-36). It was Peter who, when arrested for speaking about the resurrection of the dead, spoke to the high priest and the assembled Jewish leaders (Acts 4:1-12). It was Peter who was led to Cornelius, the first Gentile to be accepted as a follower of Jesus (Acts 10:1-48). It was Peter whom Paul visited for 15 days when Paul first came to Jerusalem after his conversion (Gal. 1:18). Indeed, describing the circle of Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem at that time, Paul identifies three “pillars” of the Church: Peter, James the brother of Jesus, and John the beloved disciple (Gal. 2:9).

Read Galatians 1:18-19; Galatians 2:9, Galatians 2:11-14. What do these texts tell us about Peter, even while he functioned so prominently in the early church?

Even as a church leader, even as someone clearly called of the Lord (Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep” [John 21:17]), even as the one who received the vision about not calling “any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28), Peter still had some important growing to do.

In the early days of the church, almost all the Christians were Jews, many of whom were “zealous for the law” (Acts 21:20, NKJV). In their interpretation of the law, eating with Gentiles was problematic because the Gentiles were considered unclean. When some Jewish Christians came from James at Jerusalem, Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles in Antioch.

For Paul, such behavior was an attack on the gospel itself. He saw Peter’s actions as frank hypocrisy and he wasn’t afraid to challenge him on it. In fact, Paul used the opportunity to express the key teaching of the Christian faith: justification by faith alone (see Gal. 2:14-16).

Though called of God, Peter had some blind spots that needed correcting. How do we respond when others seek to point out our own “blind spots”?
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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons